In honour of International Women’s Day 2018, we’ve been reading up on women who excelled in their fields, overcoming or ignoring the barriers of their time to pave the way for future generations. Here are five of our favourites.
1. Mary Treat, Naturalist
Mary Treat researched, documented and wrote about plants and butterflies, corresponding with Charles Darwin and Asa Gray and critiquing their work during the 19th century – a time when women scientists were few and far between. Despite her reputation and importance as a entomologist, biologist and science writer, a complete biography of her still doesn’t exist.
(Image from Women in History Blog.)
2. Edmonia Lewis, Artist
A trailblazer in the world of sculpture, Edmonia Lewis is acknowledged as the first professional female African-American and Native-American artist. Although born in New York in the mid-19th century Edmonia spent the majority of her life in Rome, where she learnt Italian and spent her time sculpting – without help from local workmen, despite the trend of doing so at the time.
3. Ellen Richards, Chemist
Ellen Richards was one of the first women admitted to MIT in 1873. She explored the chemistry of substances used in the home, laying the scientific groundwork for home economics. As well as conducting important research into sanitation and how to improve people’s living conditions, she paved the way for more women in science, eventually establishing a laboratory at MIT for women.
4. Nora Stanton Barney, Engineer
From a line of outspoken suffragists and campaigners, Nora Stanton Barney campaigned for women’s rights and excelled as a civil engineer and architect in the first half of the 20th century. She was the first woman to earn membership to the American Society of Civil Engineers, who she later took to court for denying her a more senior membership because of her gender. At every turn she refused to let the sexism of the time hold her back.
5. Katherine Sui Fun Cheung
Katherine Sui Fun Cheung was the first Chinese-American to hold a pilot’s license, earning it at a time when only 1% of pilots in the USA were women. An expert in acrobatic displays she swooped and barrel-rolled her way into the history books, meeting Amelia Earhart and joining all-women’s flying club the Ninety-Nines. A couple of years ago a documentary was made about her remarkable story.
(Image from Popular Aviation Flying Magazine)
Which women inspire you to keep learning? Let us know in the comments.