Need some Monday inspiration? Surfing through the pages of history, there are innumerable women who have contributed towards society, politics, sports, fashion, society and pretty much the world in general. Some you’ve probably heard of before, but there are others who’s enormous successes have been hidden away. Here’s a list of seven such inspiring women who struggled, paved the way, and made their own destiny.
1. Victoria Woodhull
“Women, no less than men, can qualify herself for the more onerous occupations of life. ” – Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
Although little known today, American suffragist Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to ever run for President of the United States in 1872. She made a fortune with her sister on the New York Stock Exchange and was one of the first women to open a Wall Street brokerage firm and they were among the first women to have found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which began publication in 1870. Woodhull went from rags to riches twice, her first fortune being made on the road as a highly successful magnetic healer before she joined the spiritualist movement in the 1870s. She was honored by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President in March 2008 and was included in a map of historical sites related or dedicated to important women.
2. Helen Rubinstein
“Hard work keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit.” – Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965)
Helena Rubinstein, born as Chaja Rubinstein was a Polish-born American business magnate. A cosmetics entrepreneur, she was the founder and eponym of Helena Rubinstein, Incorporated, which made her one of the world’s richest women. Rubinstein emigrated from Poland to Australia in 1902, with no money and little English. Her stylish clothes and milky complexion did not pass unnoticed among the town’s ladies, however, and she soon found enthusiastic buyers for the jars of beauty cream in her luggage. Spotting a market, she began to make her own.
3. Coco Chanel
“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” – Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Coco Chanel, born as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel,was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era. A prolific fashion creator, Chanel’s influence extended beyond couture clothing. Her design aesthetic was realized in jewelry, handbags, and fragrance. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
4. Amelia Earhart
“Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record. Thereafter, she joined the faculty of Purdue University in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. She also wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.
5. Ayn Rand
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me”- Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982)
Ayn Rand born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings. She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives. After graduating from high school in the Crimea at 16, Rand returned with her family to Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg was renamed at that time), where they faced desperate conditions, on occasion nearly starving.
After the Russian Revolution, universities were opened to women, allowing Rand to be in the first group of women to enrol at Petrograd State University, where, at the age of only 16, she began her studies in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history and when on to writing some of her best books.
6. Rosa Parks
“I have learned this over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear” – Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American Civil Rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order, in Montgomery, to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP; and Martin Luther King, Jr., a new minister in town who gained national prominence in the civil rights movement.
Parks received national recognition, including the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the
Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman and second non-U.S. government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.
7. Margaret Thatcher
“If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)
Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have held the office. A Soviet journalist called her the “Iron Lady”, a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasized deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labor markets, the privatization of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions.
Who are your favourite women from history?