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Women Who Changed History and their Historical Biographies

   

women who changed history
This section will honor some of the incredible women who have influenced, changed and challenged history. Their contributions to our culture affect all of us in many different ways. Included are women from history such as: writers, educators, scientists, heads of state, politicians, rulers, feminists, artists, entertainers, athletes, crime fighters and more. Some of these women passed away centuries ago, while others are still living. (And some have yet to be born!) We emphasize that this list of amazing women is only the tip of the iceberg of the millions of women who have touched our world. The women are ordered alphabetically. (The order has no bearing on their importance in women's history) ~~~~ WOMEN WORLD LEADERS, RULERS AND ACTIVISTS



Amina, Nigerian Queen, 1533-1610
Queen Bakwa, Amina's mother, died around 1566 and the reign of Zazzua in Nigeria was passed to her younger brother Karama. Although her mother's reign was known for peace, Amina chose to learn military skills from the warriors. Amina became the leading warrior of teh Zazzua cavalry and her military achievements brought her great wealth and power. When Karama died after a 10-year rule, Amina became queen of Zazzua. Queen Amina headed the northern Nigerian Hausa city-state of Zaria. It is thought that perhaps the Hausa were matrilineal people at that time since having a woman as queen was not all that rare. She began her first military expedition three months after coming to power and continued fighting until her death. During her 34-year reign, she expanded Zazzua to its largest size ever. She is credited with popularizing protective city walls made of mud and ordering the building of a defensive wall around each military camp she established. As time passed, towns grew within these protective walls, many of which are still in existence.


Susan B. Anthony, United States activist, 1820-1906
In 1872 Susan Anthony did the then unheard of. She demanded that women be given the same civil and political rights that had been extended to black males under the 14th and 15th amendments. She proceeded to lead a group of women to the Rochester polls to test the rights of women voters. She was arrested two weeks later and while waiting for her trial, she went on highly publicized lecture tours. In 1873, she tried to vote again in city elections. After being tried and convicted of violating the voting laws, Susan refused to pay the fine and succeeded in obtaining the right to vote. For the remainder of her life, she campaigned endlessly for a federal woman suffrage amendment through the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869-90) and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1890-1906). She also lectured extensively throughout the USA. In 1888, she organized the International Council of Women and in 1904 the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Although Susan did not live to see the results of her efforts to "win the right to vote for women," the establishment of the 19th amendment is largely a result of her relentless efforts. 'I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.' - Susan B. Anthony


Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1953 -
Benazir Bhutto was born in 1953 the daughter of former Pakistani premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She was educated at Radcliffe College. She temporarily left Radcliffe for New York City in 1971, when India sent troops into East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Her father, as Pakistan's foreign minister, travelled to the United Nations to resolve the issue and Benazir assisted her father. On December 2, 1988 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman elected to govern a Muslim nation, only to be deposed 20 months later by the President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan using the 8th Amendment to dissolve the parliament and allowing for re-elections within 90 days. She was re-elected in 1993 but was let go three years later amid corruption rumors by the President of Pakistan, Farooq Leghari.


Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796
Ambitious and intelligent, betrothed Catherine arrived in Russia from Germany in 1744 to marry 16 year-old Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne. Peter was a weak and unstable ruler and his unpopularity allowed her to depose him and proclaim herself sole ruler of Russia. She took power as Tsarina or Queen, calling herself Catherine II. Soon after, she may have been behind Peter's death. During her reign, Catherine the Great expanded Russia's borders to the Black Sea and into central Europe. She promoted westernization and modernization though within the context of her autocratic control over Russia and increasing the control of landed gentry over serfs. Catherine the Great promoted education and the Enlightenment among the elite. She kept up a correspondence with many figures of the Enlightenment in Europe. Catherine's goal was to rationalize and reform the administration of the Russian Empire. She undertook a wide range of internal political reforms and led two successful wars against the Ottoman Empire. She supported progressive ideas, such as reforms in education, law and provincial and municipal administration. Catherine was also notorious for her numerous love affairs, which included Gregory Orlov and Gregor Potemkin. Catherine died in 1796 and was succeeded by her son Paul I. 'I praise loudly. I blame softly.' - Catherine the Great


Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, 1519-1589
Catherine de Medici was a born in Florence, Italy into the influential Medici family. In 1533 she married Henri, Duke of Orleans, who later became the French King in 1547. As queen, she brought many forms of Italian culture to France. Catherine gained political power as regent for her sons (she bore 10 children) after her husband's death. She was an ambitious woman who was actively involved in the political happenings of the court. In the beginning, Catherine attempted to unite France's opposing Catholics and Protestants because their violent disputes threatened national unity. However, with the Protestant massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1570, peace was destroyed, and Catherine was blamed for allowing it to happen.


Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and the last known Pharaoh, 69-30 B.C.
Cleopatra was only 17 when she became Queen of Egypt. She reigned as Queen and Pharaoh between 51 and 30 BC, and died at the age of 39. Cleopatra was known as a cunning politician and educated woman for her time, who spoke nine languages. She possessed an impressive intellect dealing in international relations and a grasp of philosophy. During her reign, Egypt became closely aligned with the Roman Empire. In her struggles to win the crown and to protect the freedom of her country, she sought the support of Julius Caesar, who married her and she bore him a son. Thereafter, she gained the protection of Rome through an affair with Mark Anthony, and had three children with him. Cleopatra financed Mark Anthony's failed military campaigns, and both she and Anthony were defeated in a battle against Octavian in 31 B.C. Cleopatra committed suicide shortly thereafter.


Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady and United States Senator, 1947-
In 1969, Hillary entered Yale Law School, where she served on the Board of Editors of Yale Law Review and Social Action, interned with children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman, and met William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton. After graduation, Hillary advised the Children's Defense Fund in Cambridge and joined the impeachment inquiry staff advising the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. Bill and Hillary married in 1975. She also joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas Law School in 1975. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, and Bill Clinton became governor of Arkansas. Chelsea, their daughter, was born in 1980. Hillary served as Arkansas's First Lady for 12 years, balancing family, law, and public service. She chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children's Hospital, Legal Services, and the Children's Defense Fund. In 1993, her husband (then U.S. President) asked her to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. She continued to be a leading advocate for expanding health insurance coverage, ensuring children are properly immunized, and raising public awareness of health issues. Despite her proposals being voted down, she wrote a weekly newspaper column entitled "Talking It Over," which focused on her experiences as First Lady and her observations of women, children, and families she had met worldwide. Her 1996 book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us was a best seller, and she received a Grammy Award for her recording of it. As First Lady, her public involvement with many activities sometimes led to controversy. Undeterred by critics, Hillary won many admirers for her strong support for women around the world and her commitment to children's issues. She was elected United States Senator from New York in 2000. Hillary is the first First Lady elected to the United States Senate and the first woman elected statewide in New York. 'In many parts of the world, women and girls are especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because they lack control over most aspects of their life. Cultural expectations and gender roles expose women and girls to violence, sexual exploitation and far greater risk for infection.' 'Research shows the presence of women raises the standards of ethical behavior and lowers corruption.' 'In the Bible it says they asked Jesus how many times you should forgive, and he said 70 times 7. Well, I want you all to know that I'm keeping a chart.' - Hillary Clinton


Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997
Diana was born Diana Frances Spencer in Sandringham, Norfolk, England. She was educated at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk, and West Heath School in Kent. From 1979 until 1981 Diana worked as a kindergarten teacher in London. She married Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne in a world televised wedding at Saint Paul's Cathedral in 1981. The couple had two sons: Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, born in 1982 and Prince Henry Charles Albert David, born in 1984. By the late 1980s arrived their marital problems were widely known and in December 1992 they separated. Diana had, by then, already adopted charity work as her royal duty. She withdrew from public activities for a few months in 1993 to avoid the negative publicity focused on her divorce from Prince Charles. Despite this, Diana continued to volunteer her time to many charities related to homeless and deprived children, drug abuse, and victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Diana shocked many people when she shook the hand of an AIDS patient, showing that she was not afraid of those suffering from the illness. She was the vice president of the British Red Cross and had served as a member of the International Red Cross advisory board since 1994. Diana died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel while being chased by paparazzi, but her work for various causes and charities and her own personal strength in adversity made her an idol for many. 'I adore him. I have never been so happy. I have real love.' (prior to the revelation Prince Charles' infidelity with Camilla Parker-Bowles) 'I think like any marriage, especially when you've had divorced parents like myself; you want to try even harder to make it work.' 'People think that at the end of the day a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me.' - Princess Diana


Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England and of France, 1122-1202
Eleanor was one of the most influential and powerful figures of the 12th century. Married at age 15 to Louis VII of France, she later divorced him to marry Henry II, the future King of England. She bore Henry eight children, two of them future kings of England. At age 19, she knelt in the cathedral of V'zelay before Abb' Bernard of Clairvaux offering him thousands of her vassals for the Second Crusade. It was said that Queen Eleanor appeared at V'zelay dressed like an Amazon galloping on a white horse through the crowds, urging them to join the crusades. The Church was pleased to receive her thousand fighting vassals, however, they were less happy when they learned that Eleanor, along with 300 of her ladies, also planned to go to help "tend the wounded." This was at a time when women were traditionally thought of as property. Throughout her life she maintained control over her extensive lands in Southern France, and cleverly managed the lives of her children and grandchildren. Eleanor championed the human causes of love, rebalanced the value of women, elaborated the codes of chivalry, certified the establishment of jury law, was the inspiration of thousands of knights. She was the motive for many Troubadour songs, and inspired songs and stories of the times including the rewrite of King Arthur putting Guenivere (Eleanor) and her French knights in the story for the first time. She codified the many rituals of romance. In Eleanor's domains, women were both legally and in song no longer the object of conquest as the bargaining chips by fathers. Love, especially the love by man for woman became its own quest. Her court judgments ruled love as a primary cause in a relationship - a controversial belief that was ruled heresy and completely expunged upon her death by the Church and State.


Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533-1603
Elizabeth I made England one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe during her lifetime. The child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn - under her strong leadership England became a major European power in politics, commerce, and the arts. Highly educated, brave, and ambitious, she cultivated the loyalty of her people and united her country against enemies. During her 45 year reign, she managed for a time to quiet her Catholic population with acts of tolerance, strengthen the currency, and promote the growth of a capitalist economy. She was pressured many times to marry to form political alliances, which she seemed to consider. However, in the end, she always refused. Her greatest success was the defeat of the invading Spanish Armada in 1588 in the waters off England's west coast. Elizabeth today is thought of as a woman 'ahead of her time.' Queen Elizabeth refused to marry. 'I have long since made choice of husband, the kingdom of England... charge me not with the want of children, for as much as everyone of you, and every Englishman besides, are my children.' ' Elizabeth I in a speech delivered to Parliament in 1558.


Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom. 1926 -
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was born daughter of King George VI, in London. In 1944 she served as a councilor of state while her father was on the Italian war front. She married Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, and a year later gave birth to a son, Charles. In 1950 she gave birth to a daughter, Anne. Elizabeth succeeded to the throne upon the death of her father in 1952. In 1960 Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey. Andrew, her second son, was born in 1960 and a third, Edward, in 1964. Elizabeth's primary role was as a symbol of unity within the Commonwealth of Nations. Currently, approximately 125 million people live in the countries of which she is Head of State. She is also Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Commander-in-Chief of the UK Armed Forces, and Head of the Commonwealth. She has held these positions since 1952, the year of the death of her father, King George VI. She is the longest serving current Head of State in Europe, Australasia and the Americas. For over five decades, Queen Elisabeth has seen ten different UK Prime Ministers and countless Prime Ministers in the other personal union nations of which she is or was Head of State. Since the 1980s, the public has become much more informed about the lives of the royal family due to in-depth media coverage. Two of Queen Elizabeth's sons, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, separated from their wives in 1992, amid a wave of international media coverage. (Charles later married his mistress, Camilla.) These separations were surrounded by very public accusations of infidelity and damaged the reputation of the royal family. Also in 1992, the Queen and Prince Charles agreed to pay income taxes on their personal income, the first time the monarchy has done so.


Betty Friedan, Author, Lecturer, a Founder of National Organization for Women (N.O.W.), 1921 - 2006
Born Betty Goldstein, she graduated from Smith College in 1942 and worked for five years before marrying Carl Friedan (who she divorced in 1969) and for a while settled uncomfortably into the life of a housewife, mother, and occasional freelance writer. Discovering in 1957 that several of her college classmates were as dissatisfied with their lives as she was with her own, she began a series of studies that eventually resulted in the landmark work 'The Feminine Mystique,' which exposed the unhappiness middle-class women felt over living less-than-fulfilling lives, which catapulted her to public fame. A founder of NOW, National Women's Political Caucus, and NARAL, she traveled and lectured all over the world and wrote for such diverse publications as McCall's, Harper's, The New York Times, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. In more recent years, she has been a Visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of Southern California, New York University, and George Mason University. Her new book, The Fountain of Age, is based on 10 years of research on changing sex roles and the aging process. Currently she is a Scholar at the Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian, and Distinguished Professor of Social Evolution at Mount Vernon College.


Geraldine Ferraro, 1935 ' Politician and Attorney
Geraldine was born in 1935 in Newburgh, New York. She was the daughter of Italian immigrants and her father died when she was eight years old. Geraldine attended Marymount College in Manhattan on a scholarship; majored in English, taking a B.A. in 1956. While teaching English in public schools in Queens, she attended Fordham University Law School at night. In 1960 she earned a law degree and was admitted to the New York bar in 1961, and practiced law until 1974. In 1974 Ferraro accepted a position as an assistant district attorney in the Investigations Bureau in Queens County, New York. By 1975 she transferred to the Special Victims Bureau, which she helped to create to handle rape and domestic violence cases. In 1978 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's Ninth Congressional District, running as a Democrat on a platform supporting law and order, the elderly, and neighborhood preservation; she was reelected in 1980 and 1982. In 1980 Ferraro was elected secretary of the Democratic caucus, and she took a seat in the House Steering and Policy Committee. She was appointed chair of the 1984 Democratic platform committee, the first woman to hold the post. Later in 1984, Democratic Party presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, selected Ferraro to be his running mate, making her the first woman on a major party's national ticket. The presidential bid was unsuccessful because Ronald Reagan beat Mondale for the Presidency.


Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, 1917-1984
As daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, politics was always a part of Indira Gandhi's world. After her father's death, Indira was elected as India's third prime minister. As the leader of the world's most populous democracy, Indira became an influential figure for Indian women, as well as for others around the world. Indira continued many of her father's policies, such as pressing for land reform and the nationalization of banks. However, India endured great economic troubles during this time. Political opponents were jailed and the press censored. In 1977, she lost her election and faced charges of corruption. Expelled from Parliament, and briefly jailed, she reorganized her party and won re-election as Prime Minister in 1980. Sadly, in 1984, she was assassinated in her New Delhi home by 3 of her bodyguards. 'If I die a violent death, as some fear and a few are plotting, I know that the violence will be in the thought and the action of the assassins, not in my dying.' - Indira Gandhi


Hatshepsut, Queen of Egypt, 15th century B.C., 1486 BC-1468 BC
Hatshepsut was a powerful political figure in Egypt even before she assumed the title of Pharaoh. Remember, at that time Egypt was a major world power and their cultural influences are felt to this day. As a female, Hatshepsut had many obstacles to overcome, including the threat of jealousy when her bitter nephew came of age. Using carefully placed propaganda and sharp political acument, she deftly overcame each obstacle she faced. To minimize the fears of her people who many believed power and intelligence was a male province, she made herself a "king" in all aspects and even dressed in the traditional clothing of male rulers, along with a fake beard. She accomplished what no woman had before her and successfully ruled the most powerful, advanced civilization in the world for 20 years. Even if there were some who resented her success, her achievements remain for eternity. Her beautiful temple at Deir el-Bahri still stands west of Thebes. 'Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people say. Those who shall see my monuments in years to come and who shall speak of what I have done.' - Hatshepsut


