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Tell me about an amazing woman in history that I may not have heard about?

(294 Posts)
AwfulMaureen Sat 11-Jan-14 18:16:37

There are LOADS of women in history who've done incredible things or had amazing careers but have been Lucille Bogan an amazing singer from the twenties/thirties who also worked as a prostitute and who wrote and sang some of the most shockingly filthy songs in addition to having a stunning voice.

She began singing professionally as a child having been singing on the street for money...she was offered work in bars. ...I love Lucille Bogan...WARNING...don't play the song in the link if the kids are around!

Tell me your favourite unknown women?

Crocodopolis Wed 11-Mar-15 11:18:35

Freya Stark! Explorer and wonderful writer.

Doreen Ingram and Violet Dickson, who lived in the Middle East and who wrote about life there.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 09-Mar-15 08:08:39

So glad MNHQ have bumped this thread. Was thinking about it just recently when I came across this site of Inspirational Women of World War One.

Awks Sat 07-Mar-15 21:17:16

Gertrude Bell. A truly incredible woman who was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy. Along with T. E. Lawrence, she helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq. Imagine having a vagina and managing to do that. Amazing.

She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, utilising her unique perspective from her travels and relations with tribal leaders throughout the Middle East. She was described as "one of the few representatives of His Majesty's Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection".

She lived in Yorkshire too. Obv something in the water smile

FannyFifer Wed 25-Jun-14 00:37:10

Has anyone said Mary Somerville?

Couldn't see her mentioned, but an absolutely amazing woman in the field of science.

mumtobetothree Wed 25-Jun-14 00:22:00

Mary Lindell was a remarkable woman, I've been reading about her recently after reading a book about the Cockleshell Heroes.

During WWII she worked against the Nazis and created escape routes in France and helped get airmen, soldiers etc out of the country. She was arrested and served 9 months in solitary confinement, when released she became ill with pneumonia, warrants were issued for her re-arrest and execution by the Gestapo for the aiding of the enemy and she managed to escape to England, where she joined MI9 and returned to France.

On her return to France she was badly injured and after being treated in a hospital was hidden in a cellar as the Gestapo had been informed of her return and were searching for her. She was eventually arrested in 1943 but managed to escape again by jumping from a moving train unfortunately the guards shot her in the head twice. She survived and was moved to a concentration camp where she was given a job nursing instead of being executed. When the camp was liberated at the end of the war she marched over and let them know exactly what had been going on!

This amazing lady was a countess, she lived to the grand age of 92 and thanks to her hundreds of lives were spared the hands of the Gestapo. There's loads I've missed out, but she's well worth reading about. For a detailed description of the sort of risks she undertook and the organisation her lines took, the respect she'd earnt herself etc I wholly encourage you to look up the cockleshell heroes, she saved them.

lionheart Tue 11-Mar-14 11:35:53

Good idea, Kata. smile

Shallishanti Mon 10-Mar-14 19:56:16

for Harriet Tubman fans

Katacharin Mon 10-Mar-14 09:40:38

Hi, I love the list!

I've just set up a new online project which I thought you might be interested in. (Also launched on IWD!)

Sheroes of History is a new blog and podcast which will shine a spotlight on amazing heroines of the past! From women whose names you may have heard, to those whose stories are less well known.

History has overwhelmingly been written by men, about men. There are a handful of amazing women we have heard of, but there are so many more whose inspiring stories have gone untold. I believe that young girls especially need more rolemodels to look up to: Sheroes who will show them that they can be whatever they want to be; that they can change the world; that their actions can make a difference and that girls can be superheroes too.

Sheroes of History aims to be inspiring, informative and inclusive, celebrating remarkable women from all walks of life.

I'm hoping that as well as adults using the blog/podcast it will be accessed by younger women & girls too - I'm aiming for the language used on the blog to be as accessible and easy to understand as possible. In the long run I hope to use the stories gathered on the blog to inspire other resources & events specifically aimed at younger girls.

Please check out the blog at

There is also a Facebook page ( and you can follow on twitter @SheroesHistory

I would be so grateful if this is something you would be able to share. I'm hoping for people to get involved and contribute to the blog, telling us about their own historical Sheroes.

I will be sharing the mumsnet page via Sheroes of History too!

Thanks so much, Naomi Wilcox-Lee

RuddyDuck Sun 09-Mar-14 16:43:29

I've just read a biography of Henrietta Lacks (The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot).

