Samia Nkrumah (b. 1960) is the
chairperson of the Convention People’s Party in Ghana. She is the first woman
in the country to head a major political party.
She studied at the University of
London before returning to Ghana to head the CCP and continue its tradition of
upholding women’s rights in the country. She co-founded the organisation Africa Must Unite and was named ‘the new
Mandela’ by the Huffington Post.
Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) was one
of the most successful dancers of the 20th century. She is known as ‘the
queen mother of black dance’.
She studied anthropology at the
University of Chicago, focusing on dances of the African diaspora. She started
her own dance company, Ballets
Nègres, in 1931, one of the very first black ballet companies in the
United States. She opened her own school of dance in 1945, which later evolved
into the Katherine Dunham School of Arts.
Joyce Jacobson Kaufman (b. 1929) is a Jewish-American
chemist, particularly known for her research in biomedical coding. She was
responsible for introducing the concept of conformational topology and applying
it to biomedical molecules.
She was motivated to study
chemistry at the age of eight, when she read a biography of Marie Curie. She
was admitted at John Hopkins University in 1945 on a special status, since
women were still not officially allowed to study there at the time. After
obtaining her PhD in 1960, she became the university’s principal research
Edith Windsor (1929-2017) was an
LGBT rights activist in the United States. The 2013 civil rights case United States v. Windsor, in which she
was lead plaintiff, is considered a landmark victory for the rights of same-sex
She was a technology manager for
IBM, and helped many LGBT groups become ‘tech literate’. She continued her
activism throughout her life, even after winning the case that ruled that the
definition of marriage only as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.
Susana López Charretón (b. 1957) is a
Mexican virologist. She won the 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award for her work
She obtained her PhD in basic biomedical
research from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and now works for its
Institute of Biotechnology. Her research was instrumental in identifying how
rotaviri cause the death of 600,000 children every year.
Alice Turner Schafer (1915-2009) was one
of the founders of the Association for Women in Mathematics. She was determined
to offer women better educational opportunities, especially in the field.
She completed her studies at the
University of Richmond, Virginia, at a time when women were not allowed inside
the campus library. She then obtained her PhD from the University of Chicago,
and later became a teacher, focusing especially on students with learning difficulties
and creating special classes for them. In 1985 she became a fellow of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Evelyn Irons (1900-2000) was a
Scottish journalist who acted as a war correspondent during World War II. She
was the first woman to be decorated with the French Croix de Guerre for this
She was initially hired with the beauty
page of the Daily Mail, but chose to
report on the war as soon as it broke out. Despite objections regarding the
presence of female reporters on the battlefield, she was one of the first
journalists to reach liberated Paris, and the first female journalist to reach
Hitler’s Eagle Nest. In 1935, she became the first woman to be awarded the
Stanhope Gold Medal by the Royal Humane Society.
Evangelina Estrada Kalaw (1920-2017)
served as a state senator in the Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos. She was
one of the main opponents of the authoritarian ruler and was instrumental in
his eventual downfall.
She taught at several universities in the
country, and was involved with numerous civic and social organisations such as
the League of Women Voters or the Youth Welfare Council. She was one of the few
brave enough to criticize the administration, and was imprisoned and even
attacked with hand grenades as a result. Her efforts were recognised with the
Mahatma Gandhi Freedom Award in 1985.
Hédi Fried (b. 1924) is a Jewish-Swedish
author and Holocaust survivor of Romanian origin. She survived the ordeal of
Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen before emigrating to Sweden with the help of the
In Sweden, she started
working as a psychologist, promoting education and tolerance in young people.
She wrote five autobiographical books detailing the horrors of the Holocaust.
She has won numerous cultural awards, and was named European of the Year in 1997.
Judith Kerr (b. 1923) is a British writer and illustrator. She is best known for her popular children’s books, such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea or the Mog series.
Born Jewish in Germany, she was forced to flee to Britain before the World War, an experience which inspired her novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. She worked for the Red Cross during the war, before becoming a writer. In 2012 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her service to children’s literature and Holocaust education.