Isabella I of Castile, Queen of Spain, 1451-1504
Isabella was a master strategist and seized the crown of Castile with husband Ferdinand of Aragon. They ruled jointly, yet independently and won a virtually non-stop succession of wars to preserve their power. Isabella initiated a program of reform which reduced the power of her rebellious nobles, promoted scholarship and streamlined her government. Because she was extremely Catholic, she helped establish the Inquisition in Andalusia, which led to the expulsion from Spain of over 170,000 Jews. She conquered Granada with Ferdinand, the remaining territory of the Moors. However, eventually, she and Ferdinand were expelled from Spain.


Joan of Arc, Leader of the French Army, 1412-1431
Joan of Arc was a national hero of France who led the resistance to the English invasion of France in the Hundred Years War. She was born to a peasant family, but believed that it was her 'divine mission' to free her country from the English. She went to the King of France and convinced not only to have audience with her, a peasant girl but to allow her to lead troops on behalf of France. She cut her hair, dressed in a man's uniform, and led French troops to victory in the battle of Orleans in 1429. She was eventually captured by the Burgundians and ransomed by the English where she was put on trial for charges of fraud and witchcraft. However, she was only convicted of wearing male clothes which was an offense against the tenets of the Church, and was therefore, burned alive at the stake. 'Children say that people are hung sometimes for speaking the truth.' "Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!" - Joan of Arc


Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, First Lady and American Icon, 1929-1994
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born in 1929 in Southampton, New York. She received her primary education at the best private schools and was dubbed "Debutante of the Year" in 1948. Jackie began her college education at Vassar, finally graduating from George Washington University in 1952. After graduation, Jackie took a job as a photographer for a Washington, D.C. newspaper and soon after, she met Senator John F. Kennedy. The couple was married in 1953. Their daughter Caroline was born in 1957 and John Jr., in 1960. The inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961 brought to the White House a beautiful young wife and the first young children in half a century. She oversaw the restoration of the White House and its opening to public tours bringing some of the history of Washington to the people of the U.S. After the assassination of her husband in Dallas in 1963, she was admired by the world for her courage in her time of grief. Jackie went on to marry wealthy Greek shipping financier Aristotle Onassis in 1968. After Onassis's death in 1975, she lived in New York, taking a job as an editor with Doubleday. She captured America's imagination - a first lady with the grace, beauty and intelligence to be our version of royalty. Her dedication to her family and her children was legendary. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis died in New York in 1994 and was buried next to President Kennedy. 'I don't think there are any men who are faithful to their wives.' 'The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.' - Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis


Maggie Kuhn, one of the founders of the Gray Panthers, Elderly Rights Activist, 1905-1995
Maggie devoted her 'retirement' years to battling the increasing marginalization of the elderly. Maggie Kuhn started the Gray Panthers in 1970, a radical social activist organization raising issues of justice and fairness for older Americans, as a response to her forced retirement at age 65. She led a remarkable life, integrating people of all ages in working for social and economic justice. Maggie's voice and activism remain central to what the Gray Panthers stand for today. She traveled around the US on behalf of the rights of the elderly and is credited with the passage of laws prohibiting forced retirement and with reform in health care and nursing home oversight. Maggie Kuhn never married, nor did she try to hide her many affairs, including one suitor who was 50 years her junior. She died 3 months before her ninetieth birthday. 'By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.' - Maggie Kuhn


Lady Godiva, England, Activist, 1040 -1070
According to legend, Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry on a white horse to convince her husband, Earl Leofric of Mercia, to abolish the heavy taxes that oppressed the citizens. She asked all the townspeople to remain indoors, and covered only with her long hair rode the streets showing both compassion for the citizens and a woman's ingenuity in making her point! She sat straight and properly in the saddle with a look of composure on her face; relaxed, confident, unashamed. Her hair was done in two large braids which were curled snugly at the back of her head, one on each side; she wore no jewelry or other adornment. People looked at her and saw that she was not merely naked, or nude; rather she was in a higher state of presentation -- being a correct and elevated quality of her composure, and resulting also from the people's appraisal, appreciation, and consideration beyond simple voyeurism. To all present this was an experience like no other in their lives. The only images of people unclothed they had ever seen were in the church: Adam and Eve, and the crucified Christ. This was a lady, simple and normal with a body like that of every other woman present, a human, a creature of God's earth. So, all survived the event with peacefulness and dignity, and the taxes were removed.


