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Women Who Changed The World

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Women who changed the World 

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Clara Barton, 1821-1912 American Red Cross founder

An educator and humanitarian, Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton helped distribute needed supplies to the Union Army during the Civil War and later founded the disaster relief organization, the American Red Cross.

Born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts, Barton was the youngest of Stephen and Sarah Barton’s five children. Her father was a prosperous farmer. As a teenager, Barton helped care for her seriously ill brother David—her first experience as a nurse. She began teaching at age 18, When the Civil War began in 1861, Barton quit her job and made it her mission to bring supplies to Union soldiers in need—among them, men of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry. This started a life-long career of aiding people in times of conflict and disaster. In 1862, she received official permission to transport supplies to battlefields and was at every major battle in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, where she also tended to the wounded and became known as the “angel of the battlefield.” She was officially named head nurse for one of General Benjamin Butler’s units in 1864, even though she had no formal medical training. After the war, Barton helped locate missing soldiers, mark thousands of graves, and testified in Congress about her wartime experiences. While in Switzerland, she learned about the International Red Cross, established in Geneva in 1864. Returning to the US, Barton built support for the creation of the American society of the Red Cross by writing pamphlets, lecturing, and meeting with President Rutherford B. Hayes. On May 21, 1881, the American Association of the Red Cross was formed; Barton was elected president in June. In 1882, the US joined the International Red Cross. Barton remained with the Red Cross until 1904, attending national and international meetings, aiding with disasters, helping the homeless and poor, and writing about her life and the Red Cross. She was also an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage. In 1904, she established the National First Aid Association of America, an organization that emphasized emergency preparedness and developed first aid kits. Her Glen Echo, Maryland home became a National Historic Site in 1975, the first dedicated to the achievements of a woman.

Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966 Russian poet

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Anna Akhmatova, the pen name of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, was born on June 23, 1889, near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Her father, a retired naval officer, moved the family to St. Petersburg when Anna was a young girl. She attended the Tsarskoe Selo Women's Gymnasium near St. Petersburg, where she met Nikolai Gumilev, whom she married in 1910.Her early life was marked by immediate success in poetry and the anguishing failure of her marriage to Gumilev, whom she divorced in 1918. Her first books, Evening (1912), Rosary (1914), and Anno Domini MCMXXI (1921), testify to the trials of her marriage. Gumilev was executed in 1921 as a counterrevolutionary, and their only son, a historian, spent most of the years from 1939 to 1956 in a Soviet prison camp. These events compounded Anna Akhmatova's misfortune and led to the book of poems Requiem (1963), which is a testament to the suffering not only of the poet but of all Russians during the horrifying days of Stalin's purges. In 1946 Anna Akhmatova was hounded by Stalin's minister of culture, Andrei Zhadanov, called "a mixture of nun and harlot," and expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers. She had been reduced to silence before, from 1925 to 1940; she did not emerge from this final rebuke until after the death of Stalin. During the late 1950s and the 1960s she devoted herself to translations and to her own poetry. she died of a heart attack on March 6, 1966. She was accorded a Russian Orthodox funeral and was buried near Komarovo.

Rosa Parks 1913-2005
The mother of the civil rights movement

Jane Goodall,1934-
anthropologist and primatologist

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Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. As an  African American in Alabama, she had to live with segregation, which means separation of the races. On December 1, 1955, Parks was riding a then segregated Montgomery city bus. She was sitting in a section where whites had first pick of seats. A white man wanted her seat, but Parks refused to move. She was arrested, jailed, and fined. But Her action sparked the U.S. Civil Right Movement. The city’s African Americans then decided to boycott, or not ride city buses until the segregation law was changed. The boycott was led by Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then just beginning his career as a civil rights leader. The Montgomery boycott went on until 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the U.S. Constitution did not allow segregation of buses. This gave hope to people who wanted all kinds of racial segregation to end. Within the next 10 years, much progress was made. The city’s African Americans then decided to boycott, or not ride city buses until the segregation law was changed. The boycott was led by Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then just beginning his career as a civil rights leader. The Montgomery boycott went on until 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the U.S. Constitution did not allow segregation of buses. This gave hope to people who wanted all kinds of racial segregation to end. Within the next 10 years, much progress was made. Parks was fired from her job and threatened by white people. She and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1957. She then worked in the office of U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. She was honored with two of the country’s highest civilian awards: the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1996) and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor (1999). Rosa Parks died in Detroit on October 24, 2005.

