Information, Timeline, List, Resources and Articles About Famous Women In History
Women’s History is more than just a celebration in the month of March. It’s more than a handful of offerings on college campuses from the Women’s Studies department. And it’s definitely more than the checkmarks in the not-bad-for-a-girl column.
Contributing writer Tracey McCormick takes a snapshot of Women’s History, offering her take on why it is important and what we – women and men – can learn from it. Read her introduction to Women’s History, then follow more stories featuring women throughout history below.
Introduction to women’s history
List of famous women from history
Featured article: Heroines of Women’s History
Women’s history resources
Women’s history suggested reading
Articles featuring famous women in history
Introduction To Women’s History: Beyond Famous Names
Women’s History is more than the sum of its outstanding players: Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, et al. These women enjoy a firm place in society’s collective consciousness. As cultural icons, they represent firsts or standouts.
But like other subsets of history, Women’s History is more than just a loose collection of headlines about the intermittent monarch, the suffrage movement, the occasional outstanding writer, the trailblazing aviatrix, the pious religious figure, the angry form of feminism that led women to set their underthings ablaze.
In those headlines we do find extraordinary people who just happen to be women, and these models of the extraordinary serve as inspiration for current and future generations—for both women and men. A few notables: Lady of the House Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin, who was elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote; the African-American contralto Marian Anderson, whose fans included Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower even though she was often not allowed to sing for white audiences; Corazon Aquino, the president of the Philippines who survived six coup attempts and almost made us forget Imelda Marcos’ shoe addiction; and Coco Chanel, the once-impoverished child of France, whose little black dress endures and whose legacy is bottled in pretty, one-ounce containers.
These woman and others like them did not just prevail, they excelled when personal, economic, political, and racial obstacles threatened. If you’ll stroll down Cliché Lane for a bit, the cards were stacked against these women, but they bet the farm and won. Everyone can relate to that—and to their stories.
Their stories are full of adventure, romance, loss, and triumph. Witness Heloise writing letters from a medieval convent to the castrated father of her child in 12th century France. Marvel at Isabelle Eberhardt’s stark detailing of her solo Saharan explorations in the early 1900s. Clap along to Babe Didrikson collecting two gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Olympics before swinging her way to victory in the LPGA. It’s not an accident that five-sevenths of the word “history” is “story,” or that both words derive from the same Latin root word.
But apart from the occasional matriarchal monarch or martyr or missing aviatrix, the history of women is often a secondary history of serving tea at document-signings, caring for men wounded in battle, and standing off to the side at men’s election victories. But in the tea-serving and the wounded-tending, in the shadows of the spotlight lie the stories that we mere humans of both genders can most easily relate to.
While we can certainly agree that specific documents and battles and elections do alter the course of history, we the pedestrians are rarely the stars of these monumental events. We are the extras in a cast of thousands, more footnotes than headlines, to mix metaphors.
In that sense, the majority of women’s history is closer to us, male and female, than any other kind of history. Let’s face it, as amazing as we humans think we are, the truth is we’re more apt to serve tea than sign treaties. Women’s history, like other subsets of history (ethnic history, art history, social history, cultural history, archeology, etc.) is mostly about the other 99.9% of things that are going on outside of the treaties, battles, and elections. By studying these subsets, we benefit from a richer perspective on what is generally considered regular history.
Case in point: Judith Bennett’s book, A Medieval Life: Cecelia Penifader of Brigstock, c.1295–1344, illustrates the life of one of the 99.9% and presents women’s history as everyperson’s history. Bennett, a medieval historian, draws upon court rolls and manorial documents to piece together a picture of a peasant’s life in early 14th century England. This peasant just happens to be a woman. From Bennett’s book we learn about aggressive farming techniques, the Black Death, medieval communities, the labor market, and how the court system worked.
We also learn about history on the micro level, with Cecelia as the representative peasant. She owned land, attended church, served as head of her household, and bought and sold goods and land. Cecelia’s history turns into a woman’s history only when we realize she never married. Because of her spinster status, Cecelia was the sole owner of her land, could will it to whomever she wanted, and made business decisions regarding her property and her farm without having to consult anyone or worrying about heirs—all radical but historically accurate concepts. And all about girl power, however unintentional.
Other radical but historically accurate concepts include girls receiving education, women earning the right to vote and own property, women playing sports, women serving as heads of state, women making important scientific discoveries, women taking to the skies, and eventually, women outnumbering men in college. Radical concepts inspired by radical women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Benazir Bhutto, Madame Curie, and Beryl Markham should be celebrated because they were firsts or were important to society or both. They should be recognized not just within the sub-category of women’s history but as part of all of history, threads that altered the pattern of history for everyone.
By studying the Cecelia Penifaders, we can glean more about what life was like for the common folk in any historical period. Let’s face it, unless you’re Bill Gates or Barack Obama or even Hilary Clinton, you are the common folk of the early 21st century. You are Cecelia Penifader, 700 years later.
History, good history, the kind with gripping stories and messy morals and surprising twists, is more than just a highlight reel with pink (or blue) graphics. History is also the rest of the movie, and of course, the credits.
Womens History Month
The UK, Canada, US and Australia celebrate Women’s History every March. The month is used to reflect on the many different roles women have taken throughout history. It began under Jimmy Carter as Women’s History Week and later expanded to the entire month. Read more about Womens History Month.
Famous Women In Modern History
Joan Of Arc: Joan of Arc has become a world famous icon from 1412 France. While living she was instrumental in the Hundred Years War and after she passed she became a Saint in 1920. Read more about Joan Of Arc.
Queen Isabella: Queen Isabella and her husband, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, unified Spain through their joint rule of Castile and Aragon. Together, they brought many improvements to Spain, including reducing crime and debt. Read more about Queen Isabella.
Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) Queen of England. Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudor monarchs. Despite a tumultuous rise to the throne, she reined England with considerable diplomacy and brought a period of peace and enlightenment to England. Read more about Queen Elizabeth I
Pocahontas (1595 – 1617) Native American. Pocahontas was a Native American princess of the Powhatan tribe. She is believed to have saved the life of the leader of the Jamestown colony, Captain John Smith. This act and her marriage to a Jamestown colonist helped establish peace between the Natives and the colonists, aiding in the survival of the colony. Read more about Pocahontas
Queen Anne: Queen Anne (1665-1714) was the last Stuart Monarch of Britain. Read more about Queen Anne
Catherine The Great: Catherine the Great was the Empress of Russia, and during her reign, she expanded Russian boundaries considerably and promoted education and Enlightenment, while continuing to promote nobility and reduce the rights of serfs. . Read more about Catherine The Great.
Abigail Adams: Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States of America. During her husband’s travels the pair kept in contact through letters which has shed much light on their time and relationship. Read more about Abigail Adams.
Sacagawea: Guide and Interpreter (1788-1812) Sacagawea was a Lemhi Shoshone Native American woman. She travelled with Lewis and Clark helping them as both a guide and an interpreter. Read more about Sacagawea
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896) Author of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," which brought attention to the horrors of slavery. Read more about Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) Queen Victoria was Britain’s longest ruling monarch and reigned over what is now known as the Victorian era. Read more about Queen Victoria
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) Pioneer of women’s rights movement. Read more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) Established the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, and early leader of the women’s suffrage movement. Learn more about Susan B. Anthony.
Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) An English nurse, considered a pioneering in modern nursing. Learn more about Florence Nightingale
Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913) Born a slave, Tubman was the most famous member of the underground railroad. Learn more about Harriet Tubman.
Clara Barton (1821 – 1912) The most famous civil war nurse, Clara Barton later founded the American Red Cross. Learn more about Clara Barton.
Emily Dickinson: Emily Dickinson wrote close to 2,000 poems during her lifetime, the majority of which were not published until after her death. Her poems were often poignant and many centered around the mysteries of death. Read more about Emily Dickinson.
Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) Author of "Little Women" and "Little Men," Alcott also served as a civil war nurse and was an activist for women’s suffrage. Learn more about Louisa May Alcott.
Annie Oakley (1860 – 1926) Oakley was a famous woman sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Learn more about Annie Oakley
Marie Curie: Marie Curie was a famous chemist and physicist who held many achievements for women. She won the Nobel Prize twice and as influential in the world of chemistry. Read more about Marie Curie.
Gail Laughlin (1868 – 1952) Attorney and prominent women’s rights activist
Helen Keller: Helen Keller became blind and deaf at the age of two as a result of a severe illness. She overcame her handicaps to earn a college education, and she spent her life championing for the rights of those with physical handicaps. Read more about Helen Keller.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962) Wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor was a prominent figure during WWII, a skilled writer, politician, and activist. She served as the Chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Read more about Eleanor Roosevelt
Georgia O’keeffe: Georgia O’Keefe was a painter who received great recognition for her paintings of flowers and landscapes, including barren desert scenes. She received many prominent honors during her lifetime, including the Medal of Freedom. Read more about Georgia O’keeffe.
Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937?) First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the world. Read more about Amelia Earhart
Margaret Chase Smith (1897 – 1995) Smith was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, both in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Margaret Mead: Margaret Mead was the author of Growing up in New Guinea, Male and Female and Coming of Age in Samoa. She is known for illuminating the concept that personality differences is more of a cultural conditioning than an inherited trait. Read more about Margaret Mead.
Mother Teresa: Mother Teresa is a world iconic woman who performed many charitable acts. Her marks on international charity and helping starving children and children that were victims of conflict are well-known. Read more about Mother Teresa.
Rosa Parks (1913 -2005) Rosa Parks was an American civil rights leader. Known as “The First Lady of Civil Rights” she is best known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Read more about Rosa Parks
Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1914 – 1956) won two gold medal in the 1932 Summer Olympics in track and field. Afterward, she became a professional golfer, and won the US Open three times.
Margaret Thatcher: (1925- ) Margaret Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister of Britain. Leading the conservative party, she is known as "The Iron Lady." Read more about Margaret Thatcher
Anne Frank (1929 – 1945) Author of "Anne Frank’s Diary" about her experience in a Nazi Concentration Camp. Learn more about Anne Frank
Sandra Day O’ Connor: Sandra Day O’Connor went to Stanford Law School and graduated with her degree in law. She was the first woman to hold the title First Majority Leader of the senate. Read more about Sandra Day O’ Connor.
Jane Goodall: Jane Goodall is a conservationist, animal welfare activist and expert on primates, particularly chimpanzees. Her studies and findings in the world of primates have been studied in many institutes. Read more about Jane Goodall.
Gloria Steinem: Gloria Steinem is a journalist and author of several books who is best known for her lifelong endeavor of achieving equality for women in the workplace, in politics, and in all other societal aspects. Read more about Gloria Steinem.
Barbara Jordan (1936 – 1996) first African American from a southern state to serve in the US House of Representatives, first African American to serve a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention
Madeleine Albright (1937 – ) first woman to be appointed US Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Hillary Clinton is the 67th US Secretary of State. She is married to Bill Clinton, former US President and is very notable for her manner in handling scandal occurring during her husband’s presidency. Read more about Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey is an American Celebrity and icon. She started with a career in journalism, created her own talk show that has won numerous awards and currently has her own syndicated network. Read more about Oprah Winfrey.
