How Women’s Influence Shaped the Course of History
From the beginning of time, women have been instrumental in shaping the course of history. Though often unacknowledged, has been felt in every sphere of life.
It is the strength and resilience of women that have propelled nations forward, and it is their unwavering spirit that has kept the world moving in the face of adversity.
Throughout history, women have been at the forefront of movements for change, fighting for their rights and the rights of others. They have stood up against oppression and discrimination, and their voices have echoed through the halls of power, demanding justice and equality. It is because of women that we have come so far as a society, and it is because of their courage and determination that we continue to move forward.
But it is not just in the realm of politics and activism that women have left their mark. Their influence can be seen in every aspect of our lives. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, women have been the driving force behind innovations and advancements that have transformed our world. They have challenged the status quo and pushed boundaries, inspiring us all to dream bigger, work harder, and aim higher.
As we look back on the course of history, it is clear that women have been the unsung heroes, the quiet but powerful forces that have shaped our world. Their legacy lives on in the countless achievements and milestones that we have reached, and their impact will continue to be felt for generations to come. So let us celebrate the women who have made history, and let us honor their legacies by continuing to fight for a better, more just world.
Women who proved that a Disability is not a barrier to Success.
1. Ann Tsukamoto - Stem Cell Research
Ann Tsukamoto is a stem cell researcher and neuroscientist who has made significant contributions to the field of stem cell biology. She was born in 1960 and grew up in San Francisco, California. Tsukamoto received her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
Tsukamoto is most well-known for her work on isolating human hematopoietic stem cells, which are cells that can give rise to all types of blood cells. Her work has helped to pave the way for new treatments for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. She has also made significant contributions to the study of neural stem cells, which are cells that can give rise to all types of cells in the nervous system.
Tsukamoto has received numerous awards for her research, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 1997. She is currently the President and CEO of Stem Cells, Inc., a company that is focused on developing stem cell therapies for a variety of diseases.
2. Edith Flanigen - Renowned Chemist and Inventor
Edith Flanigen is a renowned American chemist and inventor who made significant contributions to the field of zeolite chemistry. She was born on January 28, 1929, in Buffalo, New York, and passed away on February 26, 2021, at the age of 92. Flanigen earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemistry from Syracuse University in 1950 and 1952, respectively. She then received her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Buffalo in 1956.
Flanigen was best known for her pioneering work on the synthesis of molecular sieves, which are used in the petroleum refining industry. She was awarded 109 patents over the course of her career, many of them related to zeolites. In 2014, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her work on zeolites.
Flanigen was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Chemical Society. She received numerous awards throughout her career, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2015
3. Florence Nightingale - Founder of Modern Nursing
Florence Nightingale was a British nurse, statistician, and social reformer who became famous for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War. She was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, and died on August 13, 1910, in London, United Kingdom. Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing and is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of nursing. She was also a prolific writer, and her work on public health reform influenced the United Kingdom’s health policy. She was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria for her work during the Crimean War.
As a nurse, Nightingale was known for her compassion and dedication to improving the conditions of the hospitals where she worked. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses trained by her improved the unsanitary conditions at a British army hospital in Scutari, Turkey. Her work reduced the death rate from 42 percent to 2 percent. She also improved the needs of the hospitals in India and established a nursing school at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.
In addition to her nursing work, Nightingale was also a social reformer, advocating for improved public health and sanitation measures. She was a strong believer in the power of statistics to improve public health and was the first person to use graphical representations of data in her reports. She was a prolific writer and wrote over 200 books and pamphlets on nursing, public health, and statistics. Her most famous work, "Notes on Nursing," is still used as a textbook in nursing schools around the world.
In conclusion, Florence Nightingale was a pioneering figure in the field of nursing and public health. Her work during the Crimean War and her advocacy for improved public health and nursing education had a profound impact on the field of nursing and the health of people around the world. Her legacy continues to be celebrated to this day.
4. Brenda Berkman - First Female Firefighter
Brenda Berkman is an American artist, author, and retired firefighter. She was one of the first women hired by the New York City Fire Department in 1982, and she later became a founding member of the United Women Firefighters organization. Berkman was also a plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit against the New York City Fire Department that challenged discrimination against women in hiring practices.
After retiring from firefighting, Berkman pursued a career in art and became known for her feminist and social justice themes. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Brooklyn Museum.
Berkman is also an author and has written several books, including “The Firefighters’ Workout Book,” which offers fitness and wellness advice for firefighters and others.
