Nine influential women

It’s 100 years to the month that women in the UK were given the right to vote. February 1918 saw women over the age of 30, who owned a property – or were married to a man who did – granted suffrage. We take a look at nine of the world’s most influential women, from programmers to pioneers, artists, authors and activists…

The programmer

“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal, as time will show.”

– Ada Lovelace

Born in London in 1815, Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who worked alongside Charles Babbage on the Analytical Machine – one of the first general-purpose computers. Lovelace recognised the computer’s potential to perform more than simple calculations and created the world’s first algorithm to prove this.

The martyr

 “Never give up. Never surrender.”

– Emily Davidson

These were the famous last words of Emily Davidson, a martyr for the women’s suffrage movement who was killed after she ran in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. A dedicated suffragette who was arrested on countless occasions – her funeral was attended by over 50,000 people and a procession of 5,000 suffragettes and supporters accompanied her coffin through the streets of London.

The feminist

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”

– Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft is best known for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women, one of the earliest known texts on gender equality. Growing up in London in the 18th century, Wollstonecraft grew tired of domestic life and the notion of the ‘ideal’ wife and mother. In her ground-breaking book, she proposed that women were infact equal to men, and it was only a lack of equal education which made them appear inferior.

The activist

“All I was doing was trying to get home from work.”

– Rosa Parks

The day that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person, is one of the most important moments in the history of the civil rights movement – although Parks herself may not have known it at the time. Travelling home from work in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey the bus driver’s orders, and has since become an icon of resistance to racial segregation.

The writer

“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

– J. K. Rowling

The author of the Harry Potter series, J K Rowling brought magic to life through her compelling prose and proved to the world that imagination and determination can bring light to even the darkest of places. Before she penned her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling was a single mother living in Edinburgh, surviving mostly on state benefits. Today, Rowling is one of the richest women in the world; a fierce advocate for human rights; and has dedicated a large portion of her wealth to charities close to her heart.

The schoolgirl

“I don’t want to be thought of as the ‘girl who was shot by the Taliban’, but the ‘girl who fought for education’. This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”

– Malala Yousafzai

A passionate activist for female education and human rights, Malala Yousafzai was brought up by a family which fought for equality of education; yet lived in a Taliban-controlled region of Pakistan – the Swat Valley – which had at times banned girls from attending school. On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai survived a point-blank gunshot to the head, and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. Today, Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and continues to fight for women’s right to education, globally.

The artist

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

– Georgia O’Keefe

Labelled the ‘mother of American modernism’, Georgia O’Keefe is an American artist famous for her New York landscapes and paintings of enlarged flowers. Tired of being constrained to copying or recreating what was in nature, O’Keeffe began creating her own innovative and distinctive style. O’Keeffe went on to become the highest paid female American artist.

The pioneer

“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

– Grace Hopper

American computer scientist and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, Grace Hopper, invented one of the first complier related tools – a device to translate computer code into a target language. Her ideas led to the development of COBOL, a high-level programming language which is still used to this day.

The director

“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”

– Kathryn Bigelow

The first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow picked up the coveted Oscar in 2009 for her film The Hurt Locker. In the 90-year history of the Academy Awards, only four women – including Bigelow – had been nominated for a Best Director Award, with Bigelow the only winner.

Greta Gerwig is the fifth woman to ever be nominated for an Oscar; Gerwig has been nominated for Best Director for her film Ladybird, in the upcoming Academy Awards, which take place in March 2018…

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