They built their careers, earned their own coins and inspired women to do more than have a fine structured body in a corset.
Except for those who take a painstaking look into history for women who made awesome feats in the past century, most of whom have often been ignored or even erased over the years. Some of these women have made huge impacts on society through activism, art, politics and leadership.
Let us through this piece discover more about the female revolutionaries, politicians and campaigners who are simply too important to be forgotten. Here are some of the most influential women in history;
HARRIET TUBMAN (1822-1913):
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery but found her freedom travelling alone via the Underground Railroad. She would go on to free around 300 enslaved people in the years that followed.
Tubman began her work on the Underground Railroad by retrieving members of her own family, including her parents, several siblings and various nieces and nephews. When the Civil War began, she supported the Union, working as a spy and a nurse before leading the daring Combahee Ferry Raid, which freed more than 700 enslaved people. Later in life, she became a prominent voice in the abolitionist movement and also fought for voting rights for women, helping to shape a path from slavery and discrimination toward justice in the United States.
QUEEN MOTHER YAA ASANTEWAA (1840-1921):
She was a successful farmer and mother. She was an intellectual, a politician, a human rights activist, Queen and a leader. Yaa Asantewaa became famous for leading the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism to defend the Golden stool.
She promoted women emancipation as well as gender equality. She was the sister of the Ruler of Ejisu (Ejisuhene) Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpase, an ethnic group in present-day Ghana.
EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI (1835-1908):
Born in the winter of 1835 during the Chinese Qing dynasty, Cixi was the daughter of a low-ranking official but received a good education and could read and write. In 1851, she became one of the Xianfeng Emperor’s concubines — a great honour at the time. History records that Cixi quickly surpassed her fellow concubines in earning the emperor’s favour.
When the emperor died, Cixi’s son was poised to become the new emperor. The former concubine formed alliances with some of his regents and had others killed in an 1861 coup, leaving her in control of the empire. She remained a powerful but unofficial head of Imperial China until her death in 1908.
She is considered China’s last and most famous empress and is known for shaping rebellions, policies and the court of Imperial China for more than 50 years.
LABOTSIBENI MDLULI (1858-1925):
Nicknamed Gwamile for her strong determination, Labotsibeni was queen mother from 1894-1899 and then regent from 1899-1921 of Swaziland. After growing up in the royal court, under the tutelage of Queen Mother Thandile, she married King Mbandzeni in 1874.
In accordance with the Swazi system, she wielded true authority, which she used to defend Swazi rights and territory from Boer and British intrusions. She ensured, through the education system she established, that girls and boys could learn the language of the colonisers.
GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946):
In her work as an avant-garde writer and dedicated patron to modern artists, Gertrude Stein rebelled against the patriarchy. Stein travelled around Europe, eventually settling in Paris with her brother, Leo. The pair began collecting art, particularly works by contemporary avant-garde artists. Alongside their art collections, they cultivated relationships with Parisian bohemians at their Saturday-night salon. In time, invitations to the Stein salon became the most sought-after in Paris.
After World War I ended, the Stein salon became a popular haunt for young American ex-pats — or the “Lost Generation,” as Stein called them. Stein remained a little-known figure outside of the literary and art worlds until 1933 when she published a book titled “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” (Harcourt, 1933). Not a true autobiography, Stein wrote in the voice of her life partner, Toklas. With the book’s popularity, Stein became a name and face recognized across the globe.
JANE AUSTEN: (1775 – 1817):
Jane Austen started putting pen to paper when she was just a teenager and went on to write six major novels which revealed what life was like in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Four of them were released within just four years of each other! That’s some seriously rapid writing.
These were Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published after she died – and they are loved all over the world. There was actually a seventh and final novel, but sadly she never got to complete it.
While she was alive, she actually published her books anonymously, so nobody knew her as a writer. It is widely accepted that she never got the credit she deserved until after her death.
NEHANDA CHARWE NYAKASIKANA (1863–1898):
Nehanda was a female spiritualist leader from Mashonaland, Zimbabwe, and a key leader in the First Chimurenga, known as ‘the war of liberation, against British colonial settlers in 1896–1897. She was considered to be the female incarnation of the oracle spirit Nehanda.
After being captured by the British, she predicted that her spirit would lead the second Chimurenga against the British, which eventually culminated in the independence of present-day Zimbabwe.
COCO CHANEL (1883 – 1971):
From science to one of the most iconic brands in the fashion world – Coco Chanel was a woman who changed the face of fashion forever.
She was born in France and taught herself to sew at a young age – something that would come in handy later on!
She opened her first shop in the early 1900s, starting off by designing hats. She soon turned her attention to clothes too and, by the 1920s, launched her first perfume. She led the way in luxury fashion and today her brand – led by its creative director Karl Lagerfeld – sells clothes, perfume, handbags and watches. Almost 100 years after it was first created, Chanel No 5 is still probably the world’s most famous perfume! All from one hat shop, Chanel is now worth billions of pounds.
Just like these women, let us play our part in shaping the world so, the world can remember us.
Do you have any comment or question? Do share with us in the comment section.