Rising to the challenge: 8 women who made history
Updated: Jun 28
There are some women who will never cease to amaze us - with their prowess, their bravery, their strength. Women who’ve taken upon themselves to fight for change. Who’ve done so much so that the world looks the way it does today.
It was hard to pick just eight to showcase this International Women’s Day (like, really hard), but we made it - here’s our list of 8 inspiring females, who stand out as change-makers & achievers and who were ready to work for what they believed in. We hope you can draw on their strength and their achievements, that you can let them inspire you. And as you join us in celebrating them, we hope you'll remember that there’s plenty of space to write history for yourself.
her female factor is creativity
Before there were selfies, there were self-portraits, and what self-portraits these were. Born on July 6th 1907, Frida Kahlo went down in history as one of Mexico’s greatest artists. She didn’t color inside the lines, neither in her work nor in her personal life, constantly defying the status quo and creating her own rules.
A high-achiever all around, she left a career in medicine to do art by happenstance, after a tragic accident that left her barren and having to undergo multiple surgeries. Kahlo was said to have been bisexual, defying the gender and traditional norms of her time. Having managed to overcome a tumultuous marriage and serious health challenges, she rose above and transformed her pain into unique artistry.
her female factor is compassion
A trailblazer who took the role of First Lady to new heights, Eleanor Roosevelt transformed her position into a platform for social causes, which she was wildly passionate about. Multi-skilled and faceted, Eleanor was a brilliant writer, creating well into her later years. Suffering from a serious case of wanderlust, she trotted the whole world for her political duties.
As a humanitarian, she took up a delegate position at the United Nations after her husband’s death, advocating on behalf of women and other minority groups. We’re willing to conjecture that, if women were given the opportunity back then, she would have made a prime candidate for the presidency.
her female factor is courage
It’s hard to believe there’s people in the world today who don’t know Malala. She’s the brave young woman who stood up to the Taliban on behalf of girls’ education rights in her home country, and nearly got killed for it. It’s been many years since the marking event, and Malala continues to advocate for girls’ rights and even has a fund named after her, that helps support the cause of girls’ education worldwide.
Not having access to education is a reality for females in many parts of the world, and that’s exactly why her work is so important. In the face of adversity, Malala stared fear in the face (and into the barrel of a gun) to advocate for causes that she felt strongly about.
her female factor is integrity
A brave woman who stood up for what she believed in, Rosa Parks went down in history because of her strength and temerity. When segregation forced ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ to be separated even on public transportation, she rose against it. By not standing up when told to by a bus driver, she performed a simple, yet powerful act of defiance that started a movement.
Parks was a civil rights activist before her fateful arrest, and continued throughout her life. Answering about the heroic happening, she writes ‘the only tired I was, was tired of giving in’, reminding us of the ripple effects of our actions, no matter how small.
her female factor is intelligence
There’s a lot of bright minds on this list, but Katherine Johnson might take the cake. An extremely gifted student, she graduated from university at age eighteen, with high honor degrees in both Mathematics and French. She then went on to work at NASA and was responsible for putting the first astronauts on the moon.
Sadly, her genius went unrecognized during most of her life, stemming from the fact she was a woman and black. However, she was finally lauded by president Barack Obama in 2015 and received the medal of Freedom for her pioneering work in STEM fields. Johnson has even written one of the first books about space travel, meaning that, yes, she literally wrote the 101 on rocket science.
her female factor is passion
When thinking of Jane Goodall, one easily makes the connection between her and her trailblazing work studying chimpanzees for years in a secluded jungle in Tanzania. The animal lover left England as a young secretary to a researcher, without any experience and at a time when it was frowned upon for women to travel alone.
After having spent more than forty five years studying the behavior of the species, Goodall has become the world’s foremost expert on the topic. Her contribution to science, animal rights and environmentalism has been recognized with many honors and had her named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2002.
her female factor is dedication
Although not as widely known as other scientists of her time, Lise Meitner massively contributed to field of physics and was largely responsible for the discovery of nuclear fission, a term she coined herself. She became the first ever woman to receive a doctorate degree at the University of Vienna in 1905 and became the first woman in Germany to be a full professor of physics in the University of Berlin.
People largely regard her as having been overlooked for the Nobel Prize for physics that her male scientific partner won, based on the work they had done together, due to the fact she was a woman.
her female factor is resilience
If someone asked you right now to leave your job, family and life to plunge into space, would you do it? Well, trailblazer Valentina Tereshkova chose to say yes to the opportunity and became the first woman ever to make it out of the world’s stratosphere.
Hailing from Russia, she launched in the Soviet Union's Vostok 6 space mission in 1963 and spent almost three days orbiting the Earth, for a total of 48 times. Stemming from a poor family, Tereshkova made an unlikely start as a cosmonaut by taking up parachuting, but overcame all obstacles and ended up completing more than two hundred jumps.
If there's something all women have in common, that is definitely the ability to turn challenge into opportunity and step up to become the leaders they were meant to be all along. If you're looking for a chance to learn more about it, to find more ways to unlock your potential and make history as well, join our community of kickass women.