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Women who changed the world

In a world of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong and Nelson Mandela, it is not an everyday occurrence for us to hear the names of women who profoundly changed the world.

Since we have arrived in the month of August, a month in which women are traditionally celebrated, I thought it an appropriate time to reflect for just a minute on the women who have profoundly changed our world.

Who were these woman?
  1. Jane Austen – a literary figure who has had more influence on British culture than she would ever have known in her short life (she died at age 41). She wrote 6 major novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There was a 7th novel but she sadly did not get to complete it. Her books were published anonymously and it is widely accepted that she never got any credit for her writing until after her death.
  2. Florence Nightingale – a woman that went against tradition, and became a war-hero nurse at a time when women had only just been officially allowed to serve in the army.  Of course, the army doctors wanted nothing to do with her, but she would not go away. She walked the hospital at night to make sure that the soldiers were comfortable, and hence, she became known as the lady with the lamp. She completely transformed the quality of care in the war and she went on to improve healthcare all over the world.
  3. Emmeline Pankhurst – the founding member of the group of women called the Suffragettes, who fought incredibly hard to get women the right to vote in the UK. These woman endured extreme hardships and long periods incarcerated for their beliefs.
  4. Marie Curie – a Polish scientist and the first woman in history to win a Nobel prize in 1911. Together with her husband, their ground breaking discoveries included radioactivity, the discovery of polonium,  radium and radiotherapy, all of which were important in developing x-rays. So when you are having an x-ray in future, remember who to thank.
  5. Coco Chanel – one of the most iconic brands in the fashion world. Coco Chanel was a woman who changed the face of fashion forever. She opened her first shop in the early 1900s, starting with designing hats. She soon turned to clothes and in the 1920s launched her first perfume. Today her brand is over 100 years old, and Chanel No 5 is still one of the world’s most famous perfumes.
  6. Katherine Hepburn – although she was quite a fashion icon, one of the more important ways she left her mark was by changing the idea of what people believed it was to be feminine. One of the ways she did this was by challenging how women were supposed to dress. In Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, women were expected to wear dresses and skirts. But no, Katherine liked to wear trousers.
  7. Mother Teresa – at the age of 12 she decided she wanted to go to India to spread the Christian message and help people. So she did and ended up dedicating her life to the city of Kolkata. It is said that she only had two possessions – a bucket and two saris. To this day she is remembered for her love and the manner in which she cared for people.
  8. Margaret Thatcher – she changed the face of British politics, becoming the first female British Prime Minister. She had some pretty radical views and earned herself the nickname the Iron Lady. Whether you believe she saved Britain when it was having economic problems, or whether you believe that she ruined the lives of millions of workers, either way, there is no question that her strong-mindedness certainly meant that she left her mark.
Who are these womEn?
  1. Oprah Winfrey – starting her TV career while still a teenager, she became the youngest person and first African American woman to read the main news on a channel in the city of Nashville in America at the age of 19. Now she is one of the world’s most famous and most loved interviewers. Some feel that after giving a powerful speech at the academy awards ceremony recently that she should run to be the next American president. Watch out Trump!
  2. JK Rowling – I am guessing you all know how this woman changed the world. Of course, it is very hard to believe that she really struggled to get her first book published (seriously?). She has since become the first female novelist to become a billionaire.
  3. Malala Yousafzai – as a young girl of 11 she wrote about what life was like under the rule of an extreme group called the Taliban. In her diary, she talked about how she wanted to stay in education and that girls should be allowed to go to school. The Taliban, of course, did not like this and she was shot but miraculously survived. She has gone on to become well known for fighting for the right to an education. She became the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

The above is, of course, but a sliver of the women who have left behind footprints that have changed the world and transformed lives. Women who dared to ask why things needed to stay as they were. Women who dared to ask a different question.

We cannot forget others such as Anne Frank, Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Lilly Ledbetter and Madeleine Albright. It would, however, take far more than one blog, to unpack the femine –  woman – in all her splendour, in all her archetypical beauty, her magic and the gift she brings to humanity as we know it.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women” – Maya Angelou.


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