Lady Jane Grey
Jane Grey remains one of the most compelling and tragic figures in Tudor history. She was unfortunately, like many women of her day, used by powerful, scheming men vying for political power. She possessed royal blood through her grandmother, Princess Mary Tudor, and this heritage brought her to death at the scaffold in 1554. Jane had been named heiress to the English throne in her great-uncle Henry VIII's will, but only if his son Edward and daughters Mary and Elizabeth died without issue. But Edward ruled for just six years and his ambitious advisor, John Dudley, was determined to remain in power. To that end, he persuaded Edward to write his own will and leave the throne to his pious cousin, Jane Grey. Though just fifteen at the time, she was known for her Protestant piety and learning; it was this religious devotion which persuaded Edward to alter the succession. Deeply pious himself, he could not leave the throne to his Catholic sister, Mary (aka Mary I). Jane was quickly wed to Dudley's son and crowned queen of England in July 1553. But she ruled for just nine days, trapped and unhappy. Mary Tudor claimed the throne with great popular support and Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Her subsequent execution was a political necessity for Mary Tudor. Despite her youth, Jane met her end with great dignity and courage. 'I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine; which bread when it is broken, and the wine when it is drunken, put me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross. ...I ground my faith upon God's word, and not upon the church... The faith of the church must be tried by God's word, and not God's word by the church; neither yet my faith.' Jane Grey to John Feckenham - 1554


Liliuokalani, Last Monarch of Hawaii, 1838-1917
When Queen Liliuokalani inherited the throne she had to deal with a depressed economy and a constitution forced on the Hawaiians by the United States, which left the monarchy of Hawaii powerless. Liliuokalani was determined to free Hawaii from overseas control. However, her push for a new constitution led to a confrontation between the Queen and the Americans. When she attempted to restore some of the power of the monarchy that had been lost during the reign of her brother, she encountered the revolt by the American colonists who controlled most of Hawaii's economy. Liliuokalani was deposed and a provisional government set up. In 1895 Queen Liliuokalani was put under "house arrest" for eight months, after which she abdicated in return for the release of her jailed supporters. In 1898 the Hawaiian Islands were formally annexed to the United States. The same year, Queen Liliuokalani composed a song "Aloha Oe" as a farewell to her country. Liliuokalani was the last queen of the Hawaiian Islands. Her rule lasted from 1891 to 1895. She was released as a private citizen and lived in Honolulu until her death in 1917.


Marie Antoinette, France, 1755-1793
Marie Antoinette was born November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the youngest and most beautiful daughter of Francis Stephen I and Maria Theresa, Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Marie Antoinette was brought up believing her destiny was to become queen of France. She married the crown prince of France in 1770. Four years later she became queen when her husband was crowned King Louis XVI (House of Bourbon). She took second place for a long time to Louis' long time lover, Madame duBarry. The stories of Antoinette's excesses are vastly overstated. In fact, rather than ignoring France's growing financial crisis, she reduced the royal household staff, eliminating many unnecessary positions that were based solely on privilege. In so doing she offended the nobles, adding their condemnation to the scandalous stories spread by royal hopefuls. It was the nobility that balked at the financial reforms the government ministers tried to make, not the King and Queen, who were in favor of change. In truth, Antoinette and Louis were placed in harms' way not only by elements of their personalities, but by the changing face of political and social ideology in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1789 a mob descended on the palace at Versailles and demanded the royal family move to the Tuilerie palace inside Paris. From that point on the King and Queen were virtual prisoners. Antoinette sought aid from other European rulers including her brother, the Austrian Emperor, and her sister, Queen of Naples. After a failed attempt to flee Paris in 1791 Antoinette continued to seek aid from abroad. When Austria and Prussia declared war on France, she was accused of passing military secrets to the enemy. On August 10, 1792 the royal family was arrested on suspicion of treason and imprisoned. On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI was convicted and executed on the guillotine. Antoinette was cruely treated during her final days of captivity. Her children were taken from her, and her best friend, the Princess de Lambelle, was killed and her severed head was put on a pole and paraded in front of the Queen. Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. She was executed without proof of the crimes for which she was accused. She was only 37 years old. 'I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.' - Marie Antoinette


Mary I of England, (Bloody Mary), 1516-1558
Mary Tudor was born in London and was the daughter of Henry VIII of England and his first wife, Catherine of Arag'n. Upon the death of her half brother, Edward VI, she became the legal heir to the throne. However, the Duke of Northumberland, favored his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey and proclaimed her queen on July 10. Nevertheless, England supported Mary and she began her ruling by doing away with the religious stipulations her father had imposed. Catholic Mass was restored and the Pope's authority reestablished. Mary's marriage to Philip II, king of Spain, was met with rebellion because Philip was a devout Roman Catholic and unpopular in Protestant England. At his order, Mary joined in a war against France. She was called "Bloody Mary" because of the large number of religious persecutions that took place during her reign. Nearly 300 people were condemned to death as a result of trials for heresy. Mary died in London in 1558 and was succeeded by Elizabeth I.


Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1587
Mary became Queen of Scotland when she was just a week old. At age five, she was sent to France to be raised in the French court and eventually married King Francis II, who died the following year. Mary returned to Scotland, where she engaged in a slew of politically and personally unwise love affairs. Her continued devotion to Catholicism in a Protestant country led to a revolt against her. Mary was forced to flee to England to seek safety provided by her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I. Many of Elizabeth's advisors, however, saw Mary as a threat to her throne. Queen Elizabeth then kept Mary imprisoned for the next 19 years. Mary was subsequently accused of a series of conspiracies against Queen Elizabeth and was executed. It is said that it took three strikes with an axe to behead the tough Queen. "No more tears now; I will think about revenge." - Mary Queen of Scots


Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, 1898-1978
Golda Meir was born in the Ukraine but also spent time in the United States. She emigrated to Israel in 1921. Her work within the Labor movement led her to achieve high political positions, including diplomatic missions abroad. When Israel became a state, she was elected to the Parliament, and, in turn, became Minister of Labor and Minister of Foreign Affairs - the only woman in the Labor administration. She served, successively, as secretary-general of the Mapai party and of the united Israel Labor party from 1966 to 1968. She was prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, an unbelievable political feat for an Israeli woman at that time. She resigned in 1974 amid controversy over Israel's lack of preparedness in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Golda died in Jerusalem in 1978. 'Women's liberation is just a lot of foolishness. It's men who are discriminated against. They can't bear children. And no one is likely to do anything about that.' "When you love your children more than you hate us, then we shall have peace." (speech referred to Palestinian terror) 'Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse.' - Golda Meier


Lucretia Mott, Quaker Minister, Reformer, Abolitionist, 1793-1880
Born Lucretia Coffin into a Quaker community in Massachusetts, "thoroughly imbued with women's rights" (in her words). In America she helped organize women's abolitionist societies, since the anti-slavery organizations would not admit women as members. In 1840, she was selected as a delegate to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London, which she found controlled by anti-slavery factions opposed to public speaking and action by women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton later credited conversations with Lucretia Mott, while seated in the segregated women's section, with the idea of the holding a women's rights convention. Elected as the first president of the American Equal Rights Convention after the end of the Civil War, Mott strove a few years later to reconcile the two factions that split over the priorities between woman suffrage and black male suffrage. She continued her involvement in causes for peace and equality through her later years. Mott died in 1880, twelve years after her husband's death. "The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source." - Lucretia Mott


Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt, 14th Century B.C.
Nefertiti was the powerful wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton. Little is known about the ancient Queen Nefertiti. What is known is that she was a key influence in establishing what is considered one of the world's first monotheistic religion, the worship of the sun-god Aton. Her beauty was immortalized in exquisite sculptures made at the time, many of which survived to today and can be seen at Museums throughout the world.


Mbande Nzinga, Angolan Queen, 1582-1663
Nzinga (or Jinga) was the Queen of Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. She was a very strong military leader who waged a 30-year war against the savage slave-hunting Europeans. Jinga was a member of the ethnic Jagas, a militant group that formed a human shield against the Portuguese slave traders. She was completely devoted to the resistance movement and formed alliances with foreign powers, pitting them against each other to free Angola of European influence. She possessed both masculine toughness and feminine charm and used both to her advantage. She is honored for her resistance against the Portuguese who were at that time increasingly occupying all of what is now known as Angola.


Annie Oakley, Master Shooter, Charitable Contributor, Activist, 1860-1926
Annie Oakley, the poor back-country orphan girl who made her way to world-wide fame, was born in Ohio and could shoot the head off a running quail by the time she was twelve years old. At a mere 5 feet tall, Annie could handle a rifle or a six-gun with a mastery unsurpassed by that of any human being before her time. Once, at the invitation of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, she knocked the ashes off a cigarette he was holding in his mouth. When she out-shot the great marksman, Frank Butler, he fell in love with her and they married, living happily together until death. In 1901 Annie suffered a spinal injury in a train wreck that required five operations and left her temporarily partially paralyzed. Although she recovered, Annie toured less frequently during the latter part of her career. Nevertheless, her shooting expertise did not suffer and she continued to set records. In a shooting contest in North Carolina 62 year old Annie hit 100 clay targets straight from the 16 yard mark. During her life, Annie overcame poverty, mistreatment and physical injury with her determination. She played a key role in breaking barriers for women in her sport. She showed great compassion and generosity to widows and young women and was known to give up her medals for money for orphans.


Sandra Day O'Connor, Attorney, Public official, and Supreme Court Justice, 1930'
Sandra was born in 1930,in El Paso, Texas. She graduated from Stanford University in 1950 and Stanford Law School in 1952, marrying a classmate, John Jay O'Connor III, upon graduation. After pursuing private law practice in Arizona, she became an assistant attorney general for the state (1965-69) and then a Republican member of the Arizona Senate (1969-74), in which role she became the first woman in the United States to hold the position of majority leader. Her election as a Superior Court judge in Maricopa County (1974-79) was followed by her appointment to the Arizona Court of Appeals in Phoenix (1979-81). In July 1981, President Ronald Reagan chose her as his first appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, and, after her confirmation by the Senate, she was sworn in on September 25, 1981, becoming the first woman U.S. Supreme Court justice. O'Connor was a moderate conservative who sometimes sided with the Court's liberal minority on social issues. She became known for her meticulously researched opinions on the bench.


