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  • 10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History – Listverse

    via 10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History – Listverse

    10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History

    EMILY WINCHESTER 

     

    History is a fickle thing. Sometimes, the simplest events are immortalized while major events are forgotten. But the beauty of the Internet is that we can bring forgotten accomplishments out of the shadows and shine a light on them again.

    The achievements of these women are something that should not go uncredited or unknown. These women were trailblazers, renegades, geniuses, and just plain awesome.

    10Valentina Tereshkova

    Photo credit: space.com

    Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to venture into space in June 1963. Her training in parachuting made her an ideal candidate to become a Russian cosmonaut. She applied soon after women became eligible.

    The USSR’s decision to put women into space was fueled by a desire to beat the USA to a “first” in the space race. Along with four other women, Tereshkova was put through the same rigorous training as her male counterparts. She spent a total of 70 hours and 50 minutes in space.[1]

    When she returned home, she received some of the most prestigious awards offered by the Soviet Union. This included the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, the highest award in the USSR. The United States would not send a female astronaut into space until 20 years later.

    9Margaret Hamilton

    Photo credit: NASA

    If not for Margaret Hamilton, the famous lines uttered by Neil Armstrong upon stepping onto the surface of the Moon would never have been said. She led the 400,000-strong team of software engineers that made Apollo 11 both possible and successful.

    Hamilton had a rigorous approach to many tests. This attitude helped to preserve the mission when the guidance computer began to prioritize the Moon landing on its own. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, by President Barack Obama.[2]

    8Caroline Herschel

    Photo credit: Michael Hoskin

    Caroline Herschel laid the groundwork for Western women in science. Having been given an education by her father, she was well ahead of her time. An accomplished astronomer, she was the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet—and found eight overall.

    Her more famous brother, William Herschel, was given a job as King George III’s personal astronomer. She followed as his assistant. By also receiving wages, she was the first woman to be recognized for scientific work.

    After her brother’s death, Caroline Herschel mapped out the exact placement of their discoveries. The Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy made her the first female honorary member. Years later, she received the King of Prussia’s Gold Medal of Science.[3]

    7Andree de Jongh

    Photo via Wikimedia

    Andree de Jongh was the head of a resistance group called the Comet Line. Her organization helped abandoned Allied soldiers escape Nazi-occupied countries and return to the safety of Allied lines. She also led many of these crusades from safe houses in Belgium through occupied France and finally to a neutral Spain.

    De Jongh is estimated to have helped over 100 airmen to escape. She was eventually caught, and her father was executed. The disbelief that a person of her gender could lead this group kept her from torture and death. She was sent to prison, a women’s concentration camp, and a criminal labor camp.[4]

    6Bertha von Suttner

    Photo via Wikimedia

    Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She wrote Lay Down Your Arms (1889), one of the most influential books of the 1800s.

    Von Suttner was a close friend of Alfred Nobel. They spoke for years on the subject of peace. She also became one of the leaders of the international peace movement and, in 1891, established the Austrian Peace Society. Von Suttner stood out as a radical and forceful leader among the group. She was referred to as the “generalissimo of the peace movement.”[5]

    5Truus And Freddie Oversteegen

    When Truus Oversteegen was 16 and her sister, Freddie, was just 14, a resistance fighter asked their mother if the girls could join the Dutch resistance against the Nazis. Their mother allowed it.

    The girls would flirt with Nazi officers and collaborators. Then, these young women would lead the men to the woods under the pretense of intimacy. Unknown to the men, another resistance fighter was lying in wait. The officer would be shot and the murder covered up while the sisters acted as lookouts.[6]

    4Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

    Photo via Wikimedia

    Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was a nurse and surgeon during the Civil War as well as a women’s rights activist. When the Civil War started, she joined the Union effort as a nurse in DC and briefly as a surgeon in Ohio. For her work during the war, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

    When her eligibility for the medal was called into question and her name taken off the list of awardees, she refused to give back the medal. The award was restored to her posthumously in 1977.

    In the world of women’s rights, Walker chose to fight for female rights to a public professional role. She wore a Bloomer costume in protest of the unrealistic clothes required of working women. She also started to wear men’s clothes, which caused her to be arrested for impersonation several times.[7]

    However, Walker never let critics get her down. She held her head high for her accomplishments in her work.

    3Lyudmila Pavlichenko

    Photo via Wikimedia

    With a confirmed 309 kills, Lyudmila Pavlichenko still holds the record as the deadliest female sniper in the world. As a young woman, she competed with the neighborhood boys in marksmanship and later attended snipers’ school to perfect her shooting skills. Even so, she studied to be a teacher and scholar at Kiev University.

