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

Anne Bradstreet – Poet and Feminist

“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/ That says my hand a needle better fits.”

These are the word of Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), from the Prologue to her first collection of poems, published in London in 1650. With its publication, Anne became the first published woman poet writing in the English language. Also, as she had emigrated to America with her family at the age of eighteen, she became America’s first published poet, of either gender. Anne correctly foresaw that many would argue that poetry was not a fit occupation for a woman, and had prepared herself in advance to stand up to the critics. Continue reading Anne Bradstreet – Poet and Feminist

Irina Nistor

The stereotypes of film nerds aren’t exactly positive: secretive, obsessive, quiet. But, these are all great traits for someone fighting, in their own way, against a tyrannical regime, wouldn’t you agree?

Irina Nistor was employed by the Romanian Communist regime to translate programmes for the state-run tv channel. Romania was ruled by Nicolae Ceausescu, one of the cruelest dictators of the communist period. Her impact on the falling of that regime can never be measured, but thousands of Romanians believe her role in the fall of communism in Romania should be not be overlooked. What Irina Nistor did was translate western films into Romanian. A simple but very much illegal job. Continue reading Irina Nistor

Tcheng Soumay

Tcheng Soumay (also known as Tcheng Yu-hsiu and Madame Wei Tao-ming) was a lawyer and campaigner for democracy and women’s rights. She was active in China in the first half of the twentieth century when the ancient empire was toppled and competing factions fought for the soul of the new republic.

Soumay (to use her first name) was born to a wealthy family in Canton. Her father was a government official, her mother was the daughter of a general. It was usual to bind the feet of upper class girls, so their gait was ‘dainty.’ Always a rebellious child, Soumay refused to have her feet bound, ripping off the bandages. Her father was sympathetic, he encouraged her inquiring intellect and, wanting to take her around in public with him, dressed her as a boy. Continue reading Tcheng Soumay

Annie Londonderry

Annie Londonderry was an unknown wife and mother until she became a global sensation as the first woman to bicycle around the world!

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky was born in Riga, Latvia in 1870. Her family set sail for America and a new life when Annie was just a child. There isn’t much record of her childhood, but by 1892 she was married with 3 children and living in Boston. Fame was just around the corner. Continue reading Annie Londonderry

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