Olive Edis (1876-1955)
was a professional photographer who owned a number of studios throughout London
and England. In 1919 she became the first official female war photographer in
She obtained her first camera in 1900, and
opened the first studio in 1905 in North Norfolk. She was one of the first
adopters of the new autochrome technique, an early style of colour photography.
Her subjects included many prominent figures in British history, such as
Emmeline Pankhurst or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.
Nancy Wake (1912-2011) was an Allied secret agent
during World War II. She was a crucial figure of the French Resistance and one
of the most decorated servicewomen on the Allied side. By 1943, she had become
Gestapo’s most wanted person.
Born in New Zealand, she moved to Europe early in life and
worked as a correspondent in Paris. When the war broke out, she started working
as an ambulance driver, then joined the French Resistance as a courier. She was
instrumental in recruiting thousands more members, and her tactics led to the
casualty rate within her group to be a mere 1%.
Edith Hamilton (1867-1963) is known as one of the most important classical scholars
of her era in the United States. She is renowned in the field for her essays
and books on ancient Greek and Roman civilisations.
She studied at Bryn Mawr College, and went on to
pursue higher education in Germany, becoming the first female student of the
University of Munich. She returned to become the head administrator of Bryn
Mawr in 1896, and its first headmistress in 1906. Even though she published her
first book, The Greek Way, at the age of sixty-two, all of her
publications are considered crucial classical texts.
Miriam Naveira (1934-2018) was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of
Puerto Rico, which she did for almost twenty years. She was also its first
She held two degrees, one in chemistry and one
in law. She was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1985, and became Chief
Justice in 2004, a position she held until retirement.
Brăescu (1897-1948) was
a pioneering aviator from Romania. She held multiple world records in
She obtained her
parachuting license in 1928, becoming the first Romanian woman and one of the
very few women worldwide. She established the world record for the highest
parachute jump in 1932 in Sacramento, California, jumping from almost 7000
metres. After World War II, she was one of the few public figures who condemned
the botched elections and new communist regime; as a result, she was arrested
and died two years later.
Roberta MacAdams (1880-1959) was a Canadian politician from Alberta. She was the
first woman to introduce and pass a piece of legislation not only in the
country, but in the entire British empire.
She initially worked as a domestic science
instructor and travelled across the country, speaking to rural women about
their work and needs, an endeavour which led to the creation of the Alberta
Women’s Institute. She later worked as a dietitian in the Canadian Army Medical
Corps. In 1917, she became the second woman ever elected to the Legislative
Assembly of Alberta, and later passed a law which recognised a veteran’s
Louisa Stevenson (1835-1908) was a suffragist and women’s rights activist from
Scotland. She was particularly active in the campaign for female education.
She was a member of the Edinburgh Ladies’
Educational Association, and was part of the efforts which led to Scottish universities
being open to female students in 1892. She was one of the first women to ever
serve on a hospital board, and helped manage the Jubilee Nurses Institute and
the Colonial Nursing Organisation.
Tatyana Kuznetsova (1941-2018) was the youngest person ever selected to be a part of a
human spaceflight programme. This happened in 1961, when she was selected as
one of five female cosmonauts by the Soviet government.
She worked as a stenographer for the Ministry
of Radioelectronic Industry, but also took up parachuting as a hobby, becoming
a regional and national champion by the age of 20. She was selected for the
programme as a preparation for the first woman in space – an honour that
eventually went to Valentina Tereshkova.
Maria Dalle Donne (1778-1842) was the first woman to ever obtain a doctorate in
medicine. She achieved this in 1799 at the University of Bologna.
Her research focused on female reproduction and
fertility, as well as neonatal medical issues. She was the second woman to ever
become a member of the prestigious Ordine
dei Benedettini Accademici Pensionati, and in 1832 she became the Director of the Department of Midwifery at
the University of Bologna.
Viola Desmond (1914-1965) was a civil rights activist in Canada. She helped give
rise to the civil rights movement in her country by challenging racial
segregation, refusing to give up her seat in a whites-only area of a cinema in
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
She was a beautician who opened her own
salon and training school, specifically for black women who were being denied
entry to whites-only beauty schools. Her defying gesture happened in 1964, and
she was forced to spend a night in jail and pay a $20 fine. She was granted a
posthumous pardon in 2010 (the first ever in Canada), and was the first black
Canadian women to be featured on a banknote.