The Most Underrated Powerful Women In History

Irena Sendler

The world has been hit with some serious disasters over the course of history, and World War II was a time that nobody wants to repeat. This era was full of darkness and destruction, but there was one shining beacon of light to come out of it. That’s because Irena Sendler was on hand to help as many people as she could – and she did an incredible job.

The Polish humanitarian, nurse, and social worker hated to see what was happening to those who were being persecuted during this time, so she joined the Polish Underground Resistance and did everything she could to help them. Part of this included smuggling Jews out of the ghetto and providing them with fake ID documents to allow them to start a new life. For this, she should be remembered.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth has regularly made her way into lists of the most inspirational women of all time, but how many people actually know why she is so famous? Well, it’s because this woman changed the course of history, not only for women but also for black people across America.

After being born into the slave trade, this New York native was able to escape with her young daughter in tow. However, in a rush to save at least one of her children, Sojourner had to leave her other children behind. When she learned that her previous slave owner had illegally sold her son to another man in Alabama, she knew that she needed to do something. She made her way to court and became the first black woman to win a case against a black man.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is officially known as Dame Jane Goodall, as she has since been awarded a huge honor for her work as an anthropologist and primatologist. After being given a stuffed toy of a chimpanzee when she was a child, Jane developed a love for the animals – and primates in particular. As she got older, she knew that she wanted to study the creatures further, so she made her way to Africa and other locations across the globe to watch these animals in their natural habitat.

Today, she is still considered to be the leader when it comes to her expert knowledge of chimpanzees, and she has studied them for a whopping six decades and longer. Because of this, she has founded numerous conservation efforts and organizations to ensure their survival and their security in the world.

The Trung Sisters

There’s a high chance that you have never heard of the Trung Sisters before, but there’s also no doubt about the fact that they need the recognition they have not received over the course of history. Their story can be traced back to around the 5th Century when the two sisters were born into a wealthy family in rural Vietnam.

Their father was a wealthy landowner who made sure that they were given the best education they could possibly receive. They not only read literature, but they also spent their days’ training in martial arts. Although they didn’t know it at the time, this worked in their favor when they decided to rebel against the Chinese domination of Vietnam. In the end, they became military leaders and ruled for three years before they passed away after battle.

Vilma Espin

While many people think of James Bond when they think of spies, there have been countless female spies over the years – and many of them have had a hugely positive effect on the world. This was the case for Vilma Espin, who sadly passed away in 2007. This woman hailed from Cuba and spent her life acting as a revolutionary, chemical engineer, feminist, and underground spy.

As someone who hated to see women treated as secondary citizens, Vilma dedicated her life to promoting equal rights while working for the government at the same time. In fact, her legacy is still remembered today through the Federation of Cuban Women organization, which is still thriving. Vilma helped to found this organization and promote countless calls for equality over the years, and that should not be forgotten.

Rosalind Franklin

The world was changed forever when it was discovered that DNA was formed of a double helix structure. While a huge number of scientists worked on answering the many questions surrounding human biology, there was one piece of evidence that really helped them come to the double helix conclusion. That piece of evidence came from a crystallographer by the name of Rosalind Franklin.

That’s because Rosalind was the one who took the famous photograph 51 of the DNA structure, which showed an X-Ray picture of the molecular spiral. This helped scientists understand the chemical foundations of DNA, and this, in turn, has answered so many medical questions over the years. Despite this, many people forget to remember and thank Rosalind for providing the world with such knowledge, and she often goes forgotten.

Maya Angelou

Countless people across the globe have studied Maya Angelou’s works over the years, but how many people know more about this woman than a few titles on the cover of a book they probably didn’t read? Maya Angelou may have passed away a few years ago, but she is still considered to be one of the most respected women that this world has had to offer.

That’s because this woman was not only an author, but she was also a poet, singer, and civil rights activist. Her whole life revolved around equality for both women and those within the black community, and she often used her own experiences and her own personal stories to showcase the divide in her work. She has received international recognition, and her work will forever go down in history as some of the best.

