1. Margaret Cavendish
Though her name may not strike instant recognition among the masses, if you love sci-fi, you should definitely check out Margaret Cavendish.
Largely regarded as the mother of the Science Fiction, this duchess and scientist was among the first to write a full length story in the genre. An author and scientist, she published various works under her own name back in the 17th century when such things were still unheard of for us ladies.
2. Elizabeth Garret Anderson
When it comes to blazing trails, few have a track record quite like Elizabeth here. Not only was she the UK’s first female surgeon and doctor, she was also the first female doctor in France.
But hold onto your hats, because she didn’t stop there. She was also the first female dean of a British medical school, first co-founder of a female-staffed hospital and, oh yeah, first woman to be a British mayor!
3. Kate Sheppard
If you believe in the right to vote for all people, Kate Sheppard is one women whose story you don’t want to miss. As early as 1887, Kate was organizing one of history’s first women’s suffrage moments in New Zealand.
After campaigning for years, she finally led the movement that passed the 1893 bill which made New Zealand the first to give women the right to vote alongside men. After inspiring women in both the US and UK with her successful campaign, she went on to help and encourage suffrage campaigners in both countries as well.
4. Chiquinha Gonzaga
Long before Adele, there was an amazing woman by the name of Chiquinha Gonzaga who didn’t give a crap that it wasn’t considered proper for women in her time to become composers.
This mixed race, divorced, single mom started composing back in the 1800’s and went on to become one of the first famous female composers in the world. She went on tours not only in her native country of Brazil but also all over Europe.
Not only that, she was a strong social advocate who campaigned for women's suffrage and to help end slavery in Brazil.
5. Ada Lovelace
Though you may have heard of famous 19th century poet Lord Byron, chances are you may or may not be quite as familiar with his daughter Ada. A mathematician in a time when even math was thought to be just for boys, Ada wrote the first computer program ever, 100 years before computers were even invented.
Though everyone in her own time considered her crazy for predicting that someday computers would be able to create music and art, let’s just say she ended up having the last laugh.
If you’ve ever read the book series “Goth Girl,” you may know a character named Ada Goth, who is based on this real life genius gal.
6. Hypatia of Alexandria
Though you may know the names Plato and Aristotle well, the odds are you’ve never heard of Hypatia of Alexandria. This is a shame, due to the fact that she was actually one of the most prominent philosophers of the late Roman Empire.
Having been born around 350 A.D., the idea of a preeminent female philosopher in the Classical era was unfortunately went over just as well you might suspect. Hypatia was inevitably mistaken for a witch and ended up murdered by an angry mob during a riot in 415 A.D.
Her death was none the less a blow that caused many scholars to leave the already struggling city of Alexandria and is regarded as a turning point that helped usher in the end of the Classical era.
7. Wu Zetian
Born in 625 A.D., not only was Wu Zetian the first, but is to this day the only female emperor in the history of China. After starting out as a favorite concubine for Emperor Tai Tsung during her youth, she used her womanly wiles to climb the ranks and ended up marrying Emperor Kao Tsung.
Eventually her son relinquished the throne in 690 A.D., allowing Wu Zetian to become one of the most peaceful and beloved emperors in the Chinese history.
During her life she actively worked to station other women in positions of political power and ordered the writing of biographies of other famous women of her time.
8. Valentina Tereshkova
Who says women can’t reach for the stars… or even float among them? Back in 1963, the then 26-year-old Russian became not only the first women to go to space, but was the fifth cosmonaut ever to travel into the Earth’s orbit.
9. Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia
Though women earning degrees is common place these days, things were a bit different back in the 1600’s. Thankfully however, women like Venetian philosopher Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia appeared on the scene and decided it was time for things to change.
After studying at the University of Padua, she became the first woman in history ever to earn an academic degree all the way back in June of 1678.
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