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Born in London on the 3rd of April, 1934, Jane Goodall had an innate passion for animals. Her mother was a creative author, and her father was an entrepreneur. Growing up, she dreamt that someday, she might travel to Africa so she could see her favorite animals. She always loved to be a forest adventurer as she loved animals so much, particularly chimpanzees. Because she badly wanted to travel to Africa. Jane Goodall is formerly known as Baroness Jane Lawick-Goodall, an English anthropologist and primatologist, and considered the world’s leading expert on the study of chimpanzees. She is also famous for her sixty-year research about forest chimpanzees' families and social interactions since her first visit to National Park Gombe Stream in Tanzania in the year 1960. She had worked hard on animal welfare and conservation while trying to alleviate environmental issues that negatively impact their existence. She had served the project of nonhuman rights as a board member during its 1996 founding. In 2002, Goodall was acknowledged as the UN Peace Messenger and an honorary constituent of the Future World Council.  Goodall won several awards for humanitarian and environmental works, which include the J. Paul Wildlife Conservations Award, the Award for the Living Legacy, Life Science’s Benjamin Medal, and Eco Hero Prize in Disney. There were plenty of documentaries to tribute to Jane’s works and accomplishments, including the publication Among the Wild Chimps and Life of the Legend Jane Goodall.

Ruth Mosko Handler  1916 –  2002 
Revolutionized the toy industry by inventing the Barbie doll.

DR. ELIZABETH BLACKWELL  1821  1910
First woman Doctor in USA

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Ruth Mosko Handler, the youngest of ten children, was born in 1916 in Denver, Colorado, to Polish-born parents. Her father, Jacob Mosko, arrived at Ellis Island in 1907. At the age of six months, Ruth was sent to live with her older sister Sarah and Sarah’s husband and stayed with them until she was nineteen. It was in Sarah’s drugstore/soda fountain that she first developed her enthusiasm for business. In 1932, she fell in love with a poor art student named Izzy Handler. Her family was terrified the teenagers would marry. Izzy soon joined Ruth in California, and in 1938 the two married in Denver, with her family’s reluctant blessing. Returning to California, Handler encouraged her husband to drop the stereotypical “Izzy” in favor of his middle name, Elliot.
In 1956, while vacationing in Switzerland, Handler with her fifteen-year-old daughter Barbara became transfixed by a window display of six eleven-inch dolls in different ski outfits. They looked very similar to an idea that Handler had envisioned five years earlier—a child’s doll with an adult body and multiple outfits.
Handler pushed the idea for three years, and in 1959 the Barbie dolls were put on the market. The Ken doll, named for her son, who had been born in 1944, soon followed. By late 1964, the Saturday Evening Post reported that Barbie products supported five thousand workers in Japan,
eight hundred workers in California, and numerous press agents and advertising executives. Barbie had a secretary to answer twenty thousand fan letters a week. By 1968, the Barbie Fan Club grew to 1.5 million members in the United States. In 1993, a “second issue” Barbie in its original box was sold at auction for over five thousand dollars.
In 1970, Handler lost a breast to cancer. Because of her illness, she spent less time at Mattel. Her loss of self-esteem affected her leadership, and she lost control of the business. Major decisions had been made without her consent, and by 1973 Mattel was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although Handler and her colleagues pleaded innocent, they were fined, and by 1975 Handler was forced out of the company she had started

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Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to become a doctor in the United States. During Blackwell’s life, few people would accept the idea of a woman doctor. As a result, Blackwell had to struggle all her life to practice medicine.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born on February 3, 1821, in Bristol, England. Her family moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. When she was about 24 years old she decided she wanted to become a doctor.

Blackwell applied to many medical colleges, but none of them would allow a woman to study there. Finally, in 1847, Blackwell was accepted by Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York. She graduated two years later at the top of her class. Blackwell then traveled to Paris, France, where she worked at a hospital for women. She continued her medical studies in England.

In 1851 Blackwell traveled back to the United States, but no hospital would hire her. She started a small clinic for the poor in New York City. In 1857 the clinic became the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. In 1868 Blackwell opened the Woman’s Medical College at the New York Infirmary. Blackwell played an important role in both the United States and the United Kingdom as social awareness and moral reformer, and pioneered in promoting education for women in medicine. Her contributions remain celebrated with the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal, awarded annually to a woman who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of women in medicine.

In 1869 Blackwell moved to England. She helped to set up the National Health Society. She also served as a professor at the London School of Medicine for Women from 1875 to 1907. Blackwell died in England on May 31, 1910.

