News Empowering Women: 15 Influential Figures Who Changed the Course of History
Empowering Women: 15 Influential Figures Who Changed the Course of History
In the pages of history, the narrative often highlights the accomplishments of prominent male figures. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the remarkable women who have shaped our world and left an indelible mark. In this article, we explore 15 inspiring women who defied societal norms, altered the flow of history, and showcased the strength of women from the realms of fashion to the highest echelons of leadership. This diverse and impactful list aims to serve as a source of inspiration for all girls, demonstrating the incredible power and influence wielded by women throughout time.
Let's start with the famous author whose works or adaptations we have all heard of. Although she died at the young age of 41, she managed to deeply influence the literary world and British culture. In her short life, she wrote six novels, two of which were published posthumously. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility are among her most well-known works. Did you know that she published her books anonymously during her lifetime? This is why we can agree that she might not have received the recognition she deserved during her lifetime. While we can't exactly label her as a feminist, we can say that she paved the way for feminist writers who came after her.
As the name suggests, she was born in Florence, Italy, in 1820, and she was from a wealthy family. However, she drew her family's disapproval when she started working as a nurse. Dedicated to helping others, Nightingale became a war hero nurse. When she received a letter from England during the Crimean War asking her to nurse, she moved to London, becoming the first woman to officially work in the army. Upon arrival at the hospital in 1854, she faced the initial resistance from doctors but persisted in improving the deplorable hospital conditions. Known as 'the lady with the lamp,' she worked in hospital corridors at night to ensure the well-being of all soldiers. Nightingale even received a thank-you letter from Queen Victoria for her efforts. She created a significant legacy, particularly in improving war care and health services worldwide.
Pankhurst is known as the founder of the Suffragette movement. For those unfamiliar, Suffragettes were women in the UK who fought for women's voting rights. They engaged in violent actions, leading Pankhurst to frequent imprisonments. When World War I began, she encouraged women to take over the jobs of men going to war and perform traditionally male tasks. This proved that women could contribute to society similarly to men. Thanks to her efforts, women in the United Kingdom were granted the right to vote in 1918. We owe her a debt of gratitude for paving the way.
We've all heard of the Polish scientist Marie Curie, one of the most well-known figures in the world of science. She moved to France, married fellow scientist Pierre Curie, and made her famous discovery there. What was this groundbreaking discovery? Radioactivity – the emission of energy resulting from certain elements undergoing a reaction. Thanks to this discovery, she identified two more elements: Polonium and Radium. We can see the effects of these discoveries, especially in hospitals with X-Rays. Curie, with her groundbreaking contributions, won two Nobel Prizes in 1903 and 1911, becoming the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the first woman to receive it twice. She etched her name in history.
We are all aware of the Chanel brand with its staggering prices. Coco Chanel is not just the founder of the brand but also the first woman to influence luxury fashion. She opened her first store in the 1900s, initially selling only hats. Over time, she expanded to selling clothing and perfumes. Even after 100 years, Chanel No. 5 remains one of the most well-known and preferred perfumes. The value of her brand, evolving from just hats, is now worth billions. This is what we call influence.
Although Hepburn is a fashion icon, she is primarily known as the person who changed the perception and image of women in Hollywood and globally. In the 1930s and 40s Hollywood, there was a prevalent idea that women should generally wear dresses or skirts. Hepburn was the woman who changed that, being recognized for her iconic pants. She was an extremely independent woman who directed her own acting career, something not considered acceptable for women at that time.
At the age of 12, Mother Teresa went to India to spread the message of Christianity and help people. Isn't that an early start? While there, she founded a group called the Missionaries of Charity, which now helps people living in poor conditions in more than 90 countries worldwide. In 1979, she received the Nobel Prize for her work. She requested the cancellation of a grand banquet in her honor and asked for all the money to be given to the needy in Kolkata. It is said that she only had two possessions: a bucket and two saris. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church due to her impact.
Known as the Iron Lady, Thatcher changed the face of modern British politics. She began her political career as the president of the Conservative Association while still a student at Oxford University. She made history in 1975, four years after becoming the leader of the Conservative Party: she became the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain. When she was forced to resign in 1990, she had become the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th century, known for her radical ideas. Some loved her, and some did not, but one thing is certain – she left her mark on British politics.
Queen Elizabeth II:
Queen Elizabeth is undoubtedly one of the distinguishing women. She was the longest-reigning monarch of Britain. When she became Queen at the age of 25 after her father's death, almost every day of her life was in the spotlight. Although we know her as the Queen of England, she was also the head of the Commonwealth countries, the head of the Church of England, and the head of the British Army. She was the woman who introduced Britishness to the whole world, taking Great Britain much further than it was when she ascended to the throne.
Harris made history as America's first female Vice President. She is also the first black and South Asian American to assume this role. On January 20, 2021, Harris, along with then-President-elect Joe Biden, took office as Vice President. Kamala later became the most senior female politician in American history. She spoke out on issues such as criminal justice, police brutality, and racism. Like many political figures, Harris received both criticism and praise. However, many of us believe that Kamala has shown that success in male-dominated environments is possible.
One of the names that never leaves the headlines is the media legend Oprah Winfrey. She started her television career at the age of 19. She became the youngest and first African-American woman to anchor the news on a channel in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1986, she started the Oprah Winfrey Show, which successfully continued for 25 years. Later, she established her television channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is also known for her extensive philanthropic work. Oprah left such a significant impact that there are even those who advocate for her candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.
Ennis-Hill was one of the stars who inspired millions at the London 2012 Olympics. Despite winning numerous medals, she made a lasting mark in 2012. Before the Olympics, she was selected as the face of the Games, and her image appeared all over the UK. You might think the pressure affected her – but not at all. Jessica won the gold medal in the heptathlon and, just four years later, a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Shortly afterward, she announced her retirement from athletics and received the title of Dame at the 2017 New Year Honours ceremony. By showcasing what women can achieve in athletics, she left a lasting impression on the world.
At the age of 11, Malala, a Pakistani girl, published an anonymous diary describing life under the Taliban's oppression, particularly the denial of education for girls. This diary became a symbol of the global fight for the right to education. When her writings disturbed the Taliban, she was shot by Taliban soldiers in 2012 but survived. The world stood up for her after the attack. At the age of 14, Malala became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She grew up, graduated from university, and continued to write books. Today, she continues to advocate for the education rights of girls worldwide.
Princess Diana, who became the Princess of Wales by marrying Prince Charles, is included on this list not just for her royal connection but for her involvement in various charities and social service projects. She showed sensitivity to issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, children's rights, substance abuse, and victims of war, contributing to breaking down misconceptions about AIDS patients. Moreover, by publicly addressing the psychological abuse she faced and the infidelity in her marriage, she made millions of women feel they were not alone. Lady Di remains a beloved and researched figure today.
Sabiha Gökçen is the world's first female combat pilot. She was also Atatürk's adoptive daughter. But did you know that Atatürk gave her the surname Gökçen, meaning 'belonging to the sky'? Gökçen served in the military for a while until women were allowed to serve in the military. From 1953 to 1959, she was invited to the United States to introduce Turkish women and Turkish society, organizing a tour for this purpose. She was selected as one of '20 aviators who left their mark on world history' at Maxwell Air Force Base. She was the first and only female aviator to receive this award. Gökçen is one of the Turkish women who left a mark on world history.
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