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, InspiredByMyMom.com 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 – ) 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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20 Inspiring Women We Lost in 2015 : A Tribute

We lose many fabulously inspiring women every year and many of these are not mentioned in the numerous lists compiled by news agencies or on the Internet at year end.  Inspired By My Mom wants to recognize the incredible achievements of women we lost in the past 12 months. These ladies need to be brought to the forefront of herstory and remembered for their contributions.  This may not be a complete or exhaustive list but it is done with heart and includes women from various walks of life who made a difference during their lifetimes and continue to leave a mark on the world.

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey

Dr. Frances Kelsey with President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, who died this year at the age of 101, became a heroine for her role in saving babies from widespread birth deformities from thalidomide. She also gave rise to modern laws regulating pharmaceuticals and inspired a landmark law wherein the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring drug makers to prove that new products were safe and effective. She was awarded the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President John F. Kennedy becoming the second woman to receive that award.

On November 13th of this year, Elsa Delplace threw herself over her 5-year old son Louis when Isil (ISIS) gunmen opened fire during an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris, France. At only 35 years old, she would frequently reflect that “you have to enjoy every moment, because every day is a lifetime.” Her 61-year old Chilean mother, Patricia San Martin, who fled the dictatorship of Pinochet, was also among the 89 people who died in the theatre. Rescue workers found her son Louis, who was covered in the blood of his mother and grandmother, as they evacuated the concert hall.

Amelia Boynton Robinson

President Barack Obama holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson at the  50th anniversary of Selma to Montgomery march

Civil rights pioneer Amelia Boynton Robinson was born Savannah, Georgia and her early activism included holding black voter registration drives in Selma, Alabama, from the 1930s through the ’50s.  She championed voting rights for African-Americans and was brutally beaten for helping to lead a 1965 civil rights march, which became known as Bloody Sunday and drew national attention to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1990, she was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom. In January 2015, Amelia was honored as a special guest at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and in March, at the age of 103, Ms Robinson held hands with the President as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march.

Born in Canada in 1959 and raised in California, Claudia Alexander said in a NASA interview that the Disney film Fantasia ignited her passion for other worlds at a very young age. When she landed an internship at nearby NASA’s Ames Research Center, she soon began sneaking into the space building. As a research scientist, she worked for the U.S.  Geological Survey and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was the last project manager of NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter and, until the time of her death, had served as project manager and scientist of NASA’s role in the European-led Rosetta mission to study Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Born in Kielce, Poland in 1922 Ziuta Hartman-Rutenberg took part in the revolt against the Nazis as part of an underground resistance group and was one of the last surviving participants of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising . During her service in the ZZW (Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy) she worked as a courier and later fought in the ill-fated Warsaw uprising. Captured by the Germans, she was sent to Majdanek and Skarzysko before being shipped to Germany as a forced laborer in an ammunitions factory. She briefly returned to Poland after the war, making her way to Israel by way of France in 1952. In 2010, she was made an honorary citizen of Warsaw.

Miriam Shapiro

Miriam Schapiro in front of her piece ‘Pleasure Dome’  photo by Elisabeth Robert

Miriam Schapiro was a pioneering feminist who played an important role in the development and the definition of feminist art.  A writer, sculptor, and teacher, Miriam was born in Toronto, Canada and went on to receive her BA, MA, and MFA before moving to teach at Cal-Arts in Valencia where she convinced them to let her found the Feminist Art Program.  Schapiro made a series of works in “collaboration” with historical female artists such as Frida Kahlo and members of the Russian avant garde. Her work is held in numerous international museums including New York, Boston, and Tel Aviv.

Jean Nidetch described herself as an “overweight housewife obsessed with eating cookies”. Born in 1923, she had tried various diets and pills that promised to take off the pounds but she always gained back the weight she lost. Her frustration led her to try something new and, in 1961, she decided to combine a sensible diet with group support meetings. Within two months, 40 women were meeting weekly to talk about their progress and keep each other accountable for what they ate.  She incorporated Weight Watchers in 1963, which has continued to expand and is helping millions lose weight worldwide to this day.

