Women are missing from history books not because they haven’t contributed to society- but because men wrote them. Women have been the true inventors of essential creations that men have taken credit for. They have made it to far away continents before men from their region had- all to have the men take the credit. They have died for the common good just as men have, but unlike the men, they aren’t lauded in classrooms. Few know their names.
While there are many women that we should all celebrate, here are seven women from history more people should know about:
1. Noor Khan
A special operations agent, radio operations specialist for the air force, and resistance agent in World War II in France, this woman courageously stood up to the Nazi regime. She had protected people her entire life, having looked after her grieving mother and siblings when her father died when she was 13 years old. She studied child psychology at the Sorbonne, and was a published poet and children’s book writer. She was a pacifist before the war began, but after seeing the brutal ways in which the Nazis were harming others, she decided to fight. Her job was the most dangerous: to tap into the Nazi communication systems, steal information from them, and keep them from capturing more people. She was the first female from the U.K. to be sent to help the French Resistance. When things got especially dangerous, she was given permission to go home, but she refused. She chose to stay and help those there fight the oppression and violence taking place. She ended up being betrayed, tortured, and sent to a concentration camp after refusing to give up information. She was executed there. Noor was posthumously awarded the George Cross (the highest award a civilian could earn in the U.K.), and remains a hero to this day. It’s a tragedy that more don’t know her name.
Freydís was a Norse Viking woman who reached the American continent before Columbus or any other European ever did. She was the daughter of Erik the Red. Her brother Leif is often credited with having “discovered” the continent first, but it was actually Freydís who got there first according to the sources closest to the time. The writings indicate that she was tough and extremely well respected and brave. She sailed from the Viking colony of her father in Greenland to southern Canada, and lived there for a time peacefully. Eventually, she turned back when the men she brought with her couldn’t get along. She was a fearless explorer, and despite her erasure from our history books, should be listed above the names of her father and brother.
This incredible woman was a pacifist, suffragist, artist, and birth control advocate. She fought for years to have birth control seen as a human right, and to have it accessible to everyone—even without doctors’ prescription. In 1915 she founded the National Birth Control League, the first birth control organization in the country. It was in this capacity that she worked tirelessly to educate people about reproductive rights, safe sex, and contraceptives. She was a visionary of her time, and it’s a shame that her name isn’t a household staple.
Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, a teenager on her way home from school did the same thing. Claudette was arrested in Montgomery for violating the racist segregation laws. She was given probation after she pled not guilty, and later went on to further change history. She was one of the four plaintiffs involved in the Browder v. Gayle case, which proved that segregation was unconstitutional. She fought tirelessly for human rights, anti-racism, and peace.
Claudia immigrated from Trinidad to Harlem in the 1920s, and was a radical believer in communism. She wrote about the intersectionality of race, gender, and social standing, which earned her fame in her day. This was a brand new idea for the time, especially in the United States, but she was such a talented writer that her arguments resounded deeply within people. Her articles were published and received critical acclaim. However, few today know that she forged the way of intersectionality, a topic that is in renaissance right now.
Many know of Paul Revere, but in 1777 Sybil rode more than twice the distance that he did, and at only half his age. Her name has disappeared from our history books, but if Revere is to be honored, Sybil should be honored even more so. A messenger arrived at her family’s home one evening, warning of a violent attack coming from the British. He was too exhausted to ride the rest of the 40 miles however, so the 16-year-old told him to rest there while she took over and rode through the night. Her bravery warned many of the coming attack, and it is said that her deed saved so many lives that General Washington later visited her to thank her personally.
7. Hedy Lamarr
While her name hasn’t been erased from history, her role as an inventor was ignored even in her day. Lamarr wasn’t just a stunning actress—she was a brilliant inventor as well. She created the technology behind what we know today as Wifi and Bluetooth in the effort to fight the Nazis in World War II. However, her genius invention was ignored and it was never utilized during the war. It wasn’t until years later that her work was recognized as world-changing. To this day, people still associate her with her beauty—few realizing that they owe so much of modern life to her.
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