March is National Women’s History Month. When we were growing up, it was rare we were taught about female heroes. The textbooks were full of the daring deeds of male heroes, such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Charlemagne, Juan Ponce de Leon and too many others to name. If we were lucky, our classes cursorily covered Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Betsy Ross, Rosa Parks, and, depending on your age, Mother Teresa.
10 Female Heroes You’ve Never Heard of
Only now are we discovering the daring deeds of many female heroes, women who changed the course of the world. Here are 10 female heroes you may not know:
1. Nellie Bly (1864-1922) was an investigative journalist who is best known for pretending to be a mad person to expose the inner workings of a New York City mental institution. What isn’t known is how she fought against sexism, first by rebutting a writer in The Pittsburgh Dispatch, who called a working woman “a monstrosity” and later as a reporter. Her pieces emphasized the negative effects of sexist beliefs and the importance of improving conditions important to women.
2. Sybil Ludington (1761-1839) was 16 years old when she rode 40 miles (twice as long as Paul Revere) to warn American patriots that the British were coming. Her feat is even greater, considering she reportedly had to make it past robbers during her ride. Because of her warning, Americans fought the British at the Battle of Ridgefield. While the Americans were too late to prevent the British from destroying American supplies, their action galvanized colonials.
3. Emmy Noether (1882-1935) was called the most “significant” mathematician of all time by Albert Einstein. A leader in developing early abstract algebra, she proved Noether’s theorem, which links symmetries of nature to physical conservation laws.
4. Jane Addams (1860-1935) is known as the “mother” of social work. One of the most prominent reformers of the era, her efforts focused on the needs of children, public health and peace. She co-founded the nation’s first settlement house, a place that offered social and educational opportunities for working-class people and was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work.
5. Dr. Mae Jemison (1956-) is best known as the first African-American female astronaut and the first African-American woman in space. However, before NASA, she worked as a physician in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand and served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She has degrees in medicine and chemical engineering.
6. Dorothy Day (1897-1980) founded the Catholic Workers’ Movement in 1932 during the Great Depression with Frenchman Peter Maurin. They set up shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens and communal farms. While writing for the Catholic Worker newspaper, she protested against injustice and championed the cause of the poor.
7. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) founded abbeys in Rupertsberg and Eibingen in the Rhineland composed the liturgical drama, Ordo Virtutum, thought to be the oldest surviving morality play. She was also a physician, musician and polymath who wrote a medical textbook, Physica, that included methods of healing women in a time when sickness was viewed as a punishment from God.
8. Mildred Dresselhaus (1930-2017), often called the “queen of carbon science”, pioneered the use of carbon in electronics. The former MIT professor was awarded the National Medal of Science, Heinz Award, Oerstad Medal, IEEE Medal of Honor, the Kavli Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was co-recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award. She devoted much of her time to promoting the increased participation of women in physics.
9. Eleanor Josaitis (1931-2011) co-founded Focus: HOPE to fund and run work programs. With Fr. William Cunningham, she created the Machinist Training Institute that educated marginalized people through classes in industrial skills, job interview skills, and basic literacy.
10. Mary, mother of Jesus, is on this list because most people don’t consider her a hero. However, can you imagine the courage it took for this naive young girl to stand by her faith in God as she carried His Son? Even afterward, when Jesus was a child, her faith must have been tested many times, because His actions were beyond her understanding. Her courage and commitment to her faith changed the world.
Can you think of women who inspire you?
We can. The women who live at The Esquiline are active, community-minded and just plain great to be around. Our values comprise physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness. Find out more about how our senior living community can enhance your wellness by contacting us.