Best known for her true crime work, author Ann Rule’s career path included working as a law enforcement officer as well as writing. Beginning in 1969, she wrote for True Detective magazine under the nom de plume “Andy Stack.” She is, however, best known for her book The Stranger Beside Me which is considered one of the definitive biographies of serial killer Ted Bundy.  While volunteering at a suicide crisis hotline center in Seattle in 1971 she met Ted Bundy, a work-study student, and didn’t realize until a few years later that he was responsible for a series of murders.  Ann went on to write several more books and, in April 2012, a crime detective reality TV show covered Rule’s successful effort to help a mother prove her daughter’s 1998 death was murder. The resulting book was In the Still of the Night.

Doris Hart

Doris Hart receiving the women’s singles trophy at Wimbledon in 1951 from the Duchess of Kent in 1951 (AP)

Tennis legend Doris Jane Hart was born in Missouri and was only 15 months old when her parents noticed that she was walking with a limp. Originally misdiagnosed as rheumatism, an infection spread rapidly up her leg. her parents refused the doctor’s recommendation of amputation and an emergency operation was performed on the family kitchen table which saved her leg. At the age of 10, she started playing tennis with her older brother. By 16, Doris was ranked in the American top 10 women players and, in 1946, she had reached the world’s top ten, where she remained for the next decade. In the 1950s, Doris Hart triumphed in all four grand slam events in singles, doubles and mixed doubles (an achievement known as a career boxed set), winning 325 titles altogether, 35 of them in grand slam events.

Best remembered for her 1963 smash single “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)” singer and song-writer Lesley Gore was only 16 years old when she was discovered by legendary music producer Quincy Jones. Her voice became the sound for youthful longing, and she recorded several other hits throughout the 1960s. One song that stood out was “You Don’t Own Me,” an unapologetic declaration that women are not objects that men can possess and control.  Ironically it was written by a male songwriter. In early 2000 she began hosting episodes of a PBS documentary series called In the Life, focusing on gay and lesbian issues. She officially came out to the public at large on the show, something she said her work on the show inspired her to do so. The musician died of lung cancer in February at 68 years young despite being a non-smoker.

Marie-Jose Villiers

Lady Marie-José Villiers receiving her U.S. Bronze Star

Countess Marie-José de la Barre d’Erquelinnes (a.k.a. Lady Marie-José Villiers) joined the Belgian Resistance in 1940 and, as a British spy, was high up on the Gestapo’s list of people they were determined to arrest. She first passed on details of enemy materiel to a friend at Christmas 1940 after Italian airmen, billeted at her family chateau, bragged about their new Cant 1007 aircraft.  Working two days a week as a driver for the Red Cross Motor Corps, she could show her pass to break curfew. Her other “cover” was her job as organiser of a canteen for the poor in the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht.  By October 1942, her network “Service Zero” had been betrayed and José went into hiding, darkened her hair, and, after a last fleeting meeting with her parents, fled to England and worked for Belgian Emergency Relief and then for the American Army as a liaison officer.  It was in 1988 that she finally put pen to paper and wrote about her wartime experiences in her book Granny Was A Spy. She passed in February at 98 years old with few at her retirement home knowing of her past.

Fatima Mernissi was a Moroccan writer and sociologist, known for her pioneering work in the field of Islamic feminism. Born in 1940, she grew up in a harem in Morocco and was the first generation of girls who were allowed to go to school. As a sociologist and an Islamic feminist, she was largely concerned with Islam and women’s roles in it, analyzing the historical development of Islamic thought and its modern manifestation. Her first monograph, Beyond the Veil, has become a classic, especially in the fields of anthropology and sociology on women in Muslim societies. Her latest books included Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World (2002) and Les Femmes Du Maroc (2009).

Mary Doyle Keef

Mary Doyle Keef with Normal Rockwell

We knew her best as the model for the wartime poster “Rosie the Riveter” however her real name was Mary Doyle Keef and she was a 19-year old telephone operator in Vermont when her neighbor, Norman Rockwell immortalized her in 1943. The inspiring image debuted on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post and became a cultural icon of the United States, representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during WW II.

