Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)
Also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa was a nun and missionary who lived most of her life in India. She left home at eighteen years old to join a nunnery in Ireland with the goal of learning English, never to see her mother or sister ever again. She moved to India near the Himalayan mountains, teaching at St. Teresa’s School for close to twenty years. Serving as headmistress to the school, she felt a calling from god to “leave the convent to help the poor while living among them”, having been inspired by the poverty surrounding her. She received medical training, became an Indian citizen, and swiftly founded her own school by 1949. Developing a new religious community with a few like minded young women, she worked tirelessly, begging for food without any income and discouraging temptation to quit her mission. She gained widespread recognition, eventually reaching the Indian Prime Minister and the Vatican. Opening her own hospice in 1952, Teresa expanded quickly to open another for leprosy and for children within the next three years. By the help of widespread donations and support, she opened countless orphanages and leper houses throughout India, expanding internationally by 1965. After her death, she was raised to Sainthood by the catholic church for her devotion and testimonies declaring miraculous healing of the sick. Her “Missionaries of Charity” now include 5000 sisters and 450 brothers worldwide who operate six hundred missions in 120 countries globally.
Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901)
Known for her reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland for most of the nineteenth century, leading her nation into an industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and militaristic revolution. As a child, she asserted to her tutor, “I will be good” when training as a princess. She rose to her throne at eighteen years old in 1837. She married a German Prince named Albert, subsequently mothering nine children with him. For this, she is known as “the Grandmother of Europe”, for her 42 grand children all became members of the royal families of Germany, Greece, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Britain. Upon the death of her husband, a tremendous blow to the Queen, she reserved herself to wear black in mourning for the remainder of her reign, but persevered despite her loss. She advocated for peace, avoiding the Prussian - Denmark war, while remaining involved with the Crimean and Second Boer Wars by visiting hospitals and reviewing troops personally. She was the Queen of the largest empire in history, spanning from England to India. During the end of her reign, though, power was moved away from her as the sole monarch of Britain, a result of growing democratic ideals. Paving the way to modern forms of government and liberty, Victoria’s neutral and non-partisan rule allowed her country to flourish into industrial and political revolution. For this, the period of her lifetime will forever be known as the Victorian Era.
Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)
Paving the way for women to excel in science, Marie Curie is known for being the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize. She was also the first woman to win two of them. Born in Poland in 1867, she began studying mathematics and sciences at a young age. Thought women were not admitted to pursue higher education, Marie Curie went on to enroll in the “Flying University”, a special Polish Institution that allowed female students. Later on, she was invited to the University of Paris and saved money for almost two years while continuing her studies on her own by reading, exchanging letters, and tutoring herself. Beginning her studies on magnetic properties of steels, she decided to research uranium rays due to increases in radioactive discovery. Through her discovery that radioactivity may not be tied to quantity of materials, but to atoms themselves, she was determined to discover elements that produced radiation (a term she invented herself) at higher measures. This arduously lent itself to her discovery of the elements radium and plutonium. In 1903, she won a Nobel Prize in Physics for her discovery of radiation along with her husband. In 1911, she was recognized again with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for having discovered two new elements. She went on to create her own Laboratory at the University of Paris and was even presented a gram of radium by Warren Harding, President of the United States. She overcame incredible obstacles of her time and profoundly furthered the boundaries of science, paving the way to a world relying on her discoveries.
Susan B. Anthony
Paving the way for the freedoms of American women today, Susan B Anthony was a social reformer and activist who was instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement. Beginning in activism by collecting anti-slavery petitions as a teenager, she went on to become the New York State Agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. With her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society after she was prevented for speaking due to her sex. She conducted the largest petition drive in the history of the United States (in that time), collecting 400,000 signatures supporting abolition of slavery. Her American Equal Rights Association campaigned for equal rights for men and women regardless of race. Her newspaper, The Revolution, helped to fortify her ideas and gain support. Merging with another large suffrage movement, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was born. She traveled and gave more than 75 speeches every year, inevitably shifting the way American society thought and operated. On her 80th birthday, she was invited to the White House and Honored by President William McKinley. She became the first woman ever represented on an American coin when she appeared on the 1979 dollar coin, and her contributions are enjoyed by modern women everywhere.
