Sunday, June 17, 2012

5 Pioneering Women Who Helped Shape the Modern World

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dbking

There are hundreds of women who, down through history, have shaped our world as it is today. To select only five of them is an awesome task. Most stories include another person who was instrumental in helping and developing the talents latent in each pioneering woman. The following are only five chosen from that great list.

Jane Addams
Born in Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860, Jane became an outstanding example of compassion for the poor, for the black community, for immigrants and for laboring people. Influenced by a settlement house in the depths of London she, with Ellen Starr, founded the Hull House in Chicago to give medical care and other services to needy people.

She supported better working conditions for women and children. She was a charter member of the NAACP, the ACLU and the Women’s Peace Party before her death in 1935.

Susan B. Anthony
Born in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, Susan dedicated her life to obtaining voting rights for women. Her Quaker upbringing was responsible for early training in equality for women. She and her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were successful in organizing the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1869.

She authored the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. She was active in founding the International Council of Women and the International Woman Suffrage Council. After her death, in 1906, she was commemorated by a U.S. coin.

Mary Ann Todd Lincoln
Mary was born in December, 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky. Many families during that period were not interested in educating their female children, but Mary’s parents strongly believed in a good education for Mary. She met Abraham Lincoln and, by November of 1842, married him.

Mary’s influence in Abraham Lincoln’s political career and her faith in him was instrumental in getting him elected to the presidency of the U.S. in 1860. During the Civil War, the south saw Mary as a traitor and the north as a spy. When Abraham was assassinated in 1865, after being re-elected to the presidency, Mary’s health began to deteriorate and she never fully recovered. She died in July of 1882.

Marie Curie
Marie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867, an era when women in science were rare. Through a succession of positions, Marie joined a laboratory in Paris where she met Pierre Curie. Together they discovered the element Polonium and later Radium. In 1903, she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The first woman to head a laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris, she also became the first person to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, this one in Chemistry. After dying in July of 1934, she was commemorated by a movie, stamps, coins and her ashes buried in the Pantheon in Paris.

Helen Keller
Helen’s story cannot be told without including Joanna Macy, nee Sullivan. Helen was born in June of 1880 in Alabama. At the age of 19 months, she had a fever that left her deaf and blind. At five, her behavior led to the hiring of Joanna (Anne) Sullivan as a tutor. Her family could not know what an influence Anne would make on Helen’s life. Herself blind from an illness when she was young, she helped Helen learn and obtain an extensive education. Helen eventually graduated from Radcliffe College and wrote “The Story of My Life” that is her own autobiography.

Her influence did not end with her death in 1968. The Helen Keller International, an organization for blind, was organized in her honor.

Milly Crawford is an ER nurse and guest author at, a site with guides and information to assist potential nursing students.

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