The first female beat writer in Major League Baseball, Alison Gordon reported on sports with a passion, a thick skin and a sense of humor. She needed all three in abundance, given that many of the people she covered didn’t think she belonged in a major league clubhouse simply because of her gender. Regardless of the resistance she faced, Alison worked the Blue Jays beat with the Toronto Star for five years starting in 1979, earning respect as an individual and helping to prove that women as a group belonged. She was also one of the first females allowed into a Major League Baseball locker room, which was controversial at the time, but paved the way for many other female sports reporters.

Joan Kagezi

Joan Kagezi

Joan Kagezi, a Ugandan lawyer and prosecutor, was shot dead on her way home from work by gunmen on a motorcyle. She had stopped at a roadside produce stand in a Kampala suburb Monday evening to buy some fruit when her assailants approached. Three of children were in her car at the time of the attack and witnessed the brutal murder. At the time of her death, she was the lead prosecutor in a trial involving 13 men accused of involvement in an al-Shabaab terrorist attack. She was also the lead prosecutor in the 2010 bombings that killed 76 people who were watching the World Cup finals. Joan Kagezi was also a long-time friend of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

Having taught herself to read by age 3, Colleen McCullough was an acclaimed author best known for her family drama The Thorn Birds set on a remote sheep station in outback Australia which was made into an award-winning miniseries. Her career spanned four decades beginning with her first novel Tim written in 1974.  She continued to write in several genres but it was her seven-book, intensely researched, historical series Masters of Rome that won her much acclaim, including plaudits from politicians including Bob Carr, Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich. She passed at the age of 77 while working on the sequel to her book Bittersweet which was published in 2013.

Eugenie Clar

Eugenie Clark dives in a shark cage in South Australia

A pioneer in marine conservation and the study of shark behavior, Eugenie Clark “The Shark Lady” helped the public understand and appreciate the much maligned species. She learned to swim before the age of two, and got hooked on fish when, at the age of nine, she would visit the New York Aquarium on Saturdays. She would imagine what it would be like to be inside the shark tank swimming with them. Clark pursued her dream to be an ocean explorer, earning a B.A. in zoology in 1942 and a master’s and Ph.D. Few women were working in the male-dominated field of marine biology when she started out after WW II but she would become a role model and mentor to a generation of women. A pioneer in the use of scuba gear to conduct underwater scientific research and a veteran of more than 70 deep dives in submersibles, Clark continued diving into her nineties, even after being diagnosed with non-smoking-related lung cancer.

Farkhunda Malikzada was a 27-year-old observant Muslim Afghani woman who was lynched by a mob in Kabul in March. She was murdered after allegedly arguing with a mullah who falsely accused her of burning the Quran.  Hundreds of angry civilians flocked to the mosque upon overhearing the mullah’s accusation. They dragged her out and started to beat her: she was thrown from a roof, run over by a car, and pummeled outside the mosque. The mob then set her body on fire and dumped it in the Kabul River while police looked on. At the time of the attack, she had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching position. Police investigations later revealed that she had not burned anything and her death led to 49 arrests, numerous convictions and eleven police officers receiving one year prison terms for failing to protect her while looking on at the mayhem resulting in her death.

Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams was a writer and illustrator of children’s books that centered on the lives of working-class families, a highly unusual subject when she began her work in the 1970s. She was the daughter of immigrant parents from Russia and Poland who encouraged her when she showed an affinity for the arts from an early age. She was nine years old when one of her paintings, entitled “Yentas,” was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of a program under the Works Progress Administration.  She wrote and/or illustrated 16 books, including A Chair for My Mother and More, More, More Said the Baby, both of which earned prestigious Caldecott Honor citations. In many of her books, characters grapple with poverty, absent fathers and other hardships.

