Posted by: PharaohKatt | 09-03-2011

100th International Women’s Day: Recognising Women

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. In honour of that, I am compiling a list of women too-often forgotten or overlooked. Women who go unnoticed, whose achievements are ignored. Some names you may recognise, women who are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Other names may be new to you, and I would encourage you to learn more about them.

Mileva Einstein-Maric December 19, 1875 – August 4, 1948
A physicist and mathematician, who it is alleged helped Albert Einstein write his early work (although there is no conclusive evidence for this).
She won special permission to take physics lectures in 1984, and her grades in Math and Physics were the highest in the class. She was the only woman in her group of six students, and only the fifth woman to study mathematics and physics at the Polytechnic.

Helen Keller June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968
Though you might not think of her as forgotten, that is exactly what history has done. Helen Keller was a Suffragette, activist, writer, speaker, disability rights advocate… And what does history remember? A bratty girl who was “saved” by Anne Sullivan.

Gertrude Bell Elion January 23, 1918 – February 21, 1999
American chemist and pharmacologist, Gertrude made huge advances in the field of medicine; advances which lead to AZT, a drug crucial in the treatment of AIDS. She won a Nobel Prize, as did her partner George Hitchings.
She also created:

  • Azathioprine (Imuran), the first immuno-suppressive agent, used for organ transplants.
  • Allopurinol (Zyloprim), for gout.
  • Pyrimethamine (Daraprim), for malaria.
  • Trimethoprim (Septra), for meningitis, septicemia, and bacterial infections of the urinary and respiratory tracts.
  • Acyclovir (Zovirax), for viral herpes.

Wangari Maathai Born April 1st 1940
A political and environmental activist, Wangari started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which advocates for Women’s Rights and environmental conservation. She became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”.

Lise Meitner 7 or 17 November 1878 – 27 October 1968
An Australian born physicist who worked in radioactivity and nuclear physics. She worked with nephew Otto Hahn to discover nuclear fission. Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for this achievement, Meitner was overlooked.

Alicia Stott June 8, 1860 – December 17, 1940
Alicia Stott coined the term “polytope”, and had an exceptional grasp of four-dimensional objects. She discovered that there are six regular polytopes in four dimensions, a d that they are bounded by 5 (though I don’t know what that means).

Chien-Shiung Wu May 31, 1912 – February 16, 1997
Chien-Shiung was a Chinese-American physicist who had expertise in experimental physics and radioactivity. She worked on the Manhattan Project, helping to develop the process for separating uranium metal into U-235 and U-238. She did experiments that contradicted the Law of Conservation of Parity.

Harriet Brooks July 2nd, 1876 – April 17th, 1933
Harriet was Canada’s first nuclear scientist, and worked for a while with Marie Curie. She researched nuclear transmutations and radioactivity. She was working as a lecturer at Bernard College, but was fired after she became engaged, because married women couldn’t work in universities.

Lynn Conway born January 10, 1938
Lynn is an American computer scientist, electrical engineer, inventor and activist for the tran* community. She is notable for quite a few things, such as the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design (whatever that is), which helped fuel the electronic design automation industry. In the 1960s she worked at IBM and is credited with the invention of “generalised dynamic instruction handling, a key advance used in out-of-order execution”, something used by most computer processors today!

EstelleAsmodelle born 22 April 1964
Estelle is an actor, model, dancer and writer. She was the first trans woman in Australia to be legally recognised as her correct gender. She has released four albums (all available via iTunes):

  • Electronic Mischief
  • Transelectric
  • Dark Universe
  • Electrix

. She is currently an Australian activist for trans rights.

Georgina Beyer born November 1957
Georgina Beyer made history when she became the first openly trans woman to sit in parliament in New Zealand — and the world! She was mayor of Carterton from 1995 until 2000, and was an MP for the Labour Party from 1999 until 2007. She is now retired.

Amanda Simpson born 1961
Amanda is currently the Senior Technical Adviser to the Department of Commerce, appointed by the Obama Administration. When she took this role, she became the first openly transgender woman political appointee in any administration. She works in the Bureau of Industry and Security.

Aya Kamikawa born January 25 1968
Aya is a Tokyo municipal officer, who pledged to fight for the rights of women, the elderly, children, people with disabilities and LGBT people. She became the first openly trans woman to seek office in Japan, and is currently the only openly trans person in office in Japan.

Rebecca Heineman born October 30, 1963
Rebecca is a programmer and veteran of the video game industry, and one of the founding members of Interplay Productions, Logicware, Contraband Entertainment (credited as Bill Heineman). She has also worked for Barking Lizards Technologies, EA, Microsoft and MacPlay, as well as other game companies. Right now, she works for Ubisoft.
In November 1980, Rebecca became the first person ever to win a national video game contest, by winning the National Space Invaders Championship, sponsored by Atari (not my cat).
She has also been affiliated at various times with Barking Lizards Technologies, Electronic Arts, Microsoft and MacPlay, among other game companies. She is currently working for Ubisoft in the Toronto studio.

There are so many great women who need to be honoured, and I don’t have the time to do it all. But here is my small selection. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed compiling it. I hope you were as inspired as I am.

If you would Lille to mention women who inspire you, or women whose achievements are being overlooked, unacknowledged, ignored, please mention them in the comments! Id particularly Ilkeston to hear about some disabled women, as my list seems to be lacking.

Happy International Women’s Day!

– Pharaoh Signing Off



  1. I learnt about Roquia Sakhawat Hussain a few months ago, and I find her amazing.

    She fought for gender equality and other social issues, and she established the first school aimed mostly at Muslim girls, which still exists today.

    And she was an SF writer.

    All this in 1908 Bengal.

  2. Rebecca Gomperts (who I wrote about a while ago incorrectly calling her Rebecca Goemhertz, the ‘abortion pirate’ and founder of Women on Waves:

    Lots of others but it’ll take some concentration to list them all and I need to knuckle down at work for now. Will try to list them out later.

  3. What a great list – there’s quite a few there I hadn’t heard of.

    Bookmarked so I can come back and follow all the links.

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone! There are so many women who should be admired and acknowledged, I couldn’t possibly list them all. I hope you’ve found someone who speaks to you.


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