Sarah Frances Whiting (1847-1927) was an astronomer and physicist. She was the instructor
of several other scientists, including the famous Annie Jump Cannon.
She studied at Ingham University, and was
appointed as the first professor of physics at Wellesley College in 1875. She
started teaching astronomy five years later. She helped establish the Whitin
Laboratory and became its first director in 1900.
Diana Nyad (b.
1949) is a long-distance swimmer, author and journalist. Among her feats are
swimming around Manhattan in 1975, and being the first person to swim from Cuba
to Florida without a shark cage. She was 64 when she achieved this in 2013.
In 1970, during her first ever race, she
set a world record in women’s marathon swimming. She then broke many others,
such as the record for non-stop swimming without a wetsuit in 1979. In 2013,
she swam continuously for 48 hours, a charitable effort which raised more than $105,000
for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Janet Baker (b.
1933) is an English mezzo-soprano. She is best known for her portrayal of the
tragic heroine Dido in Berlioz’s Les Troyens.
She made her debut in 1956 with the Oxford
University Opera Club. For her outstanding career in opera, spanning three
decades, she was made a member of the Order of the British Empire and received
numerous awards, such as the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Ellen Roosevelt (1868-1954) was a professional tennis player. She won three Grand
Slam titles in her career, in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Her first win was at the 1890 US
Championships, where she defeated the previous champion. The same year, she won
the doubles title along with her sister Grace – the first pair of sisters to
win the US Championships, and the only one until the Williams sisters achieved
the same in 1999.
Mary Joe Fernández (b. 1971) is a professional tennis player. She won two Grand Slam
titles and two Olympic gold medals in doubles, and has been the runner-up in
three Grand Slam tournaments in singles.
She turned professional in 1986 and won her
first title in 1989. She peaked at World No. 4 in both singles and doubles, in
1990 and 1991 respectively. After retirement, she was the coach for the 2012
Olympic tennis team.
Winona LaDuke (b. 1959) is an economist and environmentalist of Native American
heritage. She serves as the executive director of Honor of the Earth, a
non-profit organisation working for Indigenous environmental justice.
She studied Economics at Harvard
University, and helped found the Indigenous Women’s Network in 1985. She later
founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project, aiming to retrieve reservation
land and reforest it. She was an active participant in the protests against the
Dakota Access pipeline project.
Fredrika Bremer (1801-1865) was a Swedish author and feminist reformer. Seen as the ‘Swedish
Jane Austen’, her novels her highly influential in bringing about social change
for women in her country.
Her novels were very popular even outside
national borders, in the UK and the US. In a society where all women were under
the guardianship of either their fathers or their husbands, her novel Hertha sparked a movement that granted Swedish women majority at the age of 25 – a
major victory for female independence. The first women’s rights organisation in
Sweden, formed in 1884, bears her name.
was a poet, women’s rights activist and theologian from Iran. She was a follower
of the Bábí faith, for which she was detained and executed.
She was literate and well educated, which
was uncommon for a girl in her time. She started preaching a different faith
than the one commonly accepted, and spoke out against polygamy, wearing the
veil, and other restraints put on women, gaining an important female following.
She was killed at the age of only 35, strangled with her own veil, and is
remembered for her famous last words: “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you
cannot stop the emancipation of women.”
Melinda Gates (b. 1964) is a philanthropist and former general manager of
Microsoft. Along with her husband, Bill Gates, she is the co-founder of the
largest private charitable organisation in the world.
She studied computer science and economics
at Duke University, and started working for Microsoft soon after graduation. The
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000, works to alleviate extreme poverty
and provide healthcare around the world.
Heidi Hartmann (b. 1945) is a feminist economist, an expert in public policy and
the way it affects women. She is the founder and president of the Institute for
Women’s Policy Research.
She obtained her PhD in economics from Yale
University in 1972, and later started teaching at the New School for Social
Research in New York. She was a senior research economist at the Office of
Research of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.