The history of women has always been clouded. It’s no surprise considering the majority of history books have been researched and written by men, and there are very few moments in history where women made up the majority of eye-witnesses to be able to have control over the narrative. Yet, many women either disguised as men or through sheer determination have been able to stand out in history and help other women in return.
As a fashion brand that stands up for women’s rights and drives to give a voice to issues facing women today, we also believe we need to spread the word about the achievements of women as well as turning points in history that gave women a growing voice in society.
While society rules and structures have changed over time, women and marginalised groups are still suffering under the rule of the patriarchal systems in place that create intersectionality to keep us divided.
As it is Women’s History Month, here are ten moments in history that you should know about.
1. Ada Lovelace sparks the growth of computer technology
In the early 1840s, Lovelace helped Charles Babbage translate an article from French to English to aid an idea of his, a digital computer that he dubbed an Analytical Engine. Lovelace, however, did much more. She added her own extensive notes and wrote an algorithm for the Analytical Engine to compute Bernoulli numbers. Whilst how much of the concept was her work versus Babbage, it is agreed that she was the one who recognized that the concept could be more than a calculator and is credited with the movement from calculation to computation.
2. Fatima Al-Fibri and The World’s Oldest University
After her father, brother, and her husband died, she decided to use her inheritance to make a positive impact on her community. In 859CE, al-Fihri funded the construction of the Al Qarawiyyin mosque and adjoining madrasa, which became a locus of scholarly and religious activity. Beyond overseeing the extensive project, she also attended and graduated form the university, which would have Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish students. Today, the University of Al Qarawiyyin is the world's oldest continually operating, degree-granting university, and visitors can see al-Fihri's wooden diploma in the school's library.
3. Lyda D. Newman and the Hairbrush
While hairbrushes have been around in different forms for as long as civilization. Lyda D. Newman revolutionised the hairbrush in 1898 with the first synthetic hairbrush. Her innovation allowed for easier access to bristles in order to clean out the crush and introduced the world to synthetic bristles. This creation made bruising long hair a much more hygienic process.
4. Mary Tudor, Queen of English
Though Elizabeth I gets all the films and TV shows due to her long and powerful reign of England, it was actually her half-sister Mary who was crowned the first Queen of England in 1553. Considering that the unification of England happened around 927, meaning it took 626 years for the country of England to have its first Queen which is a much longer period of time between our modern day and her era. Though it was achieved by birth rate, it is still a defining moment in women’s history.
5. Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Mother of the Ejisuhene
Yaa Asantewa led the Ashanti in a war against British Colonisation between 1900 and 1901. She challenged the British call of complete domination of the Ashanti confederacy and demanded the rental of King Asantehene Prempeh I when many others considered surrendering. Though she was defeated and exiled to the Seychelles, her bravery and military fortitude exemplified the uniqueness of female leadership and inspired from generations of Ghanians in the long fight for independence.
6. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, First Female PM
Following the assination of her husband in 1959 she entered the political field and became the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). In 1960, Bandaranaike’s party won the general election in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, she became the world’s first female prime minister. Though voted out in 1965, she returned to the office two more times and helped create a political dynasty.
7. Raymonde de Laroche, First Female Licensed Pilot
A former actress, Raymonde de Laroche was inspired to track up flying after seeing the Wright Brothers’ flight demonstrations in 1907 in France. Though she was not the first female aviator, de Laroche was the first woman to earn a pilot’s licence in 1910. Helping to lead the way for more women to become pilots today.
8. The First Female Grammy Wins
At the very first Grammy Awards in 1958, Ella Fitzgerald, known as the “First Lady of Song” was awarded two Grammys, making her the first woman to win two and the first African American to win at all. In 1961, Judy Garland made more Grammy history by becoming the first woman to win Album of the Year. Astrud Gilberto: first woman to win Record of the Year in 1964 for “The Girl From Ipanema,” an honour she shared with Stan Getz. Carole King: first woman to win Song of the Year and Record of the Year, solo, for “It’s Too Late” in 1971.
9. Junko Tabei and Everest
Junko Tabei stood just 5-feet tall and weighed only 92 pounds, but her diminutive size was matched by enormous fortitude, bravery, and stamina. In 1975, she co-led a group of 15 women to the summit of Mt. Everest, becoming the first female ever to reach the peak. She would eventually ascend the highest summit on every continent.
10. Juliana Morell and Doctorates
Born in Barcelona in 1594, Juliana Morell was so brilliant that by the age of four, her teachers informed her father they had nothing left to teach her. In 1608, she became the first female ever to earn a doctorate degree, a Law doctorate, and was also the first woman to earn any type of university degree.