Mary Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August 1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890. Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant, which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.” She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French, a skill that no doubt later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile
South African writer Olive Schreiner was born in what is now Lesotho on 24 March 1855. The ninth of twelve children born to Rebecca Lyndall and her husband, Gottlob Schreiner (1814–1876), a German-born missionary, she and just six of her siblings survived childhood. In adulthood, she suffered debilitating ill-health, exacerbated for a time by grinding poverty.
For a time, Schreiner earned a living as a governess and teacher, but she devoted her free time to writing The Story of an African Farm, a radical feminist novel informed by her experience of growing up in Africa. As soon as she could afford to, she sailed for Britain where she hoped to train as a doctor. Unfortunately, although she attended lectures at the London School of Medicine for Women, established in 1874 by an association of pioneering women physicians, ill-health prevented her from completing her training. Continue reading Olive Schreiner
Huda Sha’arawi was an Egyptian feminist and activist who founded the Egyptian Feminist Union.
Huda was born in Cairo in 1879 and came from a very wealthy Egyptian family. Life for boys and girls in Egypt at that time was quite different. As Huda grew she came to notice there were many things permitted for her brother which were forbidden to her. For example, when she saw her brother riding a horse she wanted one too, however she was told that riding wasn’t for girls. Huda was educated, but again, there were differences in the subjects she was allowed to study and those which her male relatives were. She said;
“I became depressed and began to neglect my studies, hating being a girl because it kept me from the education I sought. Later, being a female became a barrier between me and the freedom for which I yearned.” Continue reading Huda Sha’arawi
Elsa Eschelsson (1861-1911) was the second woman in Sweden to receive a PhD. A brilliant academic, she was awarded her doctorate in Law at Uppsala University in 1897. She immediately received a fellowship, thus becoming the first female university lecturer in Sweden.
Elsa Eschelsson lectured in civil and procedural law, and published articles which were considered important contributions to the field. Despite her great talent and high productivity, however, she was never allowed to become a professor. Instead, she was slandered to such a degree that she chose to take her own life, in 1911. Continue reading Elsa Eschelsson
Lise Meitner was born in Austria in 1878, a time when girls weren’t allowed a public education past age fourteen. Fortunately for the young woman who excelled in physics and mathematics, her parents paid for a tutor so she could continue her studies. Times changed and in 1878, woman were allowed entrance to the universities. She got her doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905 and shortly after began working with chemist Otto Hahn at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Germany. They would work together for thirty years and he’d betray her at least twice. Continue reading Lise Meitner: The Mother of Nuclear Power