Born in 1918 in New York City’s Bronx, Gertrude Schimmel was the youngest of three children in a family of Jewish immigrants from Galicia. After graduation, Gertrude took the civil service exam for several city jobs.  The NYPD (New York Police Department) called her up first and, in 1940, she became part of a historic class of 18 women – and 300 men – to join the police department.  Through her early career she may have been hemmed in by sexism but overcame obstacles to become the NYPD’s first female sergeant in 1965 and went on to become its first lieutenant and captain. By the time Gertrude retired in 1981, she’d risen through the ranks of deputy inspector, inspector and finally deputy chief.

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

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The “Aha” Moments of 6 Industrious Women Inventors

It should not be surprising to learn that these inventions were made by women because they were the ones who recognized what could make a day of housework easier and more efficient.  They knew the cost of making a household run effectively and were always trying to make ends meet. The reasons behind the inventions may not always have been the most admirable, as in the case of Josephine Cochrane, but all of them made herstory.

InspiredByMyMom.com would like to salute these women and thank them for their contributions – some providing us with ease and efficiency; others giving us a tasty treat and a bit of fun at the end of a full day.

Sybilla Master's invention, c 1715An early American pioneer, Sybilla Masters was the first person to be given a British patent in America and was possibly one of the first female inventors recognized for her inventions. Although she was from a fairly well-to-do family, she watched the young colonist women struggling to clean and cure the corn crops. Finding the process of grinding corn between two heavy stones to make cornmeal to be tedious and difficult, in 1715 she invented a corn pulverizer that pounded the maize into cornmeal. Since patents were not yet being issued in Pennsylvania (one of the new colonies) Sybilla travelled all the way to England to have her machine patented. Also, since patents were not issued to women at the time, it had to be issued under her husband’s name.

While still on her own in England in 1716, Sybilla secured another English patent in her husband’s name. This invention involved a process by which straw and palmetto leaves were formed and stained for the adornment of women’s hats and bonnets.

Josephine CochraneJosephine Cochrane was a fairly wealthy woman who was tired of her servants breaking her prized dinnerware every time they washed the dishes. She wanted a machine that would get the job done faster and with fewer casualties to her dishware. One day Josephine proclaimed in disgust “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.” She had her automatic dishwasher patented in 1886 and demonstrated her invention at the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. It was fairly quickly adopted for commercial use and she founded a company to manufacture her invention which later became KitchenAid.  However, it was not until the 1950s that her invention become a popular household appliance, relieving tired housewives of the drudgery of dish washing.

ironing-boardSarah Boone was one of the first African-American women to receive a patent in the U.S. She made her name by inventing the modern ironing board in 1892. It was made of a narrow wooden board that had collapsible legs and a padded cover. It was also designed to be able to be folded and put away in a closet or other area. In her patent application, she wrote that the purpose of her invention was “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.” Prior to her invention, people resorted to simply using a table or being creative in laying a plank of wood across two chairs or small tables.

ice-cream-freezer-patentOne of the “tastiest” inventions comes from Nancy Johnson, the inventor of the ice cream maker. Ice cream and frozen ice desserts date back centuries and possibly as far back as to 200 BC China. The meaning of the phrase “ice cream” varies from one country to another and phrases such as “frozen custard”, “frozen yogurt”, “sorbet”, “gelato” and others are used to distinguish different varieties and styles. In the United States, Nancy Johnson had a passion for ice cream. In fact, she invented her own machine for making this tasty treat, the same basic model that we use today. Her ice cream maker was “hand” powered by the simple turn—and the many, many more turns—of a handle, which froze ice cream.  After patenting her invention in 1846, she sold the patent to a travelling salesman which started the ice cream revolution.

melitta1908The most “addictive” invention may have come from Melitta Bentz who, in 1908, brought us the drip coffee machine. As a housewife, Melitta found that percolators were prone to over-brewing coffee, espresso-type machines at the time tended to leave grounds in the drink, and linen bag filters were tiresome to clean. She experimented with various solutions but in the end took a simple route. She used an ordinary copper pot, poked a hole in the bottom, and layered it with her son’s notebook paper.  Not a complicated process but it worked and her patent for a “Filter Top Device Lined with Filter Paper” became an instant success. Today, her grandchildren still control the Melitta Group KG with some 3,300 employees in 50 companies.

