Marie Curie (1867–1934) was born Maria Sklodowska, in Warsaw, Poland. She became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win the award in two different fields (physics and chemistry). Curie’s efforts, with her husband Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of polonium and radium and, after Pierre’s death, the further development of X-rays.
Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919) was an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African-American women in the country, “the world’s most successful female entrepreneur of her time,” and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) was First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She was also an advocate for human and civil rights. She was made a delegate to the UN General Assembly and played a key role in in drafting the Universal declaration of human rights. She also was a key figure in John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the status of women.
Mother Teresa (1910–1997) was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world. She spent many years in Calcutta, India where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of charitable, selfless work. In 2016, Mother Teresa was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Teresa.
Rosa Parks (1913–2005) was an African American civil right’s activist and seamstress whom the U.S. Congress dubbed the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement”. Parks is famous for her refusal on 1 December 1955, to obey bus driver James Blake’s demand that she relinquish her seat to a white man. Her subsequent arrest and trial for this act of civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history, and launched Martin Luther King, Jr. to the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Anne Frank (1929-45) was a young Jewish girl who perished in the Holocaust. During the Second World War her family were forced to hide from the Gestapo, and in the cramped conditions, she kept a diary of her experiences and thoughts. After the war, her father Otto Frank discovered her diary and, struck by her maturity and depth of feeling, published it – originally under the title ‘Diary of A Young Girl‘ – later as “Diary of Anne Frank”. Anne Frank’s diary has become one of the most famous records of the Holocaust and has helped to give a human story behind the dreadful Holocaust statistics.
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011) was a Kenyan environmental activist. She founded the Green Belt Movement in the 1970s seeking to promote environmental conservation in Kenya and Africa. She became the first African women to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” After campaigning for the restoration of democracy in Kenya during the 1990s, she served as a member of Parliament and Assistant Minister for the environment and natural resources between 2003 and 2005.
Malala Yousafzai (born in 1997) is a Pakistani school pupil and spokesperson for women’s right to education. In retaliation for her high profile campaign for education and criticism of the Taliban, she was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban gunman. She survived the gunshot wound and has become a leading spokesperson for human rights, education and women’s rights. She has received numerous peace awards and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 along with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist.