16 Women in History You Should Know About

This is just a list of some awesome women that go traditionally unnoticed and deserve to be recognized, whether for artistic ability, athletic prowess, or breakthrough contributions to society. 

1 Artemisia Gentileschi

Source: Artemisia Gentilischi Wikipedia 

A victim of sexual assault, Artemisia Gentileschi was an amazing Baroque painter in the 16th century, most commonly recognized for her rendition of Judith Slaying Holofernes. Unfortunately because of the position of women at the time, her best friend testified against her to save face during the trial against Artemisia Gentileschi’s rapist, and instead of becoming angry, she painted Judith Slaying Holofernes, a painting that illustrates an incredibly strong bond between women. She continued this theme of friendship throughout her paintings, having amazing skill and technique for someone who was only about 16.  While many of her paintings have been credited to male painters, her artwork is something to be in awe of, deserving of its artist getting rightful credit. [1][2]


2 Marsha P Johnson

Source: Marsha P Johnson Wikipedia, New York Public Library Digital Collections 

LGBTQ+ history is incomplete without Marsha P Johnson. As a transgender woman of color, Marsha P Johnson was one of the women responsible for the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall riots were spontaneous, violent, and angry acts of protest from the LGBTQ+ community that was sparked from years of discrimination and abuse. On June 28th, 1969, the abuse the patrons of the Stonewall Inn experienced resulted in a unanimous “enough is enough”. Marsha was one of the first to resist arrest and the treatment she was receiving from the police, many others quick to follow. [3][4]

3 Ching Shih


Source: Ching Shih Wikipedia 

Ching Shih was the most successful female pirate of all time. She spent much of the beginning of her life as a prostitute until she married a very powerful pirate who held great command in the realm of piracy in China. Ching Shih took over after her husband's death, and by the time she retired, she held command of over 1,000 ships and 80,000 pirates. This was a power greater than many naval forces. By 1810, the Chinese government decided the best course of action would be to offer her an official universal pardon. Being a smart woman, she took the chance, almost all of the pirates in her battalion receiving the same pardon. She passed away at age 69, a casino owner, a grandma and the most successful female pirate of all time.[5][6]


4 Margaret Heafield Hamilton

Source: Margaret Hamilton Wiki

On November 22, 2016, Margaret Heafield Hamilton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Hamilton led the team who would develop what would become software engineering. She hand wrote almost all of the Apollo Guidance Computer source code and her innovations were essential to Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Her contributions to the Apollo mission transformed what computer science is today and were key components to how space exploration is planned today.[7]


5 Katherine Johnson

Source: Katherine Johnson Wiki page 

Recently honored alongside Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson had a huge impact on the role of women, specifically women of color, in the space race. Her knowledge made her invaluable and aided in her move from The Flight Mechanics Branch, where all calculations were done by hand, to the Spacecraft Control Center. There she calculated the flight trajectory for the first American in space and later verified the calculations for John Glenn. She turned 100 years old on August 26, 2018 and has continuously produced amazing work since her time in the Spacecraft Control Center. [8]


6 Mary Edwards Walker


Dr. Mary E Walker is the only woman in American history (so far) to win the Medal of Honor. She graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855, the only woman in her graduating class. When the Civil War broke out, she took to wearing men's clothing compared to her previous attire that was usually associated with radical feminists at the time. She was a surgeon for the Union and became a prisoner of war to the Confederacy. She received her Medal of Honor in 1866 for all of her service and proudly wore the medal for the rest of her life, continuing her fight against immorality and for feminist ideals. [9]


7 Dorothy Levitt

Source: Dorothy Levitt Wikipedia 

Dorothy Levitt pioneered racing cars as a profession and in April 1903, she became the first British woman to compete in a race. At the time, the sport was not just about knowing how to drive, but also how the car worked and what was needed from you to fix it. In her learning, she was quick to earn records in distance and soon after, speed. While her story did not end in total happiness, she set out to encourage and include women in careers in motor-sports and engineering. While there were many men against women joining this profession, she simply denies any claims about women being unsuited for it, establishing that women would and could learn the skills needed in this area just as quickly and as well. [10]


8 Valentina Tereshkova

Source: Valentina Tereshkova Wikipedia 

On June 16,1963, Valentina Tereshkova become the first woman in space. When she was a teenager she left school and worked in a textile factory, but that was not the end of her education. In the factory she worked in, she joined their Young Communist League and was quick to advance through the Communist Party. After Russia sent the first man into space in 1961, she, along with four other women, volunteered to be part of the new space program. In the end she was chosen to be the first woman in space and was later awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. She was also received the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star Metal. Even though she never went into space again, she had many other accomplishments, such as becoming the head of the Soviet Women’s Council. [11]


