Amazing Women You May Not Know About, Part III

Learn about some of the most influential women who changed the world.It’s Women’s History Month! In celebration of the strength of women worldwide, we’re shining light on important women from history you may not have learned about in school.

We’ve already posted Amazing Women You May Not Know About, Part I and Amazing Women You May Not Know About, Part II, so if you haven’t read them, go check them out!

Now, it’s time to meet some amazing women who have influenced society, science and our daily lives:

Amazing women in history

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Who is she?
Famous for her discovery of polonium and radium, Marie Sklodowska Curie was a Polish-French scientist who conducted the pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and the only person to ever win in two different sciences.

Marie and her sister supported each other in their studies, which were conducted in a secret, underground Warsaw university that admitted women. After she received a couple of degrees, she started her research and met Pierre Curie.

The two of them were dedicated to both science and each other. She had two daughters but continued her research, which led to the birth of the study of atomic physics and radioactivity. She became the first female faculty member at the University of Paris.

Related: Do you know these three influential women?

She spent the war years operating mobile x-ray units, helping upwards of 1,000 soldiers. She was the first to suggest that radium could be used to treat cancers.

Curie refused to patent the radium-isolation process so that the scientific community could continue research unhindered.

“Nothing in this world is to be feared… only understood.”

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Learn more about her:
Marie Curie: A Life by Françoise Giroud
Madame Curie: A Biography. by Eve Curie

How we can be like her:
You don’t have to have a propensity for scientific investigation to move the world forward. At the personal level, Marie allowed herself to become captivated by something that intrigued her. She pursued it and did so in such a way that it helped many others. We can seek to understand more than we do now, individually. Then we can share what has helped us become more understanding and less fearful.

Fun Fact:
Albert Einstein supposedly said that Madame Curie was possibly the only person whom fame could not corrupt.

Indra Devi Reuters

Indra Devi (1899-2002)

Who is she?
Credited with bringing yoga to the Western hemisphere, Indra Devi (Eugenie Peterson) was born in Latvia to Swedish and Russian parents. She was the first female yogi.

Eugenie moved to India in her late 20s after reading extensively about yogi culture and Indian philosophy. She starred in Indian films as an actress and dancer under the stage name Indra Devi and adopted the life of a colonial socialite.

Related: Kid Power at Women’s Marches

When she developed chest pains, she spent four years undergoing unsuccessful treatments, and then turned to yoga. The yoga school initially refused to let her in because she was a woman, but eventually she joined and took on the long hours of practice, strict discipline and diet restrictions required. Her heart ailment was completely cured and the master was so impressed with her, he took her on as a private student.

She went on to open yoga schools all over the world including China, India, Mexico, and the United States. She wrote numerous books on the subject and traveled almost until her death, teaching and lecturing on yoga in many languages.

“He could work miracles, such as stop his heart and turn the lights on and off at a distance. But he could not get rid of me.” (Referring the the guru who initially rejected her application because she was female.)

“Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.”

Learn more about her:
The Goddess Pose by Michelle Goldberg

How we can be like her:
Indra accomplished all of this beginning with a whim. She took a trip to India because she was curious about books she had read. If you feel called to something or someplace, do not ignore it.

Do some yoga today! Take a moment out to really listen to your body and just sit with yourself and your body where you are. Practice living in the moment.

Amazing women in history

Frances Perkins (1880-1965)

Who is she?
As the fourth and longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Labor, Perkins established social security, unemployment benefits, welfare, minimum wage and overtime laws. A leading architect of the New Deal, she was at the forefront of creating the modern middle class.

In 1910, after studying economics and sociology, she became the head of the New York Consumers league and began her lifelong career devoted to worker’s rights. After witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, she expanded factory investigations, reduced the work week for women, and worked toward minimum wage laws.

In 1933, Roosevelt appointed her as Secretary of Labor — the first woman to hold a cabinet position. While in the position, she created the Civilian Conservation Corps and was heavily involved in implementation of the New Deal.

She is credited for the adoption of social security, pensions, unemployment insurance, laws regulating child labor, and the federal minimum wage.

“I promise to use what brains I have to meet problems with intelligence and courage.”
“I had to do something about unnecessary hazards to life, unnecessary poverty. It was sort of up to me.”

Learn more about her:
The Frances Perkins Center
The Woman Behind the New Deal by Kirstin Downey
Has Anything Changed for Female Politicians?

How we can be like her:
Perkins saw a need and filled it. She knew things needed to change and felt called to change them. Part of her ability to affect change came from her education and her connections. It’s never a waste to pursue education or connections. The world needs you to know the things you are called to know, and getting to know people in need and people in power can help you use what you know.

Amazing women in history

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Who is she?
An American marine biologist, Carson brought environmental concerns to the forefront of popular concern through her books. The grassroots movements she inspired led to the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As an aquatic biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson conducted research and wrote about natural and environmental issues. Her first book, The Sea Around Us, is a life history of the ocean. It spent 86 weeks on the NYT Best Seller List.

Later on, she turned to research and writing about the effects that human civilization have on the environment and natural world. Her book on the subject, Silent Spring, accused chemical industries of hiding the damaging effects of their products, notably pesticides such as DDT.

Although fiercely opposed by the chemical companies, her book led to a nationwide ban on DDT, a reversal of pesticide policy, and a movement that created the EPA. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Learn more about her:
Silent SpringThe Sea Around Us, both by Rachel Carson
Courage for the Earth by Peter Matthiessen

How we can be like her:
We can consider the effects of our actions on our inner environment, our home environment, and our natural environment. We can choose what we do and what we use and buy more carefully, considering the consequences. We can read and support research that helps us understand our effect on the environment.

We can also open our eyes. “One way to open your eyes,” Carson said, “is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”

Photo credits: Wikimedia commons. Wikimedia commons. Wikimedia commons.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *