In honor of International Women’s Day (#IWD2016), I’m working on a series of portraits of some famous and awesome ladies of history. This is an ongoing project, so will be continuing to post them as I make them. Check back here for more!
03.08.16 – I’ll start with Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). A formidable character, worthy of recognition for her long and (mostly) peaceful reign of England. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth ruled for 44 years, known as the Golden Age, where English drama flourished, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and seafaring English adventurers such as Francis Drake made their name. Nicknamed the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth never married or bore an heir.
03.10.16 – Second in the series, is Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913), an African-American born into slavery. She escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved families and friends, making her a brave and critical member of the Underground Railroad. After the civil war, she continued to campion for rights of both freed blacks and women.
03.21.16 – Third up, Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431), is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. She claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination. After the uncrowned King sent her off as part of a relief mission on the siege of Orléans, victories ensued and the King was crowned. She was later captured by the English side and then burned at the stake at roughly 19 years of age. So, she might have been a little crazy, but a teenage woman going into battle in the 1400’s is still pretty bad ass, so makes my list for famous and awesome women of history.
03.28.16 – Sacagawea, also Sakakawea or Sacajawea (1788-1812), was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition achieve each of its chartered mission objectives exploring the Louisiana Purchase. Reliable historic info about her isn’t limited. Most of the info we have is based on the journals written by the two explorers. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean with the expedition in 1804 and 1806 as the wife of a Quebecois trapper (married to him at the age of 13). She was brought along primarily as a Shoshone interpreter. She established cultural contacts with Native American populations, including a reuniting moment with her brother whom she’d been separated from at the age of 12. She bore her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, while on the expedition.
We owe a lot of credit to the National American Woman Suffrage Association of the early twentieth century for bringing her history and importance into the forefront, by adopting her as a symbol of women’s worth and independence.
04.03.16 – I’m pleased that this post aligns with Dame Jane Morris Goodall’s birthday (b. 1934). She is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. Apparently as a child, she was given a lifelike chimpanzee stuffed animal named Jubilee by her father, which apparently kickstarted her early love of animals.
04.10.16 – Sally Ride (1951 – 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. She became the first American woman in space in 1983 (two Russian women preceded her). She remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She later worked at Stanford and then University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate on both. She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001 that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. It was revealed after her death that she had been in a 27 year long relationship with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, making her the first known LGBT astronaut. She was a strong advocate of science and space exploration, and I’m honored to promote her accomplishments.
04.17.16 – Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits that exposed her physical and emotional struggles and pulled imagery and colors from her Mexican cultural heritage. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were caused by a bus accident she survived as a teenager. She was pegged as an surrealist painter by André Breton, but she felt her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams. She was married to famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera for what turned out to be a very volatile relationship. Throughout her life, she was very politically active. Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. Her childhood home was opened as a museum in 1958. She is viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.
04.24.16 – Susan Brownell Anthony (1820 – 1906) was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she started her politically active career at the age of 17, collecting anti-slave petitions. She met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, with whom she became a lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities. The list of things she did is long, from founding the New York Women’s State Temperance Society, to founding a newspaper for women’s rights, to founding the National Women’s Suffrage Association, to literally co-writing the book on the history of women’s suffrage, to submitting an amendment to Congress (submitted in 1878) that was finally passed in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. She campaigned around the country and the world for women’s rights her entire life. When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, she was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Luckily, over her lifetime, public perception of her changed and by her 80th birthday, she was invited to celebrate at the the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She has continued to be celebrated, notably with her portrait appearing on the 1979 dollar coin (the first non-fictitious woman to appear on U.S. coinage). I for one am eternally grateful to her and all the women who worked so hard to pass that amendment and endeavor to never take for granted all the hard work that she and others put into the cause.
05.08.16 – Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), known as the “lady with the lamp,” was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was born into an affluent British family, but from a young age was drawn to philanthropy, mainly ministering to the sick and poor. Against her family’s wishes, she chose to pursue a career in nursing. She studied in Germany, and when she returned to England, quickly excelled in her field and was promoted to superintendent within the first year of being hired. When the British entered the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses were called upon to aid the British soldiers on the front. The conditions were appalling, and with the help of her staff, they were able to improve the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. She wrote about her observations and proposed reforms to sanitation. Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform. In 1860 she established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She remained a prominent figure and authority on the subject and was regularly consulted by governments regarding the establishment of field hospitals. At the age of 88, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward. She had contracted “Crimean Fever” and lived bedridden from the age of 38 until her death at 90. Since 1965, International Nurses Day has been celebrated on her birthday each year, May 12.