International Women's Day - Trailblazers

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Thursday 11th March 2021

We take a look at some well-known women and celebrate their achievements in their respective fields.

Ada Lovelace (Scientist)

A renowned mathematician and scientist, Ada Lovelace began working with Charles Babbage in her late teens. Babbage is regarded by some as the ‘father of computers’ since he is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer, known as the Analytical Engine. Ada worked alongside Babbage and wrote an algorithm for the Engine - the world’s first computer programme, realising their full potential before anyone else.

Valentina Tereshkova (Space)

Valentina Tereshkova is the first woman to go into space.  On 16 June 1963, she was aboard a Soviet Vostok 6 rocket, on a journey that lasted three days. It would then be nearly 20 years until the next woman went into space.

Billie Jean King (Tennis Player and Activist)

King turned professional in 1968 and became the first woman athlete to win more than $100,000 in one season in 1971. In 1973, she beat Bobby Riggs in a much-publicised “Battle of the Sexes”. The match set a record for the largest tennis audience and the largest purse awarded up to that time. She pushed relentlessly for the rights of women players, helped to form a separate women’s tour, and obtained financial backing from commercial sponsors. She was one of the founders and became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association.

Baroness Betty Boothroyd (First Female Speaker of the House of Commons)

Baroness Boothroyd first assisted several Labour MPs before winning a seat on the Hammersmith Borough Council (1965–68). She continued to contest seats in Parliament and was unsuccessful two more times before she won a seat as the Labour candidate for West Bromwich in 1973. In 1974, she was made an assistant government whip. Boothroyd was then elected the first female speaker of the House in 1992. She sought to modernise the role of speaker.

Florence Nightingale (Nursing)

Known as the ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale was the remarkable founder of modern nursing. Born into a wealthy family, Nightingale dedicated her life to a profession that was seen at the time as less than respectable. During the Crimean War, she improved the unsanitary conditions of the military hospital in which she worked and provided the soldiers with quality care. After the war, she set up the first secular nursing school in the world.

Rosa Parks (Activist)

Rosa Parks was a civil rights leader whose refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing a bus driver's instructions to give up her seat to a white passenger. She later recalled that her refusal wasn't because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in. Her actions led to nationwide efforts to end racial segregation. Parks was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Unite the Union and the Marx Memorial Library are creating the largest collection of Oral Histories from working people. Sharing stories of struggle, collectivism, and what it means to be a member and activist within the Trade Union Movement.  Listen to the podcasts now on Spotify and Pocket Casts.