Eva Peron, Argentinas First Lady and Crusader for the Poor, 1919-1952
Evita grew up poor and got the urge to be an actress and ran away to Buenos Aires at the age of 15. To survive in Buenos Aires, Evita (as she is now known) worked doing small acting and radio parts, among other jobs. In 1944 at a fund-raiser for the victims of an earthquake, Evita met Colonel Juan Domingo Peron, a strong man in the military government, and became his mistress. Peron and Evita eventually married. In June 1946, after a turbulent campaign, Juan Peron was declared president of Argentina and Evita became first lady. Eva worked sixteen hour days running a society to right the wrongs of what she saw as Argentina's unequal society. She oversaw 12 hospital openings, a thousand new schools, medical centers, clinics, homes for the aged and more. Evita's passion to help the poor and working class made her a saint to these classes and an enemy to the wealthy. Evita died in 1952 at the age of 33 from uterine cancer. She had managed to become the most powerful woman in Argentina, despite being the illegitimate daughter of a poor servant and moderately wealthy land owner. She was adored by millions for her important role in Argentina's healing and personally saw and spoke with (as well as answered) 10,000 letters a day. 'I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.'
'I have one thing that counts, and that is my heart; it burns in my soul, it aches in my flesh, and it ignites my nerves: that is my love for the people and Peron.' - Evita Peron


Rosa Parks, United States Civil Rights Activist, 1913 - 2005
In 1955 Rosa Parks made history by refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The association called for a boycott of the Montgomery city-owned bus company which lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks and Dr. King, and their cause, to the attention of the world. A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation. Rosa's refusal to move further back on the bus in order to accommodate white riders helped start not only the Montgomery bus boycott, but the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. She has since been a strong advocate for human rights issues. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first civilian to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. 'My only concern was to get home after a hard day's work.' (Comment upon being asked why she refused to give up her seat) "I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don't think there is anything such as complete happiness. It pains me that there is still a lot of Klan activity and racism.' - Rosa Parks.


Janet Reno, United States Attorney General, 1938 -
Janet was born in Miami, Florida, and educated at Cornell University and Harvard Law School. After graduating from Harvard in 1963 she practiced law in Miami with several firms. In 1978, Reno was appointed Miami's state attorney, a post to which she was reelected five times. She developed a reputation as a staunch protector of defendant's rights and a tough enforcer of child-support laws. In 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed Reno U.S. attorney general, she vowed to use her new position to defend abortion rights. Her early days in office were occupied with the infamous standoff near Waco, Texas, between Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and members of the Branch Davidian religious cult.


Condoleezza Rice, United States National Security Advisor, 1954-
Condoleezza was born in 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver in 1974; her master's from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995, Mississippi College School of Law in 2003, and the University of Louisville and Michigan State University in 2004. In 1999 she completed a six year tenure as Stanford University 's Provost, during which she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer. Condoleezzaa was responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget and the academic program involving 1,400 faculty members. At Stanford, she has been a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. Her books include The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984). From 1989 through March 1991, Condoleeza served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997, she served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender -- Integrated Training in the Military. Dr. Condoleezza Rice became the Assistant to President Bush for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor in 2001.


Eleanor Roosevelt, United States First Lady, 1884-1962
One of the most controversial first ladies of our time, Eleanor Roosevelt was a driven, independent thinker. Through her position and helped by her powerful husband, Franklin Roosevelt, she worked to make the New Deal. Eleanor's discovery of Franklin's affair with her social secretary, Lucy Page Mercer, in 1918 was a turning point in their marriage. Although the affair ended and the Roosevelts reconciled, Eleanor resolved to have a career of her own. She became involved in the League of Women Voters and the Women's Trade Union League. In 1921 Eleanor began to work politically on behalf of Franklin, who had been stricken with poliomyelitis after his unsuccessful bid for the vice presidency in 1920. She became active in Democratic party politics as a means of keeping her handicapped husband's political career alive. When he was elected to the presidency in 1932, Eleanor continued to assist him, and although she held no office, she soon became an influential figure in his administration. Eleanor, who was known to be more liberal than the president, worked to promote racial equality, and in a famous incident, resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when the black singer Marian Anderson was denied the use of their facilities. Eleanor was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations from 1945 to 1953 and she chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a leader of human rights, she strove to further women's causes, as well as the causes of black, poor and unemployed people. 'Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.' - Eleanor Roosevelt


Sammuramat, Assyrian Queen, 9th Century B.C.
Sammuramat has been the subject of many myths about her reign as both the wife of and mother of kings. Legend has it that she accompanied her husband into battle. She is historically credited with re-building Babylon and with the conquest of neighboring states; including the defeat of the Indian army at the Indus River. It has been written that when she returned from that battle, she turned over her power to her son, Ninyas; who then had her killed. (How's that for gratitude?) She was 62 years old and had ruled her kingdom alone successfully for decades.


Margaret Sanger, United States Activist,1879-1966
In 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic. Motivated by the deaths of young mothers from self-induced abortions and pregnancy complications, Sanger pioneered birth control for women. She faced fierce opposition and even personal harm, yet she stood her ground. Sanger also started the organization that became the future Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 'The movement she started will grow to be, a hundred years from now, the most influential of all time," predicted futurist and historian H.G. Wells in 1931. "When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history, and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine."