5. Margaret A. Naeser Renowned Research Professor of Neurology
Margaret A. Naeser, Ph.D., is a research professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. She is known for her research on transcranial photobiomodulation, a non-invasive method of using near-infrared light to stimulate brain function and treat neurological disorders such as traumatic brain injury and stroke.
Naeser has been involved in several studies on the use of transcranial photobiomodulation to treat chronic pain and cognitive impairment in veterans. She has also published research on the use of transcranial photobiomodulation to improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Naeser earned her Ph.D. from Boston University and has been a faculty member there since 1979. She has received numerous awards for her research, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts.
6. Jillian Mercado - Model, Actress, and Activist
Jillian Mercado is a disabled model, actress, and activist who has made a name for herself advocating for greater representation of disabled people in the fashion industry. She was born and raised in New York City and was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child, which left her dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.
Mercado first gained attention in the fashion industry after being discovered by a casting director for Diesel in 2014. She has since appeared in advertising campaigns for a number of high-profile brands, including Beyonce’s Ivy Park, Nordstrom, and Olay. In 2015, she was signed by IMG Models, one of the world’s top modeling agencies, becoming the first model with a physical disability to join the agency’s roster.
In addition to her work as a model, Mercado has also been an outspoken advocate for greater representation of disabled people in the fashion industry. Her activism includes speaking at events and conferences, as well as using her social media platforms to raise awareness and promote inclusivity.
7. Stella Young - Comedian, Writer, and Disability Activist
Stella Young was an Australian comedian, writer, and disability rights activist who was born on October 16, 1982. She became a well-known advocate for disability rights in Australia and around the world, using her humor and wit to draw attention to the challenges faced by people with disabilities.
Young was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes brittle bones. She began using a wheelchair at the age of 14. Despite her disability, Young was an accomplished journalist, writing for publications such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Sydney Morning Herald.
In addition to her writing work, Young was a sought-after speaker on disability issues. She gave a TED talk in 2014 entitled “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much,” in which she challenged the common perception of people with disabilities as “inspirational” simply for living their lives. Young also worked as the editor of ABC’s disability news and opinion website, Ramp Up.
Young passed away on December 6, 2014, at the age of 32. Her legacy as a disability rights advocate and trailblazer lives on, inspiring countless individuals around the world to fight for a more inclusive and accessible society.
In addition to her writing work, Young was a sought-after speaker on disability issues. She gave a TED talk in 2014 entitled "I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much," in which she challenged the common perception of people with disabilities as "inspirational" simply for living their lives. Young also worked as the editor of ABC's disability news and opinion website, Ramp Up.
Young passed away on December 6, 2014, at the age of 32. Her legacy as a disability rights advocate and trailblazer lives on, inspiring countless individuals around the world to fight for a more inclusive and accessible society.
8. Farida Bedwei - Software Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Advocate
Farida Bedwei is a Ghanaian software engineer and tech entrepreneur. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1979, and moved to Ghana with her family when she was young. Bedwei was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age and has been wheelchair-bound for most of her life, but has used her experiences to become an advocate for disability rights and a role model for others with disabilities.
Bedwei graduated from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK with a degree in Computer Science. She went on to work for a number of technology companies in Ghana, including Soft, Rancard Solutions, and G-Life Microfinance. In 2010, Bedwei co-founded Logiciel, a fintech company that provides financial software solutions for businesses and organizations.
In addition to her work in the tech industry, Bedwei is also a writer and public speaker. She has published a book, "Definition of a Miracle", which tells the story of a young girl with cerebral palsy. Bedwei has also given numerous talks on disability rights and inclusive design at conferences and events around the world.
Bedwei's achievements have earned her numerous accolades, including being named one of the 'Top 5 Women impacting IT in Africa' by IT News Africa. She was also included in the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list for 2018.
9. Claudia Gordon - Disability Rights Attorney
Claudia Gordon is an accomplished attorney who has worked tirelessly to promote the interests of people with disabilities. Born in Jamaica, Gordon moved to the United States at the age of nine and was diagnosed with hearing loss soon thereafter. Despite these challenges, she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University and a law degree from American University. She has since worked as a disability rights attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, the National Council on Disability, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Gordon has also been recognized for her advocacy work. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as the first deaf and black woman to serve as a public engagement advisor for the White House. She has also been recognized by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights and the National Association of the Deaf for her work promoting disability rights.
