Although there are hundreds of women worth mentioning for their accomplishments and vision, we've compiled a list of ten women in different fields and historic moments that you absolutely cannot miss. Let us know who your biggest female inspirations are in the comments below, and happy International Women's Day!
1. Hypatia (350-415) A resident of ancient Alexandria, Egypt, Hypatia was one of the first known women to study and teach math, astronomy, and philosophy. Socrates described her as someone "who made such attainments in literature and science, far surpassing all the philosophers of her time." Hypatia's death was considered by many as the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life.
Hypathia by Julia Cameron
2. Catherine the Great (1729-1796) Catherine II aka Catherine the Great was crowned empress of Russia in 1762; Europe's great Age of Enlightenment. During her 34-year reign, she modernized Russia and increased the countries power within Europe. Apart from being Empress, she was an artist, writing numerous comedies and memoirs praised by renowned artists of her time such as Voltaire. She was a powerful stateswoman who pushed an aggressive foreign policy; she expanded the borders of the Russian Empire southward and westward. Catherine never remarried after the assassination of her husband Peter III, in 1762, and is remembered for having many lovers that included her top political advisors. "Catherine was as liberated in her sexuality as in her intellectual life" [- History Icons]
Catherine II by Fedor Rokotov
3. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942) Born into the Vanderbilt fortune, Gertrude separated herself from her elitist Upper East Side upbringing and moved downtown to the village to expose herself to the "vulgar" bohemian life of artists. She opened the doors of her apartment (which she used as a studio for her own artwork) to artists around the area that needed a place to unwind, chat, have a drink, and hang out with other fellow artists. Soon it became a club, then a gallery, and eventually, The Whitney Museum of American Art. Mrs. Whitney's purchased the work of emerging talent, so as to encourage them and provide them with an entry into the coveted world she was born into.
Whitney in her studio in The Village
4. Elisa Goodkind Elisa and Lily Mandelbaum are a mother-daughter duo that started the now very well known StyleLikeU vlog. StyleLikeU was conceived by Elisa, who after decades of being a high-profile fashion stylist, realized her profession that was once driven by artistry now catered to an exclusive ideal of beauty. Realizing the very work she was doing harmed her daughter's self-esteem, she redirected her path to create StyleLikeU with Lily; an ongoing series of videos where they interview people of all races, background, ethnicities and genders. "Six years ago we created StyleLikeU as an alternative to this unconscious self-hate. Home to a series of radically honest docu-style video portraits that redefine our culture’s notion of beauty, each piece of our content is driving public engagement around the reversal of the fashion and beauty industry’s crippling status quo." [- StyleLikeU Website statement]
Source: StyleLikeU Website
5. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) A Mexican painter, Frida captured pain; the beautiful and brutal pain of being a woman. After contracting polio and being in a severe bus accident, she dealt with chronic pain for the rest of her life, an element displayed in her paintings. She always struggled with gender, body image, and infertility resulting from her accident, subjects that played a major role in her work. Frida joined the Mexican Communist Party, introducing her to a social circle of Mexico City's leading intellectuals. Kahlo married muralist Diego Rivera in 1929 and enjoyed an open relationship; Frida was notoriously bisexual and open about it, something quite rare in her time.
6. Virginia E Johnson (1925-2013) A pioneer in sexology, Virginia spent more than five decades conducting research on human sexuality. She and her partner, William Masters, were at the forefront of sexual psychology, delving deeply into the study of sexual intercourse. Together they published two popular books: Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy. The couple coined the terms for the four stages of human sexual response; excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. They also demonstrated that the size of a penis is not linked to performance and that there is no age limit on sexual desire. They founded the Masters & Johnson Institute in St. Louis in 1973.
7. Sheryl Sandberg (1969) One of the world's most distinguished female business leaders, Sandberg is a fierce advocate for women's equal pay. Earning an MBA at Harvard, she worked as Google's VP of Online Sales and Operations and became Facebook's COO in 2008— raking in a net worth estimated at $1 billion. "A truly equal world would be one in which women ran half our countries and men half our homes," Sandberg wrote.
Source: The New Yorker
8. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933) Ginsburg is the second woman to be appointed a U.S supreme court justice. A pioneer for the advocacy of women's rights, she helped create The ACLU Women's Rights Project in 1972, designed to remove barriers keeping women from equality. "I envision men and women could create new traditions by their actions, if artificial barriers are removed, and avenues of opportunity held open to them," Ginsburg stated. She co-founded The Women's Rights Law Reporter; the FIRST law journal in the USA devoted to gender equality issues. Ginsburg continues to fiercely argue for gender equality.
Photo by Ruven Afanador
9. Amy Schumer (1981) As a new wave of body-positive, sexually-liberated feminism started making its way into primetime TV around 2013, Amy Schumer began popping up on our screens. Starting out as a stand-up comedian, Schumer is the creator, writer, and star of her own show Inside Amy Schumer; an uncensored, unapologetic sketch comedy TV series in which Amy talks about sex, interpersonal relationships, female and racial stereotypes and gender dynamics. Her humor being too crude for some, she has been widely critized— but the undeniable truth is that Schumer is a resonating voice for women everywhere, especially women in their 20's and 30's, speaking truths that have remained unsaid by women for centuries.
10. Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) Born a slave, Sojourner Truth was one of the most powerful, fierce advocate for human's rights in the nineteenth century. Escaping slavery in 1827, she became involved in moral reform and abolitionist work. She was known for having great story-telling and singing skills, so she would travel and perform; entertaining and educating those who attended her performances. She became a popular orator, and her passionate speeches about women's rights and slavery continue to resonate to this day. In 1851 she delivered one of the most influential speeches of her career, "Ain't I a Woman?".
Source: Harvard Art Museum