The Untimely and Tragic Death of Heather Heyer

It has been a while since I’ve posted but the untimely and tragic death of Heather Heyer, in Charlottesville, VA, has brought me back to the reason I started this blog – to speak of those women who made and continue to make herstory.

Heather HeyerHer family’s heartfelt and heartbreaking words at her memorial service yesterday reminded me that we all need to honour this young woman who was killed when a terrorist plowed her down because she was standing up against bigotry, racism, and hate.

Did you know that Heather Heyer was only 32 years young; that she had loving parents and grandparents that will miss her everyday of their lives; or that she had friendships she had nurtured since grade school?

Did you know that she worked as a paralegal; that she had just celebrated her five-year anniversary with her firm; or that she was a courageous, principled woman and firm believer in justice and equality?

It is only when a tragedy, like Heather’s murder, makes the headlines that we learn about all the wonderful women surrounding us – honourable women that should not die for causes that they believe in and fight for.

We need to heed her mother’s words and to etch them into our minds. “This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy,” her mother, Susan Bro said.  “You need to find it in your heart – that small spark of accountability …You poke that finger at yourself, like Heather would have done, and you make it happen. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.”

The quote on Heather’s Facebook cover photo read “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” extends deepest condolences to the family & friends of Heather Heyer who will miss her dearly and daily.  However we all need to make her short life matter by paying attention and making a difference.

After her death, the Heather Heyer Foundation was created to honor the victim, a young civil rights activist, who dedicated her life to promoting equal rights for all people. The Foundation has established a scholarship program to provide financial assistance to individuals passionate about positive social change.  For more information or to make a donation visit

UPDATE : One June 28, 2019, the driver who plowed his car into a group of anti-rasism protesters and killed Heather Heyer at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, was sentenced Friday to life in prison on federal hate crime charges.


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10 Firsts for African-American Women

These women may have been the first to achieve their outstanding and inspirational goals but they have also left us with their incredible legacies.  Let us salute these African-American women not only during Black History Month but also throughout the year and years to come.

ella-fitzgerald-2Known as “The First Lady of Song, in 1958 jazz and song vocalist Ella Fitzgerald made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. The singer would go on to win 13 Grammys in total and sell more than 40 million albums.

Lucy Terry Prince was a renowned 18th-century orator who is also the first known African-American poet. She composed the poem “Bars Fight” the earliest known piece of literature created by an African American.

After being selected by President Jimmy Carter as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Patricia Roberts Harris  became the first African-American woman to hold a Cabinet post in the United States thereby making HUD the first Cabinet department to be headed by an African-American woman and

norma-merrick-sklarekArchitect Norma Merrick Sklarek changed the face of her industry when, in 1954, she became the first African-American woman to become a licensed architect. In 1985, she helped form an all-female architectural firm, becoming the first African-American woman to establish and manage an architectural firm.

Mary Jane Patterson became the first African-American woman to receive a college degree when she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862. The daughter of fugitive slaves, she went on to have an illustrious career as an educator and, in 1871, she became the first black principal of the newly-founded Preparatory High School for Negroes.

Track and field star Alice Coachman made history at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, becoming the first black woman to win an Olympic medal. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history

euphemia-lofton-haynesAfter earning degrees in both mathematics and education, in 1943, became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. She then took the educational system by storm, teaching in a wide variety of settings and pushing continually to change the face of education, which, at the time, often found black students falling into a system of de facto segregation.

Born into slavery in 1850, inventor and entrepreneur Sarah E. Goode was the first African-American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for her invention of a folding cabinet bed in 1885 – better know today as the Murphy bed.

Actress and radio performer Hattie McDaniel was one of the first African-American women on the radio. In 1940, she became the first African-American to win an Oscar for her supporting role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind”.

althea-gibson-2Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. In all, Gibson powered her way to 56 singles and doubles championships before turning pro in 1959. She also broke racial barriers in professional golf.



You may also want to read “20 Inspiring Quotes from African-American Women

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Signs from the Women’s March Say It All

The Women’s March on Washington yesterday united the world in more ways than anyone could have imagined.  From Australia to Africa & Antarctica, from Paris to London to Barcelona, from all corners of North and South America and from 100’s of cities in the United States, millions of people united to march for Women’s Rights and Human Rights one day after Donald Trumps’s inauguration as president of the United States of America.

In Shanghai, where protests are prohibited, women gathered to knit pink Pussy hats in support.  In Russia’s Red Square, several young women joined hands in solidarity.  In Mayanmar there was a picnic in solidarity and support of like-minded friends. From nursing homes, to hospitals, to inside their own homes, the very young to centenarians showed their encouragement in whatever way they could.

These signs are just a glimpse of support around the world.