Resources and Articles About Famous Women In History
Heroines of Women’s History
Rules fall into two major categories: written and unwritten. Written rules have secure homes in documents; unwritten rules are customs and mores, a way of doing things; they dwell in the intangible space of a society’s culture. Unwritten rules don’t even need to be spoken, they’re just things that everybody, just, well, knows.
Sometimes unwritten rules keep us safe and civil: don’t walk through that neighborhood at night; don’t wear those holey jeans out to dinner; and do say please and thank you. But sometimes unwritten rules keep us down: Legos for the boys, dolls for the girls or that’s not feminine (or masculine) behavior. But the most awful unwritten rule, the one that threatens progress and self-actualization, is: You can’t do that because it’s never been done before.
The five women below left legacies in their respective fields because they refused to play by this egregiously appalling rule. Instead of asking themselves, “Can I do that?” they asked themselves “How do I do that?” And then they went and did that in writing, aviation, politics, philosophy, and fashion.
Here’s to breaking the rules.
When Behn sailed to Antwerp in 1666 to spy for King Charles II of England, he refused to pay her for services rendered, and she landed in debtors’ prison. After her release, she eked out a living the only way she knew how: by writing.
Aphra Behn. Library of Congress
For the next 20 years, Behn wrote and performed in plays on the bawdy English stage. Playwriting afforded Behn (rhymes with Dane) some fortune, some fame, and some infamy. Her plays gained notoriety as being too risqué. She became known as the Restoration’s version of Jackie Collins.
Her most famous play, The Rover (1677), is still performed today and has handed posterity such wonderful lines as, “There is no sinner like a young saint.” But Behn gave us more than staged 17th century sexually provocative themes and neat aphorisms; apart from the myriad of poems she wrote, she also produced what some consider to be the first English novel. English literature had been comprised of epic poems: Beowulf, Sir Gawain, and The Faerie Queen. Behn produced what some consider the first prose narrative—certainly it is one of the earliest English novels—in her groundbreaking work Oroonoko (1688), the tragic story of a slave in Surinam. She is believed to be the first woman to make a living solely as a writer. Two hundred and fifty years later, Virginia Woolf recognized the debt all women owed Ms. Behn: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn … for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”
Beryl Markham's renowned memoirBeryl Markham
Markham’s autobiography, West with the Night
(1942), is more than just a story of being the first person to fly non-stop from England to North America. It’s the story of a young British girl growing up in Kenya at the turn of the 20th century, a girl deeply connected to her adopted country. Chapter after mesmerizing chapter, we are delighted with stories of her escaping being mauled by a lion (oh my!), breeding winning racehorses, effortlessly landing her plane in the African bush on medical, postal, and safari expeditions, and eventually flying into the wind across the Atlantic Ocean. Markham writes with such vigor that you can see the beautiful horses she’s training, marvel at the expanse of the African landscape, and fear the dark nights she’s accustomed to flying in. In fact, her writing is so evocative that Papa Hemingway himself wrote of her: “She can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers.”
Oh yeah, and she could fly, too.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
This 12th century queen’s impressive resume reads like this:
Objective: Politically astute, ambitious, spirited, and intelligent medieval beauty seeks mutually beneficial alliances with feudal lords and emerging European royalty.
Homeschooled by father William, a duke in southern France. Well-versed in Latin.
Enameled stone effigy at Eleanor of Aquitaine's tomb in Abbey of Fontevrand. Click for larger image. Library of Congress.Experience
- Married Louis VII, King of France
- Bore two daughters: Marie and Alix
- Led legion of women to the Second Crusade
- Conducted inappropriate affair with Uncle Raymond
- Received annulment of first marriage, retained original lands
- Married Henry II, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou and future King of England
- Bore eight children: William, Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joanna, and John
- Patronized arts, particularly love-song-singing troubadours
- Led rebellion with sons Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey against second husband
- Imprisoned for 16 years by husband King Henry II of England
- Raised ransom money to free son Richard (the Lionhearted) from a Viennese prison
- Died at ripe young age of 82
- Marriage to second husband Henry II meant that large swaths of French territory came under English rule. It would take hundreds of years—and the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453)—to sort out the land disputes between the French and the English.
- Youngest son, John, who rose to the English throne in 1199, signed the Magna Carta in 1215, which restricted the powers of the monarchy and laid the groundwork for English common law and the Constitution of the United States.
Mary Wollstonecraft. Library of Congress.Mary Wollstonecraft
Had she just been the wife of the British political philosopher William Godwin, Wollstonecraft’s Wikipedia
entry would be a mere few lines. Had she just been the mother of Mary Shelley, the author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein
, her entry might double.
The entry gets even longer if we include Wollstonecraft’s travelogue Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796), which details her journey through Scandinavia with the child of the man who rejected her. In Letters, her writing is so stark one can smell the effluvia of the salted herring, breathe in the clean, cool sea air, and sink into the homey chairs at the local inns. One can also feel her emotional pain.
But Wollstonecraft’s Wikipedia entry is extensive because she advocated for equal rights for women and equal access to education. She wrote these crazy ideas down in the seminal feminist work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). She is the reason women’s activists descend like locusts on the Augusta Golf Club every year demanding to know when women are going to be admitted as members. She posited that everyone wins with a more educated populace. Her daughter’s classic, Frankenstein, is proof of that.
If you’re female and wearing pants right now, you can thank Amelia Bloomer. The eponymous Bloomer was not the first to wear the balloon-like trousers that cinched at the ankles, but she advocated wearing them, wrote about wearing them, and wore them herself. The press assigned these ridiculous firsts of the female pant world the name Bloomers.
Bloomerism - fashion not only changes lives, it changes history. Library of Congress.
