1. Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron (only the hottest Romantic poet ever), is credited with writing the first computer program.
2. Hedy Lamarr, iconic Hollywood actress, also invented a frequency hopping device that prevented radio-controlled torpedoes from jamming.
3. Fe del Mundo, Harvard Medical School’s first female student, was admitted because she was brilliant…and because they didn’t realize she was a woman.
Del Mundo founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines. She attended nine years before enrollment was opened to women. A whoops for Harvard was a win for humanity.
4. The Dahomey Amazons were an all-female army that fought for the Kingdom of Dahomey (now Republic of Benin) for almost 200 years.
They kicked ass and took names…or heads. Whatever.
5. Madam C.J. Walker, the illiterate daughter of freed slaves, became America’s first black female millionaire for a hair treatment she invented in 1905,
She also fought with the NAACP to make lynching a federal crime. Imagine how awesome it’d be if she ever hung out with Oprah, America’s first black female billionaire.
6. Anna May Wong was the first major Chinese-American film star and she fought against stereotypical portrayals in Hollywood.
She also achieved star-status despite anti-miscegenation laws that prevented her from ever kissing a co-star onscreen — and it didn’t keep her from having love affairs with white men. The jazz standard “These Foolish Things” is said to be written for her by her lover Eric Maschwitz.
7. The Harvard Computers, astronomer Edward Charles Pickering’s all-female team, cataloged and classified nearly all the stars in the sky.
One of them, Antonia Maury, created the Harvard Spectral Classification System still used today.
8. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of Latin America’s greatest poets, rejected multiple proposals and became a nun in 1667 so she could devote her life to study.
She taught herself how to read and write by age three and read voraciously, though reading was forbidden to girls. Her scholarship was eventually condemned by the church, and she ceased writing to avoid censure.
9. Alice Huyler Ramsey, the first woman to drive across America, said, “Good driving has nothing to do with sex. It’s all above the collar.”
Along the way on her 1909 drive, she changed tires, fixed broken brake pedals, and cleaned spark plugs during her 59 day trip — all before there were many paved roads.
10. Murasaki Shikibu published the first novel ever, The Tale of Genji, in 1021.
It was a love story. Because love is older than written language.
11. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first black person to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind.
12. The Wesleyan-educated Soong Sisters were married to the three most influential men of modern Chinese history, and significant in their own right.
Ai-Ling wed the richest man in China, May-Ling was married to the man who lead the Kuo Ming Tang Democratic Party, and Ching-Ling was the wife of the man who founded the Republic of China and overthrew the Chinese dynastic government.
13. Victoria Claflin Woodhull, America’s first woman presidential candidate, advocated for the right to marry, divorce, and have children without government interference.
Though the legality of her 1872 candidacy has been contested, Victoria Claflin Woodhull remains a visionary who was over a hundred years before her time — all this in a time before women were even allowed to vote.