This curious and unfortunate dearth of female statues, mirrored in cities across the globe, is what is now being referred to as the bronze ceiling.
10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7Andree de Jongh
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.
6Bertha von Suttner
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.”
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.
4Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
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.
However, Walker never let critics get her down. She held her head high for her accomplishments in her work.
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.
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.
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.
While you’ve probably heard of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Susan B. Anthony, history is filled with amazing women whom most people have never heard of. Whether this is due to the misogynistic nature of past historians or simply because people failed to take note of their work while they were alive, many women have not received the recognition they are due.
There are thousands of talented women who have made the world a better place, but these 10 are some of the most influential. Odds are, you haven’t heard of many of them, but all 10 deserve recognition for their work. Due to their incredible accomplishments, these women are presented in no particular order as they stand together equally.
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Long before the United States considered giving women the right to vote, Jovita Idar was fighting against a patriarchal society that oppressed her for both her femininity and her origins. Born in Laredo, Texas, to Mexican immigrants, Idar grew up in a place and time which wasn’t friendly to Mexican Americans.
In her early career, she became a teacher but was frustrated by the lack of supplies hindering her ability to teach. Seeing her impact diminished, she put her voice to work and became a journalist.
She wrote about inequality and segregation throughout her community. She also supported numerous causes created to help women gain a voice in politics, and she became an outspoken critic of policies she deemed shameful.
While working for the newspaper El Progreso, she called out President Wilson’s dispatch of troops to the southern border, which angered the US Army and the Texas Rangers. The latter came to the newspaper to shut it down.
Refusing to back down, Idar stood in the doorway and kept them from entering. The paper was later shut down, but her defiant stance against the Rangers—all of whom were armed and angry with her—became a symbol of resistance for women and Mexican Americans across the nation.
Throughout her political career, Shirley Chisholm racked up a lot of firsts. She holds the honor of being the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, having represented New York’s 12th Congressional District. She retained the office for seven terms between 1969 and 1983.
Not wanting to keep her options limited, she became the first black candidate to vie for a major party’s nomination for the president of the United States in 1972. She was also the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for that office.
Chisolm’s work in the Congress established her as a woman of the people. She worked tirelessly on bills supporting a revocation of the draft, an establishment of a minimum wage for domestic workers, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Her legacy has been credited as helping to “pave the way” for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary battle, which pitted an African American man against a woman. No matter who won that battle, a new “first” would have been achieved. As we all know, the primary’s results helped to establish the first African-American presidency in the United States.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in 1797. She escaped following the birth of her daughter in 1826.
She left behind a son but was able to recover him when she successfully sued a white man for his custody in 1828. That made her the first black woman to win a case of that type. Her son Peter had been illegally sold to Alabama from New York following that state’s emancipation.
She continued to work for several years. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became a Methodist. At this time, she became an outspoken abolitionist and supporter of pacifism and the women’s rights movement. She came into contact with the likes of Frederick Douglass, who influenced her work.
In 1850, she published a memoir titled The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. The following year, she gave her most famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Her words had an impact and were recalled for decades in both the women’s rights movement as well as the abolitionist movement.
She was chosen as one of the women whose work influenced the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and will be featured on the back of the $10 bill set for release in 2020.
Huda Sha’arawi was born into a wealthy family in Upper Egypt. Her father, Muhammad Sultan, was the first president of the Egyptian Representative Council, so it stands to reason that she grew up comfortably.
While this is true, she was a woman in 19th-century Egypt, which meant she either had to live at home or in a harem. After she was married to her cousin and later separated, she found some independence and furthered her education. This led Sha’arawi to feminism, where she became one of the first women to remove her veil in public. Within a decade, the majority of women in Egypt were doing the same.
She hosted women’s groups in her home and brought other women into public, which was unheard-of at the time. In 1919, she led the first women’s street demonstration during the Egyptian Revolution and was subsequently elected as the president of the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee.
Though few of her demands were ever met by the government in her lifetime, her work for women’s rights helped lay the groundwork for future gains by Egyptian women. She is remembered as one of the earliest leaders of feminism and women’s rights in Egypt by Arab women around the world.
While most people know of Amelia Earhart, few recall the accomplishments of Lilian Bland. She was one of the first women in the world to design, build, and fly an airplane.
In 1910, when few had ever seen an airplane, she became interested in flying after receiving a postcard from her uncle in Paris. Determined to fly, she got to work and made a biplane glider which she ironically named Mayfly. The glider worked, but she wanted to achieve powered flight like the Wright Brothers. So she ordered a two-stroke engine. It arrived before the fuel tank, but that didn’t slow her down.
