The world was once run by men. Women were expected to remain in the background, their main purpose serving men and raising children. They had no rights and no voice in society. Some have become well known despite that, including Mary Magdeline. A very small number found a way around it, such as Joan of Arc. Then came women who broke that mold. They bucked the system to follow their dreams. Most of them had a rocky path and were intensely criticized. It took a strong spirit, strong will, and determination to do what they have done. Their actions are an inspiration to all who dream, especially women. The world today would be an entirely different place had it not been for their tireless devotion to their chosen causes. While there is still inequality in much of the world, the women mentioned here have paved the way for women to make contributions to society.
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Here are some of the Top 10 Most Famous Women Who Changed The World
10. Eleanor Roosevelt
Yes, she was known as the wife of an American president, but she worked diligently on her own to make the world better. As First Lady, she supported women having the right to work and furthered women’s issues. She actively supported anti-lynching campaigns, fought for decent housing for minorities, investigated working conditions as part of the move to make labor humane, and supported the right to organize. She wrote a column from 1936 to 1962 that was published nationally, which reached millions, to voice these concerns. She was chosen to head the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1945. A few years later, she aided in drafting the Declaration of Human Rights.
9. Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell decided to go into medicine when a dying friend said that she would have had less suffering if her physician had been a woman. She became the first woman to receive an MD degree from an American medical school. It was not easy. She talked to family friends who were physicians and was told that it was too expensive and that medical schools did not accept women. She convinced two of them to let her read medicine with them for a year. Then she applied to more than a dozen schools before being accepted at Geneva Medical College in New York. This school assumed that the all-male student body would not vote to accept her but they did, as a joke, and she was admitted. She supported medical education for women and aided many women in their careers.
8. Amelia Earhart
This woman forged the way for females to do things that were historically done only by men. She was the first female aviator to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this, which was a great feat. She also set other flying records such as women’s speed and altitude records, and she was famous for being the first female to fly solo from coast to coast nonstop. She was president of the Ninety-Nines, a female aviation club that she helped form. Amelia was a visiting faculty member at Perdue University where she was an advisor to aeronautical engineering. She was a staunch supporter of women’s right and was active in the National Woman’s Party. She also wrote several books about her aviation experiences. On July 2, 1937, while attempting an around-the-world flight, she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Her disappearance remains a mystery to this day.
7. Susan B. Anthony
A true political activist, Ms. Anthony began collecting signatures on petitions against slavery at the age of 19. She strongly believed in equality for all people and fought tirelessly for various such causes. She supported the temperance movement but was not allowed to speak at a convention for temperance, so she and a female friend founded the Women’s Temperance Society. These two women founded the Women’s Loyal National League, collecting more than 400,000 signatures supporting slavery abolition. A couple of years later, they formed the American Equal Rights Association, which fought for equal rights for both women and African Americans. Later, they would also found the National Woman Suffrage Association. Her work paved the way for women;s voting rights. Yet, she died 14 years before women gained the right to vote.
6. Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a political activist in Pakistan. She inherited leadership of the country after a military coup overthrew her father’s reign. Four years before, she had formed an underground organization to resist military dictatorship. She became Prime Minister at just 35 years old, becoming the first woman prime minister in an Islamic country. During her leadership, she made hunger, healthcare, and housing her main concerns. She started an anti-corruption campaign, as this was a long-standing problem in the country. She also demonstrated dedication to empowering women. She was assassinated in 2007 at a campaign rally.
5. Rosa Parks
This brave woman was the stone that created ripples by refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama to a white man in 1955, defying the segregation laws on the books at the time. She was arrested and the case was taken to the streets by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., resulting in widespread coverage of the act of peaceful defiance. The city, Montgomery, eventually repealed the segregation laws. This spurred others to action and protests ensued around the country. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation laws unconstitutional in 1956. Parks became known as the “the first lady of civil rights” for her courageous act. It cost her and her husband their jobs, but she made history. She continued to advocate for civil rights throughout her life. When she died in 2005, she was the first woman and the third non-US government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.
4. Helen Keller
Due to an illness at 19 months old, Keller became both deaf and blind. She was unable to communicate meaningfully until Anne Sullivan came to be her governess. Sullivan broke through barriers to learn to communicate with Keller and Keller’s progress began. She attended Perkins Institute for the Blind and then Horace Mann School for the Deaf. Upon graduating from to Radcliffe College, she became the first blind and deaf person to obtain a Batchelor of Arts degree, She learned to speak and gave many speeches as an advocate of people with disabilities. She and George Kessler co-founded Helen Keller International, an association devoted to research on vision, health, and nutrition. She was also a prolific writer.
3. Florence Nightingale
The daughter of a well-to-do family in England, Nightingale was expected to marry well and live a comfortable domestic lifestyle. She shocked her family by deciding to become a nurse. Despite objections, she trained in nursing and was eventually hired as superintendent of a women’s hospital. When the Crimean War began, she was appointed to take 38 nurses and go to Turkey to minister to soldiers there. They were the first to officially serve in the military. Nightingale found the hospital to be filthy and immediately set out to clean it up and improve the facility. As the hospital was made cleaner, the death toll dropped. A newspaper picture of her with a lantern became famous, depicting her making rounds to check on wounded soldiers.
Being a statistician, she studied Army data and found that 16,000 of 18,000 deaths were caused not by wounds but by infections from poor sanitation. Her work helped people to understand the connection between sanitation and recovery of those hospitalized, new standards for hospitals were instituted. Even on her deathbed, she pored over statistics for ways to improve healthcare. She always felt that even the poorest deserved health care and often sent nurses into workhouses to help treat the needy. This served as a model for the National Health Service. Countless millions can thank Florence Nightingale for recovering in hospitals rather than succumbing to infections and dying.
2. Madame Curie
Madame Curie was a Polish physicist who became known worldwide. Born Maria Skłodowska, her father taught math and physics. When Russian government banned laboratory studies from Polish schools, her father brought the lab equipment home and taught his children how to use it. When she moved to Paris she started her career and that same year she met Pierre Curie. Their mutual fascination with natural sciences was an immediate bond. Her husband and his brother had developed a way of measuring electric charge. Her further study of this helped disprove the theory that atoms were indivisible. She conducted the first research into the treatment of tumors with radiation. She was also co-founder of Curie Institutes, important research centers.
Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, in 1903, for her work in Physics. In 1911, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. When war broke out, she set up medical x-ray units and millions of soldiers passed through the units for their wounds.
In 1934, she died of aplastic anemia due to her exposure to the radioactivity during her years of research, since the ill effects of radiation were unknown at first.
1. Mother Teresa
The greatest humanitarian of our time, the woman born as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, later known as Mother Teresa is a name known to all. Born into a devout Catholic fam, she had decided by the age of 12 to devote her life to God. At 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto to learn English. She chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, but one nun had already taken that name so she chose the Spanish spelling Teresa. She taught there for 20 years and was appointed head mistress.
She became more distressed about the poverty surrounding her and felt the call to leave the convent and serve the poor while living among them. After getting basic medical training in India she went into the slums and founded a school and helped whomever she could. In 1950, she founded Missionaries of Charity, devoted to serving “the poorest of the poor”.
This group ran a home for those dying of deadly diseases, a home for lepers, an orphanage, and many outreach programs. Today they have such programs in more than 133 countries.
She died in 1997 and was cannonized in 2016. She is the quintessential figure of compassion.
To all women, let these synopses inspire you. Today, many pathways to success are open because of the contributions of these women. The thing you want to do may still be hard, but be encouraged by the way these examples of devotion and courage handled obstacles. They give more meaning to the old saying “Where there is a will, there is a way”.