Ernestina Pérez Barahona (1865-1951) was one
of the first women to graduate with a medical degree in Chile. She was the
second female doctor in the country and in the whole South American continent,
graduating days after her compatriot Eloísa Díaz Insunza.
She graduated from Universidad de
Chile in 1887, at the age of 21. She went on to specialise in gynecology in
Berlin, where she was physically separated from her all-male classmates by a screen.
She returned to Chile and dedicated her career to the advancement of female
education and health.
Gerda Taro (1910-1937) was a Jewish German war photographer. She is the first female photojournalist to have died on the frontline of a war.
She was detained in 1933 for sharing propaganda against the National Socialist Party, but managed to escape Germany before the Second World War. She documented the Spanish Civil War in many photographs, and became well-known in antifascist circles around Europe. Sadly, she died while riding in a car carrying wounded Republican soldiers, when a tank crashed into its side.
Lydia Moss Bradley (1816-1908) was the
first woman to become a board member of a national bank in the United States. She
was also a well-known philanthropist, funding a variety of causes and social
Among her many projects were parks,
hospitals, and a care centre for widows and old women. She established Bradley
University in 1896, still an institution of higher education today. In
addition, she was one of the first women in the US to draft a prenuptial
agreement to protect her personal assets after marriage.
Harriet Strong (1844-1926) was a leading figure of the movement for women’s rights in the United States. She was also an inventor whose innovations allowed for the construction of the Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal.
She was the one who advocated for the conservation of water for irrigation and generating electricity, and proposed a series of dams on the Colorado river. She won two medals at the World’s Columbian Exposition for her patents. In addition, she was the first female member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
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.
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
Maria Spelterini (1853-1912) was an Italian acrobat. She was the first woman to cross the Niagara gorge on a tightrope, a feat achieved in 1876.
She crossed for the first time on July 8, as part of the celebrations for the US Centennial. She repeated the feat several times over the following weeks, crossing the gorge with peach baskets strapped to her feet, blindfolded, or with manacled wrists and feet.
Suzanne Spaak (1905-1944) was a Belgian operative for the French Resistance during World War II. Her efforts helped save hundreds of people from certain death.
She was a wealthy and well-known woman in high circles around Brussels, and used this influence to collaborate with the French Resistance and the National Movement Against Racism in their humanitarian efforts. She saved hundreds of Jewish children from deportation, hiding many of them in her own house and arranging for them to be moved to safe countries. She was executed by the Gestapo in 1944, days before the liberation of Paris.
George Sand (1804-1876) was a
French writer, the author of novels such as Indiana
or La Petite Fadette. She was
also a prominent supporter of women’s and worker’s rights.
Her real name was Amantine Lucille
Dupin, but she adopted a male pseudonym for her writings. She also sported
masculine clothing and smoked tobacco in public, challenging the social norms
of the times. She wrote numerous novels, plays and memoirs throughout her lifetime.
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.