She constructed a tank out of an empty bottle of whiskey and her deaf aunt’s ear trumpet. Although it didn’t work, her perseverance paid off. Once the fuel tank arrived, she became the first woman to fly an aircraft in Ireland.
Her father didn’t like the idea of his daughter flying and offered to buy her a car. It actually worked, and she taught herself to drive. Later, she ran a car dealership in Belfast and became Ford’s first agent in Northern Ireland.
Lilian Bland was always unconventional. But her need to fly helped prove the innovation of women, and she helped inspire others to achieve greatness all over the world.
While everyone knows the name Neil Armstrong, few have ever heard of Margaret Hamilton, the woman who helped take men to the Moon in 1969. Hamilton was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which created the onboard flight software used by the Apollo space program.
Without her work, NASA would have been unable to navigate to the Moon. Her feat was recognized by President Barack Obama, who awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Later in her career, she founded and became the CEO of Hamilton Technologies, Inc. The company went on to develop the Universal Systems Language, which has furthered system and software design.
Hamilton is credited with more than 130 published papers and is the woman who coined the phrase “software engineering,” a career which is predominantly held by men. She is one of the leading pioneers in computer science and easily one of the most important people involved with the Apollo missions.
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was a Soviet sniper who had 59 confirmed kills during World War II. She joined the military in 1941 following the death of her brother.
After volunteering for service, she became a marksman who would serve on the front lines, which was taboo for women. Although she isn’t the first female sniper, she is likely the best in terms of accuracy and number of kills in combat. During the Battle of Vilnius, she racked up 12 kills alone and became proficient in making doublets, which is hitting two targets with a single bullet.
She was the first female Soviet sniper to receive the Order of Glory, awarded for bravery in the face of the enemy. Her exploits were glorified in a Canadian newspaper in 1944 when she was called “the unseen terror of East Prussia.”
Shanina was killed in action when she covered an already wounded artillery unit commander, saving him from further injury. She is fondly remembered in Russia as a hero of the Soviet Union. She fought at a time when women were rarely considered for combat roles and when female snipers were traditionally removed from the front lines. But her abilities and accomplishments speak for themselves.
Prior to the US and allied invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, women were not allowed to do much in the country. They were forbidden from attending school beyond age eight and were unable to hold office, leave the house without an escort, or pretty much do anything they wanted.
Since the fall of the Taliban, things have changed. Niloofar Rahmani has established herself as the first female fixed-wing air force aviator in the country’s history. She is also the first female pilot in the Afghan military. Although she and her family have received death threats, she has persisted.
Rahmani has been recognized internationally for her perseverance in attaining her role as the first woman to pilot an aircraft in the Afghan military. The US State Department gave her their International Women of Courage Award in 2015.
Following the international recognition she received, the death threats intensified and Rahmani remained in the US. She applied for and received asylum in the United States in 2018 and plans to become a military pilot in the United States Air Force.
2Belva Ann Lockwood
Long before women were given the right to vote in the United States, women like Belva Ann Lockwood were fighting for women’s rights. Lockwood graduated from law school and became one of the first women to practice law in the United States.
Though she wasn’t the first to practice, she did attain the distinction of becoming the first woman to successfully petition Congress in 1879 to practice before the United States Supreme Court. At that time, women weren’t even allowed to cast a ballot in the country. But she stood before the Supreme Court, which is an honor few attorneys ever achieve.
Lockwood ran for president of the United States in both 1884 and 1888 on the National Equal Rights Party ticket. Although she failed to win those elections, she did become the first woman to officially appear on a national ballot.
Lockwood has been honored for her achievements long after her death in 1917. Her likeness has been carved into ship figureheads and has appeared on United States Postal Service stamps. Ships have been named in her honor, and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983.
To be fair, you’ve probably heard of Hedy Lamarr. She was a famous Hollywood actress who was once called “the most beautiful woman in the world.” But that’s not what she should be recognized for.
Lamarr was an inventor, and her work helped develop the technology on which you may be reading this article. During World War II, Lamarr helped to develop frequency-hopping spread spectrum for radio signals, which was meant to be used in the development of torpedoes.
Torpedoes were nothing new, but they were susceptible to jamming until her technology could be implemented. Unfortunately, the navy didn’t take her work seriously until the 1960s when it was finally used in most of their communications tech. That technology became the underlying concept used by the cell phone network, Bluetooth, CDMA, and Wi-Fi communications.
Her inventions revolutionized the world, and she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. Her work in Hollywood is certainly noteworthy. But given her contributions to science and technology, she deserves widespread recognition for her accomplishments outside the industry.