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And this quote from Maya Angelou summed it up best …

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20 Inspiring Women We Lost in 2016 : A Tribute

This year we lost many wonderful, inspiring women that need to be remembered and honored. Some of them died peacefully after living long, fulfilling lives however others suffered violent deaths and died much too young.  InspiredByMyMom salutes these incredible women and their achievements. Their contributions are a part of herstory and need to be acknowledged as such.  This is not a complete or exhaustive list of all the amazing women that have passed in 2016 but it brings some of them to the forefront and hopefully others to mind.

The year started with the shooting death of a newly inaugurated mayor in a Mexican town.  Gisela Mota was 12 years old when she started attending political rallies and protests with her mother, who was a well-regarded activist. At 33 Gisela had already served as a federal lawmaker and had just been elected her town’s first female mayor. Upon taking office she declared that “her fight against crime would be frontal and direct”. The morning after her maiden speech, gunmen forced their way into her home and told her mother, Juana Ocampo, “we’ve been sent here with an order to kill, which one is she?”  When Gisela identified herself, she was dragged towards the front door where she was shot at least four times. When her mother was interviewed after her death she said “I told her to quit the mayoral race, but she said, ‘Mama, if I don’t run who will?’”

harper-leeBorn Nelle Harper Lee in Alabama in 1926, this Pulitzer Prize winning novelist moved to New York City after college and, while working as an airline reservation agent, she began writing fiction in her spare time. Her debut novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” became an immediate success when it was published in 1960. The movie adaptation premiered to international acclaim just 3 years later.  During her lifetime, she was active in her church and community and became famous for avoiding the spotlight of her celebrity. She often used her wealth to make anonymous philanthropic donations. In November 2007, then President George W. Bush presented Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her “outstanding contribution to America’s literary tradition” at a ceremony at the White House. She was 89 when she passed away in early 2016.

Born in 1939 Japan, Junko Tabei was in the fourth grade when she experienced her first mountain-climbing experience to the summit of Mt. Nasu. In 1975, she became the first woman to climb Mount Everest. By 1992 she had become the first woman to complete the “Seven Summits,” reaching the highest peaks on the seven continents and went on to tackle summits in more than 70 countries. Diagnosed with stomach cancer four years ago, she continued to climb, both in Japan and abroad, and in July this year she took young people affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster on an expedition up Mount Fuji. She passed away at 77 and is remembered as a pioneer who started the Ladies’ Climbing Club of Japan and broke with Japanese tradition when she left her young daughter with her husband as she went on climbs.

jo-coxAfter already having been shot and repeatedly stabbed, British MP Jo Cox told others to stay away “Let him hurt me, not you” before being shot twice more in the head at point-blank range. Those are the chilling words her colleagues remember Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox uttering when she was murdered in June 2016.  A British Labour Party politician, she had become a Member of Parliament (MP) just 13 months earlier.  She had previously spent a decade working in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones as well as later becoming a senior adviser to an anti-slavery charity. The devoted mother, activist and politician was only 41 years young when her life was extinguished.  The day after Cox died her husband set up a GoFundMe page named “Jo Cox’s Fund” in aid of three charities which he described as “closest to her heart”: the Royal Voluntary Service; Hope not Hate; and the White Helmets.

Simone Schaller was an American hurdler who competed at the Summer Olympic Games in 1932 in Los Angles and 1936 in Berlin. She is believed to have been the oldest living Olympian when she passed at 104 years of age in October. Born in Connecticut, her family moved to California where she began participating in high school athletics and joined the Los Angeles Athletic Association in 1932 so that she could compete on the track team.  She made the 1932 American delegation and competed at the Summer Olympics finishing a controversial fourth. At the time, several people told her that they believed that she had finished in 3rd place but she never thought that to be true until seeing a picture of the finish in 1984, over 50 years later.  Upon her return from the Berlin Games in 1936 she, along with her teammates, were given the key to New York City.

leena-sharmaLeena Sharma had been trying to protect a 35 acre plot of farmland in central India and had complained to police that her uncle was using her land without authorization. The local revenue office determined that he had illegally encroached on the land but he did not see it that way and continued planting his wheat and grazing his cows on her property. Leena traveled from New Delhi in April to her ancestral village to lay claim to her land however the consequences of asserting her property rights proved deadly and her body was found in a remote forest about six miles away.  The only thing this young woman wanted was what was rightfully hers but this 38 year old was murdered for trying.