9 Indira Gandhi

Source: Indira Gandhi Wikipedia 

Indira Gandhi was India’s first and, so far, only female Prime Minister. With a massively impressive academic background, Indira Gandhi was destined to be a great impact in history. In 1955, Gandhi began her climb, becoming thoroughly involved in almost all areas of the government. Always involved in the fight for freedom. Indira Gandhi knew that to make a change she needed to move through the government so that she would have a direct hand in what was happening in her country. She was the recipient of “Bharat Ratna in 1972, Mexican Academy Award for Liberation of Bangladesh (1972), 2nd Annual Medal, FAO (1973) and Sahitya Vachaspati (Hindi) by Nagari Pracharini Sabha in 1976.” She also received Mothers’ Award in 1953 from the United States, the Isabella d’Este Award of Italy for outstanding work in diplomacy and Yale University’s Howland Memorial Prize. She was greatly admired by people that were not just in her own country and also made sure to make her mark internationally by getting involved with the United Nations. Not only did she have an impressive academic record, her involvement in the government is astounding. Indira Gandhi was an all around astounding person and continued to fight for her ideals until she was assassinated on October 31, 1984. [12]


10 Maya Lin

Source: Maya Lin Wikipedia 

Maya Lin’s claim to fame is her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that is currently located in Washington, D.C by the Lincoln Memorial. She received her education from Yale University. In her art, and therefore her design of the memorial, she is very minimalist in style, but brings humanity to it in a way that many other minimalist artists tended to avoid. Initially, her design was viewed as controversial, some critics thinking she was trying to minimize the horrifying events that happened in the Vietnam War. Despite this initial controversy, it is quickly understood why her design was chosen. From the quiet, reflective design to the memorials placement between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, many people are quick to understand why this minimalist artists somber design was chosen. Her design respectively honors the fallen or lost but also makes viewers uncomfortable, which is the emotion and reaction that deserves to be forever associated with such a devastating war. [12]


11 Althea Gibson

Source: Althea Gibson Wikipedia 

While her intent was never to become a barrier breaker, Althea Gibson brought massive change with her accomplishments that all came from her love of sports. Gibson’s initial success is what aided her in education and her success in tennis competitions simply continued. In 1950, she became the first African-American to compete in the U.S. National Championships. Despite such an accomplishment, segregation in the sport was preventing some of her progress. It took another champion in tennis to help Gibson get the chance to continue to smash barriers, and she definitely did. While she was achieving her goals in tennis, she also happens to break racial barriers in professional golf. Gibson never intended to be a revolutionary person, but she holds a key role in the careers of astounding athletes like Serena and Venus Williams today.[13]


12 Dolores Huerta

Source: Dolores Huerta Wikipedia 

From a young age, Dolores Huerta was a feminist and held true to values that she shared with her mother of helping others. She helped launch the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, whose goal was to empower and aid migrant farm workers. After finding unity in other feminists, she soon challenged the gender discrimination that could be found in the farm workers movement. “As founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights.” Forever an advocate of civil rights,  Dolores Huerta always worked for progress in the form of social justice. In 2012, President Obama awarded Dolores Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can be rewarded. [14]


13 Zitkala-sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) 

Source: Zitkala-sa Wikipedia 

Zitkala-sa was a Native American rights activist and writer. Through writing she detailed the struggles of cultural dislocation and the injustice that was being experienced by her people. Her writings also served as a link between the oral traditions of the past and the more modern traditions that were found in writings at the time. In 1926, she founded the National Council of American Indians in addition to her continued efforts of lobbying for reform. [15]


14 Lyda Conley (Wyandot)

Source: Wikimedia 

In 1902, Lynda Conley become the first woman admitted into the Kansas bar (the Kansas legal profession). In doing this, she became one of the first female Native American attorneys. Conley fought against the removal of the Wyandot people from their land, the selling of said land and the destruction of their cemeteries that was happening as a result of the Civil War. She challenged the government's actions, and even though she lost her case, she never stopped fighting against the injustice. She was arrested for shooting a police officer that entered the cemetery and at age 68 spent 10 days in jail for chasing people away from the park that had been made from the Wyandot land. She was buried in the cemetery she was devoted to saving and preserving in 1946. [16]


15 Elizabeth (Wanamaker) Peratrovich (Tlingit)

(Unfortunately was unable to find a big enough image, but here is one of the beautiful Elizabeth Peretrovich)

Elizabeth Peratrovich was a civil rights activist who fought for the rights of the Alaskan Natives. In February 1945, Peratrovich addressed the Territorial Senate as a civil rights leader for Native Americans. During this address, she discussed the cruel treatment that was being experienced by Alaskan natives and shamed the Senate into signing the Alaska Civil Rights Act. She was the Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and her work as a civil rights activist in February 1945 was revolutionary. In 1988, February 16th was established as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. [18][19]


16 Nzingha

Source: Queen Nzingha Wikimedia 

In the 1600s, Queen Nzingha fought the Portuguese for 40 years and won. Her position of queen was widely unheard of at the time. She was well-educated and was fluent in both the Portuguese written and oral language. She was described as one of the most phenomenal military strategist Portugal had ever faced, which was essential if she wanted to drive the Portuguese out. She lived to be 82 and was the first woman in history to rule the Mbundu people. [20]


[1] https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/urc/2018/arthistory/2/


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[8] http://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/katherine-g-johnson-42

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[13] https://www.theartstory.org/artist-lin-maya.htm

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[14] https://www.biography.com/people/althea-gibson-9310580

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