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Beyond the stereotype: 100 extraordinary women who shaped the world # Part 2 of 4

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There was a time when women were said to be only good enough to produce babies and look after them at home. They were not expected to study in universities, fly aircraft or run multinational companies of rub shoulders with men. This was till a few supposedly ordinary women performed extraordinary deeds and set new standards for other women to follow. Here is part 2 of our compilation of 100 extraordinary women who broke the invisible glass ceiling and reshaped the world:   

Part 1: Beyond the stereotype: 100 extraordinary women who shaped the world # Part 1 of 4

Amelia Earhart – the first woman—and the only person to fly nonstop and alone across the Atlantic

Amelia Earhart the first woman—and the only person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. She was the second person and the first woman to fly solo, nonstop across the United States. In 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to receive an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot license. In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first female passenger to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Four years later, in 1932 she became the first woman to pilot a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, completing the journey from Newfoundland to Ireland in just under 15 hours. Her incredible feats propelled her to celebrity status and paved the way for her subsequent record-breaking endeavours. However Earhart disappeared during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. It remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.

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Sally Ride – first woman and the youngest American astronaut to fly in space

The first woman and the youngest American astronaut to fly in space. In 1978, Ride made history when she was selected as one of the first six women to join NASA’s astronaut program. Five years later, on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space when she flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-7 mission. She was only 32 years old at the time, making her the youngest American astronaut to fly in space. She participated in a second successful mission in 1984, and became the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego. After leaving NASA, Ride became a physics professor and also started a company to inspire girls in the areas of science and math. Sally Ride died of cancer in 2012.

Lata Mangeshkar – one of the best-known playback singers in India

Lata Mangeshkar was one of the best-known playback singers in India. In her career which spanned over seven decades, she recorded songs for over a thousand Hindi films, and sung songs in over thirty-six regional Indian and foreign languages. She was awarded Bharat Ratna India’s highest civilian award, in 2001 for her unparalleled contribution to Indian music. Her songs continue to resonate with audiences across generations making her an iconic figure in the history of Indian cinema and music. She is fondly called the “Nightingale of India” for her melodious voice.

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Gertrude Ederle – the first woman to cross the English Channel

An American Olympic swimmer became the first woman to cross the English Channel in 1926. She completed the swim in 14 hours and 31 minutes, beating records set by male swimmers. Her record remained unbroken until 1950. Ederle gained international recognition when she competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics, where she won a gold medal as part of the United States relay team and two bronze medals in individual events. Ederle’s record-breaking achievements have paved the way for greater opportunities for women in competitive sports. Gertrude continues to inspire athletes and remains an iconic figure in the history of women’s sports.

Ana Botín – one of the most influential figures in the world of European finance and banking

One of the most influential figures in the world of European finance and banking. Ana Botín is the Executive Chairman of Banco Santander, S.A., one of the most profitable and efficient banks in the world, serving over 142 million customers across Europe and the Americas since September 2014. Botín who assumed the role of Chair following the death of her father, is the fourth generation member of the Botín family to lead Banco Santander. She is recognised as one of the most influential figures in European banking, and is known for her strategic vision, financial acumen, and leadership skills. She has been vocal about the importance of innovation, digitalization, and sustainability in banking and has been actively involved in initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion within the industry. Under her leadership, Banco Santander has continued to expand its global footprint and adapt to the changing dynamics of the financial industry. Botín is a Board Member of the Coca-Cola Company and the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been recognized as one of the most powerful women in the world.

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Eleanor Roosevelt – the longest-serving First Lady of the United States

American diplomat, and the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, she married Franklin D. Roosevelt, who later became the 32nd President of the United States. Eleanor transforming the role of First Lady from a traditionally ceremonial position to one of active engagement and advocacy. During her husband’s presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt played a crucial role as his trusted advisor during the Great Depression and World War II. Even after Franklin Roosevelt’s death in 1945, Eleanor continued her activism and played a key role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt’s courage, compassion, and commitment to making the world a better place have inspired generations of leaders and activists around the globe. As she once famously said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” a sentiment that encapsulates her enduring influence and impact on the world.