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Cleopatra, 69 BCE -Died  30 BCE
queen of ancient Egypt

Cleopatra is one of the best-known women in history, famed for her supposed beauty and intellect, Cleopatra was a queen of ancient Egypt. She wanted to make her country more powerful. To do so, she got the help of two leaders of ancient Rome: Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. However, a third Roman leader, Augustus, defeated her. Cleopatra was born in 69 BCE in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Her family originally came from Macedonia in Europe, but it had ruled Egypt for more than 200 years. Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy XIII, became rulers together after their father died in 51 BCE. However, her brother had followers who soon drove Cleopatra from power. Cleopatra went for help to Julius Caesar, a powerful Roman ruler who was then in Egypt. In 47 BCE Caesar defeated Ptolemy XIII’s forces, and Ptolemy died. Cleopatra returned to the throne. Her youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV, became a co-ruler. 

Cleopatra soon followed Caesar to Rome. She stayed there until he was murdered in 44 BCE. Ptolemy XIV died in the same year. Cleopatra probably had him poisoned. After Caesar’s death, Mark Antony became one of the three leaders of Rome. Cleopatra knew he could help her to gain more power. She charmed Antony, and he fell in love with her. Antony eventually left his wife Octavia to live with Cleopatra. This angered Octavia’s brother Octavian, who later became the emperor Augustus. He soon declared war against Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. The couple fled to Alexandria. About 10 months later, Octavian captured Alexandria. Antony killed himself. Shortly afterward, in 30 BCE, Cleopatra also died. According to legend, she let a poisonous snake bite her. After Cleopatra’s death, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire. a number of ancient records, and historical research, tell a different story. These records describe Cleopatra as an intelligent, multilingual, female pharaoh who affirmed her right to rule Egypt and other territories.

Cleopatra, 69 BCE -Died  30 BCE 
queen of the United Kingdom

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Queen Victoria was queen of the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She reigned over her country longer than any other British king or queen before her. Her reign is called the Victorian Age.

Alexandrina Victoria was born on May 24, 1819, in London, England, the capital of the United Kingdom. Her father was a son of King George III. Her mother was a German princess.

Victoria became queen in 1837. She was 18 years old. The young queen learned about the British government from Lord Melbourne, the British prime minister (head of government).

In 1840 Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They had nine children together. Almost all of them married members of European royal families.

Albert died in 1861. Victoria was never really happy after that. She stopped going to places where people could see her. She spent less and less time in London and more and more time in a castle in Scotland called Balmoral.

Then another prime minister, named Benjamin Disraeli, became Victoria’s friend. Disraeli pleased Victoria in 1876 by making the British government a part owner of the Suez Canal. The canal was an important link between Europe and Asia. Disraeli pleased Victoria even more by giving her the title of empress of India in 1876.

As the years passed, Victoria kept her popularity. In 1887 the British people had a big celebration called the Golden Jubilee to honor her 50 years as queen. Ten years later they had another big celebration called the Diamond Jubilee.

On January 22, 1901, Victoria died at age 81 on the Isle of Wight, an island in the English Channel. Her son Edward VII then became king. Victoria served as queen for more than 63 years. Only one other British monarch—Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II—served longer.

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884- 1962.
Human rights Protector

Susan B. Anthony 1820-1906 
American women's rights activist

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Eleanor Roosevelt was married to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She was widely respected for her many activities as first lady. Later she worked at the United Nations helping people around the world.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City. She grew up in a wealthy family that valued community service. Eleanor was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. In 1905 she married Franklin Roosevelt, her distant cousin.

During World War I (1914–18) Eleanor worked for the Red Cross. Later she taught at a girls’ school that she had bought with friends. In the 1920s Eleanor became active in politics.

Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933. He had a disability that made it hard for him to travel. Eleanor crisscrossed the country in his place. She talked to people from all walks of life and reported back to the president. She defended the rights of African Americans, youth, women, and the poor.

During the 1930s the United States was struggling through the Great Depression. President Roosevelt tried to end the country’s economic problems with a group of government programs called the New Deal. Eleanor organized a New Deal program called the National Youth Administration. It created jobs for millions of college students.

Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, but Eleanor Roosevelt remained active. In 1945 she became a U.S. representative at the United Nations. There she worked to protect human rights. She also wrote books, magazine articles, and newspaper columns. She died in New York City on November 7, 1962.

