The thing about history is that it’s generally dominated by men. I mean, even the name – HIStory – suggests who the most important figures are from the past. Despite the fact that it has always been extremely challenging for women to stand up for what they believe in, it’s not impossible. These 10 badass women in history go to show that it really should be called “herstory”.
1. Raden Ajeng Kartini
Kartini is most known for her work in promoting higher education for women specifically in Java, which is an island in Indonesia. Since she was born into an upper-class family, Kartini had access to primary school. But once it came time to further her education, she wasn’t allowed to. She used her position in society to voice her opinion on the need for equality of the sexes through a series of letters. She has left a lasting impact with a holiday on her birthday as well as Kartini schools which were opened to educate indigenous girls in Indonesia.
2. Ida B. Wells
What didn’t Ida B. Wells do? She was an investigative journalist, a teacher, a civil rights activist as well as a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a reporter, she worked to show that lynching in the south wasn’t used as a punishment for crimes, but actually as a way to control African Americans. She used her writing to further the civil rights message all over the nation. As if she wasn’t amazing enough, Ida B. Wells was also prolific in the women’s suffrage movement too.
Born to the most powerful ruler in central Asia, Kaidu, Khutulun was a total badass. She would often accompany her father in war because she was an extremely skilled warrior. Khutulun was so tough that she insisted that if any suitor wished to marry her, that he would have to beat her in a wrestling match. If he was unable to beat her, he must pay her in horses. It is said that she eventually won ten-thousand horses. Furthermore, Khutulun was by far the favorite child of Kaidu. When it came time for one of his children to take power, he attempted to name Khutulun. However, she was denied that power by the other men in her family.
4. Ching Shih
A female pirate?? Where is this Disney movie?! Ching Shih wasn’t just any pirate, she was one of the most powerful pirates of all time. She had a fleet of over 300 ships with about 40,000 crew members. For many years she remained undefeated by massive armies like the British Empire, the Portuguese Empire, and the Qing dynasty. She is another one of the badass women in history!
5. Rosalind Franklin
Here’s a great example from history where a woman was behind the work and the men took all the glory. Rosalind Franklin an English chemist who’s best known for her work in discovering the double helix shape of DNA. This scientific breakthrough was mostly credited to James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins who won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Watson later suggested that Franklin should be awarded for this discovery, but the Nobel Committee doesn’t make nominations after someone dies.
6. Mary Edwards Walker
Unsure how this is possible, but Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor. At the beginning of the Civil War, she volunteered as a surgeon in a hospital for the Union Army. Mary Edwards Walker was one of the only women surgeons because women were seen as unfit to be doctors. At one point, she crossed enemy lines to treat wounded soldiers and was captured as a spy and became a prisoner of war. Eventually, she was released in a prisoner exchange and after the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor for her bravery. She spent the rest of her life she became a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.
7. Althea Gibson
Not so long ago, it was unheard of to have professional athletes of color. Althea Gibson was the first black woman to play international tennis. Not only was she a groundbreaking as far as civil rights, but she was a great tennis player. She won 11 grand slam tournaments and is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Later in her career, she even switched over to the women’s professional golf tour as the first African American player. She is one of the badass women in history!
8. Margaret Sanger
Believe it or not, women’s health was once way, way, way worse than it is now. Margaret Sanger was a writer and a nurse who is most known for her work in birth control and sex activism. She is credited with popularizing the term “birth control” and even opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. That clinic actually led to her arrest for distributing information on contraception. Her trial and eventual appeal led to her message to spread across the nation. She believed that in order for women to hold an equal standing in society, they should have the ability to choose when they have kids. She even started what would eventually become Planned Parenthood. She is one of the most notable badass women in history!
9. Danuta Danielsson
Although Danuta Danielsson doesn’t have the same achievements as the other women on this list, she proves that anyone can be brave and set an example for others. Danielsson is famous for being the woman photographed in the famous picture where she is hitting a neo-nazi with her purse. She is one of the most historic badass women in history.
10. Gertrude Ederle
Gertrude Ederle proves than anything men can do women can do better. She was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. At the time, people didn’t even think women could make it across the channel. Yet, she did it faster than any man before her had done it. She is one of the best badass women in history!