Helen Keller, author
Born in 1880, Helen Keller had a pivotal role in influencing public services for people who are blind and deaf. Having lost her sight and hearing at a very young age, Keller defied all expectations and learned to understand and communicate with the world around her.
Her impact as educator, public speaker and fund-raiser played an important part in the treatment of the blind and deaf today.
Sophie Scholl, political activist
At age 22, German student and member of the anti-fascist White Rose Movement , Sophie Scholl was executed for her part in distributing flyers challenging Nazi beliefs and writing slogans like “Down with Hitler” and “Freedom” on the walls around Munich. She died alongside her brother Hans and their friend Christophe Probst. While their deaths were barely reported locally, the New York Times printed details of the student opposition in Munich.
As a result, in 1943 their leaflet was smuggled into the United Kingdom where it was reprinted and dropped over Germany by Allied planes.
Bessie Coleman, pilot
When she was prevented from obtaining a pilot’s license in the U.S. because she was both black and a woman, Coleman went to France and, in 1921, succeeded in becoming the first women of African American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot’s license.
Marie Curie, physicist
In a similar show of perseverance to Coleman, Marie Curie left Poland and moved to Paris in 1891 when she found she was unable to attend university in Poland. The two-time nobel prize winning scientist saved countless lives thanks to her research into radioactivity and is credited as discovering polonium and radium with her husband Pierre.
Maria Montessori, Italian physician and educator
Advocating for children’s education, during the early 1900s Montessori created a new approach to early years education focusing on the science of child development. Working with disabled children and children living on the streets of Rome she believed that all children, regardless of their background, should receive the best education possible.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professorship of Vaccinology
Working at the leading edge of vaccinology, Professor Sarah Gilbert (DBE) led the team that created the highly successful Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Promoting women in science (she has had a Barbie doll made in her honor), she advocates for young girls to be given equal opportunities to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Megan Rapinoe, professional soccer player
Megan Rapinoe famously led the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team to victory at the World Cup in 2019. A powerful voice in female sports, she’s also a women’s rights advocate fighting for equal pay in sports.
Jacinda Ardern, President of New Zealand
At age 37 Jacinda Arden became the world’s youngest female head of government when she was elected in 2017. Supporting Maori rights and advocating for women’s rights and same-sex marriage, despite her high-flying career in politics she has maintained her commitment to her family while in office welcoming her first child in June 2021.
Freshta Karim, founder of Charmaghz
After graduating from England’s Oxford University with a master’s degree in public policy, Freshta Karim returned to her home in Iran and founded Charmaghz, a Kabul-based NGO that turns buses into mobile libraries. Touring the city’s neighborhoods her fleet take books and art activities to hundreds of children across the city.
Ways To Celebrate Women’s History Month
- Learn about current issues and if you feel inspired, join a movement or become and advocate for women’s rights.
- Donate your time to a women’s non-profit organization and improve the lives of women in your community.
- Support local female business owners, shop with female-owned and managed brands, and support Fairtrade-certified brands—not those that exploit women and children to make throw-away fashion for a meagre daily wage.
- Reach out to the women who have inspired you and tell them how their actions have made a positive impact on your life.
Which female figures have inspired you the most? Share you favorites with us on social media using #LifeUnzipped