Amazing Women Leaders History Books Forgot
Many incredible women have shaped history, from Madame Curie’s incredible contribution to the scientific community to Eleanor Roosevelt’s achievements in human rights amazing women have become household names for their successes.
Sunday March 8th is International Women’s Day, and to mark the occasion our blog today highlights some incredible women whose achievements are not as well known. Today we highlight doctors, leaders, explorers, writers and artists whose triumphs are often forgotten, discover the ‘Amazing Women Leaders that History Books Forgot’.
Dr Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first female medical doctor in the United States. She became interested in medicine during the struggle of a dying female friend, who disclosed to Blackwell that much of her suffering would have been eased had she had a female doctor.
During her medical training Blackwell was often asked to leave lecture halls about human reproductive anatomy, as her male teachers were concerned about the integrity of her “delicate sensibilities”. Along with a number of colleagues Dr. Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) overcame great hardship, having been born a slave in the United States in 1797. She escaped slavery to freedom in the North where she became a noted Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Advocate.
At the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 Truth delivered a rousing speech entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?” where she tacked racial inequalities which sent ripples throughout America. She published her memoirs, ‘The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave’, in 1850.
Lilian Bland (1878–1971) was renouned as a feisty and free spirit. She became the first woman int eh world to design, build and fly an aircraft in 1910. Bland gaver her plane the moniker ‘Mayfly’ as she said it “may fly, may not fly”. The rudimentary design even included a fuel tank which Bland had created from an empty whisky bottle and an ear trumpet belonging to her aunt.
While aviation is her greatest achievement, Bland was also a renowned sports journalist. Among her other talents Bland was a noted markswoman, martial artist and photographer.
Nellie Bly (1864–1922) was one of the worst first investigative journalists, who exacted change through her articles. When Bly began her career in journalism she was instructed to write about ‘women’s topics’ such as fashion or gardening. She quickly eschewed these nominal topics and began writing about the poor and the oppressed.
Bly’s crowning achievement in journalism were the investigative pieces she wrote entitled “Behind Asylum Bars” and “Inside the Mad-House”. Bly went under under-cover as a patient in an infamous insane asylum and reported first hand of her treatment and experience. Her work caused an uproar in New York, and prompted investigations and sanctions by New York officials to improve the care for those at the asylum. Bly also travelled around the world in a record-breaking 72 days.
Anna Nzinga Mbandi
Anna Nzinga Mbandi (1583–1663) was a brilliant and notorious political leader. She became the queen of Ndongo and Matamba (situated where modern day Angola now lies) in 1624, when she brutally took the throne following the death of her brother Ngola Mbandi.
Mbandi was ruler during the difficult colonisation of Africa, and was under the threat of Portuguese colonialism. Governing with skill and tact, Mbandi gained international acclaim for her brilliance in diplomacy and military tactics. Mbandi’s skill in warfare, espionage, trade, alliance-building, and religious matters helped Ndongo and Matamba to keep Portuguese colonialism at bay for the duration of reign.
Annie Smith Peck
Annie Smith Peck (1850–1935) was a world class mountaineer and explorer. She achieved instant fame in 1985 when she climbed the Matterhorn. Her notoriety did not come from her skilled climb, but rhater from the fact that Peck climbed the mountain wearing a pair of trousers, rather than the long skirt traditionally worn by women at this time.
Her greatest mountaineering achievement came when she was 58, and she set the record for the highest climb in the Western Hemisphere. Not only was she a renowned explorer, Peck was also a widely regarded writer and scholar, who continued to set mountain climbing records throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) was a talented pianist, arrange and composer. Williams became the first woman to ever found her own record label, Mary Records.
She began her career in the 1920s and collaborated with some of the best known artists of the time including Duke Ellington and Dizzie Gillespie. In a music career spanning decades Williams wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements, and recorded more than one hundred records.
Beatrice Potter Webb
Beatrice Potter Webb (1858–1943) was an economist who, along with her husband, campaigned for social reform. In 1913 she created the ‘New Statesment’ which was deemed an “influential periodical” in London. She was also a key member of the Poor Law Commission which measure urban poverty and serve as a guide to reform legislation.
As a widely renowned social reformist Potter was widely regarded, and was one of the co-founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Murasaki Shikibu lived approximately from 973 –1025 in Japan. She was a renowned poet and writer, her most famous work being ‘The Tale of Genji’ which she wrote in 1008. ‘The Tale of Genji’ is widely considered today to be the earliest story in novel form in human history.
Shikibu is the most widely regarded writer to live during Japan’s culturally glorious Heian period, and many historians agree that Murasaki Shikibu was the world’s first novelist.
Ethel L. Payne
Ethel L. Payne (1911–1991) earned the moniker ‘first lady of the black press’ as she was a world renowned journalist. Payne was initially an investigative journalist and a political journalist, whose stunning career saw her cover the American Civil Rights Movement, several White Houses and international affairs.
During her time as part of the White House press corps Payne was one of only three accredited African Americans in the corps. She was widely regarded as being one of the few journalists who dared to ask the ‘tough questions’ that needed answers.