Although she died not knowing the contribution she was going to make to world health, her cancer cells (HeLa cells) have been used in virtually every medical discovery since she died. They were fundamental in the development of a Polio vaccine, in the development of retrovirals to combat HIV, they have been sent into space, they have. There's a little bit about her

piebald Sat 08-Mar-14 22:36:23

Nancy Wake

NigellasGuest Sat 08-Mar-14 20:46:13

Margot Fonteyn for her beautiful line.

Mary Anning for digging up dinosaurs.

TootleFrootle Sat 08-Mar-14 20:17:00

I like Bob Thaves' comment about the legendary dancer Ginger Rogers

[Commenting on the dancer Fred Astaire] "Sure he was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!"

Sort of sums up for me in a metaphorical sense how so many women's achievements were outstanding in their own right, but even more so when we consider the context of their times across history: their often limited access to education, to the right to own their own property and have autonomy over their own income - their own bodies even.

TootleFrootle Sat 08-Mar-14 20:10:16

Ninette de Valois forged the identity of British ballet in the inter-war period, resulting in the Royal Ballet and the Sadlers Wells Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet).

de Valois died aged 102 (1898-2001). I met her when she was in her nineties and she was still sharp as a tack, utterly terrifying grin and charming. What a force - powerfully creative (a choreographer whose works, e.g. CheckMate, are still performed), a visionary (there was no such thing as 'British ballet' in the 1920s, she brought it into being being marshalling the likes of dancers including Fonteyn & Helpman, the choreographer Frederick Ashton, and composer Constance Lambert) and with a very smart business head on her dancer's shoulders.

While on the subject of ballet and women, Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn put British ballerinas firmly in the spotlight where as previously (and the clue is in the Europeanisation of their names, born plain Lillian Alicia Marks and Peggy Hookham respectively) British dancers had felt rather inferior to the Russians, French and Danish ballet companies.

lionheart Sat 08-Mar-14 14:53:30

Anna Freud

For picking up some of those Freudian threads but making her own contribution to psychoanalysis and in particular to child psychology.

Setting up The Hampstead War Nurseries and studying, through direct observation, the effects of neglect, trauma and separation on young children.

A central figure in the development of child psychology in the frst half of the twentieth century.

Many publications but especially The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936).

yegodsandlittlefishes Fri 07-Mar-14 16:54:36

I've just noticed that today's Google doodle is to celebrate International Women's Day. Great that MN is marking the occasion. grin

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Mar-14 16:45:55

Hi folks,

To celebrate International Women's Day, we've created a page of some of these fantastic women that history have forgotten. Thanks so much for telling us about these remarkable women.

Lorina Bulwer looks fascinating - her works reminds me so much of Tracy Emin!

NonnoMum Thu 23-Jan-14 23:15:12

Great thread. Will keep coming back to it...

growingolddicustingly Thu 16-Jan-14 20:18:49

I have been trying to write a romping fictional tale based on her life story for the past 20 years! I will get it done, I will.

AwfulMaureen Thu 16-Jan-14 07:31:50

Bof How fascinating is that!? reminds me of those artists now who stitch Feminist thoughts onto traditional samplers....

kittensarecute Thu 16-Jan-14 00:44:18

I know she's been mentioned a few times but Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. I'm actually distantly related to her on my mothers side.

suburbangirl Wed 15-Jan-14 23:33:10

Martha Gelhorn.

There's a great biography of her that I highly recommend.

GeekLove Wed 15-Jan-14 21:10:50

I have Ada Roddick whose work on radiochemistry directly preceded Lise Meitner's work. she observed some unusual contamination in a chemical solution and hypothesized that they were fragments from heavy elements which had undergone fission.

Also Marie-Anne Pirette Paulze the wife of Antoine Lavoisier.
Originally his child bride her interest and innate skill at science was a meeting of minds. Her skill at languages lead her to seek out foreign research papers which were of interest which she would translate. She wrote up much of Antoine's research and used what would be described as Design of Experiment methods to ensure that experiments were repeatable and consistent. During the French Revolution she fled with as much of the original research documents that she could carry.

OneHolyCow Wed 15-Jan-14 16:39:26

Phoolan Devi. A rebel from India. The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey From Peasant to International Legend,

BOFtastic Wed 15-Jan-14 16:22:12

Wow, I've found a transcript of Lorina's embroidered rant- hear her roar!

BOFtastic Wed 15-Jan-14 16:18:50

I saw a clip on The Antiques Roadshow featuring an amazing sampler, stitched by a workhose inmate, Lorina Bulwer, who sounded like a fascinating woman. The museum curator, Ruth Burwood, looks a pretty fantastic, intelligent and passionate person too!

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