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Women Who Changed History

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Despite what the history books have taught us, women have been shaping history for centuries. From the fight for gender equality to inventing computer programs still used today, these women paved the way for future generations. At a time when women were seen as less than men, they showed how smart and strong women could really be. Here are some great under-appreciated women who changed history:

  • Ada Lovelace – First Programmer in History: Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was a mathematician and writer during the 1800s known for her work on a mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was thought to be the first person to see that machines could work beyond just calculations and published the first algorithm for the machine. Ada is recognized as the first computer programmer.
  • Fatima Al Fihri – The Founder of the First University in Morocco: Fatima was born into a wealthy family and was encouraged to be educated, despite her being a woman. When her father died, Fatima and her sister decided to invest the inheritance in something that would be beneficial to the community. The university was founded more than 1,000 years ago paving the way for more universities over the centuries. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco is still running today and Fatima is known as one of the first women alumni. 
  • Claudette Colvin – The First Woman to Refuse to Give up Her Seat on a Montgomery, AL Bus: Despite history telling us Rosa Parks was the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus, it was actually Claudette Colvin. Claudette was only 15 years old when she refused to give up her seat on the bus—and this action resulted in the passage of a law, nine months before Parks did. She challenged the law in court and was one of the four women involved in the Browder v. Gayle case which overturned the bus segregation laws in Alabama and Montgomery. Unfortunately, Claudette is not well known because at the time she “didn’t fit the profile”.
  • Raden Ayu Kartini – The First Pioneer for Education for Indonesian Girls and Women’s Rights: Raden opened the first Indonesian primary school for girls in 1903 that did not discriminate based on social class, allowing any girl to be educated. As an educated noblewoman herself, she rejected the idea of forced marriages which denied women the freedom to educate themselves. Despite this belief, she accepted a marriage proposal to a progressive gentleman and opened a primary school. She taught the girls a progressive, Western-based curriculum. Her letters to other feminists were published seven years after her death and her birthday is celebrated to this day in Indonesia.

There are still so many women to learn about in history and today. Take some time to research all the badass women from different backgrounds and eras who defined what it meant to be a feminist. Check out 100 Badass Women That Changed The World We Live In Today.

Alanna Smith is a writer based in New York City. Her background is in communications and digital marketing. She loves reading fantasy novels and cooking in her spare time, as well as traveling. Her passions lie in social justice, unsolved mysteries, and history.