Takeko Nakano

Over the course of history, women have very rarely been given the chance to protect their homes and physically fight for what was right. Because of this, there are only a few female warriors who have gone down as legends. One of those legends, however, was Takeko Nakano. Living during the 1800s, Takeko was trained in martial arts from a young age, and she was extremely passionate about this sport and way of life.

Her instructor also saw her potential, so he adopted her into his life and spent every waking moment preparing her for the next fight. This paid off when it came to the Battle of Aizu, where she decided to lead female combatants who decided that they couldn’t sit by and let the men take all of the glory. She overpowered many enemies but lost her life in battle.

Ida Lewis

Although lighthouses are largely a thing of the past, they were hugely important back in the day. Idawalley Zoradia Lewis – or Ida Lewis – grew up living on Lime Rock Island in Rhode Island, where her father worked as the lighthouse keeper. However, after her mother and father both passed away, she was appointed the keeper of the lighthouse, and it was her job to ensure that boats made their way to land safely.

However, Ida went above and beyond her payroll over the course of her life. As the strongest swimmer in the area, Ida put her talents to good use by saving those who fell into the sea. In fact, she saved four people when she was just 12 years after their boat capsized. Because of this, she was once considered to be the bravest person in the country.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai may only be 22 years old, but she has already experienced more than most people would ever imagine they could experience over the course of their lifetime. Born in Pakistan, Malala was born into a family where they had just enough to get by, and Malala loved nothing more than going to score and embracing an education.

Unfortunately, this all changed when the local Taliban banned young girls from going to school. Eager to continue her studies, Malala became an advocate for education in her region – but this put a target on her head. While on the way home from school, Malala was shot in the head for her activism, and she barely survived. Since recovering, however, she has made it her mission to ensure that any woman across the globe can have access to an education.

Hedy Lamarr

If you’re a fan of Hollywood movies, you may already be familiar with Hedy Lamarr. Once coined as the most beautiful woman in the acting world, this leading lady starred in over 30 movies over the course of her career. Yet, what most people don’t realize about this woman is the fact that she wasn’t just an actress. As World War II raged on in front of her, Hedy knew that she had to do something to help.

So, she used her love of science and invention to co-develop a radio guidance system that used frequence-hopping spread spectrum technology to overpower the enemies and help the allies. While military forces didn’t use this invention during the war, it has since been used to strengthen various services that we all use today, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. We bet you didn’t know that.

Boudicca

There’s a high chance that you have heard this lady’s name before, but do you really know what she’s famous for? Although Boudicca lived around 60 or 61 BCE, that hasn’t stopped the Queen of the Iceni tribe from really making her mark on history. That’s because she was able to unite rivaling tribes to lead a revolt against the Romans.

She managed to build an army of a whopping 100,000 people, and they were able to drive out the Roman rule and stake their place in various cities in England. While she was later overpowered during an intense battle and then passed away, her stance as a woman at that point in history was hugely impressive. She was able to lead an army and show resilience in a world where men reigned supreme.

Gloria Steinem

Now in her 80s, Gloria Steinem is seeing more and more people realizing her brilliance as the years go by – but there’s still a long way to go. That’s because this woman has caused a huge stir in history over the years, but some people don’t realize just how incredible her work has been. As a social-political activist, journalist, and renowned feminist, Gloria has dedicated her life to making sure that women are given a voice and given the chance to live their lives as equally as men.

She truly made her mark in the 1960s and 1970s, where she became the leader and spokeswoman for the legendary American feminist movement. She wanted to liberate women, and she did this through her speeches across the globe, her literary writings, and her business opportunities – such as founding Ms. magazine.

Rosa Parks

While discrimination still exists in this world, there’s no doubt about the fact that we have come on leaps and bounds since the 1950s. At this point in history, black and white people were segregated, and this meant that they even had to sit in different areas of the bus. When Rosa Parks made her way onto a bus in 1955, she decided to take a stand against this discrimination and refused to give up her seat so that a white person could sit down.

