Extraordinary female leaders of history
Leadership is an extraordinary human quality, and leadership in the face of adversity is inspirational. From politics to science, technology to philanthropy we take a look at inspirational and influential women pioneers from history and explore the current status of female leadership.
Field: Science & Technology
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, was a renowned writer and mathematician. She wrote the first algorithm encoded to be processed by a machine for Charles Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’, a proposed mechanical computer, making Lovelace the world’s first computer programmer.
Lovelace appreciated the importance of the Analytical Engine and how this device would could be used for a wider variety of purposes beyond number crunching. She wrote “[The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations.”
Often hailed as one of the greatest minds in science Marie Curie, with her husband Pierre, conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, and invented two radioactive elements; polonium and radium. She was the first ever woman to win a Nobel Prize and is the only woman to have won two of the esteemed awards. To this day Marie Curie remains the only person to have won a Nobel Prize in multiple sciences. She was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.
Curie’s legacy has been long lasting, in both a scientific and a societal sense. Her work in radioactivity forever changed the way in which we viewed physics, and opened the door for further studies into the makeup of the atom. She famously refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process that she had worked hard for, in order to allow the scientific community at large to continue to research the area unhindered. As a leading mind, and a woman, she is today considered to be an early precursor to feminist.
Field: Politics & Philanthropy
Eva Perón will forever be remembered as Evita, and was the First Lady of Argentina in the late forties and early fifties. She founded theFemale Peronist Party, which was Argentina’s first large-scale female political party and fought publically for women’s suffrage. She set up the Eva Perón Foundation in order to build homes for the poor and homeless, and also provide free health care to citizens.
In 1951 the unions held a mass rally of two million people called for Eva Peron to run for vice president in the largest public display of support in history for a female political figure. Her declining health lead to her withdrawing from the election. Despite this, she remains to this day to be an Argentine cultural figure.
Field: Science & Technology
As a beautiful Hollywood actress overcame great prejudice in a male dominated world by becoming an acclaimed inventor.During World War II, Lamarrrecognised that radio-controlled torpedoes used by the US navy, could be jammed by broadcasting an interference at the right frequency. In order to combat this she and her composer neighbour George Antheil developed the idea of using frequency hopping to avoid jamming the torpedo.
By using a piano roll their invention allowed the signal to be unpredictably changed, negating interference from the enemy. Thisinvention paved the way for today’s wireless communications and in 1997 she was honoured by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for her contributions to this field.
Madam C.J. Walker
Inventor/Civil Rights Activist
Madame C.J. Walker made history when she became the first female self-made millionaire in America. In 1905 Walker invented a revolutionary hair treatment which lead to her establishing the ‘Mme. C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company’. The products she developed, combined with her business model lead to her exceptional success. She held a convention in 1917 for her ‘Beauty Culturists’ and offered prizes to the women who had gained the most financially for her company, but most importantly, those who had contributed the most to their local communities in terms of charity.
As the illiterate daughter of freed slaves Walker fought with the NAACP to make lynching a federal crime. She joined the executive committee of the Silent Protest Parade. The parade was a peaceful public demonstration to protest a riot that lead to the death of 39 African Americans.
Fe del Mundo was the first ever female student to attendthe prestigious Harvard Medical School. Having achieved a scholarship from Filipino president Manuel L. Quezon to attend any university in the United States she chose Harvard, and was admitted. The university at the time did not admit female students, and unwittingly offered her a place. When she arrived and the situation arose, the governing body examined her record and found no reason to deny her a place in the paediatrics department.
When she returned home after her studies she founded the first paediatric hospital in the Philippines. Her work in the field of paediatrics in the Philippines earned her the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the rank and title of National Scientist of the Philippines and was presented with the Order of Lakandula.
Field: Politics & Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States and an advocate for human and civil rights. While her work in relation to Civil Rights is her outstanding legacy, Roosevelt also moulded the role of the ‘First Lady’ in her term which has been maintained to this day. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences and speak at events, often holding differing opinions to her husband.
After the death of her husband Roosevelt became one of the first delates to the UN General Assembly and served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Roosevelt’s greatest legacy is that she played a key role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she was an instrumental figure in John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the status of women.