From Politics to Literature, countless women have battled through adversity in times of trauma and prejudice to change the world they lived in. Shaping a better world for women today and future generations, we take a look at some of the most inspiring and empowering women in history.
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was an American author and Anthologist. Her writing chronicled life in the American South, particularly the racial and gender struggles she witnessed and experienced in the first half of the 20th century. As an anthropologist, Hurston made key contributions to the study of North American folklore and ritual activity in the Caribbean.
Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) was adapted into a film in 2005 by Harpo Films.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist whose striking distinctive work combines an exploration of gender, class and identity with symbols from the nation’s cultural history.
In 2002, Lionsgate Films adapted the professional and private life into a biopic film starring Salma Hayek.
Marie Curie was a Nobel-prize winning Polish-born and French-naturalised scientist. together with her husband, she was awarded half of the Nobel prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into the spontaneous radio discovered by Henri Becquerel, who has awarded the other half of the prize. In 1911, she received a second noble prize, this time in Chemistry, in recognition of her work in radioactivity. her discovery of radium has since been used to create radiotherapy, one of the most popular treatments against cancer.
In 2019, Marie Curie’s life was depicted in Radioactive, a biographical drama film starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie.
The founder and namesake of the Chanel brand, Coco Chanel was credited in the post-World War I era with popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style, replacing the “corseted silhouette” from before the war. Learning to sew at Aubazine, a convent and orphanage, she opened her first boutique in 1910, when she became a licenced milliner. In 1913, Chanel opened a boutique in Deauville where she introduced deluxe casual clothing suitable for leisure and sport. By 1919, Chanel was registered as a couturiere and established her Maison de Couture at 31 rue Cambon, Paris. She led the way in luxury fashion and invented the famous “little black dress”. Today the House of Chanel sells clothes, watches, handbags and perfumes, including the ever-popular Chanel No 5.
Coco Chanel’s life story is depicted in the 2009 film, Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou.
Margaret Thatcher changed the face of modern British politics. In 1979, she became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1979 became the first female British Prime Minister. Her views earned her the nickname “The Iron Lady” and was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister of the 20th century.
The Iron Lady (2011) depicts Thatcher’s life and career, starring Meryl Streep.
Jane Austen was an English novelist who wrote 6 novels revealing life in the late 18th century. Her works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her the place as one of the most widely read writers in English Literature. Her books including Pride and Prejudice and Emma have adapted into stage plays, tv-series and films, despite publishing her work anonymously during her short lifetime. Over 200 years since her death, her face is now on the £10 note.
Becoming Jane (2007) tells the story of Jane Austen’s life, refusing to marry purely for money and embarking on her writing career.
Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong, born Wong Lui Tsong, was a Chinese American actress, considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition. Her career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage and radio.
One of her most famous roles was a silent film, The Toll of the Sea (1924).
Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who lived in India for most of her life. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity which attracted many sisters who took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and free service. The work that the order undertook, in over 130 countries included homes for people who were dying, soup kitchens, orphanages and schools.
Mother Teresa’s work has been recognised in the 1984 documentary narrated by Richard Attenborough. The documentary focuses on the seemingly tireless Mother Teresa as she cares for the unfortunate with unshakable faith and passion while constantly promoting a message of peace.
Madam CJ Walker
Sarah Breedlove, known professionally as Madam C. J. Walker was the first self-made female millionaire in America by developing a line of beauty and hair products for African Americans. She launched her line after suffering from scalp ailment, resulting in her own hair loss. She promoted her products by travelling around the country giving lecture-demonstrations and eventually established Madame C. J. Walker Laboratories to manufacture cosmetics and train sales beauticians.
Walker’s life was told in Self Made, a fictional depiction of her professional and personal life during the late 19th century.
Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer. She began flying in 1921 and broke the women’s altitude record the following year when she rose to 14,000 feet. In 1932, Earhart made history when she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and continued to break speed and flying records over the next five years.
Amelia Earhart’s life was adapted into Amelia (2009), a biopic film starring Hilary Swank.
Tu Youyou is a Pharmaceutical Chemist and Malariologist whose scientific discovery has saved millions of lives globally. As part of the programme to find a treatment for malaria during the Vietnam War, Youyou discovered Artemisinin and Dihydroartemisinic, which has been used to treat malaria in South China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. She was inspired by an ancient Chinese text stating sweet wormwood was used to tackle intermittent fevers around 400 AD (a hallmark of malaria). She discovered the herb featured Artemisinin, effective treatment for the infection. After volunteering as the first human recipient, Youyou received the 2011 Lasker Award, in clinical medicine and the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with William C Campbell and Satoshi Omura. She is the first Chinese Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine and the first female citizen of the People’s Republic of China to receive a Nobel Prize in any category.
Shop for your Film Night…
Women’s History Month is the perfect time to step back from 2021 and see what these remarkable women achieved under trying circumstances.
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Which women in history inspire you? Leave us a message below and let us know who you’re celebrating during Women’s History Month. Whether it’s a biopic film, documentary or sci-fi tv show we want to know all about your Majority experience. Tag us on social media with @majorityaudio #majorityaudio #carbonneutralaudio #womenshistorymonth