Grace Hopper – one of U.S. Navy’s first programmers nicknamed “Grandma COBOL”

United States Rear Admiral who bridged the gap between mathematics, computer science, and the Navy. Hopper was one of the first programmers for the Harvard Mark I computer, a giant electromechanical machine built during World War II. She coined the term “debugging” while fixing a glitch in the Mark II computer system. She is credited with inventing the first compiler, a program that translates human-written code into a language computers can understand. Her work on compilers led to the development of COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), a high-level programming language that is used even today. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days). The U.S. Navy recognised her by naming USS Hopper a guided-missile destroyer as well as a supercomputer and superchip after her. She also received the nickname “Grandma COBOL”. Hopper was awarded 40 honorary degrees by universities across the world. She received numerous awards and honours, including the National Medal of Technology and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hypatia – one of the first female mathematicians and astronomer in her era

One of the first female mathematicians and astronomers in Alexandria, Egypt then part of the Eastern Roman Empire. She was a prominent thinker in Alexandria where she taught philosophy and astronomy. Hypatia refined several scientific instruments, wrote math textbooks, and developed a more efficient long division method. Hypatia wrote a piece on Diophantus’s thirteen volume Arithmetica, which contains 100 mathematical problems, whose solutions are proposed using algebra. She also wrote an article on conic sections. Hypatia’s teachings made her a respected figure in Alexandria, but also attracted enemies. She was murdered by a Christian mob in 415 AD. Hypatia had no appointed successor, no spouse, and no offspring. Her sudden death triggered a backlash against her ideology

Jane Austen – one of the greatest novelists in the English language

An English novelist known for her keen observations of British society and insightful portrayals of human nature. Her novels depict the lives of the British landed gentry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Austen’s works include “Sense and Sensibility” (1811), “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), “Mansfield Park” (1814), “Emma” (1815), “Northanger Abbey” (1817), and “Persuasion” (1817). Her novels are characterized by their witty dialogue, astute social commentary, and memorable characters. Austen began writing at a young age, however like many women authors at the time, Austen’s novels were initially rejected by publishers. So she had to publish her first three novels Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Mansfield Park (1814) anonymously because in those days women were expected to be a wife, mother, sister or daughter and writing was only considered a part time activity. Today, however she is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in the English language. In 2017 a statue of Jane Austen was erected in Basingstoke, Hampshire and the Bank of England printed Austin’s photo on a £10 note to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her death.

Also Read: Beyond the stereotype: 100 extraordinary women who shaped the world # Part 1 of 4

Wangari Maathai – the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

A remarkable Kenyan lady known for her tireless efforts in environment conservation, human rights, and women’s empowerment. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization that has planted millions of trees in Africa. This grassroots organization aimed to tackle deforestation and soil erosion by empowering local communities, particularly women, to plant trees. In 2004, her lifelong dedication was internationally recognized when she became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee praised her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace,” highlighting her role in empowering communities and fostering dialogue on environmental issues.

Anne Frank – Jewish diarist known for “The Diary of a Young Girl”

Anne Frank was a German-born Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during World War II. To escape Nazi persecution, Anne and her family went into hiding in a secret annex behind her father’s office in 1942 and remained hidden for two years, sharing the space with four other people. Anne received a red diary on her 13th birthday, which became her confidante during the long months in hiding. Anne named her diary “Kitty” and documented her experiences, about the cramped living conditions, fear of discovery, hopes for the future, and dreams of becoming a writer. In 1944, Anne and her family’s hiding place was discovered, and they were arrested. Anne died of typhus fever in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15 in early 1945. The only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust was her father, Otto Frank who published Anne’s diary in 1947, which became an international bestseller. “The Diary of a Young Girl,” as it is known, has been translated into over 70 languages and is a powerful testament to the enduring human spirit in the face of oppression. The Anne Frank House, the secret annex where the family hid, is now a museum that educates visitors about the Holocaust and Anne’s life.

Katherine Johnson – the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist

A mathematician who calculated and analysed the flight paths of many spacecraft on her finger tips before the advent of computers. During her 33-year career at NASA, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and became known as a “human computer” because of her tremendous mathematical capability. As an African American woman in a field dominated by white men, she faced many racial and gender discrimination but by virtue of her hard work and dedication earned the respect of her colleagues. Johnson played a crucial role in NASA’s space missions, including calculating trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs. Her work was instrumental in the success of the first manned spaceflights and helped send astronauts to the Moon. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom the highest civilian award in the United States.

