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The Unsung Heroes in Women’s History

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

With the arrival of Women’s History Month, we celebrate and remember those fearless women who have changed history for all women, past and present. However, some women in history may have been overshadowed or forgotten, but they also contributed to changing the world. Here are five women who many may not remember but who made history.

Claudette Colvin

Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery, the fifteen-year-old girl refused to give up her seat to a white passenger in 1955. Colvin was arrested for violating the segregation laws of Alabama, and she pleaded not guilty and was given probation. Sadly, she was overshadowed because of her young age but became one of the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, where segregation within public transportation became unconstitutional. To learn more about Claudette’s story, you can read Philip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice.

Hedy Lamarr

Despite making a name as the most beautiful actress in Hollywood in the 40s, Lamarr had an affinity for engineering and was known for her quick wit. Working alongside composer, George Anthiel, she matured a technique for disguising radio transmissions by making the signal jump between different channels in a prearranged pattern. This newfound system was able to combat Nazis during World War Ⅱ. However, the U.S. Navy ignored their discovery, until later on when other engineers discovered how earth-shattering their work is. Now, this discovery can be remembered as the first step towards wireless technologies, such as smartphones and WiFi.

Mary Seacole

An adventurer at heart, a successful businesswoman, an author, and a gentle nurse with motherly tenderness. This Jamaican-born woman made an impact in the British Empire despite her race. Growing up, she and her mother, a doctor, owned a boarding house to assist the ill and aid the British officers stationed in Jamaica. Through her book, she describes her desire to travel the world and use her knowledge of natural medicine to help others. She treated many people during her life, from those who were suffering during the cholera epidemic in 1850, all the way to the front lines of battle to nurse ill or wounded soldiers. She was revered as a remarkable woman who faced adversity with a hopeful smile and a gentle heart.

Mary Anning

Known as the “Princess of Paleontology”, Anning was the one who laid the foundation of fossil finds upon the discovery of the first few fossils, though she was never credited for her findings. In 1823, Anning was the first to discover the complete skeleton of a Plesiosaurus. However many began to believe the fossil was a fake, and George Cuvier, the “Father of Paleontology”, opposed the discovery. Later on, the Geological Society of London and Cuvier admitted they were mistaken in their beliefs but still never credited Anning for her find. Years after her passing, the scientific community accepted women in 1904 and finally credited Anning’s work and discoveries of the Plesiosaurus, the ichthyosaur, and the pterosaur.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Also known as Juana Ramirez de Asbaje, she was born in colonial Mexico in the 1600s. Sor Juana yearned for knowledge, but considering the misogynistic norms of higher education being only for men she was inclined to be part of a convent. During her time in the convent, she became a profound writer in philosophy, mathematics, poetry, and music, and wrote many plays which mostly mock the double standards within society. Unfortunately, the conservative church censored her outspoken work, yet it remained within the convent. After losing her scholarship, she focused on charity work until her sudden death. Years later, Sor Juana was recognized as one of the first feminists in the Americas.

These women, despite the adversities and social obstacles that stood in their way, carried the courage to follow their passion, and their beliefs, and create a legacy. During this year’s Women’s History Month, modern women can take inspiration from these and other amazing women from the past. 

Current undergrad student at Grand Canyon University, majoring in Digital Film: Screenwriting. I like to write, draw, do a bit of animation, and sing in my off time.