Eleanor Roosevelt had her own White House news conferences for women reporters

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The American women's rights activist played a key role in the women's suffrage movement. In the 1800s women in the United States fought to gain equal rights with men. One of the leaders of that movement was Susan B. Anthony Mark Antony. Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts. When she was 6 years old her family moved to Battenville, New York. As a young woman, she taught school. In the 1850s Anthony became involved in both the temperance movement, which fought alcohol abuse and the abolitionist movement, which sought to end slavery. She traveled widely, spoke at public meetings, and began to take an interest in women’s issues.

At the time, women in the United States did not have the right to vote. To fight this injustice, Anthony and her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. “Suffrage” means the right to vote.

To draw attention to the struggle, Anthony tried to vote in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested, but she refused to pay her fine. In 1890 the NWSA merged with another group to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony was president from 1892 to 1900.

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906, in Rochester, New York. In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave voting rights to women in all states. Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to have her image on a U.S. coin, the Susan B. Anthony dollar.

PEARL S. BUCK 1892- 1973 
Author,Writer

JANE ADDAMS  1860 - 1935 
Activist, reformer, social worker, sociologist, public administrator, Author

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Buck was born Pearl Sydenstricker on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, W. Va. Her parents returned to their work as missionaries when she was only 3 months old and soon moved to Zhenjiang, China. She grew up in a house on a hill overlooking the Yangtze River, and her first language was Chinese. Her early stories about what she observed were printed in the weekly children’s edition of the Shanghai Mercury.

At 15 Pearl was sent to boarding school in Shanghai, and two years later she entered Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va. She became class president and won two literary prizes. In 1917 she married John L. Buck, an American agriculturalist in China. They had one daughter, who was intellectually disabled—a story she eventually revealed in The Child Who Never Grew (1950).

Buck’s first article, “In China, Too,” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1922. Her first book was East Wind: West Wind (1930), followed by the Pulitzer-prizewinning The Good Earth. Her most famous work, it was part of the trilogy The House of Earth (1935). Among Buck’s more than 85 books were the novels Dragon Seed (1942) and Pavilion of Women (1946). She wrote some historical novels with an American setting under the pseudonym John Sedges.

Divorced in 1935, she immediately married her publisher, Richard J. Walsh, and stayed in the United States thereafter. She adopted nine children. Buck established an agency for the adoption of Amerasian children and the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which works for the welfare of Amerasian and other children worldwide. Pearl S. Buck's classic novel "The Good Earth" earned the prolific author and activist a Pulitzer Prize. She is also the fourth female ever to receive a Nobel Prize in 1938.  literature. Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children's literature, and translations from the ChineseBuck died on March 6, 1973, in Danby, Vt.

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Laura Jane Addams was an American settlement activist, reformer, social worker, sociologist, public administrator, and author. She was an important leader in the history of social work and women's suffrage in the United States and advocated for world peace

Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois. She graduated from college in 1882 and then went to Europe. In a poor section of London, England, she visited Toynbee Hall. University graduates lived there and worked to improve life in the neighborhood. It was known as the world’s first social settlement. Addams took this idea back to the United States.

Jane Addams was the second woman to receive the Peace Prize. She founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and worked for many years to get the great powers to disarm and conclude peace agreements. Addams became involved in many social causes. She worked to pass laws against child labor, to protect workers’ rights, and to win women the right to vote. Addams believed that countries should settle their disagreements peacefully. She spoke out against World War I even though her opinion made her less popular. In 1931 she won a share of the Nobel peace prize. Addams lived at Hull House until her death on May 21, 1935. The original Hull mansion has been preserved as a museum that honors her

FRIDA KAHLO  1907- 1954 Mexican painter

Mother Teresa  1910- 1997
Saint, Social Wrker

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Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Her paintings explore topics of gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Frida Kahlo is among the most famous Mexican artists of the 1900s. She was known especially for her disturbing style and her many unsmiling self-portraits. She often included skulls, daggers, and bleeding hearts in her paintings.

The pain Kahlo expressed in her paintings came from her own life. She was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón in Coyoacán, Mexico, on July 6, 1907. She suffered from the disease polio at 6 years old and walked with a limp for the rest of her life. At 18 she was nearly killed in a bus crash. Her injuries were so severe that she spent many weeks in the hospital. She felt physical pain throughout her life.

Kahlo began painting self-portraits while in the hospital. Once she was well, she showed her paintings to the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Rivera was enthusiastic. He encouraged her and promoted her work to others. Kahlo and Rivera married in 1929. They divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1941.