Yulia Navalnaya – symbol of hope for for a more democratic and transparent Russia

The widow of Alexei Navalny a prominent Russian opposition leader is often called the “first lady” of the Russian opposition because of the manner in which she stepped into his shoes and continued his fight against corruption. After her husband’s death in February 2024, Yulia published a video online stating that she plans on continuing her husband’s political work and asked Russians to rally around her as they did around her husband, saying: “I will continue Alexei Navalny’s work … I want to live in a free Russia, I want to build a free Russia.” Yulia has today become a symbol of hope for those who yearn for a more democratic and transparent Russia and oppose the current government. In a society where women are still not allowed to take part in active politics, Yulia continues to inspire women to participate in the struggle for democracy and human rights. Yulia Navalnaya has been featured on the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people.

Patricia Bath- an ophthalmologist who invented a new device for cataract surgery

An ophthalmologist, research scientist and advocate for blindness prevention, treatment, and cure. She invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as laserphaco, and created a new discipline known as “community ophthalmology”. She was the first woman post-graduate in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She invented the Laserphaco Probe device to remove cataracts more precisely and with less discomfort for patients. This invention has saved the eyesight of countless individuals around the world. She also completed a fellowship in corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis (replacing the human cornea with an artificial one). Bath holds five patents— three relating to an eye laser probe, and two to the removal of cataracts with ultrasound or a laser-ultrasound. She co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness to further these efforts.

Lt Col Tammy Duckworth – the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate

An American politician who serves as the junior United States Senator from Illinois. Duckworth, who retired as National Guard lieutenant colonel, is responsible for an impressive list of firsts. She’s the first Thai-American woman elected to Congress, the first to give birth while in office, the first Asian American woman to represent Illinois’ Congress, and the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress. She lost both of her legs and partial use of her right arm when her helicopter was shot down by Iraqi insurgents during the Iraq War.

Elizabeth Cochran (Nellie Bly) – a pioneer in the field of investigative journalism

Elizabeth Cochran began her career in journalism when she responded to a sexist column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper. Impressed by her letter, the paper’s editor offered her a job as a reporter. She began writing under the pen name Nellie Bly to go undercover as an investigative journalist and feigned mental illness to get herself admitted in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in the 1880s. Her report published in the New York World newspaper, shook the municipal government and made them take immediate action to improve the conditions of the mentally ill patients. In 1889, she travelled around the world in 72 days—setting a world record for circumnavigating the globe. The movie 10 Days in a Madhouse is based on her life and legacy.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – first woman in Africa to be elected as President of her country

Africa’s first elected female head of state and the first woman to serve as president of Liberia. She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote peace, democracy, and economic development in Liberia. In 2005, Sirleaf made history when she was elected as the 24th President of Liberia, following years of civil war and political instability in the country. Sirleaf’s leadership during her two terms as president earned her international acclaim and recognition. In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” She remains a respected and influential figure in African politics and global affairs and continues to inspire women around the world.

Margaret Atwood – one of the most celebrated and influential Canadian writer

One of the most celebrated and influential Canadian writer, she has published 18 books of poetry, 18 novels, 11 non-fiction books, nine short fiction collections, eight children’s books, two graphic novels, and a number of small press editions of both poetry and fiction. Atwood’s novels often explore themes such as feminism, dystopia, environmentalism, and the complexities of human relationships. Her most famous work, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” published in 1985, depicts a totalitarian society where women are subjugated and their reproductive rights are restricted. Her other notable novels include “Alias Grace,” “The Blind Assassin,” and “Oryx and Crake”. Atwood has received numerous awards and honours, including Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, and Governor General’s Award. She was awarded the Booker Prize again in 2019 for “The Testaments,” a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Oprah Winfrey – the Queen of media and the richest African-American  

An American television talk show host, producer, actress, author, and media proprietor. She is best known for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” which dominated television for 25 years (1986-2011). It was known for its intimate conversations, emotional depth, and focus on self-improvement. In 1993, Winfrey hosted a rare prime-time interview called, Michael Jackson Talks … to Oprah, which became the fourth most-watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of 36.5 million. Oprah today owns the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) cable channel and Harpo Productions responsible for producing films, television shows, and documentaries. Oprah has also dabbled in acted in films like “Beloved” and “The Colour Purple” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. She’s considered one of the most influential women in the world and received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has been named one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine number of times. Dubbed as the “Queen of All Media”, she often ranked as the most influential woman in the world as well as the richest African-American of the 20th century and the world’s only black billionaire.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha – public health advocate who exposed the Flint water crisis in USA