Rosalie Chris Lerman, born in Poland in 1926, was working as a forced laborer in a munitions factory when the Nazis took her mother to a concentration camp, never to be seen again. Soon afterward the Nazis sent her to Auschwitz-Birkenau with her two sisters. Miraculously, all three survived. Rosalie moved to the U.S. in 1947 with her husband, also a Holocaust survivor and WWII partisan fighter. She became a philanthropist and lecturer while her husband acted as the founder and chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Some survivors are traumatized, but having survived the war and Auschwitz, my mother felt like everything was possible and she was bound and determined to go out and do it” her daughter Jeanette said upon her mother’s death at 90.

janet-renoBorn in 1938 in Florida, Janet Reno went on to receive degrees from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. She spent several years in private practice before she was appointed State Attorney for Dade County, Florida in the late 1970s. She served in that position until 1993 and developed a reputation as tough, outspoken, unpretentious and liberal. Her cases ranged from political corruption to child abuse and she was active in various civic organizations.  Janet Reno firmly broke new ground and made herstory in 1993 when she became the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and one of the two longest serving. Janet Reno died at her home in Florida on November 7at the age of 78 of complications from Parkinson’s disease, which she had battled since 1995.

Deborah Jin was an internationally renowned physicist who was one of the world’s foremost experts on how ordinary atoms and molecules change their behavior at extraordinarily low temperatures. She was known for creating what is sometimes called a new form of matter (fermionic condensate).  In 2003, Deborah received a MacArthur Fellowship (commonly known as a “genius grant”) from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and in 2013 she was named the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Laureate for North America.  Born in 1968, Deborah was only 47 years young when she passed away at a hospice center in Colorado this past September surrounded by her loving family.

leila-alaouiAmong the 30 victims of January’s al-Qaida attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso was 33 year old Leila Alaoui. A French-Moroccan photographer, she was best known for her powerful portraits of Moroccans and intimate, sensitive images of migrants and the displaced. Born in Paris in 1982, she studied photography at the City University of New York before spending time in Morocco and Lebanon. Her work explored the construction of identity and cultural diversity and has been exhibited internationally since 2009. At the time of the attack on her and her driver, Leila had traveled to Burkina Faso for an assignment covering women’s rights for Amnesty International.

Greta Friedman, who fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old, was the woman in the iconic photograph shown kissing a sailor in New York City’s Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II on V-J Day August 14, 1945.  She was a 21 year old dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform when she became part of one of the most famous photos of the 20th century. The two had never met but the young sailor spun Greta around and kissed her while the photographer snapped the photo. She did not see the photograph until the 1960s and, although her face is obscured by the sailor’s left arm, she immediately recognized her hair and uniform. She was 92 when she passed earlier this year but her image will live on for future generations to enjoy.

daniela-dessiLa Scala’s soprano Daniela Dessì wrote a message to her Facebook fans saying she had to cancel all her summer performances due to an undisclosed health problem. A month later one of the most notable figures on the international operatic scene was gone. Born in Genoa, Italy in 1957 she pursued her musical studies in piano and voice at the Parma Conservatory and at the Accademia Chigiana of Siena.  In 1980, soon after graduation, she won first prize at the international “RAI Auditorium” competition  which launched her career. She built up a repertory of some 60 operas ranging from Monteverdi to Prokofiev and appeared on the world’s major opera stages. She was only 59 years old when an aggressive form of cancer claimed her life.

Born in 1919, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi was the twin sister of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. She was considered the “power behind her brother” and was active in the 1953 coup which led to him taking the throne.  Known by the press as the “Black Panther” she was among the first Iranian women to discard the veil. During her brother’s reign she became a leading campaigner for women’s rights and literacy, as a member of the UN Human Rights Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the International Consultative Liaison Committee for Literacy.  She was also the head of the Iranian Delegation to the UN General Assembly. Like other members of her family, the Princess found herself the target of assassins in 1977 and, just two years later, her son was assassinated in Paris. She was 96 and the oldest living member of her family when she died at the beginning of the year.

Gwen IfillLong-time journalist and American newscaster Gwen Ifill passed away at 61 having battled cancer for nearly a year.  She was born in New York City and graduated in 1977 from Simmons College with a Bachelor’s degree in communications.  During her career, she held jobs at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC before ultimately landing at the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) in the U.S. During her career she moderated two U.S. vice-presidential debates and, just last year, moderated a Democratic Party debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In addition to receiving numerous awards, including the Peabody Award in 2008 and being inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, she received 20 honorary doctorates from universities around the world.

Dame Zaha Hadid was a groundbreaking Iraqi-British architect. The ‘Queen of the Curve’ was known for her distinctive style of mingling sweeping curves and stark angles. Born in Baghdad in 1950, she completed her studies at the American University of Beirut and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London before getting her start in the Netherlands. She opened her own firm in 1979 and, as her reputation grew, her buildings found homes around the world – the Guangzhou Opera House in China; the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi; and the MAXXI museum in Italy to name just a few.  During her career, she also undertook some high-profile interior work creating fluid furniture installations as well as working with the clothing brand Lacoste. Just last year she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Dame Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami hospital where she was being treated for bronchitis.

vera-rubinVera Rubin, the astronomer who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter by discovering that galaxies don’t quite rotate in the way they were predicted, died at 88 years old shortly before the end of the year.  Her interest in astronomy began as a young girl and grew with the involvement of her father, an electrical engineer who helped her build a telescope and took her to meetings of amateur astronomers. She was the only astronomy major to graduate from Vassar College in 1948. When she learned that women were not allowed Princeton University’s graduate astronomy program, she instead earned her master’s degree from Cornell and her doctorate from Georgetown University. Rubin’s scientific achievements earned her numerous honors, including becoming the second female astronomer to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton in 1993 “for her pioneering research programs in observational cosmology”.

