We live in a world where we all rode a bus with Rosa Parks, lived through the devasting times of world war II with Anne Frank, watched the world of science bring light into our world with Marie Curie, traveled across the Atlantic with Amelia Earhart, observed the power of fashion with Coco Chanel and discovered the secret of life itself with Rosalind Franklin.
These women are just some out of many that had a significant impact on how we live today and how we will be living tomorrow. No article is long enough to portray the influence of all the great women that left their footsteps in history. However, let’s take a look back at a few that changed our lives forever.
Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most important books written in history. Most of us all have a copy of it in our library and the ones who don’t have at least read it once in their lives. In this diary, Anne Frank shares how life was for a Jewish family hiding in a secret annex from the Nazis. This honest, powerful, unapologetic diary became the voice of everyone who was living in the same situation as her during a horrible period. She was only thirteen when she started writing her diary, and it is quite fascinating to see a young girl full of hope and strength, even at the darkest and most inhumane of times. Today, she is remembered as a girl who taught us to always keep our human qualities, to always be full of passion, empathy, love, hope, desire, and, most importantly, strength and courage.
In 1944, the Gestapo found their secret hiding spot and arrested Anne together with her family. They were all sent to concentration camps, and out of her family; only her father managed to survive. Her father made the decision to publish Anne’s diary that his friend and secretary, Miep Gies, had kept hoping to one day give it back to Anne Frank.
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Marie Curie is a woman that shinned with all her achievements. In 1903, Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. After that, in 1911, with her second Nobel Prize, she became the first person (man or woman) to win the prestigious award twice.
She changed the world with her discoveries that went from finding two chemical elements: polonium and radium to discovering the science of radioactivity. Although her discoveries most certainly changed the world, she didn’t only advance in science, but she also helped by showing how women have a place in the scientific community as much as men do.
“In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons.”
It was the year 1955 in Alabama. Rosa Parks, who had just got out a long day at work got on the bus with the only wish to get back home. When the bus driver asked her to stand up and give her seat to a white passenger, Parks refused instantly with a simple “Nah”, which sparked an entire civil rights movement in the United States.
Back then, segregation was a massive problem in the United States. Everyone was supposed to receive the same public services but with separate facilities for each race. Which meant, separate entrance for the “colored,” separate seating’s on public transport etc. It was getting out of hand, which is why Rosa Parks’ bravery became an inspiration to many who were tired of “giving in”. She led to nationwide efforts to end racial segregation.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”
One of the biggest names in English literature is Jane Austen. Her writings became literary sensations, questioning women’s roles within society. She explored the areas of marriage, status, and social interactions of her time with distinctive irony.
Jane Austen’s passion for what she did changed the perspectives in English literature and inspired other women to do what they love. One of her most famous works that she started writing in her teens is ‘Pride and Prejudice’. In this novel, she shows us that love can overcome class and reputation. Austen had to hide her identity from her novels when they were first published back in the nineteenth century and, it wasn’t until her death that her brother, Henry, revealed the author of all those novels.
“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”
Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer. She is said to have discovered “the secret of life itself.” While studying the DNA structure with X-ray diffraction, she found that there were two forms of it: a dry “A” form and a wet “B” form. With the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, she helped the scientists discover the life-changing innovations that followed such as test-tube babies, genetic engineering, etc.
Furthermore, her X-ray photographs became a basis for the famous model of DNA.
“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.”
Malala Yousafzai was born in 1997. Her story starts when the Taliban took over her town, in Pakistan, and banned all girls from going to school.
Malala outshined with her belief in education and the power it has. For her, investing in quality education can change the world. When her right to go to school and get the education she wanted was taken away from her, she decided her silence had a limit. She was only fifteen when she spoke out on women’s rights to education. Unfortunately, the result of her speaking led her to getting shot on her school bus by the Taliban. She survived. And this miracle led her to become the voice to every young girl out there.
In 2014, she became the youngest person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Let’s take a time machine back all the way to 69BC-30BC. Although she is most renowned for her beauty, Cleopatra was more than that. She also shined with her intellect. She conquered countries and men. She was directly involved in the running of a kingdom that faced challenges in many different areas. She had a vision for her country and did everything she could to show her dedication to her country and people. The beginning of women’s empowerment started with Cleopatra; she was the only woman who ruled the Egyptian dynasty. She was a leader who believed in equality, not only equality between sexes but equality between people: the rich the poor, the young the old.
Cleopatra wasn’t a woman who possessed only intellectual power, but she also possessed great physical power. She was involved in the fierce battle to save Egypt and became the first woman to sit on a horseback and lead an army.
“I will not be triumphed over.”
Coco Chanel was more than just another designer. She knew exactly what women wanted and needed. Everything she did was a departure from the past. Her biggest goal was to give women clothes that they could be comfortable and feel free in. It all started with her abolition of the corset. She inspired women to be women, to dress like they wanted to, and not like the society imposed them to.
She added a whole new definition to women’s fashion with some of her controversial choices. For instance, back then, women’s clothes were mostly made out of silk and satin; fabrics that are extremely beautiful yet also very delicate, which requires a considerable amount of attention when wearing it. Coco Chanel decided to create clothes that were made of jersey, a material that was generally used for men’s underwear. Her choice of fabric was mostly to give women a comfortable option, a fabric that they can live in and breathe in. Her love for trousers pushed her to start designing trousers for women to wear while doing sports and other activities. When trousers used to be a functional garment, Chanel made them become a fashionable item.
“If you want to be original, be ready to be copied.”
Hélène de Pourtalès
It took some time for women to be finally accepted in sports. The Olympic Games of 1990, which took place in Paris, was the first Olympic Games to feature female athletes.
Hélène de Pourtalès, who was a Swiss sailor, and a crewmember of the Swiss boat ‘Lérina,’ became the first women to win an Olympic gold medal. Women today continue to show the highest level of achievements in sports.
Last but not least, Amelia Earhart. Amelia Earhart was a fearless woman. She chose to live her life not according to the rules, but according to her ambitions. Earhart broke many records. She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic as well as the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the United States. Earhart broke speed and flying records. In 1937, she decided to tour around the globe, which led her to become the first person to fly from the Red Sea to India. Unfortunately, she was reported missing somewhere over the Pacific. To this day, her plane wreckage was never found, which leaves her disappearance to remain one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century.
“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”