During her life, Kahlo was more famous in the United States and Europe than in her homeland. Since her death, on July 13, 1954, she has become equally famous in Mexico.

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Mother Teresa was born on August 27, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia. Her birth name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. In 1928 she joined a community of nuns in Ireland called the Sisters of Loretto. Weeks later she sailed to India. For the next 17 years, she taught at a school in Calcutta run by the Sisters of Loretto

The Roman Catholic nun called Mother Teresa received the Nobel peace prize in 1979 for helping to relieve the suffering of the poor. She was especially active in the slums of Calcutta (now Kolkata), India. Less than 20 years after she died, Mother Teresa was named a saint of the Roman Catholic church.

.In 1946 Mother Teresa decided to spend her life helping the sick and the poor. She studied nursing and started working in the slums. In 1948 she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order of women dedicated to serving the poor. Mother Teresa led the order for nearly 50 years. It opened schools for children and centers to treat the blind, the disabled, the old, and the dying. She received many awards for her work.

In 1989 Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack. Despite her poor health, she continued to work in Calcutta most of the time until she retired in March 1997. She died there on September 5, 1997. After her death, the Missionaries of Charity carried on her work in more than 90 countries. Pope Francis I declared Mother Teresa a saint on September 4, 2016.

Margaret Hamilton 1936
mathematician, systems engineer, and, American computer scientist,first computer software programmers

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Margaret Hamilton is a brilliant mathematician, systems engineer, and, American computer scientist. She was one of the first computer software programmers. (Software is the instructions that tell the computer hardware what to do.) Hamilton was responsible for the software that allowed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land on the Moon. She is also credited with inventing the term software engineering.

In 1965 Margaret was named responsible for the development of the flight software for the computers that would go on board the Apollo spacecraft. She subsequently directed and supervised the developments of the Skylab space station mission. Margaret Hamilton had no trouble reconciling her career at NASA with her mothering role. On weekends, she took her daughter Lauren to the lab to spend time with her, while she worked writing the computer routines that would go on the Apollo command module computer. Hamilton has received a number of awards and honours, including the 1986 Augusta Ada Lovelace Award for Women in Computing. In 2003 she was awarded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Exceptional Space Act Award. President Barack Obama awarded her the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour, in 2016.

DOROTHY THOMPSON  1893 - 1961
Influential Journalist

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Named one of the most "influential women in the U.S." alongside Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1939 edition of Time magazine, Thompson worked as a journalist for a number of publications - covering topics of war, politics, home, and family.

The daughter of a Methodist minister, Thompson attended the Lewis Institute in Chicago and Syracuse University in New York (A.B., 1914), where she became ardently committed to woman suffrage. After World War I she went to Europe as a freelance correspondent and became famous for an exclusive interview with Empress Zita of Austria after Emperor Charles’s unsuccessful attempt in 1921 to regain his throne. In 1925 she became head of the Berlin bureau of the New York Evening Post and met the novelist Sinclair Lewis. She married him in London in 1928 (her second of three marriages). On their return to America, Thompson led a domestic life for a few years but, back in Europe, she began reporting about the Nazi movement, infuriating Adolf Hitler so much that, by his own personal order in 1934, she became the first American correspondent to be expelled from Germany. In 1936, for the New York Herald Tribune, she began her newspaper column “On the Record,” which became hugely popular and eventually was syndicated to as many as 170 daily papers (1941–58). On network radio and in popular speeches, she warned against Hitler, and Time magazine rated her country’s second most popular woman after Eleanor Roosevelt.

Ahilya Bai Holkar 1725-1795
Queen of Maratha Empire 

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Ahilya bai Holkar  was born on May 31st, 1725 in Gram Chundi, Maratha Empire. She is regarded as one of the finest female rulers in Indian history. She spread the message of dharma and promoted industrialization in the 18th century. After the death of her husband and father-in-law, she ruled Malwa in a wise and sagacious manner. On various occasions, she led the army herself from the front like a brave warrior, armed with bows and arrows on the elephant. It is said that during her reign, Malwa was never once attacked and remained an oasis of stability and peace. 

Queen of Jhansi : Rani Lakshmibai

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As the queen of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai fought fiercely and ferociously against British rule during the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857. Having a young adopted son did not stop her in the slightest, and many accounts depict her riding into battle wielding two swords, the horse reins in her teeth, and her son on her back. Though Jhansi eventually fell to British rule, Lakshmibai was able to rally her troops and, against all odds, hold onto her land for over two weeks. Despite being forced to evacuate her city, Lakshmibai fought to the death, dying in battle after refusing to surrender. Her strength and bravery made her a legend in Indian culture. She has been honored with numerous statues, and the Indian National Army’s all female infantry was named after her during World War II.