Bloomers became popular because Bloomer and her friends (whom she had met at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848) started wearing them. Bloomers were more practical than the fashion of the time: heavy skirts, petticoats and whalebone corsets. Also, it’s much easier to ride a bicycle and keep your modesty with pants underneath your multiple skirts.
Bloomer became known as an advocate for rational dress reform and is proof that fashion not only changes lives, it also changes history.
These women are a mere quintet who, by refusing to play by the rules that society handed to them, forever altered the course of history.
Women’s History Resources
Young women studying electromagnets in a Washington, DC, normal school around 1899. Library of Congress.
The Norton Book of Women’s Lives, (1993) ed. By Phyllis Rose. The folks at Norton are masters of the anthology, and this 800-page collection of 20th century excerpts is proof of that. The book is arranged alphabetically, beginning with Maya Angelou and ending with Virginia Woolf. The collection includes snippets of the famous females’ writing and a short bio of each. Big names like Billie Holiday, Annie Dillard, Helen Keller, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, and Gertrude Stein are juxtaposed next to lesser-known but no less interesting femmes such as Nien Dieng, who was imprisoned during Mao’s Cultural Revolution; Le Ly Hayslip, a former Vietcong sympathizer who came to realize that war was the real enemy; Emma Mashinini, the black South African whose community organizing landed her in solitary confinement in the Pretoria Central Prison; and Nisa, a member of the Kalahari tribe of southern Africa whose oral autobiography provides historians, layfolk, and anthropologists alike with a peek into a less civilized culture.
Outrageous Women of Ancient Times, Uppity Women of Medieval Times, and Uppity Women of the New World, by Vicki Leon. One glance through the Outrageous-Uppity series of women in history, and you’re ready for a showdown with Cliff Clavin. Entries are usually only a page long and carry a tone straddling playful and sardonic. In Ancient Times Leon gives life to long-forgotten civilizations by highlighting the tales of property owners of ancient Sumeria, martyrs of the Holy Land, pirates of Greece. In Medieval Times, Leon introduces us to Fya upper Bach, a successful blacksmith in the 14th century; the French haberdasher Alison de Jourdain; and the many beer brewers across medieval Europe. In the New World installation, we meet Susanna Haswell, the “intercontinental overachiever” who penned novels, performed in plays, and wrote the textbooks for the girls’ school she opened in Boston at the end of the 18th century. Not all of the women in the New World are from the Western hemisphere: Down Under Elizabeth MacArthur prospered as a wool exporter while her husband served time for white-collar crime. Today her legacy lives on at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute in New South Wales.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Women in Sports, (2001) by Randi Durzin. Although the book is almost ten years old, it’s a solid history of women from centuries past taking to the field, court, water, and slopes. The history extends all the way back to the ancient Olympics, from which women were excluded. From Durzin’s book we also learn of Anne Boleyn’s archery skills, the mythical Atalanta outrunning her suitors in the golden apple race, and the growing popularity of field hockey, archery, croquet and bicycling in the 19th century. Durzin devotes an entire chapter to the struggles female athletes have contended with for the past hundred years. The remaining chapters highlight notables from skiing, diving, softball, gymnastics, golf, figure skating, and even curling.
The Inmost Heart: 800 Years of Women’s Letters (1992) ed. By Olga Kenyon. The letters contained in this volume extend back almost a millennium and demonstrate that the more things change, the more they stay the same. These first-person accounts are arranged by theme: role as a woman, friendship, work, love and sexual passion, war and alleviating suffering, and political skills. Famous, infamous, and unknown grace these pages. You can read the letter from the religious visionary Hildegard of Bingham asking Bernard of Clairvaux (who preached the Second Crusade) for guidance on what her dreams signified; a letter to Queen Victoria from Caroline Norton, whose letter entreating the monarch for divorce begins with “A married woman in England has no legal existence”; and the pleas from Aphra Behn for a mere per diem as she spied on the Belgians for the English in the 1660s.
Women’s Rights National Historic Park: We always think of Seneca Falls, NY as the birthplace of the American women’s suffrage movement. This is the place where, in 1848, a mere 300 people, led by that rapscallion, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, began the seventy-year journey to earn women the right to vote. The National Park Service has turned the site of this convention, the Wesleyan Chapel and surrounding area, into a commemorative destination. It’s Women’s History, sure, but it’s also a critical piece of American History.
Virtual Woman’s Library: This is truly an international repository of on-line resources, both primary and secondary, of women in history. It’s more scholarly than the other resources listed here, but it’s where the really cool stuff hangs out. The table of contents includes museums, special collections, special topics, archives and libraries, journals, discussion lists, and a few other electronic beauties.
National Women’s History Project: Mark the month! March is Women’s History Month and theme this year, dreamed up by the folks behind the NWHP, is “Writing Women Back into History.” The site also includes electronic resources of great speeches, oral histories, museums (organized by state), a teacher’s lounge, a student center, and a quiz.
Further Reading On Women In History
Supporters gather for a hike from New York City to Washington, DC, to promote women's suffrage, Mar. 3, 1913. Library of Congress.
Here are a few links to some of the articles about women in history you’ll find on HistoryNet and our partner sites, ArmchairGeneral. and GreatHistory.
Irena Sendler’s story demonstrates how women in history are overlooked. A social worker in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, Ms. Sendler saved the lives of over 2,500 children by convincing their parents that relocation were their best chances for living. She recorded the children’s names on bits of paper, which she then placed in jars and buried in her fruit garden. As part of the Zegota, the Underground Railroad for Jews in Warsaw, she smuggled children out of the city in any way she could, even in coffins and body bags. But no good deed goes unpunished, and she was twice imprisoned, first by the Nazis, then later by Communist Poland. Her gift to humanity was recognized by four Kansian schoolgirls who wrote a play, Life in a Jar, to honor her work. Years later the international stage would recognize her heroism through a Nobel Peace nomination in 2007. Alas, global warming was more fashionable that year, and it was awarded to Al Gore.
