These iconic women pushed the boundaries to make a difference in the lives all those who followed and their impact can can never be understimated.
History is written not just by victors but those who walked the corridors of power in all walks of life, and aided by patriarchy, men have wielded that power for far too long. This meant that men's achievements were always more celebrated and documented than women's achievements. A thread on Reddit discussed the contributions of some iconic women who deserved the recognition but never got it. Here are ten women who should be celebrated.
Henrietta Lacks worked as a tobacco farmer for most of her life until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. A sample of her cells was taken without consent by a doctor for research and found that the cells kept reproducing. Henrietta Lacks cells formed the foundation for the development of the polio vaccine and also led to important scientific discoveries regarding the growth of cancer cells. Her cells became referred to as HeLa cells and still studied to date, according to Representation Project. Lack's story raised questions on the ethics of patient privacy and the mistreatment of people of color in healthcare.
Hedy Lamarr, who excelled across various fields, was an actor and inventor. Hedy Lamarr, who was born in Vienna in 1914, was a brilliant actor and a box office sensation in Hollywood. Lamarr was passionate about innovation and had learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, an emerging technology in naval war, could be jammed and set off course. She then proceeded to work on creating a "Secret Communications System" that couldn't be jammed. She worked with pianist George Antheil to create the system, reported Representation Project. The technology was adopted by the US Navy and eventually formed the base for wireless communication including GPS navigators, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
It takes a certain level of courage and insanity to get yourself admitted to an asylum to expose the mistreatment of patients there, but that's just what Nellie Bly did. An investigative journalist, Bly, got herself admitted to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island and published a story on the mistreatment of patients titled "Ten Days In A Madhouse" in New York World. She was a maverick and also one of the journalists at the forefront of covering the suffragette movement. That's not all, after reading the book Around The World In 80 Days, she decided she could do better, and went around the world in 72 days, according to Women history.
Bessie Coleman wanted to learn how to fly but being a woman of color, no one offered to teach her. After learning that the French were teaching irrespective of gender or color, she moved to France and learned to fly. She then flew back to America and taught those who wanted to learn. She was also the first Native American to hold a pilot license.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who was the Dean of Medicine at Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint, noticed children had elevated lead levels (ELLs) beyond the normal range. She alerted the authorities at the Genesee Department of Health, but her claims were dismissed, and she was then sent fudged data suggesting the ELLs were within the normal range. Dr. Hanna-Attisha was convinced the levels weren't normal and conducted an investigation to find the source and found water in most of the nearby regions to be contaminated. After authorities failed to act, she threw caution to the wind and held a press conference announcing the water in Flint wasn't safe. She then asked parents to get their kids tested and raised awareness, saving countless children from the permanent effects of lead poisoning.
An American oceanographic cartographer born in 1920, Marie Tharp pioneered ocean-floor mapping, which led to the discovery of tectonic plates and formed the theory of continental drift, according to Britannica.
Gladys Bentley was an entertainer and she was a Black lesbian who often cross-dressed. She was harassed for dressing in boy's clothes at the age of 16. After hearing Harry Hansberry’s Clam House in Manhattan was looking for a male pianist, she dressed in a tuxedo and landed the job. It was just the start of a music career. She was a regular Blues singer and sang about male exploitation and domestic abuse. She pushed the boundaries of gender and sexuality while creating spaces of inclusivity, according to the Restoration project.
We all love the story of Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat during the Jim Crows in America. A little known fact is that Claudette Colvin was the first person who refused to give up her seat. She was just 15 at the time and was pregnant out of wedlock. The Black leaders agitating at the time felt that she was not a good look for an activist. That was how the Black leaders zeroed in on Rosa Parks who did it almost nine months later.
Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, risked her own life to rescue nearly 2,500 Jewish children from Nazi occupiers in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II, according to Britannica. She used coffins and ambulances as cover to remove children to safety. She also supplied them with fake birth certificates with Aryan names to help them survive.
When you hear the phrase 'father of computing,' the algorithm in your head brings up the name Charles Babbage. What the world doesn't know is that Babbage was the mind behind the analytical Machine, which was basically the calculator. Lovelace, who was an associate of Charles Babbage, realized the calculator could be so much more. She created a program for the prototype of a digital computer, according to Britannica. She is considered the first computer programmer.
Sandra Ford was one of the first people to draw attention to the AIDS epidemic. The drug technician noticed she was receiving an unusually high number of requests for pentamidine, an antibiotic used for treating pneumocystis pneumonia in seriously ill, immuno-compromised patients. She noticed the pattern that it was gay men who were being prescribed pentamidine. The drug was often used in children so this was largely unusual, reported CDC. She informed her supervisor of this cluster of cases and it eventually led to the discovery of AIDS.