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6 Historical Women You May Not Know About

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)

Henrietta Lacks was a black tobacco farmer diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 30. Without her consent, her tumor was sampled and sent to scientists in John Hopkins. Her cells never died which became integral in developing the polio vaccine and were used for cloning, gene mapping and vitro fertilization.

Margaret Hamilton (1936 – Present)

Amongst the many important women at NASA, Margaret was the leader of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, contracted for the Apollo program. She directed the development of the spacecraft’s guidance and navigation system. Her team developed the software engineering framework. Thanks to her software, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon successfully.

Rigoberta Menchú (1959 – Present)

Rigoberta Menchuú is a Guatemalan political acitivist who has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous feminists. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. In 2007, she ran for president, but lost. Had she won, she would have become Latin America’s fourth indigenous president.

Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005)

Before Hilary, there was Shirley. In 1968, she became the first African American congresswoman where she fought for the underprivileged and minorities, fought for immigrant rights, advocated the improvement of access to education and much more. In January of 1972, Chisholm announced her presidential candidacy with her slogan being, “Unbought and unbossed.” In an interview, she once said, “I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday, it was time in 1972 to make that someday come.”

Patsy Takemoto (1927 – 2002)

In 1964, Patsy became the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. One of her most important coalitions was the support of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which ended discrimination in various fields such as race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the areas of employment and public accommodation. In 1970, she became the first Democratic woman to deliver a State of the Union response.

Dorothy Lawrence (1896 – 1964)

Dorothy Lawrence was a journalist in England who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in WWI. This made her the first confirmed female to fight in the English army. However, after serving for 10 days, she fell ill and because of her worsening symptoms, she was forced to reveal her identity to her commanding sergeant. She was put under military arrest, interrogated as a spy and deemed a prisoner of war. She was also forced to swear an oath not to write about her experience, but in 1919, she published Sapper Dorothy Lawrence: The Only English Woman Soldier. It was a flop which left her with no income. Desperate for help, she told a doctor that her church guardian raped her as a child and was declared insane. She was committed to an asylum, where she remained there till her death.    

Allison is a feature writer at UCLA who loves hanging out at the beach and eating any kind of dessert.
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