10. Judy Heumann - Disability Activist, Author, and Government Official
Judy Heumann is an American disability rights activist, author, and former government official. She was born on November 18, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York. Heumann contracted polio when she was 18 months old and uses a wheelchair. Despite facing discrimination due to her disability, Heumann has been a leading figure in the disability rights movement. She founded the World Institute on Disability and was the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services under President Clinton. Heumann has been recognized for her work with numerous awards, including the Henry B. Betts Award in 2006 and the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award in 2018.
Heumann’s activism began in the 1960s when she began advocating for the right to attend public school. She was one of the organizers of the 504 Sit-In, a 26-day protest in San Francisco in 1977 that resulted in the first federal regulations protecting the rights of disabled people. Heumann’s work has focused on ensuring that disabled people have equal access to education, employment, and transportation. She has also been involved in advocating for disability rights internationally, including working with the United Nations to develop the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In addition to her activism, Heumann has authored several books on disability rights. Her memoir, "Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist," was published in 2020. She has also written "Toward Independence," a report on the status of disabled people in the United States, as well as numerous articles and essays on disability rights.
Judy Heumann's groundbreaking advocacy work has had a profound impact on the lives of disabled people around the world. Her tireless efforts to promote disability rights have helped to ensure that disabled people are able to fully participate in society, regardless of their abilities.
Read even more about Heumann in our recent blog post about her legacy here
11. Barbara McClintock - Scientist, Cytogeneticist, and Nobel Prize Winner
Barbara McClintock was an American scientist and cytogeneticist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983 for her pioneering work in the field of genetics. She was born on June 16, 1902, in Hartford, Connecticut, and received her Ph.D. in botany from Cornell University in 1927.
McClintock is best known for her discovery of transposable elements or “jumping genes” in maize, which challenged the conventional wisdom that genes were fixed and unchanging. Her work on the genetic structure of maize was groundbreaking and helped to establish the field of cytogenetics, the study of the structure and function of chromosomes and their relation to cell behavior.
Despite initial skepticism from the scientific community, McClintock’s work on transposable elements eventually gained widespread recognition and has had a profound impact on genetics research. She was also a strong advocate for scientific integrity and was known for her persistence and dedication to her research.
McClintock received numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including the National Medal of Science in 1970 and the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 198. She died on September 2, 1992, in Huntington, New York.
12. Temple Grandin - Autism Advocate and Professor of Animal Science
Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science and autism advocate, renowned for her work in animal welfare and designing livestock handling facilities. She was born on August 29, 1947, in Boston, Massachusetts, and diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Despite facing challenges with social communication, Grandin earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and a PhD in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
Grandin has dedicated her career to improving animal welfare and reducing stress during the handling process, particularly in the meat industry. She designed the “hug box,” a device that applies pressure to individuals with autism, to help alleviate anxiety. Her work has led to the development of animal handling systems used in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.
In addition to her contributions to animal welfare, Grandin is also a well-known autism advocate. She has written several books on autism, including “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” and “The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed”. She has been recognized for her work with numerous awards and honors, including being named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010.
13. Heather Kuzmich - Model and Advocate
Heather Kuzmich is a former contestant on the television show “America’s Next Top Model”. Born on April 19, 1986, in Valparaiso, Indiana, Kuzmich was diagnosed with a form of autism, when she was fifteen years old. Despite struggling with social interactions, Kuzmich pursued a modeling career and gained national attention when she competed on cycle 9 of “America’s Next Top Model” in 2007.
Since appearing on the show, Kuzmich has become a role model for people with disabilities and has advocated for greater representation of people with disabilities in the fashion industry. She has also been a speaker at events such as the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day conference.
14. Lizzy Clark - Writer and Autism Advocate
Lizzy Clark is an autism advocate who has dedicated her life to promoting greater awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Clark was diagnosed with ASD at the age of four and has since become a leading voice in the autism community.
Clark is an accomplished writer, having penned numerous articles and essays on topics related to autism, including the challenges faced by people on the spectrum and the importance of promoting greater neurodiversity in society. She has also worked as a public speaker, delivering powerful talks on autism and the need for greater acceptance and support for people with ASD.
In addition to her advocacy work, Clark has also been involved in a number of organizations dedicated to supporting people with autism. She has volunteered with groups such as the National Autistic Society and the Autism Society of America and has served on the board of directors for the Autism Women's Network.
Clark's tireless advocacy work has earned her numerous accolades over the years. In 2016, she was named one of the "Top 50 Influential People in the Autism Community" by the magazine "The Art of Autism". She has also been featured in a number of media outlets, including BBC News, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post.
