Even More Astonishing Women
Aphra Behn (nee Johnson)
(14 December 1640– 16 April 1689). A British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors.
(born 1950 Oct 28) is a Tunisian journalist and human rights activist. Honored in 2005 by Oxfam, Sihem began as a reporter for Le Phare. She founded a publishing house in 1988. It folded due to the human rights crisis. From 1999 onward, she and her businesses came under constant threat, destruction of property, and personal libel campaigns because of her human rights activities. Sihem persevered. Her list of appearances, criticisms, arrests, torture, judicial corruption comments, and spreading “false news with an aim towards disturbing public order,” are numerous. Since 2014 Ms. Bensedrine has headed the Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia.
Martha McChesney Berry
(7 Oct 1865 – 1942 Feb 27), the founder of Berry College. Born into plantation life, comfort and privilege, Mary, instead, pursued her desire to help the children of poor landowners and tenant farmers in Georgia to access to quality education. Mary never married. Education was her life’s work. Starting in her playhouse, she taught children. She ultimately acquired
30,000 acres, had more schools built. Then dorms for, at first, the Boys’ Industrial School and then seven years later, the Martha Berry School for Girls. Both offered high school-level education and focused on “head, heart, and hands.” Her motto: “Not to be ministered unto but to minister.” In 1983 both original schools were incorporated into Berry College. Supporters believe that Mary was responsible for the creation of work-study programs grounded in Christian faith.
(born 1936 Oct 19) was the first black woman president of Spelman College (founded as an all-black, all-female college).
Isabella Lucy Bird Bishop
(1831 Oct 15 – 1904 Oct 7) was the basis of the explorer character used by Caryl Churchill in “Top Girls.” A sickly girl, Lucy wanted to travel. At 23, she went to America. Loved it and using letters to her sister, wrote and published a book, The
Englishwoman in America. Next, Canada and Scotland. Home in England she left again for Australia and Hawaii. On to Colorado and its healthy air and her most famous book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. Back in England, she met John Bishop. Off to Asia. With her sister’s passing in 1880, she agreed to marry John. He died in 1886, so Lucy visited India, Ladakh,
Tibet, Persia, Kurdistan and Turkey. Then Tehran and Baghdad, writing articles of her journeys the entire time. Her final trip, on the Yangtze and Han rivers and then Morocco. Back in England she fell ill and died in 1904. The sickly girl lived so full a life, the Spectator wrote, “There never was anybody who had adventures as well as Miss Bird.”
(3 February 1821 – 31 May 1910) – A British-born medical practitioner and the first woman to graduate medical school. She opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children after much objection. A pioneer in promoting the education of women in medicine in the United States, and a social and moral reformer in both the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Emily Blackwell Blackwell
(1826 Oct 8 – 1910 Sept 7), born the younger sister of Elizabeth. The Blackwell sisters greatly contributed to the acceptance of women medical professionals in the US. Born in England and raised in New York, Emily and her sister opened the NY Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children (Women’s Medical College) in 1857. Prior to that, Emily studied medicine, was rejected from several medical schools and finally accepted at Western Reserve in Ohio. (She’d also studied in London, Paris, Berlin and Dresden). She rejoined her sister and took on managing and raising funds for the infirmary. In 1869, Emily became sole administrator when Elizabeth moved back to England. She was the dean and professor of obstetrics and women’s diseases. By 1893, the Women’s Medical College was a four-year school. Emily and her partner, Elizabeth Cushier were together until Emily’s death in 1910.
Unita Zelma Blackwell
(born 1933 Mar 18) was the first African-American woman elected mayor in the state of Mississippi, was born. Sharecropper parents, 8th-grade education, fearless activist, MacArthur recipient, Harvard fellow, and world traveler, Unita fought for voting rights for her community, civil rights globally, and federal low-income housing rights.
(22 September 1878 – 11 May 1971) was an Anglo-Irish journalist and aviator who, in 1910–11, became one of the first women in the world to design, build, and fly an aircraft.
(16 April 1930 – 21 December 2007) was a teacher and an award-winning American author of short stories, essays, and nonfiction works on writing. Her work often featured Minnesota women who must identify the moral crisis that is facing their community or themselves and enact change through empathy, or opening one’s eyes to the realities of the situation.
(August 19, 1909 – May 13, 2013) was a psychoanalyst in Los Angeles, California, who maintained an active practice when she was over 100 years old. She saw patients four days a week at age 102.
She studied at the University of Vienna. Bolgar was one of the last living psychologists to have attended Freud’s lectures in Vienna. She received an Outstanding Oldest Worker Award in 2011 in Washington D.C. at age 102.
