Women’s History Month: Five inspirational women you should know about!

It’s Women’s History Month! In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, take a moment to read about 5 inspirational women, who have made positive impacts in the world, didn’t accept being told things weren’t possible for them and shaped the lives we’re able to live today:

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, considered one of the greatest English poets to have ever lived, and that’s the least interesting thing about her.

Ada was a mathematician and writer born in 1815 and is widely regarded as the first computer programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine, a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, and although it was never built, she was the first to recognise that the computer was capable of following instructions to perform complex calculations, publishing the algorithm considered the first ever computer program.

Kate Sheppard

When we think of the Suffragettes, the first person people tend to think of is Emmeline Pankhurst. But it’s worth remembering Kate Sheppard too. As the editor of the first female-operated newspaper in New Zealand, The White Ribbon, she was one of the most prominent members of the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand. She wrote the pamphlets Ten Reasons Why the Women of New Zealand Should Vote and Should Women Vote?, which directly contributed to New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to give woman the vote.

Mary Jane Patterson

Born into slavery, Mary Jane Patterson was the first African-American woman in the US to receive a degree from an accredited college. After her family were freed and moved to Oberlin, Ohio (popular with the Black community because of it’s integrated co-ed college), Mary dismissed the ‘traditional’ courses for women at Oberlin and instead studied Greek, Latin and Higher Mathematics, gaining her BA in 1862.

After graduating she worked in education, paving the way for other Black female students and educators.

Madam CJ Walker

Madam C.J. Walker was an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist… and the first self-made Black female millionaire in the early 20th century!

A talented entrepreneur with a knack for self-promotion, Walker built her business empire, at first selling products directly to Black women, then employing “beauty culturalists” to hand-sell her wares. She used her fortune to fund scholarships for women and donated large parts of her wealth to the NAACP, the Black YMCA and other charities. She’s a huge inspiration to women – particularly Black women – about how much can be achieved with self-belief and determination.

Check out the Netflix series ‘Self Made’ (starring the incomparable Octavia Spencer) to see Madam Walker’s story for yourself.

Beyoncé Knowles

OK, so she may not be exactly ‘historical’, but Beyonce is definitely one of the figures leading the charge in female empowerment today, standing up for women’s rights and gender equality in our society: ‘We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life.’

A 22-time Grammy award winning artist, she’s responsible for some of the best pop songs of the last 20 years, and regardless of what you may personally think about Beyonce or her music, it’s hard to deny her status as an icon: she is an absolute inspiration to many women and includes famous quotes by inspiring women in history in her work, such as Maya Angelou and Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

What inspires me most is her dedication to her work: when just starting out, she was said to jog round her neighbourhood singing at the top of her voice, to increase her stamina for on-stage performances. To overcome a lack of confidence she created the ‘sensual and aggressive’ alter-ego Sasha Fierce, allowing her to keep her stage persona separate from the person she really is.

Beyoncé has managed to use her status in the public eye for multiple philanthropic causes, consciously using the power she has to help promote charities and raise money for those who need it – something many artists don’t feel the need to do.

The ripples caused by these phenomenal women are still being felt in our world today – take a moment to remember them on March 8th, and remember the wise words of historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women seldom make history”!

With love,

Lisa x

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