International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women in History
Today the world celebrates International Women’s Day, recognizing the past and present achievements of women all around the world. In honor of the day, we’re highlighting some of the inspiring women in Geni’s World Family Tree who have made their mark in history:
Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
Image: Wikimedia Commons
A leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. She was a candidate for the Equal Rights Party despite not having the right to vote herself because of her gender. Woodhull was also a prominent activist for labor reforms and an advocate for free love, meaning she advocated for the freedom to marry, divorce and bear children without government interference. Together with her sister, Tennessee Claflin, Woodhull was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street and the first woman to found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claffin’s Weekly, which began publication in 1870.
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Image: Nationaal Archief
Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie pioneered research on radioactivity. She was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in science, but also the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields. In 1903, she shared her first Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel. In 1911, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, would also go on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 with her husband, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker, was an African American entrepreneur and social activist. The first female self-made millionaire in America, Walker founded the C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, where she developed and marketed a line of beauty and hair products for black women. As her wealth increased, Walker became known for her philanthropy and her work to help the black community. At the time of her death in 1919, she was considered to be the wealthiest African American woman in the country.
Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008)
Many may not know her name, but Mary Golda Ross made her mark in history by becoming the first Native American female engineer. First hired as a mathematician at Lockheed Martin, Ross soon joined Lockheed’s Advanced Development Program (ADP) in 1952. As one of the 40 founding engineers at Skunk Works, Lockheed’s secret think tank, Ross worked on “preliminary design concepts for interplanetary space travel, manned and unmanned earth-orbiting flights, [and on] the earliest studies of orbiting satellites for both defense and civilian purposes.” Her work would be crucial to the development of the American space program.
Malala Yousafzai (1997)
Image: Simon Davis/DFID (CC BY 2.0)
One of today’s leading voices for human rights and education for women and children, Malala Yousafzai was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Only 17 years old at the time, Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history. As a child, she became an outspoken advocate for education. In 2009, she worked as a blogger for the BBC under a pseudonym and wrote about living under the threat of the Taliban in Pakistan. During this time, the local Taliban had banned girls from attending school. In 2012, she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban after being shot in the head on her way to school. Since recovering from her injuries, Yousafzai has continued to be a prominent advocate of education for girls all around the world.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1812-1910)
Image: Library of Congress
Born in Bristol, England, Elizabeth Blackwell grew up in a liberal household that stressed the importance of education. As a young girl, she moved to the United States with her family where she pursued an education in medicine. Although Blackwell faced many obstacles and discrimination in college, she would succeed in becoming the first woman to graduate from medical school. Not only was she the first female doctor in the United States, but also the first woman on the UK Medical Register. A pioneer in the medical field, Blackwell founded a medical school for women in the late 1860s and paved the way for future female physicians.