Rosalind Franklin

If you have as much as heard of ‘DNA’, the name Rosalind Franklin should be synonymous with it. This pioneering scientist played a crucial role in solving one of the great scientific questions of her time, and unfortunately did not live long enough to be given her due.

Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist born in the 20th Century. She graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Cambridge (where she witnessed the appointment of its first ever woman professor Dorothy Garrod), and later joined King’s College, London, where she worked on X-ray crystallography of DNA crystals. It was a time when the greatest minds in Biology and Chemistry were working on one elusive question: what is the structure of DNA? This was particularly important because DNA is the molecule responsible for carrying genetic information; knowledge of its structure would help us understand how this genetic information is carried across generations. Continue reading Rosalind Franklin

Empress Maria Theresa: A Formidable Ruler

Maria Theresa is perhaps best known as Marie Antoinette‘s formidable mother, but Maria Theresa always kept her focus on her kingdom and was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last ruler of the House of Habsburg.

As ruler, Empress Maria Theresa was a strategic, energetic woman who many people said was tactful like a woman but thoughtful like a man. Under her rule, two great wars were fought—War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War—both of which proved to be highly beneficial to Austria in strengthening its laws and introducing needed reforms. In addition, the Empress made Austria a modern state characterized by commercial enterprises and extraordinary intellectual activity.
Continue reading Empress Maria Theresa: A Formidable Ruler

Dorothy Howell

Dorothy Howell was an exceptional British musician, who composed over 130 pieces during her lifetime.

Dorothy was born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1898. Her five siblings were all musical, and their father, an ironmaster by trade, was a self-taught pianist, who became the Musical Director at their local church.  Dorothy’s mother was also musical, an accomplished violinist & soprano. The family used to spend time singing and playing together.

By the age of 13 Dorothy was already composing pieces. She wrote a set of six pieces for piano that were inspired by the popular Tales of Beatrix Potter. Dorothy studied at a number of convent schools in Birmingham, Belgium & London, but at the age of just 15, with promising musical abilities, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). There she was taught by great composers and pianists including Tobias Matthay and Sir J B McEwenContinue reading Dorothy Howell

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is one of Mexico’s greatest artists. Born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon in Coyocoán, Mexico City to a Mexican mother and German father, her early life was spent in Casa Azul (the Blue House) which today houses a museum dedicated to her life and work. She was influenced by indigenous Mexican culture as well as religious and political themes, and is most famous for her self-portraits. she once said, “I paint my own reality”. Continue reading Frida Kahlo

Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science

Mary Somerville was born in Scotland on Dec. 26, 1780, and had four supreme passions in her life: her family, equality for women, science, and birds.

Described as feminine in manner and appearance, as a girl she never cared for dolls. Her mother said she would have been content if Mary had “only learnt to write well and keep accounts which was all that a woman was expected to know.” Mary, however, had a talent for mathematics. She taught herself by listening in on her brother as he was tutored in geometry and by reading Euclid. Continue reading Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science

Andrée de Jongh and the Comet Line

One of the most successful World War II rescue operations was created by a 23 year-old woman named Andrée de Jongh.

De Jongh was born in 1916 in German-occupied Belgium and was raised in the shadow of what was then called the Great War.  Long before she reached adulthood, De Jongh’s schoolmaster  father made certain his daughter was well-versed in Belgium’s wartime history, both its villains and its heroes. Topping the list of the latter were two women executed in Brussels by the Germans: Belgian spy Gabrielle Petit and British nurse Edith Cavell. Continue reading Andrée de Jongh and the Comet Line

Annie Turnbo Malone

Annie Turnbo Malone was one of the first self made African-American millionaires. She used her success to bring others with her, creating jobs for thousands of other women like her and using her millions to support good causes.

Annie was born in southern Illinois in 1869. She was the daughter of two excaped slaves and the 10th of 11 children. When she was still young her parents both died, orphaning Annie (yes she’s the other ‘little orphan Annie’!) She moved to live with her older sister. Although she enjoyed going to school, particularly her chemistry lessons, poor health meant that she was very rarely able to attend. Continue reading Annie Turnbo Malone