It’s a common practice in some villages in western Nepal — women who are menstruating sleep in a small hut or shed out of a fear they will contaminate the home or anger the Hindu gods if they remain indoors. A small hut is where Dambara Upadhyay died alone following the practice of Chhaupadi (menstrual exclusion).  It was in the morning of the 4th day in the hut that family members discovered the 26-year-old had died. Her sister-in-law, Nirmala Upadhyay, says that Dambara’s death has led to immediate changes in their household. “I don’t know if God will punish us. I don’t know what other people do, but from now on we will stay home. We’re not going outside.”

carrie-debbieBest known for her role as Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars”film Carrie Fisher died after suffering a heart attack just days before this year came to an end. In additional to Carrie’s life as an actress, producer, writer and humorist, she was a passionate mental health advocate. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 24, she disclosed her lifelong battle with the illness and her addiction issues in a 2000 television interview. The following year the National Alliance on Mental Illness honored Carrie for her contribution in helping end mental health discrimination and stigma. In 2006, Ms Fisher further opened up about her life and struggles in the one-woman biographical play “Wishful Drinking,” which was turned into a memoir in 2009 and then a documentary in 2010. Her mother said it for all on us on Facebook “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carries Mother.”

Just one day after Carrie’s death, her mother Debbie Reynolds died of a broken heart.  According to Carrie’s brother, her last words were “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.” Debbie Reynolds was a Hollywood legend – an actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian, and humanitarian. Born to poverty in 1932 Texas, the family moved to California where, despite their hardships, Ms Reynolds went on to starting and honing her career in music, film and television. In addition to winning numerous awards during her lifetime, in 2015 she won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science for her outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes. At the writing of this post it has been reported that mother and daughter will be buried together.

Christina Grimmie was destined to be a star when she came in 3rd on Season 6 of the American version of “The Voice” two years ago. However, at just 22 years young, she was shot during a meet and greet with fans following a concert in Florida and died several hours later from her gunshot wounds. Her love of music was evident by age four and, by age ten, she played the piano and sang.  In her early teens, she began posting videos on YouTube, interpreting the songs of other artists, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams. She opened for mega-star Selena Gomez on two consecutive U.S. tours before auditioning for “The Voice”. Christina was an animal rights activist and participated in fundraising events for the Humane Society. The Christina Grimmie Animal Medical Fund has been created in her honor.

You may also want to look back at the women we paid tribute to that passed in 2014 and 2015.

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10 Quotes from Female Authors to Inspire ChangeMakers


The presidential elections in the United States have unleashed a gamut of emotions that everyone, especially women, are feeling. I thought it may be an appropriate time to share noteworthy quotes from female authors of various backgrounds and over many generations that may inspire and encourage women to become changemakers.

The first quote, from Ayn Rand, is the one that stood out the most for me regardless of which side of the political spectrum one may be on.

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see.” Ayn Rand

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Harper Lee

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker

“You are never stronger than when you land on the other side of despair.”  Zadie Smith

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou

“There are many victories worse than a defeat.”  George Eliot

“I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.” Charlotte Brontë

“An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.” Margaret Atwood

“I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely.” Simone de Beauvoir

“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.” Toni Morrison

Mary Shelley wrote many, many years ago that “The beginning is always today” and we know that we have the power to change today and every day. Women are strong, women are fighters and women are changemakers. invites you to make herstory and become a change-maker starting today. Tell us your story so that we can share it and inspire others.


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5 More “Aha” Moments from Industrious Women Inventors

A previous post focused on inventions that may have been more obvious to women because they are involved in the day-to-day activities of “women’s” work or household chores. However, this one highlights women that came up with inventions that many of us may not know came from women.

How many people know that the circular saw was invented by Tabitha Babbitt in 1812, the life raft by Maria Beasley in 1880 and windshield wipers by Mary Anderson in 1903.

Inventor Tabitha Babbitt was an early American and Shaker tool maker.  It is believed that she was watching men use the difficult two-man whipsaw when she noticed that half of their motion was wasted and realized that a round blade would be more efficient.  She is credited with inventing the first circular saw used in a saw mill in 1813.  There will always be doubters and it has been contested whether she, or other Shakers, were the first to invent the circular saw as she never patented this or any of her other inventions which included an improved spinning wheel head and false teeth.