She was ultimately arrested for what was considered to be a crime at the time, but she knew that she had done the right thing. Her actions sparked a huge civil rights movement in the United States and across the globe, and she’s known as one of the most iconic African Americans of all time.

Milunka Savic

Equality suggests that women should be treated in the same way as men, but this wasn’t the case back in the early 1900s – especially in Serbia. In 1913, Milunka Savic’s brother was called in to serve his country as the Second Balkan War raged on. While her brother was ready and willing to do his duty, Savic just couldn’t understand why women weren’t allowed to fight alongside the men.

She knew that she had to do something, but what could she do? In the end, she opted to sign up, pretending to be her brother. She wore his clothes, and she cut her hair, and she didn’t let on that she was actually a woman. Her real gender was revealed when she was injured in battle and had to be treated in battle, but she continued her fight after she had healed.

Ada Lovelace

When you think of computer programmers, you probably think of the likes of Charles Babbage, John Carmack, Niklaus Wirth, and Bill Gates. Yet, what if we told you that one of the first computer programmers was actually a woman? This prize goes to Ada Lovelace – who was actually the daughter of the famous Lord and Lady Byron!

While her parents were big in the world of literature, Ada found herself being drawn to the world of mathematics. Her work and research pushed her in the direction of Charles Babbage, who created one of the first general-purpose computers by the name of the Analytical Engine. Working on his design, Ada realized that the computer could be used for so much more than pure calculation. She developed an algorithm that has since changed the world and inspired countless other computer programmers.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart is perhaps one of the most well-known women on this list – but that doesn’t mean that she still isn’t given the credit that she deserves. As one of the most famous aviators in the world, this woman broke countless records during her lifetime. She became the first woman to fly a whopping 14,000-foot in the air, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and she even became the first person – out of both men and women – to fly from the Red Sea to India.

Her records broke some of the records that the most talented male aviators had yet to break, and she made her mark as a strong woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Unfortunately, Amelia disappeared mid-flight in 1937. Her body was never recovered, so authorities presumed that she had passed away.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Amazingly, Aung San Suu Kyi is still proving today that she is a huge name when it comes to this planet and the humans that live on it – and there’s no doubt about the fact that she will go down in history. That’s because this woman currently serves as the State Counsellor of Myanmar and the leader of the National League for Democracy.

After being born into a regal and powerful country, Aung knew that she had to follow in her leader father’s footsteps. She obtained education at both the University of Delhi and Oxford University, and she later worked with the United Nations for a number of years. Today, she is known for transforming her state from a military area into one that features partial democracy, and for that, she has also won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Emmeline Pankhurst

If you’re familiar with the plight of the suffragettes in the early 1900s in England, you may be familiar with the name Emmeline Pankhurst. But how much do you really know about her? Emmeline saw what the suffragists were doing with their polite notices and their letters to ensure that women were treated equally and given the chance to vote, but she knew that action was the only way forward.

So, she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union and worked towards their motto of “Deeds, not words.” Over the course of her lifetime, Emmeline was arrested a whopping 13 times, she undertook hunger strikes, and she did whatever she could to ensure that women could vote and have her say. While some historians question her actions and knock her for taking a violent stand on the matter, her work ultimately worked.

Cleopatra

The lives of those who lived during Ancient Egyptian times have long been researched by those who are fascinated by the historical era, and one of the most fascinating people of them all was Cleopatra. While she has been remembered within popular culture as someone who was incredibly beautiful, it’s important to note that she was so much more than just a pretty face.

As the last ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra had a huge amount of power to her name – which was rare for a woman during that time. She had to deal with countless problems over the course of her life and reign, and she built up a reputation for being formidable and incredibly shrewd. While this means that some Egyptians faltered under her rule, others thrived and bowed at the feet of their ruler.