    Her goals changed in 1941 when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Eager to fight for her country, she managed to prove herself and secure a place in the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division. Her first battle had her paralyzed with fear until a young soldier was shot right next to her. That propelled her to make the first of her many kills.

    One hundred of her kills were German officers. She would spend days in sniper battles and was so well-known by the enemy that they would call for her by name on radio loudspeakers to try to bribe her.

    After being promoted, she was pulled from combat and toured the world. Pavlichenko became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and received gifts wherever she went. On her tours, Pavlichenko would push aside sexist questions and instead promote support for the second (Western) front. She retired with the rank of major and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.[8]

    2Hatshepsut

    Photo credit: Postdlf

    She was forgotten because her image was scrubbed from history by her own stepson.

    Hatshepsut was the first women to attain the full powers of pharaoh. She began as a queen, the wife of her half-brother. When he died young, she assumed the role as regent until her infant stepson was of ruling age. She soon took full power, declaring herself a pharaoh.

    She defended this move by reinventing how she was seen. Statues and paintings were commissioned that depicted her like a male pharaoh with a beard and muscles. Her achievements included construction of a temple at Deir el-Bahri, which is seen by many as the most beautiful temple in Egypt.

    After she died and her stepson became ruler, he wiped her from history. Her images on temples and monuments were destroyed. The ancients believed that you would live eternally on the other side if you were remembered in life. But if you were forgotten, you ceased to be.

    Accordingly, when the appropriate hieroglyphics were decoded in 1822, the revelations about Hatshepsut brought her back to her eternal life.[9]

    1Zheng Shi

    Photo via Wikimedia

    Zheng Shi (aka Ching Shih) achieved something that few ever managed to do—she won over the long term as a pirate. She started as a prostitute captured by pirates, and she was claimed by the pirate fleet’s admiral as his wife. Zheng Shi agreed on the terms that she was granted copartnership of command and half the admiral’s share of the loot.

    When her husband, Zheng Yi, died, she quickly took control of the fleet. She was a ruthless pirate lord. She instituted a strict set of rules. Most punishments for breaking the rules involved execution. Loot was to be recorded and properly distributed, female prisoners were to be treated with civility, and deserters would have their ears cut off.

    With an iron grip on her fleet, Zheng Shi created an empire that was unrivaled in its power and success. When met by a government armada, she sank 63 of their ships and sent the rest home in retreat.

    Her might humiliated the three naval world powers of Britain, China, and Portugal. In a desperate attempt to end the pirate lord’s reign, the emperor offered amnesty for Zheng Shi and her fleet. She agreed and got to keep her loot. Zheng Shi retired, opened a gambling house, and died peacefully at 69 years old.[10]

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  • 10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women – Listverse

    via 10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women – Listverse

    10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women

    MARK OLIVER 

     

    Being pretty isn’t easy. The most beautiful women in history weren’t just born that way. They put hard work into it—and, sometimes, a few crushed bug guts, stewed birds, or dung.

    It’s the dirty little secret behind glamour: No matter how fantastic someone looks, it never comes naturally. Behind every great beauty in history, there’s a dirty secret about all the work that went into looking that good.

    Featured image credit: Sandro Botticelli

    10Empress Elisabeth: A Face Mask Lined With Raw Veal

    Photo credit: Emil Rabending

    The most beautiful woman on earth, in the 19th century, was Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She was famous across Europe for her impeccable skin and the thick, chestnut hair that fell all the way down to her feet.

    None of which came easy. To keep her skin beautiful, she would crush strawberries over her hands, face, and neck, bathe in warm olive oil, and sleep in what has only been described as a “mask lined inside with raw veal.”[1]

    It was the closest she came to eating food. Her favorite dish was pressed extract of chicken, partridge, venison, and beef—which isn’t so much a “food” as something you’d find in a spice cabinet. And even then, she’d wrap herself in a corset so tight that her waist only measured 49.5 centimeters (19.5 in) around.

    She spent three hours each day getting her hair down, mainly because it was so long that it would get tied up in knots. And when it was put up in ribbons, her hair would get so heavy that it would give her headaches.

    It meant that, more often than not, she was stuck indoors, too afraid to let the wind ruin her hair. But if you want to be beautiful, sometimes you have to give up on little luxuries, like ever leaving your house.

    9Cleopatra: Bathing In Donkey Milk

    Photo credit: Jean-Leon Gerome

    Queen Cleopatra won the hearts of the most powerful men alive. Maybe it was her grace. Maybe it was her charm. Or maybe it was that sweet aroma of dung and insect guts.