landlords_gameLast but not least, a little “family” fun was originally invented in 1904 by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie who designed a board game called The Landlord’s Game. At the time she designed the game Magie believed that this game would show the world as it is hopefully inspire reforms. Thirty-one years later, a man named Charles Darrow, who stole the entire idea from Magie, sold a game called Monopoly to George and Fred Parker. After Monopoly became a hit, the brothers Parker tracked down the elderly Lizzie Magie Phillips and offered her $500 and no royalties. When Parker Brothers offered to produce an unsullied version of The Landlords’ Game, she gladly sold the rights however the board game giant quickly and thoroughly buried it, all the while slipping the name Elizabeth Magie into the memory hole with its fraudulent “history.”

We’ll probably never know about all the women inventors in herstory as they were not always recognized for their contributions.  It could be that credit was taken by others; the patent may have to have been registered in a father’s or husband’s name; or for a number of other dubious reasons.

The stories of such women needs to continually be corrected, written, or made and InspiredByMyMom.com strives to be the voice of HERstory.

 

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In Her Own Words : I was forced to become one of his 27 ‘wives’

Evelyn Amony was abducted by the Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when she was only 12 years old. For nearly three decades, this rebel group has committed a range of atrocities including the abduction of children, rape, killing, maiming and sexual slavery. Today Evelyn is Chair of the Women’s Advocacy Network, comprised of over 400 formerly abducted and war-affected women, many of whom are speaking out and effectively advocating for gender justice in Uganda. In her own words, she tells her story…

Evelyn Amory : Photo courtesy of Theresia Thylin/UN Trust Fund

Evelyn Amory : Photo courtesy of Theresia Thylin/UN Trust Fund

I used to not be able to talk about my experiences in the Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] because it made me get these terrible flashbacks. I will never forget, but now I can talk about my experiences.

I was abducted by the LRA when I was only 12 years old. One of the really bad things that happen to young girls in the LRA is that they are forced to have sex with the commanders even though they are not ready for such a relationship. I was forced to stay with the LRA leader Joseph Kony [who together with his top commanders is indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court].

When I was there, I was forced to become one of his 27 “wives”. I gave birth to three children in captivity and the worst thing that happened to me during my 11 years in the LRA was when one of my children went missing in the cross-fire in February 2004. I have searched for my daughter in both Uganda and South Sudan but have been unable to find her and I am unaware of her fate. One year after, during another exchange of fire, I managed to escape with my two other children. Today, I live with my surviving children and have also adopted two of Kony’s other children after their mother died. After I escaped, I stayed at a reception centre and the young children that had lost their mother knew me. When I was about to leave the centre the children started crying and it was painful for me to leave them so I decided to adopt them. Today, I also have two children with my new partner.

Formerly abducted women and their children born in captivity face a lot of stigma and discrimination when we return from captivity. I’m originally from Atiak, a town that was marked by a large massacre.

When I came back, the wife of one of my uncles showed me the graves of all the family members that have been killed.  She looked at me and said, ‘Kony’s children are still moving but our children are all buried’. That made me fear for the security of my children if we were to live in Atiak.

I joined together with women in the same situation to seek justice and reconciliation for war-affected women and our communities. Today, I am the Chair of the Women’s Advocacy Network, a network comprised of over 400 formerly abducted and war-affected women.

One of the achievements of the network is that we have presented a petition seeking the intervention of the Parliament in addressing issues and challenges faced by war-affected women in the Acholi sub-region. Earlier this month, I was there when the Parliament of Uganda debated the petition and thereafter adopted a resolution calling for reparations for war-affected women and other victims of the LRA. I felt so happy, and I was so happy that Members of Parliament across the political spectrum all supported the petition. It was something I had longed for!

The Government has not given anything to us, the formerly abducted women. Many of the men who have left the LRA have been integrated into the army and are receiving a salary but we, the women who were abducted by these men, have not received anything until now.

I hope that the resolution will generate an acknowledgement of the suffering of the women and that the Government will issue an apology. The Women’s Advocacy Network also calls on the Government to provide support to the women affected by war. For me personally, the most important thing would be if the Government could pay the school fees for my children.

