It is quiet understandable when we devote so much time into studying great men in history. After all, it’s a man’s world, isn’t it? It’s just that over the centuries, women have also played vital roles in shaping the world. In every country, culture and profession, women have left their marks. When it’s time to write the history of great civilizations, the role of women cannot be overlooked. Below are some of the women that have become subjects of study in the various spheres of history.
This name may be a little far off in history but her steadfastness was remarkable. According to the books of John (John 20) and Mark (16:9) she was present at the crucifixion of Jesus when other disciples had fled. She was one of Jesus most celebrated disciples. It was reported in the books of Luke (8:2) and Mark (16:9) that Jesus cleansed her of seven demons. Among the ranks of believing women, this widow from Magdala is seen as one the staunchest followers of Jesus. She is revered as a saint by the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran churches.
Harriet Tubman (Moses of her people)
This iconic woman, referred to by some as the ‘Moses of her people’ was a foremost civil rights advocate. She drew the ire of Southerners by being responsible for the escape of, according to some accounts, about 300 slaves from the South.
Born into slavery herself in the town of Maryland in 1821, she finally escaped her master (after years of being sold and bought as a slave) in 1849. Many thanks to Thomas Garret and his gang of white abolitionists who had managed to build an underground railroad to ferry away runaway slaves. She escaped to Philadelphia, where she helped so many other slaves still in the South to escape to the North. This ‘necessitated’ a bounty of $40 000 to be placed on her by the South. During the civil war, this ‘Moses of her people’ served at various times as a Nurse, a Union scout and even as a Union spy. After the war, she continued her fight for civil and human rights. She was also a reputable figure in the Woman’s suffrage movement. She died in 1913.
Joan of Arc
She was only seventeen years old when she led a demoralized, disheartened and badly defeated French army into victory against a well-trained English army. Joan of Arc was born in the little village of Domremy in present day Lorraine in eastern France. Her parents, Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle were poor farmers.
Historians have described her as an imposing leader. Although, to which extent she was actually ‘leading’ the French army is still debated. Her remarkable rise to eminence, becoming a member of the royal court within a year is due to her somewhat strange personality. She is reputed to have survived multiple serious injuries in battles and she was always clad in her characteristic white armor that had been specially made for her. In May 1430, she was captured by the Burgundians who later traded her to the English for 10 000 livres. She was later charged and convicted for heresy, afterwards executed. The execution later proved to be widely unpopular and her conviction was posthumously overturned by ecclesiastical courts in 1456 and in 1920. This opened the way for her canonization and subsequently made one of the five patron saints of France.
This woman is arguably the most famous woman in science. She was born in Poland as Maria Skladowska in 1867. She had always desired to be a physicist and she worked really hard to realize her dream. She later got to study at Sorbonne where she worked part-time in the laboratory of physicist, Gabriel Lippman. It was while there she came into contact with an extremely brilliant young physics and chemistry instructor called Pierre Curie. They soon fell in love and got married in 1895. The marriage was to last for just ten years as Pierre died in 1905, most probably as a result of high radiation dosage he must have come in contact with during experiments. The couple was awarded half Nobel Prize in 1903 for Physics.
Marie Curie went on to win a second Noble Prize in 1911 for Chemistry becoming the first ever person to win two Nobel Prizes. She remarkable woman in science died on the 4th of July 1934.
She was the most inspiring first lady of all times. She was an audible voice in President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration and a dogged advocate for social justice. She was a very politically active person right from the start. She was one of the first women ever elected into the United States Senate in 1911. Her activeness was further enhanced when she moved into the white house in 1933, where she held regular press conferences and even used to write a daily news column.
A year after the death of her husband, she was named a delegate to the United Nations where she was instrumental in drafting the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, a spectacularly brilliant piece of work. She died in 1962.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu also known as Mother Theresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia. When she was 18, she went to Ireland to learn English and from there went to work as a missionary teacher in Calcutta, India. In 1950, she established a missionary aid group called “Missionaries for Charity”. The group members numbering thousands of nuns are responsible for the running of dozens of Orphanages and charity centres around the world.
Due to her great disposition to charity, she was fondly called Mother Theresa. She won a Nobel Peace Prize for her program of caring for dying destitute in 1979. Mother Theresa is widely regarded as one of the most exemplary personalities of the 20th century. She died in 1997.
She had the unenviable fate of death by execution. Yet she was one of the most influential women in French history. Whether she actually deserved the kind of sad fate that befell her or she was just in the wrong societal class at the wrong time in French history is debatable. The fact was that her husband, King Louis XVI was generally seen as a symbol of the rich indifference to the plight of masses. This she had to personally pay for dearly, with her life. She was the first female royal ever to be executed. She was one of the most important casualties of the French revolution.
She was once India’s most powerful politician until her assassination in 1984. She was a controversial leader, haven overseen a widely unpopular forced sterilization program to reduce India’s alarming population bulge. She ruled India on and off for a period spanning some twenty years until her assassination. She also oversaw the war with Pakistan in 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Though accused by some to be a corrupt politician, she is still seen as being very instrumental in making India the great nation that it is today.
Alexandrina Victoria Hanover, more widely known as Queen Victoria was the key figure in the Victorian era. She ruled from 1837 to 1901, an incredible 63 years on the throne. During her reign, she saw to the aggressive expansion of the British Empire. This resulted in an Empire stretching from Africa to the Far East and from India to the Americas. She signed the reform acts of 1867 and 1884 further widening suffrage. She formed the two dominant political parties in Great Britain, the Liberal party and the Conservative party. She was a darling to her people and she was greatly missed after her death. She died leaving her footprints on the sands of time as being one of the very few women that has ever ruled an empire.
Her story has been an enduring Hollywood sensation for many years. Cleopatra, the ingenious woman, much ambitious to gain power is regarded by many as a dubious personality. She was very much intelligent and she used it to the optimum in getting favors for herself from the highest level of Roman officialdom. Many officials met their peril through her. She was said to have betrayed Mark Antony and had her sister killed. However, we give to her as being one of the most remarkable women in the whole of the Roman Empire.