Through her work as an advocate, writer, and public speaker, Lizzy Clark has become a powerful force in the autism community, working tirelessly to promote greater understanding and acceptance for people with ASD.
15. Haley Moss - Lawyer and Disability Advocate
Haley Moss is an accomplished American lawyer and disability advocate. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and has since become a trailblazer in the field of neurodiversity. Moss graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she was the first openly autistic law student. She was later admitted to the Florida Bar in 2018, making her the first openly autistic person to be admitted to the Florida Bar. Moss is also an accomplished author, having written several books including “Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About” and “A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About!”
Moss has become a well-known advocate for individuals with disabilities. She has spoken at conferences and events on a variety of topics related to neurodiversity and has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times and Forbes. Moss has also served on the board of several organizations, including the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, and the Unicorn Children’s Foundation.
As a trailblazer in the field of neurodiversity, Haley Moss has made significant contributions to the legal profession and the disability rights movement. Her achievements serve as an inspiration to individuals with disabilities everywhere.
17. Kara Ayers - Academic and Disability Advocate
Kara Ayers, Ph.D., is an accomplished academic and advocate for disability rights. She is the Associate Director and an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
Dr. Ayers holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Her professional interests include disability identity/culture, bioethics, community inclusion, and the use of media to teach, empower, and reduce stigma. She has co-founded the Disabled Parenting Project, a peer-to-peer support network for parents with disabilities. Dr. Ayers has also served on the boards of the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation and The Association for Successful Parenting.
She is an Associate Professor and the Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCCEDD). Kara Ayers is dedicated to promoting self-advocacy, parenting with a disability, community inclusion, and the use of film.
18. Emily Paige Ballou - Autism Advocate, Artist, and Writer
Emily Paige Ballou is a dedicated autism advocate who has made it her mission to raise awareness and promote acceptance of individuals with autism. Emily was diagnosed with autism at a young age and has since become a powerful voice in the autism community, using her own experiences to educate and inspire others.
Emily’s advocacy work began in earnest when she started blogging about her experiences with autism. Her writing quickly gained a following, and she soon became a sought-after speaker at conferences and events focused on autism and disability rights. Emily has also worked with a number of autism advocacy organizations, including the Autism Society of America, to promote understanding and acceptance of individuals with autism.
In addition to her advocacy work, Emily is also an accomplished artist and writer. She has written several books about her experiences with autism, including the popular memoir "Dancing with Autism." She has also created a number of art pieces that explore the experience of living with autism, which have been exhibited in galleries around the world.
Emily's efforts have earned her numerous awards and accolades, including the prestigious Temple Grandin Award for Outstanding Global Contribution to Autism Awareness. Through her work, Emily has helped to create a more inclusive and understanding society for individuals with autism and has inspired countless others to do the same.
19. Jessica-Jane Applegate - Swimmer and Autism Advocate
Jessica Jane Applegate is a highly accomplished Paralympic swimmer from Great Britain who has achieved remarkable success in her sport despite facing significant challenges throughout her life.
Born with a range of disabilities, including Asperger’s syndrome (now referred to as autism spectrum disorder), dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Jessica discovered her passion for swimming at an early age. She began competing in local competitions and quickly showed promise as a talented athlete.
In 2010, Jessica’s hard work and dedication paid off when she was selected to represent Great Britain at the IPC Swimming European Championships. There, she won a gold medal in the S14 200m freestyle event, setting a new European record in the process. Since then, Jessica has gone on to achieve numerous other accolades, including winning a gold medal in the S14 200m freestyle at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Jessica is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities. She is an ambassador for the National Autistic Society and has spoken publicly about her experiences with Asperger's syndrome and how it has affected her life and her swimming career. She is also a patron of the Norwich-based charity, The Hamlet, which provides support and services for children and young adults with disabilities.
Jessica's achievements have earned her numerous awards and honors, including an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to swimming and charity. Despite all of her success, Jessica remains humble and committed to inspiring others with disabilities to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.
20. Karen Gaffney - Swimmer, Advocate, and Motivational Speaker
Karen Gaffney is an accomplished swimmer, advocate, and motivational speaker who was born with Down syndrome. Despite facing significant challenges throughout her life, Karen has never allowed her disability to hold her back from pursuing her dreams.
Karen first made a splash in the world of swimming when she was just 14 years old. She became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a relay swim across the English Channel, a feat that earned her international recognition and admiration. Since then, Karen has continued to swim competitively and has completed several long-distance swims, including the Boston Harbor Swim and the Alcatraz Swim.