    Cleopatra, after all, almost certainly followed the usual beauty conventions of her time—and that meant wearing a lipstick made out of mashed-up beetle guts and putting powdered crocodile dung under her eyes.

    But Cleopatra didn’t limit herself to a peasant’s beauty regimen. She was a queen, and that meant that she could afford the most luxurious treatment of all: bathing in sour donkey milk. Her servants would milk 700 donkeys each day so that they could fill a tub with their milk. Then, once it had gone bad, Cleopatra would bathe inside.

    The theory was that it would reduce wrinkles—and it may actually have worked. Soured lactose turns into lactic acid, which can make the surface layer of skin on a woman’s body peel off, revealing the smoother, blemish-free skin underneath.[2]

    That was the real secret to her beauty: burning her flesh off.

    8Nefertiti: Wearing Enough Makeup To Kill You

    Photo credit: Philip Pikart

    The Egyptian queen Nefertiti’s name meant “the beautiful one has come”—and she lived up to it. She was so beautiful that, in the early 20th century, a statue of her face caused an international sensation. More than 3,000 years after she died, her looks were still front-page news.

    And no wonder. She put no small amount of work into looking good.

    The queens of Nefertiti’s time would be buried with their makeup,[3] and so, while they didn’t write many of their beauty secrets down, we’ve been able to find their methods left behind in their tombs. While her tomb has never been found, the tombs of her contemporaries give us a pretty good idea of how she did it.

    Nefertiti was completely hairless. Her entire body was shaved from head to toe with a razor, including the hair on the top of her head. Instead, she topped her head with a wig and painted her eyes black with something called kohl.

    Ancient Egyptian kohl, incidentally, was made out of the dark lead ore galena—which means that Nefertiti was slowly killing herself with lead poisoning every time she put on makeup.

    But it’s highly unlikely that the lead killed her. There’s simply no way it could have finished her off before her lipstick. Her lipstick, after all, contained bromine mannite, another toxic substance that it’s generally believed would have poisoned her long before the lead she dabbed around her eyes.

    7Queen Elizabeth I: Coating Your Skin In Lead

    Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Poisoning yourself with lead is no passing fad. It’s been a great look for thousands of years. While Nefertiti may have dabbed a little lead around her eyes, it was nothing compared to Queen Elizabeth I.

    During the Elizabethan era, the most popular skin product was something called “Venetian ceruse”—which, quite simply, was a mixture of lead and vinegar that women would put all over their skin to make them look porcelain white.[4]

    Nobody used more of it than Queen Elizabeth herself. When she was 29, Elizabeth contracted smallpox and was left with scars all over her skin. She was too humiliated to show her scars in public—and so, instead, she covered every inch of her flesh with the toxic white paint.

    Queen Elizabeth used so much of it that she was completely unrecognizable without it. When one man, the Earl of Essex, accidentally peeked a sight of her without her makeup on, he went around joking that she’d hidden a “crooked carcass” underneath that thick veneer of Venetian ceruse.

    6Marie Antoinette: Stewed Pigeon Water

    The French queen Marie Antoinette didn’t exactly let herself eat cake. She had a reputation as a world-class beauty, and she was determined to keep it up.

    Like Empress Elisabeth, she would go to bed with a face mask, but Antoinette’s—made of cognac, eggs, powdered milk, and lemon—sounds a little bit less like a beauty treatment and a little bit more like the catering menu at a birthday party.

    She’d start the morning by washing her face with a facial cleanser made out of pigeons. In those days, that was a selling point: the product came proudly labeled with the mean “Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon” and a little ad promising every bottle had been made with “eight pigeons stewed.”[5]

    Then she would get dressed—for the first of three times each day. As queen of France, Marie Antoinette was expected to never wear the same thing twice. And so, each year, she would 120,000 livres on clothes, the equivalent to about $4 million today.

    She may even have indulged in the popular French fashion of tracing her veins with a blue pencil. At the time, the women of France wanted to be so thin that they were translucent—so they’d draw the inner workings of their bodies, trying to convince the men that they had transparent skin.

    5Mary, Queen Of Scots: Bathing In Wine

    Photo credit: Francois Clouet

    Mary, Queen of Scots, wasn’t a natural beauty. She was born with a nose a little large and a chin a little too sharp—but she was a queen, and she was determined to be beautiful.

    To keep her skin as striking as possible, she had her servants fill a bathtub with a white wine.[6] She would wade in it, convinced that the wine was improving her complexion.

    It sounds decadent, but it’s actually something people still do today. Today, it’s called vinotherapy, and there are places all around the world where you can experience the Mary, Queen of Scots, treatment for yourself.