Dr. Rukmabai 1864-1955

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Rukhmabai is as famous for being one of India’s first women doctors as for being a child bride who resisted oppressive tradition. At age 11, she was married to a man eight years her senior. In an unconventional understanding, he agreed to be a ghar jamaai (live with his wife’s family) and complete his education. When Rukhmabai reached puberty just a few months into her marriage, he wanted to consummate the marriage but her step-father, a well-known doctor with progressive leanings, opposed it.

Unhappy with the situation, Rukhmabai’s husband moved in with another relative, accumulated debts, and avoided education. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Rukhmabai studied at home with books borrowed from a mission library and hobnobbed with progressive-minded Indians and Europeans in her parents’ social circles. When she was 20, her husband sued for his conjugal rights. The high-profile court battle sparked intense debates in the newspapers. In 1887, citing Hindu laws, a British judge ordered Rukhmabai to go and live with her husband or face six months in jail. Rukhmabai said she preferred prison. In an editorial, the freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak attributed her attitude to her education and declared that Hinduism was in danger. Rukhmabai appealed to Queen Victoria, who overruled the court and declared the marriage void.

Her supporters raised money for her to study medicine in England, and she graduated from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1894. She returned to India and served as Chief Medical Officer of a women’s hospital in Surat, and later in another hospital in Rajkot. She retired in 1929, at the age of 65.

Bhikaiji Cama 1861-1936

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Born into an elite Parsi family in Bombay, she studied at what is now the Alexandra Girls’ English Institution. At 20, she married a wealthy pro-British Parsi lawyer, but it was not a happy marriage. She became involved in social work during the famine and plague of the 1890s and went to London for treatment after she herself contracted the plague. There she encountered Indians who were opposed to British rule in India, including Dadabhai Naoroji.

On learning that she had to promise in writing that she would refrain from nationalist activities in India, she chose instead to go to Paris, from where she distributed nationalist literature that was smuggled into India through the French territory of Pondicherry. She also smuggled guns concealed in toys, to support the resistance. She helped design an Indian flag that was first flown in Frankfurt in 1907. She was also a supporter of women’s equality.

In her 70s, her health took a turn for the worse and she returned to India, where she died. She willed a significant portion of her wealth to the Avabai Petit orphanage for girls in Bombay.

Sarojini Naidu 1879-1949

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, née Swarup Kumari Nehru 1900-1993 Diplomat and Politician

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Sarojini Naidu was born on February 13th, 1879 in Hyderabad, State of British India. She was an Indian political activist and poet. Her work as a poet earned her the sobriquet "the Nightingale of India", or "Bharat Kokila" by Mahatma Gandhi. She was an important figure in India's struggle for independence from colonial rule. In 1925, she was appointed as the President of the Indian National Congress and later became the Governor of the United Provinces in 1947. She was the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

She was a prolific poet, and her poetry included The Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time (1912), and her collected poems, published as The Sceptred Flute (1928) and The Feather of the Dawn (1961).

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Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was born as Swarup Kumari Nehru on 18 August 1900 to the Nehru family. Her father, Motilal Nehru was an illustrious lawyer, political leader, and freedom fighter. Pandit did not receive any formal school education but was tutored privately. In 1921 she married Ranjit Sitaram Pandit and changed her name. Pandit actively participated in the freedom struggle, as a result of which she was incarcerated thrice: in 1932-1933, 1940, and 1942-1943. Serving in Moscow, London, and Washington D.C. Most notably, however, she was the first woman and the first Asian to be elected the President of the United Nations General Assembly. When Pandit returned to India, she was appointed as the Governor of Maharashtra. Upon Jawaharlal Nehru’s death in 1964, she stood for the Lok Sabha elections from Phulpur and was in Parliament till 1968. Pandit sustained a deep interest in Indian political developments. She openly spoke against her niece, Indira Gandhi, and was critical of her emergency measures. Some of Pandit’s works include So I Became a Minister and Prison Days. She also wrote an autobiography The Scope of Happiness: A Personal Memoir. She died on 1 December 1990 at Dehradun.

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Anna Chandy 1905-1996

Captain Lakshmi Sahgal 1914-2012Doctor, Soldier, Politician, Social activist, Feminist.

