Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) was a
French-Spanish composer and mezzo-soprano. She enjoyed a highly prolific and successful
musical career in 19th-century France.
Along with singing, she was also a
proficient piano player, often performing duets with Frédéric Chopin. She spoke
6 languages and composed music in as many national traditions. Additionally, she taught at the Paris
Conservatory and held a popular music salon in the city.
Evelyn Preer (1896-1932) was an
actress and blues singer throughout the 1910s to the 1930s. She was a
pioneering figure of the African-American community.
She got her first role in a film at
the age of 23, becoming one of the first African-American women to rise to
stardom. She became known as “The First Lady of the Screen” within the black
community. In 1923 she acted in The Chip
Woman’s Fortune, the first play produced on Broadway written by an African-American
Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was an
English traveller and political officer who was instrumental in British
policy-making around the Middle East due to her extensive knowledge and expertise.
She made important contributions to establishing the modern state of Iraq.
She studied History (one of the few
subject permitted to women) at Oxford University, and graduated with a
first-class degree in only two years. After World War I, she was the only woman
who had any political power and influenced British imperial policy in the
Middle East. She helped create the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, today the Iraqi
Sheila Widnall (b. 1938) was the US
Secretary of the Air Force between 1993 and 1997. This made her the first woman
to hold this position, and the first to lead an entire branch of the military
in the Department of Defense.
She graduated from MIT and later became
a Professor of Aeoronautics and Astronautics at the same institution. She
became President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
Irina Bokova (b. 1952) is the former Director-General of UNESCO. A native of Bulgaria, she is both the first person from Southeast Europe and the first woman to head the agency.
Her diplomatic career also included the posts of Ambassador to Bulgaria for Monaco and France. She advocated for gender equality and educational opportunities while Director-General. She has also led efforts against racism and anti-Semitic behaviour, and oversaw Holocaust remembrance activities.
Sidney Abbott (1937-2015) was an activist for women’s rights, particularly lesbian rights. She was one of the most prominent members of the National Organization for Women.
She joined NOW in 1969 and advocated for the establishing of a task force dedicated to promoting the rights of lesbian women. She later founded the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and a nonprofit called Women’s Rights are Human Rights. She wrote the book Sappho Was a Right-on Woman in 1971, which discussed connections between feminism and lesbianism, and was the first nonfiction work to portray female homosexuality in a positive light.
Hassiba Boulmerka (b. 1968) is a former Algerian athlete. She won a total of eight medals, five of which were gold, in prominent international competitions.
She won the 1500 m race at the 1991 World Championships, becoming the first African woman to win a world title in athletics. In 1992 she won Algeria’s first ever gold medal at the Olympics.
Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was an English author writing in the Gothic genre. Her use of supernatural elements in her novel was a pioneering move for the Gothic novel and helped it achieve a higher literary status at the end of the 18th century.
She published five novels between 1789 and 1826, works which she referred to as ‘romances’. Her manuscripts were bought by publishers for £500-800, at a time when authors commonly received £10 for each work, making her the highest paid writer of her time.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist. She is responsible for developing the famous theory on the five stages of grief, which bears her name (the Kübler-Ross model).
She studied in Switzerland and the United States, and later became an instructor at the University of Chicago. She was particularly interested in death and near-death experiences, and published the influential book On Death and Dying in 1969, where she presented the grief process. She co-founded the American Holistic Medical Association.