Monday, May 16, 2022

Women’s History Month: 10 Historical Women You Should Know About, But Don’t

By: Skylar Secord/Content Editor

  1. Ka’iulani (1875–1899): She was the last crown princess of Hawaii and today is known as the would-be queen.  When she was young, she was sent away to England to study.  Sadly, this took place right around the time the US was attempting to annex Hawaii.  She returned to her island nation to try to prevent the annexation, and even though US President Grover Cleveland thought she was highly intellectual and made good points as to why the annexation should not follow through, they did so anyway.
  2. Agent 355 (Unknown–1780): America’s first female undercover intelligence agent, she was a top agent during the American Revolution.  She was heavily involved in the Culper Ring and supplied information about the British to George Washington and other rebel leaders during the Revolution.
  3. Ching Shih (1775–1844): She was a prostitute that became one of the most powerful pirate lords in the world.  She turned to pirating in 1801, and her fleet eventually grew to about 70,000 pirates and over 600 ships.
  4. Nancy Wake (1912–2011): This New Zealand-born WWII spy spent most of her life in France and England.  She was top of the Gestapo List for a very long time, and once rode a motorcycle for about 72 hours through a bunch of Nazi check stops—and all of the dudes thought it was all good because she was a woman and totally couldn’t be a spy for the Allied Powers.  A lot of people don’t know about her, but she supplied a lot of super-important information that led to the fall of the Third Reich.
  5. Sappho (615 BC–580 BC): Her life is mostly speculation and mystery, but we do know that she wrote some bomb poetry in Ancient Greece and that she was super into Aphrodite and Eros.  Today, she is associated with romantic poetry and is still used as a pillar of poetic meter.  She’s known as one of the best lyric poets of all time, and many of her poems were actually made to be sung with a lyre.
  6. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973): The inventor of rock & roll and one great singer and guitar player, Tharpe was really neat-o.  She found music through gospel at her church, and began taking guitar lessons from a young age, quickly becoming a music prodigy.  She began to travel and sing and was regularly billed as “a singing and playing miracle”.  Tharpe was a pioneer in her own guitar-playing technique that later inspired Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry.
  7. Jeannette Rankin (1880–1973): One of the most interesting things about Jeannette is how she achieved her career.  She was elected to Congress before women could vote nationwide.
  8. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653): This neat gal was an Italian Baroque painter who is now considered the most accomplished and talented of her generation.  Even if you’re not familiar with her name, I’m sure that you’ve seen one or two of her paintings before.  She often depicted new versions of Biblical and folklore-related stories in her paintings.  Current art historians often praise her tendency to paint women in situations that make them seem inelegant and more realistic.  This is in stark contrast to many painters of the time who would often paint women as dainty.  She died while middle-aged, but was still pretty rad in the time that she was alive.
  9. Irena Sendler (1910–2008): In terms of coolness, Sendler may take the cake.  She worked in the Warsaw Ghetto as a social worker and would frequently smuggle children out in a tool bag she carried with her.  While she was smuggling children, she left her dog outside in her truck, and he would bark when a Nazi soldier was nearby.  She managed to smuggle over 2,500 children out of the ghetto and to safety whether in America or somewhere else in Europe.
  10. Billie Jean King (1943-): Okay, well she’s the only one still living and she’s pretty darn coolio as well.  Billie Jean King was formerly the world’s number one tennis player.  Over her strong career she won 39 Grand Slam titles, formed the Women’s Tennis Association, famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes”, and also happened to be one of the first openly gay athletic icons.

Kimberly Davenport
Kimberly Davenport grew up in Montrose, Pennsylvania. She currently teaches English and digital journalism at Blue Ridge High School, and is the adviser for the school's online newspaper, the Raider Reader. Kimberly loves traveling, spending time with her family (especially her grandchildren), and can often be found reading a good book.


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