Women of the Wild West were badass. They braved the untamed frontier, encountering hostile climates, landscapes, men, and beasts. I’m pretty sure they braved wearing dresses, although I’m less sure about heels.
Calamity Jane. Library of Congress.
Tales like the one of Dilchthe, the Apache grandmother, escaping from her captors and forging through the Arizona desert to her home with no weapons or provisions, remind us that the will to survive knows no genders or cultures.
The case of Barbara Jones, who with her ten sons and husband moved to the New Mexico territory, is one of extraordinary pragmatism. When one of her son’s eyelids was almost severed on account of his face meeting with some broken glass, she whipped out her sewing kit and stitched him up. Then kissed it better and sent him on his way, I’m sure.
The oldest profession found the West fertile hunting grounds, and while the ladies of the night may not have necessarily lived long, they did prosper.
Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane are known as the rootin’ tootin’ women of the West. The fact is, while Oakley was a sure shot, she retired to her quiet life in Ohio when not traveling with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Ms. Calamity, on the other hand, was a hard-drinkin’, cussin’, brazen sort. Just the type to fit in with the Wild West.
Imagine being so famous and important you have an era named after you. You’d either have to be incredibly lucky or really good. Queen Elizabeth I was probably both.
This British monarch reigned over the England of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and defeat of Spanish Armada, but questions of her legitimate claim to the throne plagued her accession. In response, she created the persona of Queen Elizabeth, a woman who said little and made few strong alliances. She was masterful at keeping her French and Spanish enemies at bay. She even kept the pope guessing, who was very interested to see if Elizabeth was going to exercise the Protestant option and turn England into a state of heretics.
What Elizabeth was best at, however, was not marrying. She had watched her father Henry VII kill a couple of his wives (including her mother Anne Boleyn) and psychologically torture the others. Marrying a king from outside England would mean England was now being controlled by a foreign power. And marrying a mere English nobleman, well, that was out of the question. She stayed single to retain her power as Queen. Interesting.
Great History has its own Women’s History category filled with short, informative articles.
Book Review: Mrs. Earp, by Sherry MonahanMrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers, by Sherry Monahan, TwoDot, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Conn., and Helena, Mont., 2013, $16.95 When I started my Wyatt Earp research in 1988, I was more interested in the blood and thunder of the making of the Earp legend than I was […]
What were some titles for Medieval jobs at court?I just found your site after spending the last 3 hours trying to find the information I need. I need the names (?) of some Old Medieval Titles that are no longer used. Example: Groom of the King’s Close Stool or Keeper of the King’s Privy. Can you help me? I know some years ago […]
American Experience: The Abolitionists"American Experience: The Abolitionists" is a compelling, 3-part series on the rise, fracturing, decline, resurgence and ultimate triumph of the movement to make all Americans free.
War by the numbersEyebrows were conspicuously raised recently when a "demographic historian" from New York's State University at Binghamton convincingly recalibrated the long-accepted Civil War death toll—boosting the grisly statistic by an astounding 20 percent.
Emory Bronte and Ernie Smith: Flew From California to Hawaii in 1927The accomplishments of two pioneering civilians -- Emory Bronte and Ernie Smith -- who piloted a Travel Air across the Pacific in 1927 have been largely overlooked.
Anita Neta SnookAnita “Neta” Snook had many "firsts" as a female aviator, but she is best remembered as the woman who taught Amelia Earhart how to fly.
Jamaica: U-boats, Rum, and RefugeesJamaica is best known for rum, reggae music, and its beach scene, but the easygoing Caribbean island had its share of wartime activity and intrigue. During the war there were at least a dozen major American military bases in the British West Indies—established as a hedge against the possibility of Britain’s Caribbean colonies becoming German […]
Louisa May Alcott Goes to WarEager to support the North, the budding author volunteered for a fledgling corps of female nurses
Fearless French MaryBattlefield held little terror for feisty Marie Tepe as she focused on aiding her beloved Zouaves
Still current at 99Richard Nelson Current’s 1958 biography of Abraham LIncoln shattered myths and inspired readers–including a certain Queens fifth-grader. A few months ago I e-mailed my friend Marcia Current to ask if her husband felt strong enough to send his annual message to be read aloud at the Lincoln Forum, the symposium that bestows an annual achievement […]
Daily Quiz for December 13, 2011Murdered by the Nazis when she was 15, Anne Frank left behind her now world-famous diary and these other writings.
Civil War Book ReviewsFrom Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature, by Randall Fuller (Oxford University Press, 2010) Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, by Davis S. Reynolds (Norton, 2010) REVIEWED BY NAN SIEGEL “The real war will never get into the books,” claimed Walt Whitman. Yet Whitman’s work is […]
Daily Quiz for November 23, 2011Of the original 63 female signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at the Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848, this is the total number who lived to see women achieve the right to vote.
At Home with the WesleysOften it feels as if history is the monopoly of politicians, monarchs and military men. Understandably enough, they do seem to get the headlines. In truth, we know that the larger tides that change social and intellectual history sometimes swell from quieter waters.
‘Prohibition’ – A Review of Ken Burns’ New PBS DocumentaryDocumentary filmmaker Ken Burns explores the Prohibition years in a new PBS special that begins Sunday.
