Today is March 8, 2021, International Women’s Day and Baby On Top© decided to present you 8 amazing, dynamic, and inspiring women throughout American and British history. So sit back, relax perhaps with a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired by what these influential women did in their corner of the world during their snapshot of history in order to make the world a little bit better for our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and friends.
8. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas, US and she was the very first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. As a child, she saw a plane at a State Fair and just knew she had to fly. When she was 26, she became the 16th woman to receive a pilot’s license. Can you believe that? Only 15 women in the world at the time had a license to fly! Imagine all the doors she opened during this time where women had so much less freedom than men. Her heroic acts don’t stop there.
During World War I, she acted as a nurse’s aid tending to wounded soldiers in Toronto, Canada. On June 1, 1937, Earhart left Miami for her final flight. She hoped to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Sadly, Amelia would never complete this flight. On July 2, her radio lost contact and a rescue attempt began immediately. Although it became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history, Amelia was never found.
In a letter to her husband, Amelia wrote, "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards." She said, "I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
7. Kalpana Chawla
Kalpana Chawla, born March 17, 1962, was an American astronaut and engineer, and she was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. This woman was seriously cool. In her first space mission, she flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. On this mission, Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles (16737177.6 km) in 252 orbits of the earth, staying almost 16 days in space.
During her second mission, as a part of the crew of STS-107 in 2001, Chawla returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission. The crew performed nearly 80 experiments studying Earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety. During the launch of STS-107, Columbia's 28th mission, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left-wing of the orbiter.
Chawla died on February 1, 2003 in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, along with the other six crew members as the Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107. Chawla along with those others who have passed while on astronautical missions inspire us all as they expand our knowledge of the planet earth and our universe. We salute you, Chawla.
6. Jane Cooke Wright
Jane Cooke Wright was born on November 20, 1919 in New York City. She was a pioneer in cancer research and was essential to the development of chemotherapy treatment. This bombshell was born to a family of physicians. And despite gender and racial bias, both she and her sister continued the family legacy to continue to help people.
She studied medicine at Smith College and New York Medical College. After medical school, Wright worked at Bellevue Hospital and Harlem Hospital towards the end of the 1940s..
She studied rigorously how the reactions of different drugs and chemotherapy techniques had effects on tumors. Jane Wright pioneered the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer, practices still used today. Where would we be without you, dear Jane? Thank you!
5. Jane Austen
Now, another Jane! Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Hampshire, England. She was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels. You might have read them (or seen a film version) of one of her most well known titles, such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, or Emma.
Jane Austen was unquestionably one of the most influential female writers arguably of all time because she wrote about subjects that people were not questioning at the time (which is why she wrote these novels anonymously!) She was truly a riot… she brewed her own beer, was said to have a great sense of humor, and sometimes could have a bit of a temper.
She was bold and audacious when women dared not to be. In fact, she even walked away from an arranged marriage because she did not love the man. On the subject, she was quoted as telling her niece, “Nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love.” In her writing, her plots often focused on the social rules of the early 18th century society she lived in, in which women were expected to play dutiful wives, have children, and that was supposed to be it. Her novels, in a beautiful poetic and eloquent way, questioned these norms and inspired some of the advances in literature and society that we see today. Basically in a round-about way, there’d be no Beyoncé without Jane Austen, guys.
4. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, US and was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. Though she is perhaps most known for her riveting poetry, she wrote seven autobiographies and received over 50 awards. During her difficult childhood during the 1920s and 30s, Angelou experienced first-hand racial prejudices, discrimination, and abuse in Arkansas. For years after these traumatic experiences, Angelou barely talked and spent her years virtually mute.
Then during World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California where she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During the 1950s and 60s, her singing and dance performance career took off and she appeared in Porgy & Bess, Miss Calypso and Look Away. She even received Tony and Emmy nominations in 1973 and 1977 respectively.
It seems the 1980s and 90s marked her transition from performing arts to poetry and more autobiographical work. Her words touched so many people that she even spoke at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. She showed women (and men) around the world what it is to overcome harsh adversity. If you doubt the strength of her words, just read this excerpt from her poem “Phenomenal Woman”.
“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
3. Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 Mayfair, London, England and is regarded as the founder of modern-day nursing. She served as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for wounded soldiers at Constantinople. She was born into a wealthy and affluent British family and was named after the city of her birth in Italy, Florence. ☻
From a young age, Florence knew that she had a calling to help people. Much like Jane Austen (who was born only 45 years before her), Florence Nightingale questioned the roles that women were supposed to play in conservative British society. Was she destined to just be a wife and mother or could she pursue her life being something more? Much to the dismay of her conservative mother and father, Florence rejected the expected role of transitioning into high society as a devout wife and mother. She instead went on to study art, science and nursing. In 1851, she started studying at a Christian women’s school for nurses in Germany and by 1853 she was running a London hospital for women.
From 1853-1856, Britain and France entered the war against Russia on the side of the Ottoman Empire in what is called The Crimean War. On October 21, 1854, she and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained, including her aunt and 15 Catholic nuns were sent to the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey).
Many of the modern advances we have in nursing today are a direct result of Florence Nightingale’s commitment to healthcare. Thanks, Florence!
2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg, born March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York City, US, was a Jewish-American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020. Her father was a Jewish emigrant from Odessa, Ukraine, which at the time was apart of the Russian Empire. Ruth’s mother was born in New York to parents who came from Kraków, Poland, at that time part of Austria-Hungary.
Ruth studied undergrad at the prestigious Cornell University in New York and in the fall of 1956, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of only 9 women in a class of about 500 men. Later she changed to Columbia Law and was second in her class.
After a career in law, with particular commitment to women’s rights, President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on June 22, 1993.
Some of her accomplishments include:
- She was the second woman, and first Jewish person, to serve on the US Supreme Court
- She fought for pay equality and against sex-based discrimination
- She co-founded the ACLU's Women’s Rights Project
- Beyond women’s rights, Ginsburg also passionately fought for the rights of the LGBT community, undocumented people and disabled people.
What a belle!
1. Princess Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales was born on July 1, 1961 and was a member of the British royal family. She had two sons, William (Prince William, Duke of Cambridge) and Henry (Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex). Princess Diana was beloved by the entire world because of her big heart when it came to activism and her keen fashion sense. Perhaps she was so down-to-earth because she actually was a commoner when she was married. At the time of her engagement to Prince Charles, she was working as an assistant at a school playground. Wasn’t that the plot of a movie or something? Princess Diana was however related to Winston Churchill and a descendant of King Charles the II, so perhaps that won her some major points
She supported many charities, among those was the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. After a trip to Angola in 1997, she stated “I’d read the statistics that Angola has the highest percentage of amputees anywhere in the world,” she told the cameras. “That one person in every 333 had lost a limb, most of them through land mine explosions. But that hadn’t prepared me for reality.” The late princess won a Nobel Peace Prize for this post-mortem a few months after her passing.
Another issue important to Princess Diana was HIV/AIDS. She really wanted to work to get rid of the stigma surrounding the illnesses and help to find a cure. Her sons now take up many of the causes she fought for in her honor. Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997 in a tragic car accident.
All images provided by Wikimedia Commons