    It’s hard to say exactly what the queen used, but the modern vinotherapists don’t actually pour drinkable, alcoholic wine. Instead, they use the leftover compost from the winemaking process; the “pips and pulps” of grapes that get left behind. So, no—you can’t get drunk off of it.

    4Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita: Starting Your Own Cosmetics Lab

    Photo credit: Myrabella

    Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita was one of the most beautiful women in the Byzantine Empire. She didn’t just look good when she was young, though. Even when she was well into her sixties, it’s said, she still looked like a 20-year-old.[7]

    She certainly worked hard enough for it. After becoming the empress, Zoe Porphyrogenita had an entire laboratory dedicated to making her cosmeticsbuilt inside of the imperial palace. It was a real cosmetic factory, every bit as huge and expensive as the ones that supply whole countries. At this one, though, Zoe was the only customer.

    It was expensive—but for the empress, blowing a small fortune was just all in a day’s work. It’s said that she was “the sort of woman who could exhaust a sea teaming with gold-dust in one day.”

    But it’s also said that “like a well-baked chicken, every part of her was firm and in good condition.” This is definitive proof that it worked, because, clearly, Zoe looked so good that the men who saw her were so smitten that they couldn’t even form a sentence that didn’t make your skin crawl.

    3Lucrezia Borgia: Spending Multiple Days Washing Your Hair

    Photo credit: Bartolomeo Veneto

    The poet Lord Byron once said that Lucrezia Borgia’s hair was “the prettiest and fairest imaginable.” He wasn’t just trying out a line for a new poem—he was in love, so much so, in fact, that he stole a strand of her hair and kept it by his bed.

    It sounds one of those touching love stories that usually end with someone filing a restraining order. Lucrezia, though, probably appreciated it. She deserved a little recognition for the amount of work she put into that hair—because she would spend days washing it.[8]

    Lucrezia’s hair was bright and blonde, but that wasn’t nature. Everyone else in her family had dark hair. Lucrezia, though, made sure hers shined like the Sun by rinsing it in lye and lemon juice for hours, then drying it out in the sunlight for the better part of a day.

    It took so much time that she repeatedly canceled trips to wash her hair. Multiple letters from Lucrezia’s attendants have survived to to this day. In them, she politely apologizes to people and explains that she will be a few days late because she has to “put her clothes in order and wash her head.”

    2Helen Of Troy: Bathing In Vinegar

    Photo credit: Charles Meynier

    Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1,000 ships. She was a woman so beautiful that thousands of men died for her honor.

    Well, either that, or else she was just a figment of an old Greek guy’s imagination. If Homer really did make her up, though, he had a remarkable understanding of women’s cosmetic care. Because packed deep in her legend is a beauty regimen that really works.

    Helen of Troy, according to the Iliad, would bathe in vinegar.[9] Every day, her attendants would prepare what, technically speaking, was a bathtub full of acid, and she would just dive right in.

    Today, people tend to assume that she used apple cider vinegar or that she diluted it in water, simply because, otherwise, it sounds pretty horrible. After all, that’s something people still do today—bathe in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. And it actually works. The vinegar balances the body’s pH levels, which can have a cleansing effect.

    But there’s nothing saying Helen of Troy ever added water. She may just have dived right into a bathtub filled to the brim with white vinegar. It would’ve hurt, and she would’ve smelled—but that’s what it takes to look good enough to start a war.

    1Simonetta Vespucci: Arsenic, Leeches, And Human Urine

    Photo credit: Sandro Botticelli

    Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve seen Simonetta Vespucci’s face. She was the muse for some of the greatest painters of the Renaissance.[10] She was even chosen to model for the goddess of love herself at the center of the painting The Birth of Venus.

    In the Renaissance, everyone wanted to look like her. And so they copied her beauty regimen—leeches, poisons, and all.

    To keep their skin pale, white, and beautiful, the women in Vespucci’s time would attach leeches to their ears. The leeches would drain the blood out of their faces, leaving them deathly pale.

    Those who didn’t want to go that far, though, could always use a face mask. Renaissance women would mix bread crumbs and egg whites with vinegar and then apply it liberally on their faces—a beauty secret that, conveniently, doubles as a great recipe for fried chicken.

    Eyebrow hair, at the time, had to be plucked, or, ideally, burned straight off. Women would remove their hairs with arsenic and rock alum and then sand it all down with gold.

    But that was nothing compared to what they’d do to get that long, flowing, golden mane of hair on her head. For Vespucci, it just came naturally, but the poorer women who wanted to copy her found their own way. They bleached their hair in human urine.

