History is not always kind and oftentimes doesn’t do justice in remembering great achievements and honouring feats of courage and ingenuity. That especially goes for many women who should be remembered for their contributions to science or their moxie to battle social inequalities. This article is honouring some of these brave pioneers that came before and started to pave a way when no plan or roadmap existed.
Belva Ann Lockwood (1830-1917) made a foray into politics and became the first woman to officially run for president of the United Staes in 1884 and again in 1888, not minding that women at that time were not even allowed to vote. There simply was no law prohibiting them from running for office and that was what she did.
Nellie Bly (1864-1922) began working as a journalist in the 1880s. She practically invented investigative journalism by pretending to be insane and admitting herself to an asylum to be able to report on the grievances there. A dangerous mission that exposed unbelievable brutality and neglect towards the patients. She was also inspired by Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days and decided that she could do better. Nellie finished her adventure in 72 days – a record at that time!
Gertrude Benham (1867-1938) was an English explorer and mountaineer who accomplished remarkable feats such as circumnavigating the globe 7 times and climbing more than 300 peaks of 3000 meters or higher. Yet her name remains surprisingly obscure. She was the first European to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 1909. This could only be achieved after she sent her guides packing and ventured forth on her own. She never received the accolades for her success. In her own words, she described herself as a ‘very quiet and harmless traveller’.
Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) also known as “Queen Bessie”, was the first black woman with a pilot’s license and the first woman with an international pilot’s license. At first, it seemed impossible to live her dream of flying. Nobody in the southern states of the USA wanted to teach the farmer’s daughter. When she learned that she would be given the opportunity to do so in France, she moved to Europe and learned how to fly. Upon her return to the United States, she started to teach other women. She lived at the same time as aviatrix Amelia Earhart but never received similar recognition.
In 1962 James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel prize for the discovery of the molecule’s double-helix structure. What is lesser known is that their research was ‘borrowed without asking’ from Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958). When this was made public she had already died of cancer. Although the Nobel Committee recognised her contribution to science, she was not awarded the Nobel Prize as it is not awarded posthumously.
Many more women deserve a mention in this article or similar ones. Though by women across the globe walking their paths and not asking for permission to do so, we honour every single one of these brave souls that walked before us. Remember – if someone tells you that something is not possible, it’s their boundaries, not yours!
Are there any female role models that you admire? That inspired you to push further despite wanting to give up? Please share them with us in the comment section, the FAB team would love to hear more.