Margaret KnightMargaret Knight was around machines from the age of 12 when she started working in a cotton mill. In 1868 she invented a machine that created flat-bottomed paper bags that are still in use today – grocery bags, lunch bags, gift bags, and more.  However, while the first model was being built, a man named Charles Annan stole her idea and patented the machine. Knight took Annan to court and, in a rare turn of events for a woman at the time, she won the suit and was awarded the patent in 1871. Knight went on to receive at least 27 more patents in her lifetime (some sources say she held more than 80). Her other inventions include a numbering machine, shoe-manufacturing machines and several devices relating to rotary engines.

Maria Beasley life raftAmerican inventor Maria Beasley wanted a better life raft, one that was “fire-proof, compact, safe, and readily-launched” when needed. According to the patent, she invented a new design in 1880. Her life raft sported guard rails and rectangular metal floats. By changing the style of the floats, the raft actually folded and unfolded more easily for use and storage, even with the added guard rails. While the life raft is the invention that made Maria Beasley famous, she actually made money from her other inventions (15 to be exact) which included a wooden barrel-making machine, a steam generator and an anti-derailment device for trains.

Mary AndersonWhen touring New York City in a trolley car on a rainy day in 1902, Mary Anderson noticed that the driver had to keep the panes of the double front window open in order to see the road ahead.  She began to sketch her wiper device right there on the streetcar and, when she returned home in Alabama, she had a local company produce a working model of the hand-operated device.  In 1903 she applied for and was granted a 17-year patent for her windshield wiper. Similar devices had been made earlier, but hers was the first to be effective. In 1905, when she tried to sell the rights to her invention she was told “we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale.” Ironically, after the patent expired in 1920, and the automobile manufacturing business grew exponentially, windshield wipers using Anderson’s basic design became standard equipment.

Hedy Lamar patentShe may be best remembered for her movie career, but did you know that Austrian born Hedy Lemarr (Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler Markey) was instrumental in developing a guidance system during WW2 for Allied torpedoes which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Her ground-breaking work remained unrecognized until 1997 when the Electronic Frontier Foundation acknowledged “spread-spectrum broadcasting” for its ability to “give ordinary people with ordinary resources” affordable access to the airwaves. When the Foundation called to tell her she would get the award apparently her first words were “Well, it’s about time.” The principles of this work have been incorporated into modern GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology.

We’ll probably never know how many women inventors there were because, in the early years of the United States, a woman could not get a patent in her own name. For example, many people believe that Sybilla Masters was the first American woman inventor. In 1712 she developed a new corn mill but was denied a patent because she was a woman. Three years later the patent was filed successfully in her husband’s name.

You may also want to read the previous post on women inventors.

The “Aha” Moments of 6 Industrious Women Inventors

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12 Female Olympians Who Made History

40 years ago I was at the Montreal Olympics witnessing a young female athlete score the first 10 ever in gymnastics.  When Nadia Comăneci achieved this first ever perfect score, the boards were not equipped to show her score of 10.00 and therefore showed up at 1.00 confusing me and the crowds of spectators around me.  She had done the perfect routine and, over the course of the games, Nadia would go on to earn six additional tens. In 1976, Nadia Comăneci made history and set a world record for the most 10 scores at a single edition of the Olympic Games.

Watching the opening ceremnadiacomaneci2ony of the Olympics from Rio de Janiero on Friday night, and seeing all the hopefuls entering the stadium, I was reminded of that day in 1976 and it got me to thinking how many other women have achieved great moments in Olympic herstory during the summer games.  With that thought in mind, let me introduce you to 12 fabulous female Olympians who made history.

Sarah Frances “Fanny” Durack Gately was an Australian competition swimmer. From 1910 until 1918 she was the world’s greatest female swimmer of all distances from freestyle sprints to the mile marathon. The 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm were the first to have women’s swimming and “Fanny” set a new world record in the heats of the 100 metre freestyle. She then went on to win the final thus becoming the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a swimming event. She was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an “Honour Swimmer” in 1967

Best known for her golfing and tennis skills & winning the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Championship five times, Lottie Dod was also an expert archer won the silver medal in archery at the 1908 Olympics in London. The Guinness Book of Records named her as the most versatile female athlete of all time, together with track and field athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias.  Lottie was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1983.

Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias was an American athlete who achieved a great deal of success in golf, basketball and track and field. At the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, Babe Zaharias won two gold medals and one silver medal for track and field. In the high jump, she took silver and also won gold with an Olympic record throw of 43.69 meters in the javelin. She went on to become America’s first female golf celebrity and the leading player of the 1940s and early 1950s.