Clare Boothe Luce
(1903 Mar 10 – 1987 Oct 9) was the first woman U.S. Ambassador. For seven decades Clare worked as an actor, playwright, journalist, war correspondent, wife, mother, politician: Vogue caption writer (“No good deed goes unpunished,” “Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage,”); at 32, marries Henry Luce,; 1936, writes “The Women”; 1939-1940, foreign war correspondent for Life; 1942-1946, becomes a U.S. Representative for Connecticut; helps create the AEC; 1953, appointed first woman Ambassador ever to a major country, Italy; resigns in ’56; establishes the Clare Boothe Luce Program, (scholarships and grants to women in the fields of science, engineering and mathematics); 1983, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Harriet Boyd (Hawes)
(October 11, 1871 – March 31, 1945) was a pioneering American archaeologist, nurse and relief worker. She is best known as the first director of an archaeological excavation to discover and excavate a Minoan settlement and palace site on the Aegean island of Crete. In 1920, the Hawes’ moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Harriet joined the faculty at Wellesley College lecturing on Ancient Art.
Harriet Ann Boyd Hawes
(1871 Oct 11 – 1945 Mar 31) was an American archeologist who graduated from Smith College and taught ancient and modern languages. Archeological finds in Crete inspired her to go but she had to finance the trip herself. In 1901, on a return trip to Gournia, near Kavousi, she was the first archeologist to discover and completely excavate an Early Bronze Age
Minoan town site. An entire Minoan town. Instant celebrity. She continued to excavate and lecture. On one of her trips to Crete, she met Charles Hawes, an anthropologist. In 1906 they wed. They had two children. She worked as a nurse in the Greco-Turkish War, Spanish- American War and World War I. In 1920, she resumed lecturing on pre-Christian art at Wellesley.
Alice Bradley Sheldon
(August 24, 1915 – May 19, 1987) was an American science fiction author better known as James Tiptree Jr., a pen name she used from 1967 to her death. She was most notable for breaking down the barriers between writing perceived as inherently male” or “female”—it was not publicly known until 1977 that James Tiptree Jr. was a woman. From 1974 to 1977 she also used the pen name Raccoona Sheldon. “
(1612 Mar 20 – 1672 Sept 16) was the first published writer in America. Her first book of poetry centered on her role as a mother, her struggles with the burdens of life and her Puritan faith. She bore and raised 8 children. She suffered from tuberculosis and smallpox, throughout her pregnancies. Anne wrote about her doubts concerning God’s mercy; that women could do more than care for family, home and hearth and how society often trivialized women’s accomplishments—many Puritans, especially women, would never have discussed, let alone, written about these issues.
(1876 Jul 2 – 1933 Apr 17) was a Canadian physicist. Harriet discovered Radon in 1901. She got her master’s at McGill, was a fellow at Bryn Mawr, got her fellowship at Cambridge all by 1901. She was appointed to the faculty at Barnard. She married in 1907 but due to policies at Barnard, female faculty could not be married. Harriet quit physics. Harriet was considered second only to Marie Curie in the field of nuclear physics.
(1909 Dec 8 – 1995 Apr 15), sometimes called Cleo Patra Brown, she was a jazz and blues vocalist and pianist. The first woman to receive the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship. From Mississippi, Cleo sang in church. Learned piano from her brother. At 28, she replaced Fats Waller as a pianist on NY radio, WABC. She toured the US, recorded for Decca and Capital Records, her stride piano playing (often compared to Fats Waller) influenced Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland. Cleo played bawdy, ironic music but by the 50s she retired and became a nurse.
(June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973) – She was an American writer and novelist. As the daughter of missionaries, Buck spent most of her life before 1934 in China.The first writer to portray the ordinary lives of Chinese people for a Western audience. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale
(1788 Oct 24 – 1879 Apr 30), an author who was homeschooled because her mother believed women could enjoy uncommon advantages via education. At 18, Sarah taught school and began to write poetry. She married at 24, had five children. Her husband died. To care for the family, she published a book of poetry. Her next book, (poems for children), contained the most famous poem in the English language, “Mary had a little lamb…” Sarah became the first editor of Ladies’ Magazine, the first US magazine written for women. She then joined Godey’s Lady’s Book and worked there for four decades. Sarah also founded the Seaman’s Aid Society to assist surviving families of Boston sailors who died at sea. Her novel, “Northwood” introduced the idea of Thanksgiving as a national day of sharing. Sarah pursued this idea until her death in 1879. Congress ultimately passed a Thanksgiving National Holiday bill into law in 1941.