Baltimore Riot of 1861Bullets vs. Bricks in Baltimore: A mob out for blood clashed with troops en route to Washington
The War’s Lost Souls—and the Birth of a NationIn 1945, tens of millions of displaced persons, DPs, filled Germany and Western Europe. Many came from France, the Low Countries, and Italy, but most were Eastern Europeans. In The Long Road Home, historian Ben Shephard, who produced the documentary The World At War, painstakingly reconstructs this epic humanitarian crisis and how the United Nations […]
Irreconcilable DifferencesWinston Groom, author of Vicksburg 1863, explores the reasons the North and South found themselves at war.
The King James Bible: Still The Word After 400 Yearsn the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace, King James received the petitions of the Puritans in January 1604. Though he completely rejected their requests, he authorized what would become known as the King James Bible.
Martin M-130 Flying Boat: China Clipper‘s Trans-Pacific FlightsThe world became a little smaller when the China Clipper blazed an aerial pathway across the Pacific and inaugurated practical commercial air routes during a 60-hour flight.
Harold Holzer on the best and worst civil war booksWar Stories It’s time to remember good Civil War lit—and close the door on the bad stuff Several months ago, literary critic Adam Kirsch—full disclosure: he’s my son-in-law—published an essay in the New York Times voicing concern about recent decisions to omit offensive, outdated sections of the Constitution when read aloud in the House of […]
Bunker Hill: America’s Greatest Battle?Why the battle means so much to us when it mattered so little.
When the King Came CallingLiked The King's Speech? Find out how a visit to America helped George VI find his voice.
Timothy Snyder Provides the First Comprehensive Look at Atrocities in Eastern Europe"I’ve been thinking about this for 20 years,” says Timothy Snyder, a leading historian of Eastern Europe. “This” is the unspeakable carnage he chronicles in Bloodlands, the first comprehensive overview of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the Soviets as they successively ruled the region between them. “The Soviets were trying to transform their […]
Where is General George MeadeHow Union General George G. Meade became the Rodney Dangerfield of the Civil War
Letter from Wild West – February 2011Few frontier women remain in Americans' memories these decades later, but Calamity was a hard-drinking, big-talking exception even in her day.
Survivors Remember Shiloh7 Lives Altered by Shiloh: Two Fateful Days Can Make Reputations, Shatter Families, and Shape Destinies
Daily Quiz for August 24, 2010She was the woman Abraham Lincoln referred to as "Little Sister."
Alice PaulCourageous or reckless, Alice Paul spearheaded a new suffrage campaign for American women
National Woman Suffrage ProcessionThe 1913 National Woman Suffrage Procession was a turning point for American women seeking the right to vote
American women’s long road to political powerA brief timeline of American women’s long road to political power
True Causes of the Civil WarIrreconcilable Differences Simmering animosities between North and South signaled an American apocalypse Any man who takes it upon himself to explain the causes of the Civil War deserves whatever grief comes his way, regardless of his good intentions. Having acknowledged that, let me also say I have long believed there is no more concise or […]
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? U. S. Coins as Pop CultureJust when it seemed U. S. coins were going the way of the dinosaur, the State Quarters Program introduced a whole new category of coin collectors.
Explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal‘Noble Union Girls’: The thousands of Northern women who worked in Federal arsenals risked their lives for the cause.
Slave to Soldier: Fighting for Freedom‘We Must Make Free Men of Them’
Confederate General Patrick Cleburne wanted to enlist slaves to fight for the Rebel cause
What If the Allies Had Bombed Auschwitz?Most “what if” scenarios begin with a plausible rewrite of a historical event; the bombing of Auschwitz does not. As the historical record makes clear, those who could have authorized the attack firmly rejected the idea.
Debunking Boston Tea Party MythsThe Boston Tea Party wasn’t about higher taxes. It was America’s first response to too big to fail.
Female Pirates – Women Who Took to the High SeasFemale pirates, including Teuta, Queen of the Illyria, Alfhild of the Valkyries, and Grace O'Malley of Ireland, roamed the seas as rulers, marauders, and entrepreneurs from the 3rd century BC to Elizabethan England.
Women’s History ResourcesA list of books and Websites for information on Women's History.
Heroines of Women’s HistoryFive rules-breaking heroines of women's history who asked "How can I do that?" instead of "Can I do that?"
Women’s History – Beyond the Famous NamesWomen's history gives all of us, female and male, stories we can easily relate to our own lives; it isn't just about the intermittent monarch, the suffrage movement, or the trailblazing aviatrix.
Women’s History Articles – Suggested Online ReadingDescriptions of some online articles related to Women's History, with links; includes Irena Sendler, Queen Elizabeth I, and women of the Wild West!
Notes from the Underground RailroadFormer slave Arnold Gragston tells of how he became involved in the Underground Railroad.
Dolley Madison on ‘American Experience’Dolley Madison, the focus of an American Experience episode on PBS, established the tone of what the office of the American presidency should reflect - egalitarianism, optimism, and pragmatism.
Northern Women and the Travails of WarArmy at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front, by Judith Giesberg, University of North Carolina Press The world of Civil War women has been enriched over the past decade by a bounty of significant new work. Judith Giesberg’s latest contribution, Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the […]
The Young Victoria – A New FilmThe Young Victoria, a new film starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, brings together the unlikely pairing of Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, to tell the story of young Queen Victoria and her beloved husband, Prince Albert.
America’s First Women AviatorsAmelia Earhart followed a trail blazed by several daring women aviators.
Hannah Pakula: A Biographer Traces the Rise of Madame Chiang Kai-shekHannah Pakula, acclaimed author of An Uncommon Woman, tells World War II magazine about her new book, The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China.
Letter From Aviation History – January 2010The January 2010 Letter From Aviation History discussing Amelia Earhart, including attempts to re-create her round-the-globe flight and archeological expeditions to gain clues into her disappearance.