Gertrude EderleAmerican Gertrude Ederle made her mark in the early Olympic games in swimming. She participated in the 1924 Olympics and won a gold medal in a team relay freestyle competition. Gertrude also won two bronze medals for other swimming relay races. Aside from her accomplishments in the Olympics, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926 and took her love of swimming to award-winning heights.

As a German/Austrian dual citizen, Ellen Müller-Preis wanted to fence for Germany in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics but was rejected by the German Federation. She went on to fence in those Olympics for Austria and won the gold medal for individual foil. At both the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the 1948 London Olympics, she won bronze medals.  In 1956, at the age of 44, she reached the final round at the Melbourne Olympics and came in seventh. At one point, Prof. Müller-Preis was credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the female with the longest Olympic span of any woman, competing from 1932 until 1956. Two Olympic Games were cancelled at that time due to World War II, 1940 and 1944. The record has since been broken.

Sprinter and hurdler Fanny Blankers-Koen won 4 gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the 80 meter hurdles and 4 x 100 meter relay. She accomplished this as a 30-year-old mother of two, during a time when many disregarded women’s athletics. Her background and performances earned her the nickname “the Flying Housewife”.  In her career, she set or equalled 12 world records in events as diverse as the long jump, the high jump, sprint and hurdling events and the Pentathlon.

Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, unhindered by the limits set on female competitors at earlier games,  set a record for most medals won by a woman in one Olympics, with two golds and five silvers at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.  She was the top performer among all athletes, men and women, at those games. Maria made one more international appearance as a part of the winning Soviet team at the 1954 World Championships and retired afterwards.  She later went on to become a judge on the international circuit.

wilma rudolphWilma Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games. In the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, she was on the team that won the bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay. In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic games. As the temperature climbed toward 110 °F (43 °C), 80,000 spectators jammed the Stadio Olimpico to watch Wilma run the 100 meter dash in a phenomenal 11 seconds flat.

At her first Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, Irena Kirszenstein Szewińska took a silver medal in the long jump and 200 metres.  She also ran the second leg of the gold medal winning 4 x 100 meter relay team. At her second Olympics in Mexico in 1968, she won a bronze in the 100 meters and the gold medal in the 200 meters.  She competed in the 3 events at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and came away with a bronze medal in the 200 meters. Irena won her final Olympic medal in Montreal in 1976, by winning the gold in the 400 meters.  Between 1964 and 1980 she participated in five Olympic Games, winning seven medals, three of them gold. She also broke six world records and is the only athlete (male or female) to have held a world record in the 100 m, 200 m and the 400 m events.

British equestrian, Hilda Lorna Johnstone participated in the 1956, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games and was 70 years and 5 days old when she rode at the 1972 games in Munich, thus being the oldest woman ever to compete at an Olympic games. Her best finish was 5th place in the 1968 Mixed Dressage Team event.  She competed in dressage until well past her eightieth birthday and was one of the inaugural inductees of the Royal Horse Society Hall of Fame.

Dara Grace Torres was the first swimmer to represent the United States in five Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008), and, at age 41, was the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team. She has won twelve Olympic medals (four gold, four silver, four bronze), one of three women with the most Olympic women’s swimming medals.  She won at least one medal in each of the five Olympics in which she has competed, making her one of only a handful of Olympians to earn medals in five different Games. Today, she is a veteran celebrity swimmer for Swim Across America, a charitable organization that raises funds for cancer research.

Clara HughesClara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater, who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports. She is one of the few athletes who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games. Clara won two bronze medals in 1996 at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta and four medals (one gold, one silver, two bronze) over the course of three Winter Olympics – 2002, 2004, 2010. She is one of only five people to have had podium finishes in the both Winter and Summer versions of the games, and Clara the only person ever to have won multiple medals in both. Today, Clara Hughes is well-known for her advocacy and humanitarianism. She is an Athlete Ambassador for the Right to Play organization, and, in 2010, became the national spokesperson for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign for mental health.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the wonderful women that have had Olympic success nor those that have made an impact on the herstory of women in sport.  I invite you to add any other women you think deserve to be remembered and honored in the comment section of this post.

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30 Fascinating and Fun Facts for Women’s History Month

The Tale of Genji

The world’s first novel “The Tale of Genji” was published in Japan around 1000 A.D. by female author Murasaki Shikibu.

Hatshepsut was one of the most powerful women in the ancient world and the one and only female pharaoh in recorded history.

Winston Churchill’s mother was an American born in Brooklyn, NY.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley started writing “Frankenstein” when she was only 18 and the first edition of the novel was published anonymously in London in 1818, when she was 20.

Taylor Swift is the only artist in history to have an album hit the 1 million first-week sales figure three times

Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake”.