Justice Anna Chandy, or Anna Chandi, was born on April 5, 1905, in Trivandrum, Travancore. She was the first female judge (1937) and then, in 1959, the first High Court judge in India. It is said that she was also one of the first female judges in the British Empire to Emily Murphy. Justice Anna Chandy became the first female Indian judge when she was appointed to a district court 1937. When she was appointed to a high court in 1959, she became only the second woman in the world to hold the distinctive title of high court judge. Along with her judicial accomplishments, Justice Chandy advocated for women’s rights in the journal she founded and edited, Shrimati.

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Lakshmi Sehgal was born as Lakshmi Swaminathan on October 24, 1914, in Anakkara, Madras Presidency, British India. She was a revolutionary in the Indian independence movement, an officer in the Indian National Army, and also the Minister of Women's Affairs in the Azad Hind government. She is commonly referred to in India as Captain Lakshmi. It was a reference to her rank when taken prisoner in Burma during the Second World War

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Aruna Asaf Ali 1909-1996 independence activist courageous freedom fighter, educator, political activist, and publisher.

Indira Gandhi 1917-1984
Prime Minister of India 

Born as Aruna Ganguly, on the 16th of July in the year 1909,  in Punjab, British India, Aruna Asaf Ali was a prominent independence activist courageous freedom fighter, Indian educator, political activist, and publisher. She actively participated in the Indian independence movement. During the Quit Indian movement (1942), she is remembered for hoisting the Indian National flag at the Gowalia Tank Maidan, Bombay. This gave her a long-lasting image in the movement. 

 She became a member of the Indian National Congress and, during Salt Satyagraha, she participated in public processions. She was arrested, and not released in 1931 under the Gandhi-Irwin Pact which stipulated the release of all political prisoners. Other women co-prisoners refused to leave the premises unless she was also released and gave in only after Mahatma Gandhi intervened. Post-independence, she remained active in politics and became the first Mayor of Delhi. In 1992, She received many awards during her lifetime. She was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 she was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan and, in 1997, the Bharat Ratna posthumously. This great freedom fighter passed away on 29 July 1996.

Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad. She was born in a family that was at the center of the Indian freedom movement. Her father Jawaharlal Nehru and grandfather Motilal Nehru were at the forefront of the Indian freedom struggle. Her mother Kamla Nehru, although less involved politically, was subject to political arrest by the British Indira Gandhi and married a Parsi named Feroze Gandhi in 1942. The marriage was opposed by orthodox Hindus because it was an inter-communal love marriage not arranged by her parents. Jawaharlal Nehru too opposed the marriage on grounds that the couple was somewhat incompatible because both possessed fiery tempers. Publicly, however, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi strenuously defended the marriage. Shortly after their marriage both Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi were arrested and jailed for nationalist activities. After the release, Feroze Gandhi became editor of The National Herald, a newspaper founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi became President of the Indian National Congress and in 1964 she was elected to the parliament. Meanwhile, the death of Feroze Gandhi (from a heart attack) in 1960, and the subsequent death of her father in 1964, caused Indira Gandhi to withdraw into a shell and limit herself to her immediate family. After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime Minister and Indira Gandhi was the minister of Information and Broadcasting in his government. After Lal Bahadur Shastri's untimely death in 1966, she was selected as prime minister by party bosses within the Congress Party as a compromise candidate. Her leadership qualities came to the fore during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 that resulted in liberation of Bangladesh.  In June 1975, amidst all this crises Allahabad High Court invalidated her 1971 election on the grounds of electoral malpractices. Instead of resigning, Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency in the country and jailed all her political opponents. But her second innings was beset with difficulties and personal tragedies. Her younger son Sanjay Gandhi died in an air crash. But her second innings was beset with difficulties and personal tragedies. Her younger son Sanjay Gandhi died in an air crash. After the army had invaded the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the chief shrine of the Sikhs, which had been held as an armed camp by a group of militant Sikhs, she became the target for Sikh anger and on 31 October 1984 she was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguard.

Gaidinliu  1915 – 1993 Freedom Fighter

Sucheta Kriplani 1908-1974

Freedom fighter and politician

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Gaidinliu was born on January 26, 1915, in the present-day Tamenglong district of Manipur. The Naga spiritual and political leader, who led an armed uprising against the British in Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam, belonged to the Rongmei tribe (also known as Kabui). In 1927, at the age of 13, Gaidinliu, along with her cousin Haipou Jadonang, joined the Heraka movement, which aimed at the revival of the Naga tribal religion and establish self-rule of the Nagas (Naga Raj) ending the British rule. She was arrested in 1932 when she was just 16 and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the British rulers. Between 1932 and 1947, the Naga freedom fighter was kept at several prisons across the Northeast.

