Monday, March 3, 2014

Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History...

One day, long ago, I was bemoaning the fact that there were so few women in history books. The person with whom I was speaking – who surely should have known better – told me that, up until very recently, women just didn’t DO anything. They were wives and mothers and had no hand in history.

This person is now embarrassed to have once spouted such ignorance. But it is still easy to look at history and see little but wealthy white men. Today I want to refocus that lens, and take a look at some remarkable women who made their own place in history. I tried to look at women who accomplished great things, but who may not have been mentioned in history class. There are many, many more – for links to women in history.       
  •  MARIANNE NORTH was an amateur botanist and painter in Victorian England who just loved to paint flowers.  But instead of being content to pore over books and learn vicariously, in 1860 North packed her bags and traveled – first to America, then South America, and on to Japan, India and Australia. Everywhere she went, she painted amazing pictures of beautiful flowers. Since photography was still a very new art, North’s paintings gave European scientists their first close-up look at many plants from continents around the world. 
  • Belva Ann Lockwood
    ·         BELVA ANN LOCKWOOD was the first American woman to run for president of the United States. She ran twice – in 1884, and 1888. She was a lawyer and an advocate for women’s rights, and in 1872 helped pass a law guaranteeing equal pay for equal work for women within the federal government. She also authored amendments giving women the right to vote in three states – Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.
  • HARRIET QUIMBY, born 1875 in Michigan, was a Renaissance woman. She was one of the first female screen writers in the budding American film industry, working for famous director DW Griffith. She got her pilot’s license in 1911, and became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
  • ELIZABETH COCHRANE (Nellie Bly) became famous for circumnavigating the globe in just 72 days – but she also was instrumental in laying the foundation for investigative journalism in the United States.  In 1887, she had herself committed to a mental institution (called insane asylums at the time). While there, she chronicled the horrific living conditions and treatment that mental patients received at the hands of “doctors.” Her articles resulted in an investigation of the hospital. The name “Nellie Bly” is still synonymous with excellence in investigative reporting by women.
  •  HYPATIA was an Egyptian mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, and is the earliest known female mathematician, as few works have survived from that era. She was born in the year 355 and died in 415 in Alexandria. While she lived, she was the leading mathematician and astronomer of her time, and attracted quite a following with her series of lectures on both math and philosophy.  

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