As the Chair of the Woman’s Advocacy Network, I now have confidence to continue to speak out and to move on. I went through a lot of pain but I have a feeling that my life will change. I have already reached another level.

As transitional justice measures in Uganda -including the adoption of a transitional justice policy- are still in the making, we, the women formerly abducted by the LRA, have become an important voice in the struggle for gender justice. Every voice matters. We can all contribute as women at the grass-roots are playing our part in overcoming the challenges we continue to face.

Cross-posted from UN Women.

Landmark Resolution : The Women’s Advocacy Network, which is an initiative of the Justice and Reconciliation Project has managed to reach several war-affected communities and succeeded in attracting the attention of the Ugandan Parliament. With support of partners of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women such as the International Center for Transitional Justice, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and other partners like Gulu District Local Government, the Network presented a petition to the local government and subsequently to the national Parliament. Evelyn was present when the Parliament of Uganda debated the petition and on 9 April 2014 the Parliament adopted a landmark resolution calling for the reparations for war-affected women and other victims of the LRA.

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Celebrating My Mom Today and Every Day

Today, dozens of countries around the world are celebrating this Mother’s Day according to their traditions.  Florist shops have run out of roses,  restaurants have been booked weeks in advance, handmade cards have kept children busy in school art classes throughout the week, and fathers were up early this morning to help their children prepare breakfast-in-bed for mom.

With my Mom, Regina

With my Mom, Regina

Today I am celebrating Mother’s Day in Canada by remembering by Mom and the many ways she inspired me to become the woman I am today.

She passed away 5 years ago, this coming week, just several days after the weekend celebrating her life as mother and grandmother or “Babcia” as her grandchildren still call her when speaking of and sharing their memories of her.

She was a formidable lady having gone through war, famine and many other hardships that life threw her way.  I posted a short bio of her life last year, so this year I want to share her qualities and how they influenced myself and my family.

She was a fighter, a survivor and taught me to never give up and to fight for what I believed was right. It’s not always easy to stand-my-ground but she always supported me and I know she’s still there beside me, giving me strength.

She was tough but fair even though I may not have always thought so – especially in my formative years.  We certainly had our battles but we also had our great times and those are the ones that I cherish when I think of her.

She was kind to others and knew the meaning of helping those in need. Having been a war refugee herself she never forgot the helping hands of the International Red Cross and other organizations and individuals that were there for her and her family. Sharing and volunteering is something that she taught me at an early age and which I continue to practice to enrich my life.

She loved her family unconditionally. Her husband, her children and her grandchildren were the lights of her life. She is fondly remembered at every family occasion and we just know that she is there with us sharing in the laughs and the good times.

She was an excellent, self-taught cook and had me “helping” in the kitchen as long as I can remember. Having suffered hunger in her early years, she made sure that we knew that food was to be savoured, appreciated and enjoyed. She always laughed when she spoke of the first meal she cooked as a newlywed – burned pork chops that she slathered with sour cream.  My father just remembered eating it lovingly and swore that the meal was perfectly cooked.

She knew that family was important and, even if someone was not family, they became family.  Whatever the occasion or celebration, there was always a few extra guests around the table. Whether I brought a friend home unexpectedly or I knew that someone was alone for the holidays, my Mom always welcomed them with open arms, found an extra chair, and put another food-laden plate on the table.

Today I celebrate her and the many qualities that made her a wonderful Mom.  Today and every day I thank her for being my rock, my inspiration and my strength.  Every day I miss her, think of her, and remember all the joy she brought and brings to my life.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…  I love you!

Betty Eitner
Founder, Editor, Blogger

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As Humble a Woman as My Mum

With Mother’s Day just around the corner in my part of the world, Jane Oma of MyRubyHeels.com has kindly given me permission to repost this lovely poem she wrote to celebrate her Mum.

holding-hands-mother-and-child2As humble a woman as she was,
as humble was her life we saw,
she gleamed like the star she was,
a life very conscientious she lived,
examples enduring she laid,
stand tall always, she said,
against every adversary,
that way, you don´t end up in shame,
or in wanton misery.

