Historians have been negligent in noting accomplishments of women (and as an aside, also of men and women of color.)
This article notes some of the women who have fought for and caused change by their actions, but really, this is only a drop in the bucket. There really are hundreds (some of whom the BBC listed in their 100 women who strongly impacted history) but we know that women and men who will never be named have made strong strides in making the changes needed in the world.
Nonetheless, what follows is an interesting line up of 20 important female figures in world history.
In the top spot is scientist Polish-born French scientist Marie Curie, who “changed the world not once but twice,” said the magazine.
Curie founded the new science of radioactivity — even inventing the word — and her discoveries “launched effective cures for cancer.”
“Curie boasts an extraordinary array of achievements,” Patricia Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science, who nominated Curie, told BBC History magazine.
“She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, first female professor at the University of Paris, and the first person — note the use of person there, not woman — to win a second Nobel Prize," Fara added.
Marie Curie and her daughter Irène in the laboratory at the Radium Institute in Paris, Fr“The odds were always stacked against her,” continued Fara. “In Poland her patriotic family suffered under a Russian regime. In France she was regarded with suspicion as a foreigner — and of course, wherever she went, she was discriminated against as a woman
Second on the list was Rosa Parks, who, in 1955, famously challenged the race segregation that existed in parts of the US by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.
Her actions received the support of many other African Americans and sparked the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. "You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right" she has said.
Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement, came in third. Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, tocampaign for the vote for women.
“Pankhurst roused thousands of women to demand, rather than ask politely, for their democratic right in a mass movement that has been unparalleled in British history,” said the magazine. “Always in the thick of the struggle, she endured 13 imprisonments, her name and cause becoming known throughout the world.”
Others that appear in the top 10 were Marie Stopes, Scottish advocate of birth control and sex educator, who “brought to women worldwide the opportunity of planned pregnancies,” and Florence Nightingale, who led the first official team of British military nurses to Turkey during the Crimean War.
The rest of the top 20 are:
- Eleanor of Aquitaine
- the Virgin Mary
- Jane Austen
- Diana, Princess of Wales
- Amelia Earhart
- Queen Victoria
- Josephine Butler
- Mary Seacole
- Mother Teresa