Lucille Ball (1911 - 1989)
Femininity in show business first bloomed during the early twentieth century, and now has matured into a wide array of female led movie and television productions. It can be speculated that the pioneer of these achievements is none other than Lucille Ball, known for producing and starring in her own famous sitcoms such as “I Love Lucy”. Starting out as a model in 1929, she quickly proceeded to make an acting career bloom performing on Broadway. By the 1940’s, Lucille Ball had performed in minor films and as a chorus girl on RKO Radio Pictures, before finally venturing into television for herself. Her and her husband, Desi Arnaz, created the sitcom “I Love Lucy” in 1951. Her creation was to become one of the most beloved and timeless programs in television history. Later on, after creating another show, mothering a daughter, and performing again on Broadway, Lucille became the first woman ever to run a major television studio, “Desilu Productions”. Over her career, Lucille Ball was nominated for thirteen Prime time Emmy Awards, winning four times, awarded TWO stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was even inducted into the Television Hall of Fame before her death in 1989. Lucille Ball showcased the highlights of the woman condition, using her humor and intelligence to inspire and entertain the masses, while breaking ground on a new era of women in the public spotlight.
Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910)
More than ninety percent of nurses in the United States today are women. The founder of modern nursing is Florence Nightingale, who is remembered for her dedication to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Though born to a noble English family, Florence Nightingale underwent experiences in her youth that she believed were calls from God encouraging her to spend her life in service of others. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, as far as Greece and Egypt, writing and recording her thoughts and philosophical beliefs. She studied from religious leaders everywhere she went, allowing her to lead a sick house in London as superintendent by 1853. During the Crimean War, her most iconic accomplishment came to fruition. When she heard of the horrifying conditions for the wounded soldiers, Nightingale, 38 women volunteers (which she trained) and 15 Catholic nuns were sent into the Ottoman Empire. When they arrived, they witnessed absurd indifference to the wounded, with hygienic care and medicine in extreme scarcity. By advocating for help in Britain and dedication to her cause, Nightingale is thought to have reduced the death rate from 42% to 2% by making improvements in hygiene habits, ventilation, and improving human waste dissipation. By traveling to and from Britain, she was able to gain widespread aid for the wounded overseas, saving thousands of lives single-handedly. Upon her permanent return to her homeland, she created “The Nightingale Fund”, setting up a training school at St Thomas’ Hospital, currently called “Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery” as a part of King’s College of London. When she trained Linda Richards in the 1870s, the first trained American nurse brought her knowledge to the United States. By the time of her peaceful death in 1910, Florence Nightingale had used her logical capabilities to save thousands of lives on her own, training thousands of women who led the way to the efficient healthcare methods of today.
Helen Walton (1919 - 2007)
Today, foundations led by affluent citizens are synonymous with widespread generosity and radical improvements to societies globally. Helen Walton was no exception, serving her community throughout her life through her generosity and vision. Opening her first retail store with her husband, Sam Walton, in 1945, their hard work would not reach its full potential until founding the first Walmart store in 1962. She is credited for her idea of the profit-sharing plan with the company associates, boosting the store’s brand and reach throughout the United States and abroad. At one point in her life, she was the most wealthy American woman and was the owner of the most successful retail company in history. She was quick to use her wealth to improve the lives of others, founding a Children’s Center in her native town of Bentonville, Arkansas in the eighties. She became president of the “Walton Family Foundation” by 2002, donating three hundred million dollars to the University of Arkansas (the largest donation to any public University in the United States), as well as establishing the “Walton Scholars” scholarship program helping 150 central American students move to the United States to learn about democracy and free enterprise. Her passion and dedication was primarily focused on the arts, erecting a theater and arts center in Bentonville, still performing full-week Broadway productions today. Helen Walton has become a lasting role model and example of selflessness and charity, influencing millions of people with her gifts that have endured the tests of time.
Jane Austen (1775 - 1817)
Female leaders, authors, television personalities, and everyday communicators shape the way that the masses interpret life, their messages inspiring lasting changes to the world. Jane Austen is remembered for her commentary on the society and time in which she lived. Born to a wealthy English family, Jane Austen was able to attend school and was heavily tutored while living in Oxford until, abruptly, she had to return to her family home, her parents unable to fund her education. While at home, she taught herself in the remainder of her education through reading, accessing her father’s and their neighbour’s libraries. She wrote stories and poems at a young age, primarily to amuse her family. She went on to travel to London and write letters to suitors, many of which still survive. Her work took the forms of six major novels that she wrote throughout her life, including “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”, honored as classics and still widely recognized today. Jane Austen explored the dependence of women in marriage as a pursuit of security and favorable social standing. Acutely aware of her time and feminine roles, her social commentary has allowed a permanent window into the lives and thoughts of women during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though she enjoyed little fame during her own lifetime. She is a primary example of a woman who used her talents of communication to affect change in ideology and ideals, her work now translated into countless languages and works of film. Falling abruptly ill and only living to see forty one years of life, Jane Austen survives through her stories, continuing to influence and inspire the masses.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902)
Activism today is promoted by millions of passionate women all over the world, using technology to spread their messages and advocate for just causes. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was th