Matilda Josyln Gage – the Unlikely Inspiration for the Wizard of OzSuffragist Matilda Josyln Gage was the unlikely inspiration for L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Sweet Subversive ScribesThree young Quaker women risk everything to publish the pro-Union Waterford News.
The South’s Last Great VictoryAn alliance of the Confederacy’s eastern and western armies earned a bloody triumph at the September 1863 Battle of Chickamauga
Crusaders against slaveryThe history of abolitionists in America dates back to colonial times.
World History Group Announces the Launch of its New Website: GreatHistory.comWeider History Group Announces the Launch of its New Website: GreatHistory.com
GreatHistory.com DebutsPlease join us as we welcome the newest member of the Weider History Group family, GreatHistory.com.
Discovering the Historic City of YorkWhy Medieval York remains a must-see of British travel.
Mothers of the Lost CauseAn army of determined Southern women buried the dead but kept
the mythic Confederate legacy of the Lost Cause alive
They’re Called Killing Grounds for a Reason: February/March 2009A 10-year study of the geomorphology of Civil War battlefields reveal connection between geological features and casualties.
Safety in Numbers – The “New World Order” [Point of View]Casualty and other war statistics suggest that despite terrorism’s terrible toll, the New World Order really has created a more secure world.
The Secret and Controversial Attempt to Teach German POWs About FreedomDuring the summer of 1944, the government launched a secret and ambitious effort to influence the nearly 380,000 Germans imprisoned in the United States.
Yonder the Isle of Wight!Just 23 miles long and 13 miles deep, the Isle of Wight has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. It’s a delightful cross-section of quirky amusements, natural wonders and historic sites. For sheer scenic wonder, travel over the sea to Skye; for Celtic mystery, cross the causeway to Lindisfarne; but for sunshine and […]
Shot by Cupid’s Bow – Fanny and John Brown GordonConfederate General John Brown Gordon and his wife Fanny shared a loyal and passionate marriage for nearly 50 years. She spent much of the Civil War nursing him as he recovered from wounds and illness.
How the West was Spun – Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West ShowBuffalo Bill Cody heralded the closing of the frontier by reassuring Americans that they would never be too civilized to beat the braves and bullies of the world at their own game.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
Belva Lockwood: ‘I cannot vote, but can be voted for’Belva Lockwood was the first woman to become a candidate for the American presidency. Her 1884 campaign stimulated media attention and social controversy.
Table of Contents – May 2008 British HeritageSubscribe to British Heritage magazine today! FEATURES High on Skye By Chris Sharpe A trek from Culloden to Skye in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie. A Day to Visit Conwy By Jim Hargan Climbing the walls in Britain’s ultimate castle town. King Arthur Slept Here! By Jim Hargan Was a Roman city in Shropshire […]
Aviators: Amelia Earhart’s Autogiro AdventuresFamed aviatrix Amelia Earhart flew an autogiro plane cross-country to demonstrate its capabilities.
Death and Civil War America: Interview with Drew Gilpin FaustDrew Gilpin Faust discusses her book, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War," a thoughtful study of the impact of the war's massive death toll on society and government.
Daily Quiz for October 24, 2007They won the 1936 transcontinental Bendix Race:
Inside Andersonville: An Eyewitness Account of the Civil War’s Most Infamous PrisonSergeant Clark N. Thorp of the 19th U.S. Infantry was captured at the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga. The solider from Sylvania, Ohio, later wrote this memoir of his 19 months as a prisoner at Andersonville.
Table of Contents – November 2007 – Aviation HistorySubscribe toAviation Historymagazine today! FEATURES Checkertail Mustang Ace By Jon GuttmanAs Barrie Davis returned from a July 1944 mission, his crew chief asked, “Did your prop spring a leak, sir?” “That’s German oil,” he replied. The BentProp Project: Providing Families Of WWII Airmen With ClosureBy John J. Geoghegan On-site detective work since 1999 by BentProp […]
Letter From Aviation History – November 2007The Search Continues Here we go again. The search is on once more for Amelia Earhart. The most famous “womanhunt” in recent history has been revived several times since the July 2, 1937, disappearance of Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, during a round-the-world attempt while flying a Lockheed Electra from Lae, New Guinea, to […]
Table of Contents – November 2007 – British HeritageSubscribe toBritish Heritagemagazine today! FEATURES Treasures and Surprises at Burghley HouseBy Dana Huntley England’s grandest Elizabethan mansion still rocks! The Honours of ScotlandBy David McLaughlin The extraordinary story of Scotland’s Royal Regalia. Margaret Thatcher: Iron LadyBy Siân Ellis How Margaret Thatcher shook up Britain. Home From Home in LondonBy Jennifer DornTry a flat rental next […]
Letter From British Heritage – November 2007The Long Hot British Summer? The long, hot summer is over. After a lovely warm April, the summer fell on Great Britain with a deluge. Seemingly endless rains, often torrential, engulfed the island and caused unprecedented flooding across the country, particularly in Gloucestershire and along river valleys from Yorkshire to Devon. The weather brightened later […]
Battle of Antietam: Union Surgeons and Civilian Volunteers Help the WoundedUnion surgeons and civilian volunteers struggled to cope with thousands of Antietam wounded with makeshift hospitals in barns and barnyards, houses and churches, haystacks, pastures and flimsy tents around Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Fighting and Dying for the Colors at GettysburgNearly two months after the battle of Gettysburg 24-year-old Isaac Dunsten of the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry lay on officers’ row at Camp Letterman, the large tent hospital established just east of the town. On July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle, a bullet had shattered the lieutenant’s right thigh. A splint was applied […]
History explains why TB case caused such worldwide concern2007-06-03 | There's a reason why reports of a rare strain of tuberculosis attracted worldwide attention: a history perhaps as deadly as the plague.