    Sure, it sounds gross—but every beautiful woman has to do a few things that just aren’t pretty.

  • In Praise of the Telescopic Perspective: A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times – Brain Pickings

    via In Praise of the Telescopic Perspective: A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times – Brain Pickings

    Perspective to lift the blinders of our cultural moment.

    It has been a difficult year — politically, personally. Through it all, I have found solace in taking a more telescopic view — not merely on the short human timescale of my own life, looking back on having lived through a Communist dictatorship and having seen poems composed and scientific advances made under such tyrannical circumstances, but on far vaster scales of space and time.

    A 2017 Moon seen through my telescope at home under the Brooklyn skies.

    When I was growing up in Bulgaria, a great point of national pride — and we Bulgarians don’t have too many — was that an old Bulgarian folk song had sailed into space aboard the Voyagerspacecraft, the 1977 mission NASA launched with the scientific objective of photographing the planets of the outer solar system, which furnished the very first portrait of our cosmic neighborhood. Human eyes had never before been laid on the arresting aquamarine of Uranus, on Neptune’s stunning deep-blue orb, on the splendid fury of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — a storm more than threefold the size of our entire planet, raging for three hundred years, the very existence of which dwarfs every earthly trouble.

    Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by the Voyager. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)
    Neptune as seen by the Voyager. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)
    The Voyager‘s farewell shot of Uranus. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)

    But the Voyager also had another, more romantic mission. Aboard it was the Golden Record — a time-capsule of the human spirit encrypted in binary code on a twelve-inch gold-plated copper disc, containing greetings in the fifty-four most populist human languages and one from the humpback whales, 117 images of life on Earth, and a representative selection of our planet’s sounds, from an erupting volcano to a kiss to Bach — and that Bulgarian folk song.

    The sunflower fields of Bulgaria.

    Bulgaria is an old country — fourteen centuries old, five of which were spent under Ottoman yoke. This song, sung by generations of shepherdesses, encodes in its stunning vocal harmonies both the suffering and the hope with which people lived daily during those five centuries. You need not speak Bulgarian in order to receive its message, its essence, its poetic truth beyond the factual details of history, in the very marrow of your being.

    Carl Sagan, who envisioned the Golden Record, had precisely that in mind — he saw the music selection as something that would say about us what no words or figures could ever say, for the stated objective of the Golden Record was to convey our essence as a civilization to some other civilization — one that surmounts the enormous improbabilities of finding this tiny spacecraft adrift amid the cosmic infinitude, of having the necessary technology to decode its message and the necessary consciousness to comprehend it.

    But the record’s unstated objective, which I see as the far more important one, was to mirror what is best of humanity back to itself in the middle of the Cold War, at a time when we seemed to have forgotten who we are to each other and what it means to share this fragile, symphonic planet.

    When the Voyager completed its exploratory mission and took the last photograph — of Neptune — NASA commanded that the cameras be shut off to conserve energy. But Carl Sagan had the idea of turning the spacecraft around and taking one final photograph — of Earth. Objections were raised — from so great a distance and at so low a resolution, the resulting image would have absolutely no scientific value. But Sagan saw the larger poetic worth — he took the request all the way up to NASA’s administrator and charmed his way into permission.

    The “Pale Blue Dot” — the Voyager‘s view of Earth seen from the outer edge of the Solar System. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)

    And so, on Valentine’s Day of 1990, just after Bulgaria’s Communist regime was finally defeated after nearly half a century of reign, the Voyager took the now-iconic image of Earth known as the “Pale Blue Dot” — a grainy pixel, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Sagan so poetically put it when he immortalized the photograph in his beautiful “Pale Blue Dot” monologue fromCosmos — that great masterwork of perspective, a timeless reminder that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was… every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician” lived out their lives on this pale blue dot. And every political conflict, every war we’ve ever fought, we have waged over a fraction of this grainy pixel barely perceptible against the cosmic backdrop of endless lonesome space.

    In the cosmic blink of our present existence, as we stand on this increasingly fragmented pixel, it is worth keeping the Voyager in mind as we find our capacity for perspective constricted by the stranglehold of our cultural moment. It is worth questioning what proportion of the news this year, what imperceptible fraction, was devoted to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for the landmark detection of gravitational waves — the single most significant astrophysical discovery since Galileo. After centuries of knowing the universe only by sight, only by looking, we can now listen to it and hear echoes of events that took place billions of lightyears away, billions of years ago — events that made the stardust that made us.

    I don’t think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it, by taking a telescopic perspective, that we can then dip back in and do the work which our time asks of us.