Mata HariThe infamous World War 1 spy, Mata Hari, was a dancer who invented what she call “sacred dances” from the depths of her experiences in the East Indies.

Nadia Comenici is a gymnast from Romania, was just 14-years-old, she won five Olympic medals at the 1976 summer games.

Hilary Rodham Clinton is not the first. Victoria Woodhull ran for president in 1872, nearly 50 years before the Nineteenth Amendment allowed women to vote in presidential elections.

Marie Curie is the only woman to ever win two Nobel Prizes.

The first person to make the daring attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel was a woman – Annie Edson Taylor in 1901.

Mary Queen of ScotsMary, Queen of Scots is reported to be the first woman to play golf in Scotland.

Although she is now simply known as just “Cleopatra”, she was actually Cleopatra VII.

1940s movie actress, Hedy Lamarr wasn’t just a pretty face, she was also an inventor.

Golda Meir was the third woman in history to serve as a country’s prime minister.

Japan offered new British PM Margaret Thatcher 20 “karate ladies” for protection at an economic summit in 1979. She declined.

The film Elizabeth Taylor was proudest of is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Nellie Bly x1.jpgIntrepid reporter Nellie Bly got herself committed to help improve conditions in a New York mental institution.

Angela Lansbury has hosted or co-hosted more Tony telecasts than any other individual, with five telecasts.

The circular saw was invented by Tabitha Babbitt in 1812, the medical syringe by Letitia Geer in 1899 and windshield wipers by Mary Anderson in 1903.

On the second day of kindergarten, Oprah Winfrey gave her teacher a note that read: “I don’t think I belong here ’cause I know a lot of big words.” The teacher agreed and she skipped to first grade.

As the First Lady of the U.S., Eleanor Roosevelt allowed only female journalists at her press conferences therefore ensuring that newspapers would have to hire women.

Emily StoweEmily Stowe was the first Canadian female doctor to practice in Canada and created Canada’s first suffrage group.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis edited Michael Jackson’s 1988 autobiography “Moonwalk”.

Helen Mirren was born as Lydia Petrovna Mironova and is descended from an aristocratic Russian family.

In 2015, at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old, Lydia Ko became the youngest major winner in LPGA history.

As a young girl, Beyonce won a school singing competition with John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Queen Elizabeth II sent her first e-mail in 1976, from a British army base.

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman in history to win the best director award at the Oscars in 2010.

Artist Georgia O’Keeffe began losing her eyesight at age 84 and stopped painting in 1972.


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March is Women’s History Month – Women in MEDICINE

Women in STEM fields have had some pretty amazing achievements over the course of herstory including incredible female practitioners in medicine – women who dressed as men to become military doctors; ancient Italian experts on childbirth; and women who broke the mold when they were told that medicine is only for boys.

For Women’s History Month, has chosen three women whose contributions may have been gravely overlooked.  Let us celebrate these women in medicine and broadcast their achievements.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a pioneering nurse and heroine of the Crimean War, who as a woman of mixed race overcame a double prejudice.

Born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805 from a Scottish soldier father and a Jamaican mother, Mary learned her nursing skills from her mother who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers.

Mary was an inveterate traveller, and before her marriage to Edwin Seacole from 1836 to 1844, she visited other parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as Central America and Britain. On these trips she complemented her knowledge of traditional medicine with European medical ideas.

In 1854, Mary Seacole travelled to England and approached the War Office asking to be sent as an army nurse to the Crimea where there were poor medical facilities for wounded soldiers. Although she was refused, she funded her own trip to the Crimea where she established the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide ‘a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers’. She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded, and became known as ‘Mother Seacole’.

After the war she returned to England destitute and in ill health. The press highlighted her plight and in July 1857 a benefit festival was organised to raise money for her, attracting thousands of people. In later life, she published a best-selling memoir ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands’ and administered personally to the British Royal Family.

Although she died on 14 May 1881, in 2004 she was voted the greatest black British person in history.

Elizabeth BlackwellElizabeth Blackwell was a British-born physician who notably became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.

Born in 1821 in England Elizabeth Blackwell’s father moved the family to the United States in 1930 when Bristol became unstable and riots began to break out.

It is said that she turned to studying medicine after a close friend who was dying suggested she would have been spared her worst suffering if her physician had been a woman. She had no idea how to become a physician but, upon consultation, was told it was too expensive and not available to women. Attracted by the challenge, she convinced two physician friends to let her read medicine with them for a year.  She applied to numerous medical schools and was finally accepted by Geneva Medical College in 1847 though not without its own controversy to allow a woman in.

When she graduated from the New York Medical College in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in America to earn the M.D. degree. She worked in clinics in London and Paris for two years where she contracted “purulent opthalmia” from a young patient and, when she lost sight in one eye, she returned to New York City in 1851. Giving up her dream of becoming a surgeon, she continued her practice as a physician.