Laskarina Bouboulina

Many people are not familiar with Laskarina Bouboulina, but her legacy should be shared, as she has changed the course of history in her own way. After being born in a prison as her pregnant mother visited her captured father, Laskarina had a troubled life. Things started getting better for her when she found love in the form of an Algerian pirate, but the Greek woman soon found herself dealing with a broken heart when he passed away in battle.

Bouboulina took it upon herself to take over his ships and his fortune, and she soon became an esteemed naval commander. In fact, she soon supported the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and impressed everyone with her strength and her determination. After this, she became the first woman to ever become an admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy.

Marie Curie

There’s a high chance that you’ve at least heard the name of this incredible woman, but many people don’t really know what she did to change the world – so it’s time to truly acknowledge the fact that Marie Curie was a true life-safer. Born in 1867, this Polish-born woman dreamed of big things, and she soon made her way to Paris to study physics at university.

It wasn’t long before she and her research partner – who also became her husband – found two new elements by the name of polonium and radium. After her husband passed away, Curie devoted her life to figuring out how these two elements could treat and potentially cure cancer. To this day, her work is known for saving the lives of countless people who received a cancer diagnosis, which is pretty incredible.

Frida Kahlo

Although most people know her for her impressive eyebrows, it’s fair to say that Frida Kahlo was so much more than her body hair and her iconic appearance. While she now appears on paintings, accessories, and stationery, her work as an artist and revolutionary has allowed her to go down in history as one of the most important women of all time.

Not only did she make her thoughts on women’s rights, class, and identity apparent within her own speeches and her own outings in society, but she also made sure to include all of them within her artistry. Her artwork reached millions while she was alive, and her legacy has certainly continued to live on since she passed away in the 1950s. Today, she’s considered to be one of the most iconic artists of all time.

Wangari Maathai

There are a huge number of people out there who don’t know who Wangari Maathai was, and that’s a huge shame. That’s because this woman made a huge difference to the world, and she was a woman who put her whole heart and soul into her activism. Not only was Wangari someone who fought hard for women’s rights, but she was also an environmental activist who made huge changes.

In fact, she was the one who founded the famous Green Belt Movement, and she was responsible for planting countless trees. As if that wasn’t enough, Wangari also broke records before her passing in 2011. She was the first female in East and Central Africa to obtain a doctorate degree, and she became the first African woman to become the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Grace Hopper

There are countless men around the world who have made a difference when it comes to technology, but there are also countless women who have done the same – and Grace Hopper was one of them. Born in 1906, Grace found herself falling in love with the world of mathematics, and she actually became the first woman in history to obtain a Ph.D. in mathematics from the prestigious Yale University.

Her experience with numbers and algorithms meant that she was the perfect fit for computer programming, and she worked on early computers while at university and while working for the US Navy. Her main claim to fame is that she developed the commercial programming language, COBOL. Anyone who has used this language within the business or military sector will know that this is a big deal.

Theodora

You’re probably not familiar with what life was like back in the 5th and 6th centuries, which is why you’re probably not familiar with Theodora. However, you certainly should be. That’s because this lady was a huge deal, and while we only have ancient depictions and artwork of what she used to look like, her impact on society is still remembered today.

Theodora was not in power herself, but as the wife of Emperor Justinian I, she held the title of Empress of Byzantium. Instead of just sitting back and letting her husband do his thing, Theodora made it her mission to really make a difference. She used her power to bring forth the importance and the strength of women, and she is credited for altering divorce laws to ensure that women weren’t left with nothing.

Nellie Bly

Nowadays, both male and female journalists are given the same platform to write hard-hitting pieces, but that hasn’t always been the case. In the late 1800s, female journalists were only really allowed the chance to write stories about domestic issues such as cooking, clothes, or gardening. Unsatisfied with these rules, Nellie Bly took it upon herself to write about the things that she thought really mattered.