A pediatrician, and public health advocate – played a critical role in exposing the Flint water crisis in Michigan, USA. Dr. Hanna-Attisha a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center, conducted a study that revealed elevated levels of lead in the blood of children, as a result of the corrosive water leaching lead from aging pipes. The foul-smelling, discoloured, and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes was causing skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin. So Dr Attisha’s study highlighted the need for clean water and better healthcare for children, both in the US and globally. Hanna-Attisha’s book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis” chronicled her experiences and the broader implications for public health and environmental justice. Dr Attisha was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 

Mother Teresa – A life devoted to the poorest of the poor

Roman Catholic nun and missionary known for her charitable work with the poor and marginalized communities in India, particularly in Kolkata (Calcutta). Mother Teresa was an Albanian-Indian Catholic nun and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. At the age of 18 she moved to Ireland and later to India, where she lived most of her life. She taught at a school in Calcutta (now Kolkata) for 17 years and later served as the principal. In 1946, during a train journey to Darjeeling, she experienced what she described as a “call within a call” from God to serve the poorest of the poor. So she founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, with a white sari with two blue borders as the order’s habit. Mother Teresa and her nuns provided food, shelter, medical care, and compassion to the most marginalized members of society, including the sick, disabled, and homeless. They opened hospices, orphanages, and homes for people with leprosy and HIV/AIDS. Mother Teresa’s selfless service earned her widespread admiration and recognition, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. At the time of her death in 1997, the Missionaries of Charity were actively carrying on her mission of love to the most vulnerable members of society in over 130 countries.  

Effa Manley – first and only woman to be inducted into the Baseball’s Hall of Fame

African American civil rights activist and co-owner of the Newark Eagles, a baseball team. At a time when sports was dominated by white male owners and athletes, Effa Manley boldly opposed the gender and racial injustice. She along with her husband Abe floated a baseball team called the Newark Eagles which won the Negro League World Series in 1946. As co-owner of the Newark Eagles Manley played a significant role in the team’s success both on and off the field. Manley’s business acumen and innovative marketing strategies, helped to attract fans and increase revenue for the team. However after the death of her husband in 1952, she became the sole owner. In 2006, she was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first woman to receive that honour (the first—and only—woman to have this honour). Her lifelong passion for baseball and ground-breaking achievements are chronicled in a book titled, “She Loved Baseball” by Audrey Vernick.

Soong Ching-ling – the “Mother of Modern China”

The second wife of the Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan). Soong Ching-ling’s involvement in politics began with her marriage to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary leader and founding father of the Republic of China. She shared his vision for modernizing China and overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925, Soong Ching-ling aligning herself with the Communist Party of China (CPC) under the leadership of Mao Zedong and played a crucial role in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. She was a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the Honorary President of the People’s Republic of China from 1981 until her death in 1981. She remains a respected figure in Chinese history. Soong Ching-ling’s contributions to Chinese politics earned her the nickname “Mother of Modern China.”

Emily Dickinson – one of the most significant American poets

American poet known for her distinctive and innovative style, characterized by short lines, unconventional punctuation, and profound exploration of themes such as death, nature, love, and the human condition. Dickinson was a prolific writer who penned down over 1,800 poems, many of which were discovered and published after her death. Strangely her only publications during her lifetime included 10 poems and one letter. Dickinson’s first volume was published four years after her death. Her poetry explores complex emotions and existential questions with keen insight and a lyrical voice that continues to captivate readers to this day. Though relatively unknown during her lifetime, her poems have come to be celebrated for their depth, wit, and unique voice. Today, she is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets in the English language, and her work remains a staple of literature curricula and a source of fascination for generations of readers.

Serena Williams – one of the greatest tennis players 

Widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, and for good reason. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, and 2 Olympic gold medals. Serena holds the record for the most major singles titles in the Open Era, alongside Margaret Court. She has won each of the four Grand Slam tournaments multiple times, including seven titles at the Australian Open, three at the French Open, seven at Wimbledon, and six at the US Open. In addition to this, Serena partnering with her sister Venus Williams to win 14 Grand Slam doubles titles and three Olympic gold medals. Serena’s powerful serve, aggressive playing style, and mental toughness have made her a formidable opponent on the court. She is known for her ability to rise to the occasion in high-pressure moments and for her unmatched competitiveness and determination. Serena has been a trailblazer and role model for athletes around the world.  

(To be continued)

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Taazakhabar News Bureau
Taazakhabar News Bureau
Taazakhabar News Bureau is a team of seasoned journalists led by Neeraj Mahajan. Trusted by millions readers worldwide.


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