New York did not offer many opportunities for a young, female physician so, with the help of friends, she opened her own dispensary in a single rented room, seeing patients three afternoons a week.  Her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell, joined her in 1856 and, together with Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, they opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.

After establishing the infirmary, Elizabeth Blackwell went on a year-long lecture tour of Great Britain. While there, she became the first woman to have her name on the British medical register. Her lectures, and personal example inspired more women to take up medicine as a profession.

When the American Civil War broke out, the Blackwell sisters aided in nursing efforts however they did meet with some resistance on the part of the male-dominated United States Sanitary Commission. The New York Infirmary managed to work with Dorothea Dix to train nurses and helped to organize the Women’s Central Association of Relief.

A few years after the end of the war Elizabeth Blackwell carried out a plan that she’d developed in conjunction with Florence Nightingale while in England. With her sister she opened the Women’s Medical College at the infirmary. This college was to operate for thirty-one years but not under Elizabeth Blackwell’s direct guidance. She moved the next year to England. There, she helped to organize the National Health Society and she founded the London School of Medicine for Women.

As her health declined, Blackwell gave up the practice of medicine in the late 1870s, though she still campaigned for reform. On 31 May 1910, she died at her home in England after suffering a stroke that paralyzed half her body.

Yoshioka YayoiYoshioka Yayoi was a Japanese physician, a women’s rights activist and opened the first medical school for women in Japan.

Yoshioka Yayoi was born Washiama Yayoi in Japan in 1871. At a very young age, she was helping her father care for other children in her village which created a sense of medical duty toward humanity early on in her life.

In 1889, her father sent her to medical school in Tokyo with her two older brothers. Though struggling against oppression and social injustice she still managed to become a doctor. She passed government exams and become a gynecologist in 1893.

With her husband, Yoshioka founded the Tokyo Women’s Medical in 1899, the first medical school for women in Japan, which was not recognized by the Japanese government until 1920.

In 1925, Yayoi founded the Juvenile Protection Women’s Association which operated a small protective association for girls and its Osaka branch established a counseling center for families with problem children.  In 1930, with the help of Fusae Ichikawa they started the Women’s Suffrage League of Japan. By the end of the same year almost a thousand women had gone through Yoshioka’s medical school. She was very active in the women’s movement in Japan and advocated for sex education.

During World War II, Yoshioka was a leading figure in patriotic women’s associations and, throughout her life, she was involved in organizations promoting the education of women.

In 1953, she stopped teaching, after 50 years, to focus on her family.  She died in 1959 of pneumonia at the age of eighty-eight but, before her death, she received a number of awards including the Order of the Precious Crown and the Order of the Sacred Treasure.  A memorial museum dedicated to her exists in Kakegawa, Shizuoka, Japan.


You may be interested in reading other stories in this series.

March is Women’s History Month – Part 4 – Women in AVIATION
March is Women’s History Month – Part 3 – Women in WAR
March is Women’s History Month – Part 2 – Women in ART
March is Women’s History Month – Part 1 – Women in STEM


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Black History Month : 20 Inspiring Quotes from African American Women

Rosa Parks

“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” Rosa Parks (1913-2005) African American civil rights activist, whom the U.S.  Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) American playwright, best known for “A Raisin in the Sun”

“The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.” Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) First American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games

“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) Founder of Bethune-Cookman College and of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)

“If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019 ) First African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature

“If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.” Harriet Tubman (1820-1930)  Fugitive slave, underground railroad conductor, abolitionist, and (during the U.S. Civil War) a Union spy, soldier and nurse

“The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dares to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow.” Marian Anderson (1897-1993)  First African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955

Mae Jemison.jpg“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”  Mae Jemison (1956 – ) First African American woman to travel in space

“Give light and people will find the way.” Ella Baker (1903-1986) African American civil rights and human rights activist

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  Maya Angelou (1928-2014)  American author, poet, and civil rights activist

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Lena Horne (1917-2010) American singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist.

“I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change.”  Shirley Chisholm (1924- 2005) First black woman elected to the U.S. Congress

“A crown, if it hurts us, is not worth wearing.” Pearl Bailey (1918- 1990) American actress and singer

“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”  Coretta Scott King (1927-2006) American author, activist, and civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” Oprah Winfrey (1954 – ) American media owner, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist

Althea Gibson“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” Althea Gibson (1927-2003) American tennis player and professional golfer, and the first black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis

“I got my start by giving myself a start.” Madam C. J. Walker ( 1867-1919) American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the first female self-made millionaire in America

“You can dream big and it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from.”  Misty Copeland (1982 –  ) First African-American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre

“Learn to be quiet enough to hear the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others.” Marian Wright Edelman (1939 –  ) American activist for the rights of children

“It isn’t where you come from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song

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