8 Powerful Women You Didn’t Learn About in School

It’s International Women’s Month! In honor of celebrating women and all of our various achievements, here are some powerful women you should know about. These women have made groundbreaking strides that have pushed society into the future.

  1. 1. Sybil Ludington (1760-1839)

    We’ve all heard of Paul Revere. He rode 20 miles on horseback in the night to warn Americans that the British were coming. Revere was about 41 years old when he did that. Now let’s compare that to Sybil Ludington’s story. She was just 16 years old when she rode from sundown to sunup horseback. 

     

    She rode nearly 40 miles to alert the militia forces that the British were coming. General George Washington thanked her for her work, but she wasn’t publicly recognized for her efforts until 1935.

  2. 2. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

    Lovelace was the first computer programmer in the entire world. She was also one of the first people to ever talk about coding. She didn’t receive much recognition for her work when she was alive. 

     

    In fact, it wasn’t until about a century after her death that she finally received credit for her achievements and contributions to computer technology. Her notes were published in “Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines in 1953.” The U.S. Department of Defense even named a computer language after Lovelace in 1980.

  3. 3. Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

    Ida B. Wells was born a slave. After the civil war ended, her parents became heavily involved with politics. Wells grew up and followed in her parents’ footsteps in terms of her political aspirations. Not only was she an early leader in the civil rights movement, but Wells was also one of the founders of the NAACP. 

     

    She was also the first African-American journalist. Wells is also known for a lawsuit she filed against a train company. The company kicked her off of a first-class train car — even though she had a ticket to be on that train.

  4. 4. Dorothy Lawrence (1896-1964)

    Lawrence has a story similar to “Mulan.” When she was 19 years old, she dreamed of being a war correspondent. She convinced some British soldiers to smuggle her a uniform. The soldiers gave her the uniform, and she lived in the trenches for about two weeks. 

     

    Her job was to install landmines. While living in the trenches, Lawrence had to change her appearance to be more masculine. She wore a corset to flatten her chest, rubbed a razor on her face to make it look like she had a shaving rash, and chopped off her hair.

  5. 5. Alice Coachman (1923-2014)

    Coachman was the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Due to segregation laws in her home state of Georgia, Coachman had a difficult time finding a team to train with. So, she trained alone. She was winning national championships in the 1940s and even earned a scholarship to college. 

     

    She was finally able to compete in the 1948 Olympics, where she won a gold medal. Not only did she get first place, but she set a new record for the high jump. Coca-Cola also asked Coachman to be its spokesperson, which made her the first African-American to get an endorsement deal.

  6. 6. Tu Youyou (1930-)

    Youyou is the first Chinese citizen to earn the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. She is also the first Chinese woman to receive any Nobel Prize at all. Youyou is recognized for her work on preventing the spread of malaria. She discovered how to extract a substance called artemisinin from a wormwood plant. 

     

    This substance inhibits the parasite that causes malaria. This substance is now used in drugs to fight malaria all around the world. Though her work was done in the 1970s, she received the Nobel Prize in 2015.

  7. 7. Judith Heumann (1947-)

    Heumann is a disability rights activist. Diagnosed with polio at a young age, Heumann saw the blatant inequalities that disabled people faced. Striving to make the world more accessible, Heumann founded Disabled in Action. 

     

    Through this organization, she was able to organize countless peaceful protests. When the government denied a change in legislation to make America’s infrastructure more accessible, Heumann pushed back. She was also a founding member of the Center for Independent Living.

  8. 8. Ellen Ochoa (1958-)

    Ochoa is the former deputy director of the Johnson Space Center. She received her bachelor of science degree in 1980 and later went on to get her master’s degree. Following that, she got a doctorate in electrical engineering. Ochoa is the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut. 

     

    Her first mission in space consisted of nine days of studying the Earth’s ozone layer. She didn’t just go to space; she logged more than 950 hours of work there. In 2017, she was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. There’s even a school named after her — Ellen Ochoa Prep Academy —in her home state of California.

Which one of this women inspires you the most?