Margaret Chase Smith, US Congresswoman, 1897-1995
Chase Smith became a U.S. senator, going against a general trend at that time toward fewer women in positions of political power. During her eight years in the House of Representatives, Smith served on the Naval Affairs Committee and later on the Armed Services Committee and concerned herself particularly with the status of women in the armed forces. She played a major role in the passage of the Women's Armed Services Act, which gave women equal pay, rank, and privileges. In 1948 she ran successfully for a seat in the Senate, winning it by a record plurality in Maine and becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. Among the many honors Smith received were several citations as woman of the year, the Newsweek magazine press poll rating as Most Valuable Senator for 1960, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989. 'When people keep telling you that you can't do a thing, you kind of like to try it.' - Margaret Chase Smith


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abolitionist, 1815-1902
When Elizabeth Cady married abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840, she'd already observed enough about the legal relationships between men and women to insist that the word obey be dropped from the ceremony. While Stanton is best known for her long contribution to the woman suffrage struggle, she was also active and effective in winning property rights for married women, equal guardianship of children, and liberalized divorce laws so that women could leave marriages that were often abusive of the wife, the children, and the economic health of the family. Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in New York on October 26, 1902, with nearly 20 years to go before the United States granted women the right to vote. The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life he can not bear her burdens. - Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Gloria Steinem, U.S. feminist, journalist and co-founder of Ms. Magazine, 1934-
Gloria Steinem was born in Ohio on March 25, 1934. In 1944, when she was just 10, her father left the family home and Gloria began caring for her emotionally disturbed mother, attending school on an infrequent basis. In 1951 Gloria moved to Washington, D.C. to live with her sister, completed high school, enrolled in Smith College the following year and began writing political articles. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College and accepted a two-year fellowship to study in India, writing a guidebook for the Indian government. By 1960 Gloria decided to move to New York City to embark on a journalism career and published her n first major article entitled "The Moral Disarmament of Betty Co-ed." She co-founded New York Magazine in 1968 and shortly thereafter, wrote her first feminist article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation." From 1969 to1974, Gloria lectured on feminism throughout the United States and was awarded the Penney-Missouri Journalism Award for "After Black Power, Women's Liberation." Gloria helped develop Ms. Magazine in 1971, the National Women's Political Caucus, and the Women's Action Alliance. In 1983, she published Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, a collection of essays and articles. She continues to write, lecture and tour. 'Women have gotten where we are today mainly through individual women telling the truth.' - Gloria Steinem


Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England, 1925 '
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the first woman to be elected as Prime Minister of England. Known for her conservative views, Margaret Thatcher was also the first British prime minister to win three consecutive terms in the 20th century. A lawyer, Margaret first entered Parliament in 1959, serving in a variety of ministerial positions. In 1974 she was elected leader of the Conservative Party, and brought her party to victory in 1979. Promoting conservative ideals based on free enterprise, she advocated public spending cuts, limited money supply, and raised interest rates. Her privatization programs led to union opposition, labor unrest, and high unemployment rates in England. She earned the nickname "The Iron Lady" because of her hard line against the USSR over their invasion of Afghanistan. When Argentina challenged Britain's right to the Falkland Islands, she went to war, which cemented her nickname. In 1990, she resigned as prime minister, although she remained in Parliament until 1992.


Harriet Tubman, Rebel, Spy, Activist, 1820'1913
Harriet Tubman was born a slave and she was routinely beaten by her masters. When she was 15 years old, Harriet tried to help a runaway slave. The overseer hit her in the head with a lead weight, which put Harriet in a coma. It took months for her to recover, and for the rest of her life, Harriet suffered from blackouts. By the way, Harriet was only five feet tall. In 1849, Harriet escaped from slavery. She eventually became a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad ' a system developed by a secret group of free blacks and sympathetic whites to help runaway slaves get to free northern states. Harriet Tubman led more than 300 slaves to freedom.


Tzu-hsi, Empress of China, 1835-1908
Tzu-hsi was a low-ranking concubine of the Emperor Hs'en Feng. However, when she bore his only son, she experienced a dramatic rise in status. After the Emperor's death and her son's succession, every decree had to be approved by her. She became heavily involved in state affairs and refused to give up her ruling even when her son came of age. She used state funds to build herself a palace, which some resented, particularly after the Chinese were defeated by the Japanese in the 1890s. In 1898 the new emperor instituted radical proposals to stop China's corruption, and Tz'u Hsi didn't like them. Therefore, she confined him in the palace and took the power of the regency again. In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion occurred and she was forced to flee Peking for her life and to accept the peace agreement's terms. A few years later, she reverted in her thoughts and decided to finally eliminate China's corruption as best she could. Tz'u Hsi died in Peking, China, on November 15, 1908, the day after the real emperor died.


Victoria, Queen of England,1819-1901
Victoria became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland in 1837 at the mere age of 18. She grew to be only five feet tall. In 1840 the Queen married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They happily raised nine children, who became important figures in the major monarchial states of the 20th Century. After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, she went into a period of deep depression, dropping out of public view for a few years in her beloved estate on the Isle of Wight. Eventually Victoria became one of Great Britain's most popular and prominent rulers. Victoria's reign was the longest in English history and witnessed an evolution in English politics and the expansion of the British Empire, as well as political and social reform. She fostered a long and successful alliance with India. Nick-named the Victorian age, it was a time when Britain was at the peak of its power. Queen Victoria died of natural causes in 1901. 'I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all.' - Queen Victoria

* All information regarding WomanSavers Women Who Changed History was researched and written by http://www.WomanSavers.com for the purpose to educate regarding women who made history in our world. This page of historical women's biographies is the property of http:// www.WomanSavers.com. All rights reserved. No reprinting or copying of the women's historical biographies is allowed without permission from Stephany Alexander, http://www.WomanSavers.com. All photographs used are for educational purposes only and are owned by the original authors.





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