After being released in 1947 she continued to work for the betterment of the community. Nehru described Gaidinliu as the “daughter of the hills” and he gave her the title of ‘Rani’ for her courage. She was also awarded a Padma Bhushan.

The state government has developed a park along with a statue to honour the late freedom fighter in Silchar, Assam.

The Government of India issued a postal stamp in her honour in 1996, and commemorative coin in 2015. She died in 1993

Sucheta Kriplani was born to a Bengali family in Ambala city. Her father S.N. Majumdar was a nationalist of India. Sucheta took education from Indraprastha College and St.Stephen's College in Delhi. After completing her studies, she took the job of lecturer in Banaras Hindu University. In the year 1936, she tied her wedding knots with a socialist Acharya Kriplani and joined the Indian National Congress. She came into the Indian historical scene during the Quit India Movement. Sucheta worked in close association with Mahatma Gandhi during the time of partition riots. She went along with him to Noakhali in 1946. She was one of the handfuls of women who got elected to the Constituent Assembly. On the 15th of August 1947, i.e. Independence Day, she sang the national song Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly.

After independence, she remained involved with politics. Meanwhile, she had also become a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. From 1960 to 1963, she served as Minister of Labour, Community Development, and Industry in the UP government. In October 1963, she became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the first woman to hold that position in any Indian state. She was India's first female Chief Minister, serving as the head of the Uttar Pradesh government from 1963. She retired from politics in 1971 and remained in seclusion till her death in 1974.

Arti Saha 
Swimmer

Arati Gupta' Saha; was an Indian Bengali long-distance swimmer, best known for becoming the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel on 29 September 1959. In 1960, she became the first Indian sportswoman to be awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India. Arati Saha was born in Calcutta, West Bengal during the British regime of India. Daughter of an armed forces officer, Arati lost her mother at a very young age and was brought up by her father alone. Her love for swimming developed at the very age of four when her uncle used to take her to Champatala Ghat where she learned to swim. In a time when women were not even educated, Aarati’s father not only recognized her interest in swimming but also gave her a swift push towards her passion and dreams and started getting her trained.

In 1946, at just the age of 5, Arati won the gold medal in 110 yards freestyle at the Shailendra Memorial Swimming Competition. This was just the start as Arati still had miles to swim. In her early years as a swimmer, Arati won several state-level championships. She won 22 state-level competitions in West Bengal itself.

Did you know, she even went on to break Dolly Nazir’s all-India record when she clocked 1 minute 37.6 seconds in 100 meters breaststroke at the 1951 West Bengal state meet, And that is not all, she even set new state-level records in 100 meters freestyle, 200 meters freestyle and 100 meters backstroke. Arati then set her eyes on a bigger target, the 1952 Summer Olympics. She was one of the four women participants and also the youngest member of the lot. There is always an inspiration behind every dream. For Arati it was Brojen Das, the first person from the Indian subcontinent to cross the English Channel. Watching Das’s Victory, Arati saw a dream right there and then- she was there in Das’s place. On 24 July 1959, Arati left for England along with her manager Dr Arun Gupta. After some basic practice, on August 13, she started her final practice at the English Channel. During this time, she was mentored by Dr Bimal Chandra, who was also participating in the race. On 29 September 1959, with her never-give-up attitude and with the philosophy of not letting one failure stop her, Arati started preparing for a second attempt, only 5 days after her 19th birthday.

Starting from Cape Gris Nez, France, she swam for 16 hours and 20 minutes, battling tough waves and covering 42 miles to reach Sandgate, England. Arati was successful in her second attempt. Arati was successful in her second attempt. Reaching the coast of England, she hoisted the Indian flag, marking yet another victory not just for our country but for all the women who dared to dream and follow those dreams, be it across the ocean.

That day Arati did not only achieve a milestone but also made history by becoming the first not just Indian, but the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel.

Arati was awarded a Padma Shri in 1960, becoming the first Indian sportswoman to receive the honor. Unfortunately, Arati passed away just at the age of 53, days before her 54th Birthday due to jaundice, bringing the curtains down on a glorious chapter in Indian swimming

To Be Continued......

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