Kickass Women You’ve Never Heard Of

Name something that a woman invented. You have five seconds. Go!

Stumped? Don’t be surprised. With the persistent erasure of women’s lives and achievements in mainstream education, most people would be hard-pressed to remember something incredible that a woman did before 1980. In case anyone ever asks you the above question, here is a small sample of things invented by women: correction fluid, dishwashers, chocolate-chip cookies, brown paper bags, windshield wipers, the world’s first computer programming language, and Kevlar.

Amazing women have lived behind the scenes of history for millennia — inventing things, making discoveries, starting revolutions and shaping the world. The few women that we do hear about almost always are spoken about only as companions to famous men — Cleopatra had Marc Antony, Marie Curie had Pierre, Eleanor Roosevelt had Franklin, and so on. It seems like a woman could only be great if her husband was great, but don’t be fooled.

Every week, this blog will be showcasing kickass women you’ve never heard of. From discovering the structure of DNA to striking out Babe Ruth to saving thousands of children from the Warsaw Ghetto, women have been kicking ass and taking names without recognition throughout history. With the exception of some token figures, women have been left out of our collective body of general knowledge. You know about Joan of Arc, Abigail Adams, and Rosa Parks, but what can you tell me about Corazon Aquino? How about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Can you name any of the women whose accomplishments I’ve listed here? It’s time for a refresher course.

In the coming weeks, this blog will be featuring women from many fields and many time periods. Since most of the women who do manage to make it into the history books are white and usually American, we’ll make a special effort to feature incredible women of color. Remember, we’ve all felt the effects of female erasure — so if you know of a wonderful woman that we’re leaving out, leave a comment about her and we might feature her later. Next week, prepare to meet Rosalind Franklin.

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