As humble a woman as she was,
as humble was her beginning she said,
her life was a struggle,
but an ultimate seat at the head,
And though she sometimes stumbled,
she learned to always again rise high,
she taught us to always aim beyond the sky,
so at worst, land on the roof,
And to live each day at a time,
with uprightness imbibed in our roots.

Constantly thankful and amazed we are,
as the compassionate fulfilment
of her life transcends time,
confidently certain and assured,
that her creator was her strength,
as she made her life sublime.

As humble a woman as she was,
as humble was the legacy she left,
her ways and wisdom we learnt,
Be kind to everyone you meet,
for we are all one, she would say,
never expect too much from anyone
and be grateful for all you get,
Be honest in all you do, she would say
to yourself above all.

As humble a woman as she was,
your destiny is in your hands, she said,
with determination and hard work,
you can be anything you want to be,
patience will come in handy,
but your peace of mind is worth the wait.
And my daughter, she said,
always keep a smile about,
and a twinkle in your eyes.

As humble a woman as she was,
as humble was her last days,
leaving behind no debts, enemies or foes,
but loving memories of her to stay,
on that heavenly flight that fateful day,
was a great woman in every way,
Deep peace of the quiet earth,
and shinning stars to you, my Mum
As great a woman I hope to be,
A woman as humble as was my Mum.

                                                 Jane Oma

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A Personal Story of Gratitude

“I’ve chosen today to talk about something that really brought it home to me how you can find gratitude in the most unlikely places, where you don’t want to feel grateful at all. Here’s a little story.

Julie Zommers Mum, Barb

Julie Zommers Mum, Barb

My Mum died four years ago. She was the queen in terms of producing pots of lemon butter for her church, to which she was devoted. People loved her, and by God they loved her jars of lemon butter. Mum wore it like a badge of honour. Even in her last stages of Alzheimers, I’d cook up a batch and dispatch it to the church and she was thrilled. I think it was a link to a time where she felt like she mattered.

Two years after she had passed, my son called and said, ‘You know how Nana used to make lemon butter …I thought it would be great to take some over to the Church Spring Fete, do you have her recipe Mum? Then we can take it over, and people will remember her.’  Loving my son right then, even more than I usually do.

But here’s the thing. I had resistance.

  • The fete was in the grounds of the church where I said goodbye to my mother for the last time. Where the big black car took her away for the last time.
  • The fete day was also my daughter’s birthday. She lives in New York. I missed her. Terribly.
  • It also meant that I had to revisit my childhood territory, that incredible childhood home of fun, food and familiarity, if you know what I mean, the sameness that was my life for 50 years.

I was loving what my son wanted, and at the same time felt ill equipped to deal with it. But let’s fast track.

I am sitting in the sunshine, at the fete, sharing a devonshire tea with my son, Rory, and his beautiful partner Mim, and my granddaughter, Audrey. Lemon Butter jars delivered and sitting on nearby table.

We are sitting in the exact spot that the hearse that contained my  mother’s body was located. The choir strikes up, singing something that makes me want to cry.

Audrey climbs onto my lap, puts both her hands onto my face, and says ‘I love you Nana’.

There it is.  It brought me straight back to the present. Did she know? My guess would be that the Universe works in amazing ways, and that love was delivered to me exactly at the time that I needed it.

My point?  No matter how much you are filled with grief, something will come along to make you realise that you have a new thing to be grateful for.

I got into my car and my god, did I sob, but not for the loss of my mother. Something had shifted. Now I felt sheer gratitude of my son who wanted to do this thing, and gratitude that he had the sort of attributes that I think will serve him well in this life, and gratitude for my grand-daughter who somehow knew how to give me what I needed right at that moment in time.

Maybe you’ll relate to this, maybe you won’t.  I just wanted to share this in case it resonates with you.

With love as always,
Julie”

 

This post was contributed by About Julie Zommers, Happiness Warrior.  She is a writer and therapist based in Sydney, Australia and believes that everyone deserves to find their light and let it shine.  You can discover more about Julie at TrulyMadlyDeeplyHappy.com

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