When it comes to Valentine’s Day, let’s be honest—not all of us are fans of it. The entire day is essentially a cash cow created for card companies to sell candies and cards. While we all might be guilty of indulging in the holiday (despite how ridiculous it can be) us women luckily have Galentine’s Day (February 13). This unique celebration helps us show a little love to our amazing friends, sisters, mothers, and other strong women in our life. I myself am very guilty of being the Valentine’s Day equivalent of the Grinch. However, if the past year has taught us anything, it is how to take every moment we can to appreciate all that we are lucky enough to have. Enjoy this list of some of my favorite women in history whose stories in one way or another helped fight for women’s recognition.
- Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc had such an amazing influence on French history in the medieval period. According to History, she grew up as a peasant but believed she was living under divine guidance. She ended up becoming a hero in France for leading an army into victory against England’s attempts to conquer France. Like many other women of her time, her beliefs and actions stirred up accusations of being a witch, which resulted in being burned at the stake. Her strong influence as a hero has followed her, and she is recognized in Catholicism as a saint.
- Arsinoe II
I absolutely love Arsinoe II. I first discovered her from listening to an amazing podcast on women’s history called The Exploress. She had such a strong influence on Egypt during her reign. According to Ancient World Magazine, she was credited for the boost of religious and cultural growth at the time. Arsinoe II ruled Egypt as an equal to her brother, Pharaoh Ptolemy II, modeling the sibling religious duo Isis and Osiris. She was also the first Egyptian queen to use a goddess to represent her image.
Another amazing woman of Egypt, Hatshepsut, took the throne thousands of years before Arsinoe II made her mark. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Hatshepsut ruled as the king of Egypt completely alone with all of the powers, rights, and authority of male power. She ruled Egypt for 15 years and made many architectural advancements. She’s known to be one of the most successful female pharaohs in Egyptian history.
- Audrey Hepburn
Best known for her iconic role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and being the first fashion icon to rock the little black dress, Audrey paved a classy path for women in Hollywood. Her inner beauty completely matches her outer beauty, as she grew up poor in Europe during World War II. According to Britannica, as a child, she danced ballet to raise money,helping Jewish families in need. Once she finished her acting career, she chose to be involved in humanitarian work for UNICEF and helped to feed many children in need. Her legacy as a humanitarian still exists today with the Audrey Hepburn fund, which raises awareness and money for hungry children.
- Josephine Baker
Born in America, Josephine Baker was a dancer and singer who moved to France, establishing herself as a French performer. According to the National Women’s History Museum, she used her platform on stage to help promote civil rights and diversity in performing arts. She strongly stood for the idea that people should be chosen for parts and songs in performing arts based on their talent, not on their appearance. Her career prospered in the 1920s when she became one of the most popular music halls shows in France. In her career, she also played a big role in the Harlem Renaissance when she moved to New York City. In Paris, she was credited for aiding the French military against the axis powers during World War II by acting as a French spy, passing on information to the French with confidence.
- Catherine the Great
The Empress of Russia, Catherine worked to modernize Russia during the eighteenth century. Some of her innovations included an increase in philosophical and science education in Russia, according to the Smithsonian Magazine. Despite rumors, she was very smart and helped bring Russia out of the Middle Ages. Hulu’s new series The Great is a fun way to learn about her life,though it is not completely accurate. All in all, she loved Russia and believed in the people she ruled enough to try and make a change.
Hypatia was alive during the Hellenistic period of the ancient world. She was a great thinker who led schools on philosophy and astronomy. She was best known for her contributions to mathematics. Hypatia is the first known female mathematician, and a lot of her discoveries still impact the field today.
In the words of Queen B: “Who runs the world? Girls!” These women have absolutely made their mark on the world, and are also just as interesting to learn about! As you learn more about these impactful figures, celebrate and surround yourself with women who help contribute to your history.