Nazi archive reveals panorama of misery2007-05-20 | Looking back at the first weeks after World War II, a French lieutenant named Henri Francois-Poncet despaired at ever fulfilling his mission to establish the fate of French inmates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Boston Combusts: The Fugitive Slave Case of Anthony BurnsAn eruption in the nation's abolitionist capital nearly seven years before Fort Sumter foreshadowed the irreconcilable divide between North and South and the fracture to come.
By Chuck Leddy
Daily Quiz for March 22, 2007Anne Frank was imprisoned in this German concentration camp:
Francis Drake’s Raids on Spanish Colonial Ports Netted Tons of LootIn disaster-plagued raids on Spanish colonial ports, swashbuckling privateer Francis Drake captured tons of loot.
By Nicky Nielsen
Bartholomew Gosnold: The Man Who Was Responsible for England’s Settling the New WorldThe vision, enthusiasm and organization of Bartholomew Gosnold, of Otley, Suffolk, resulted in the Virginia Company and the settlement of Jamestown now 400 years ago.
America’s Civil War: Why the Irish Fought for the UnionThe Irish experience in the Civil War has probably received more attention — and celebration — than that of any other ethnic group. Mention of the Irish commonly conjures up images of the Irish Brigade’s doomed charge at Fredericksburg, of Father William Corby granting absolution before Gettysburg, or possibly the mourning wolfhound at the base […]
Lakshmi Bai: Rani of JhansiLakshmi Bai, the rani of Jhansi, was variously known as India's 'Jezebel' and its 'Joan of Arc.'
By Pamela D. Toler
Battle of Gettysburg FinaleGrievously wounded in body and spirit, the Army of Northern Virginia limped painfully away from Gettysburg while Union commander George Gordon Meade followed slowly -- too slowly, thought Abraham Lincoln.
Charles de Gaulle: Wartime Leader of FranceCharles de Gaulle -- wartime leader of France- - was both the savior of his people and a political opportunist.
By Patrick Johnson
British Textiles Clothe the WorldHow did Britain come to dominate the global production of cloth?
By Claire Hopley
The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America (Book Review)Reviewed by Alexander CookBy Larry McMurtrySimon & Schuster, New York, 2005 In the 1880s and 1890s, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody and Annie Oakley, who specialized in Western entertainment, achieved international fame and, according to Larry McMurtry, became the first American superstars. He’s probably right, although cases could probably be made for such earlier 19th-century celebrities […]
Champ Ferguson: An American Civil War Rebel GuerrillaWhen Rebel guerrilla Champ Ferguson showed up at your house, you could be sure of one thing: you were about to die.
Edith CavellA statue in St. Martin's Place, just off London's Trafalgar Square, prominently displays words spoken by Edith Cavell, a British nurse executed during the First World War: Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.
By Abraham Unger, M.D.
Silas Soule: Massachusetts AbolitionistDedicated Massachusetts abolitionist Silas Soule ironically gave his life for the red man, not the black.
Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War IIFor 60 years, the Wehrmacht has largely escaped scrutiny for its part in the deaths of more than 3.5 million Soviet prisoners of war.
Nine Years’ War: Battle of the Yellow FordThomas Lord Burgh had intended it to be 'an eyesore in the heart of Tyrone's country,' but to Burgh's successor, Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormonde, 'the scurvey fort at Blackwater' was a liability that would lead to England's worst defeat on Irish soil.
America’s Civil War: Major General John Pope’s Narrow Escape at Clark’s MountainWhile Robert E. Lee's entire army massed behind Clark's Mountain to attack the Union Army of Virginia, a daring Yankee spy swam the Rapidan River to warn Maj. Gen. John Pope of the imminent danger. It was, said one military historian, 'the timeliest single product of espionage' in the entire war.
Austro-Sardinian WarCombining such technical innovations as railroads and rifled firearms with Napoleonic-era tactics, French Emperor Napoleon III's short but bloody bid for glory even left the French emperor sickened, but it laid the foundation for a united Italy--and the International Red Cross.
Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman: War’s Kindred SpiritsKindred spirits Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman prepared themselves for another bloody year of war as 1863 dawned.
Frederick Stowe: In the Shadow of Uncle Tom’s CabinThe fame of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe followed her son throughout the Civil War.
1st Louisiana Special Battalion at the First Battle of ManassasRecruited from New Orleans' teeming waterfront by soldier of fortune Roberdeau Wheat, the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion more than lived up to its pugnacious nickname--Wheat's Tigers--at the First Battle of Manassas.
‘The Birth of a Nation': When Hollywood Glorified the KKKNinety years after its first screening and 100 years after the publication of the novel that inspired it, D.W. Griffith's motion picture continues to be lauded for its cinematographic excellence and vilified for its racist content. The film came from Griffith's personal vision, and as such it reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the man himself.
America’s Civil War: Guerrilla Leader William Clarke Quantrill’s Last Raid in KentuckyWhen Confederate fortunes plummeted in Missouri, fearsome guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill and his band of hardened killers headed east to terrorize Union soldiers and civilians in Kentucky. It would be Quantrill's last hurrah.
John Cabell Early Remembers GettysburgMajor General Jubal Early's nephew recalled the famous meeting on July 1 between his uncle and General Robert E. Lee during the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania.
The Fox Sisters: Spiritualism’s Unlikely FoundersOut of the pranks of precocious sisters in upstate New York in 1847 grew a religious and social movement that swept across America. Often associated with abolition, suffrage and the brotherhood of all souls, spiritualism continued to evolve and flourish through the 20th century.
Jerrie Mock: Record-Breaking American Female PilotIn 1964 an Ohio woman took up the challenge that had led to Amelia Earhart's disappearance.