So, she defied the rules of society and used her words to bring to light some of the difficulties that societies across the world were facing. She wrote about those who were poor and struggling to survive, she wrote about those who were facing oppression, and she wrote about those who needed help the most. Nellie traveled the world while doing so, and she has since inspired many other journalists to do the same.

Bessie Coleman

Black women have really had to fight for their place in history. Luckily for us, Bessie Coleman was more than willing to put up a fight for what she believed in. As a keen pilot, Bessie made it her life’s mission to make her way into the skies. However, because of racial discrimination in the United States, she had to make her way to France to obtain her international pilots’ license.

This made her the first American woman to do so, but this wasn’t enough to win over her society back home. The fact that she was black meant that she wasn’t allowed to become a commercial pilot, so she had to make do with stunt flying instead. Bessie drew in huge crowds for her stunt flying shows, and she used this money to help other black women become pilots.

Coco Chanel

Many people are familiar with one of the biggest designer fashion brands in the world; Chanel. Of course, most people know that Coco Chanel was the woman behind this fashion house – but how much do you really know about her life? While her later life was shrouded in luxury and fortune, Coco Chanel actually had a tough childhood where she had little-to-nothing to her name.

She found herself abandoned by her parents at a young age, and she spent most of her time moving from orphanages to boarding schools. It was in one orphanage that she learned to sew, and from that moment, she knew that she wanted to be a designer. While her actions during WW2 have proved to be controversial, there’s no doubt about the fact that her impact on the fashion world has been huge.

Clara Barton

Have you heard of the American Red Cross? Perhaps you have received help from them in the past, or maybe you have volunteered with them in the past. Either way, it is one of the most established charitable organizations in the US, and it has helped millions of people over the years. While this organization has received a huge amount of recognition for the work that it does, few people ever look at the story behind it. Because of this, we want to shine a light on the woman who founded this organization.

Clara Burton lived during the early 1800s to the early 1900s, and she spent much of her career working as a nurse. During the American Civil War, she earned the nickname of “Angel of the Battlefield,” thanks to her work helping the wounded on the frontline.

Marie Van Brittan Brown

You just have to walk a few steps out of your front door to come across some kind of video surveillance. While some people deem it to be a nuisance, there are others who deem it to be necessary to keep human beings safe and secure at all times. Yet, how many of you thought that CCTV was thought up by a man? Amazingly, this invention can be traced back to an African-American woman by the name of Marie Van Brittan Brown.

Marie found herself in a sticky situation in the 1960s when she realized that the police were struggling to control the violence and the crime around her home. Scared for her family and her friends, Marie patented an invention that featured a movable camera that displayed the footage on another screen monitor. This was the birth of CCTV.

Laura Bassi

The world of education is still dominated by a largely male presence, but there’s no doubt about the fact that women have still made their mark. In fact, one of the most famous female professors in the world can be traced back around three centuries. Laura Bassi lived between 1711 and 1778, and she knew that she wanted to stand up in front of students and teach the younger generation.

She made it her mission to bag herself her job as a university professor, and she reached that goal. She became the first female professor in Europe, and she was soon considered to be one of the best professors in the realm of electricity that the world had to offer. Although she was a woman, Laura managed to negotiate herself a salary that was on par with her male counterparts.

Junko Tabei

Over the course of history, many people have set out to climb Mount Everest and reach the summit without giving up. While over 4,000 people have been able to do such a thing, we bet that most people don’t know the name of the first woman to reach the summit. That accolade goes to Junko Tabei. Not only did she reach the top before any other woman, but she actually made her ascent up Mount Everest with a team made entirely of women.

However, what’s so amazing about Junko’s success is that people didn’t want her to reach the top. The Japanese mountaineer faced a huge amount of criticism for leaving her daughter at home when she embarked on this trip, but she proved to everyone that women are so much more than people who stay at home.

Sarah Breedlove

If you have a Netflix subscription, you may be familiar with a show called Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J Walker. This show actually follows the life and times of Sarah Breedlove, who took the record as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. As the first child in her large family to be born into freedom after the slave trade had come to an end, Sarah saw how past events had impacted her family, and so she made it her mission to make herself a success.

Her moment to shine came through a time of discomfort in her life. After dealing with serious dandruff, Sarah decided to make her own hair care designed for African-American hair. This soon morphed into the Madam C.J Walker Company, which allowed her to become a millionaire.

Mary Somerville

In a society where men have often reigned supreme, it can be easy to come to the conclusion that the history of science has been dominated by men. However, that just isn’t the case. Throughout history, there have been countless women who have made their mark and changed the course of science, and Mary Somerville is one of them. Over the course of her life through the 1700s and the 1800s, she became known as “The Queen of the Sciences,” due to her impressive work and research into astronomy and other scientific ventures.

What’s so incredible about this woman, however, is the fact that she was not able to go to university herself. Yet, when Oxford University welcomed women through their doors for the first time, they did so while honoring the scientist with her very own school.

George Eliot

Even if you have not read any books written by George Eliot, there’s a high chance that you assumed that this writer was a man. Well, George Eliot’s real name was Mary Anne Evans. Mary decided to write and publish her work under this pen-name because she had already tried to be taken seriously as a female writer – but it just wasn’t happening.

When she changed her name, her poetry and novels were seen as impressive and iconic, and they were published in a heartbeat. While Mary resented this fact, she made sure to use her work to tackle important issues in society. These focused on gender, class, religions, industrialization, and marriage. She passed away in 1880, and although she is still remembered today for her work, more people need to know of her brilliance.

Dowager Empress Cixi of China

There are many women in history who have had to make some tough decisions, and this has often left them with enemies and critics. As the Dowager Empress of China for 47 years, Empress Cixi did experience a huge amount of political turmoil and fatalities over the course of her life, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t a strong woman with a strong place in history.

What’s so amazing about this woman is the fact that she rose through the ranks over the course of her life. During her younger years, Cixi served as a concubine to the Xianfeng emperor, but she soon set her sights much higher. During the mid-1800s, she had become the Dowager Empress, and she had a huge amount of power and responsibility in her hands. So, we have to give her credit for that.

Greta Thunberg

More and more people are learning of Greta Thunberg’s mark on this world, but there are still people out there who have underestimated this youngster because of her age and her gender. At just 17 years old, Greta is the oldest person on this list, but she has already achieved so much. This Swedish environmental activist first made her mark when she staged protests outside of the Swedish parliament to showcase the importance and the severity of climate change.

She also staged her own school strike for climate change and was able to encourage others to protest as well. Since then, she has become a celebrity in her own right, and in 2019 she became Time’s Person of the Year. Although she has been a target for critics, there’s no doubt about the fact that she has made a difference.

Ruth Handler

Although you might not be familiar with the name Ruth Handler, you’re probably familiar with the name Mattel. That’s because this toy company is one of the biggest in the world, and it’s highly regarded for bringing the Barbie Doll into our lives. The Handler name has been associated with this company for years, but many people believe that Ruth’s husband, Elliott, was the man behind the company as a whole.

However, that wasn’t the case. Ruth was the one who thought up the idea to make a doll look like an adult human being, and she worked on the first drafts of the Barbie from their garage office. Before too long, these dolls had taken the world by storm, and Mattel had become a Fortune 500 company in no time. Sadly, she passed away in 2002.

Beulah Louise Henry

Thomas Edison is largely remembered as one of the best inventors of all time, but this doesn’t mean that he was the only inventor to ever live. In fact, Beulah Louise Henry earned the nickname of “Lady Edison” over the course of her career, as she made it her mission to invent as many products as possible. She wanted to make products that would help people make their way through every day with ease – and by the time she had passed away, she had over 110 inventions to her name.

Unlike other inventors of her time, Beulah did not focus on one particular area of life but instead focused on a wide range of areas, such as children’s toys, sewing machines, typewriters, sports apparatus, and so much more. Because of this, she made a huge mark on the world.

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