In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Karen is a passionate advocate for individuals with intellectual disabilities. She has spoken at conferences and events across the country, sharing her personal story and advocating for greater inclusion and acceptance. She is the founder of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting full inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
Karen is also a highly sought-after motivational speaker, inspiring audiences with her message of perseverance, determination, and hope. She has given speeches at universities, corporations, and non-profit organizations, and has been featured in numerous media outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post.
Karen's achievements have earned her numerous accolades and honors, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Portland, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation's Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award, and the National Down Syndrome Congress' Self-Advocate of the Year Award. Despite all of her accomplishments, Karen remains grounded and committed to making the world a better place for individuals with disabilities.
21. Melissa Reilly - Gold Medal Skier and Disabilities Advocate
Melissa Reilly has never allowed her disability to dictate what she can and cannot achieve. As a person born with Down syndrome, Reilly shatters stereotypes daily as she excels in sports, leadership, and employment, showcasing the immense value individuals with intellectual disabilities bring to all aspects of life. Advocating for individuals with disabilities is a top priority for Reilly, and she pursues this passion through her work with Massachusetts State Senator, Jaime Eldridge. However, without Special Olympics, much of her positive impact would not have been possible.
At just eight years old, Reilly began competing with Special Olympics Massachusetts, and it quickly became apparent that she had a natural talent for competition, participating in swimming, cycling, and skiing over the past 26 years. Additionally, she proudly represented her country at two Special Olympics World Winter Games, further solidifying her status as an accomplished athlete.
Beyond her extensive list of athletic accomplishments, Reilly has become a respected leader within Special Olympics Massachusetts, serving as a Global Messenger and member of the Board of Directors.
“I feel incredibly honored to help support the athletes and the Board,” Reilly shared. “We work together to provide suggestions on how to enhance the Special Olympics Program.”
Reilly's impressive athletic and leadership achievements were celebrated in 2010 when she was inducted into the Special Olympics Massachusetts Hall of Fame. However, her impact extends far beyond the realm of Special Olympics.
Reilly is a passionate advocate for creating a more inclusive world for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Through public speaking engagements, she shares her personal story and highlights the critical importance of including everyone in every aspect of society. Her advocacy efforts have earned her numerous accolades, features in magazines and newspapers, and interviews on television and radio shows.
Prior to the pandemic, Reilly delivered between 10 to 20 presentations annually and was frequently invited to speak at large events for organizations throughout the country. She was the keynote speaker at the Special Olympics Massachusetts 50th Celebration in 2018 and has since continued to speak virtually, including a recent presentation to medical students at Harvard Medical School. In the upcoming months, she is scheduled to speak at Brandeis University and Boston University Medical School, among others. Despite her growing success, Reilly never forgets her roots.
22. Collette Divitto - Entrepreneur and Disability Advocate
Collette Divitto is an American entrepreneur and advocates for people with disabilities who is best known for founding Collettey’s, a cookie company that employs people with disabilities. Born with Down syndrome on January 6, 1990, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Divitto has overcome numerous obstacles to achieve success in the business world.
After graduating from high school, Divitto struggled to find employment due to the stigma surrounding people with disabilities. She eventually landed a job at a local bakery, where she honed her baking skills and developed a passion for creating delicious treats.
In 2016, Divitto decided to turn her passion into a business and founded Collettey’s, a cookie company that employs people with disabilities. She began selling her cookies online and quickly gained a following for her delicious treats and her commitment to providing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Divitto’s success with Collettey’s has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the 2017 National Down Syndrome Society Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She has also been featured in media outlets around the world and has become a vocal advocate for disability rights.
Today, Divitto continues to run Collettey’s and works tirelessly to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to creating positive change have inspired countless individuals with disabilities and have helped to break down barriers to employment and success.
23. Geri Jewell - Actress, Comedian, and Disability Rights Activist
Geri Jewell is an American actress, comedian, and disability rights activist who is best known for her groundbreaking role on the hit television show “The Facts of Life”. Born on September 13, 1956, in Buffalo, New York, Jewell was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age.
Despite the challenges of her disability, Jewell pursued her passion for acting and comedy. She began performing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles in the 1980s and quickly gained a following with her sharp wit and irreverent humor.
In 1980, Jewell made history when she was cast as Cousin Geri on “The Facts of Life,” becoming the first actor with a disability to have a recurring role on a prime-time television series. Her portrayal of Cousin Geri, a character with cerebral palsy, was groundbreaking and helped to raise awareness of disability issues.
Jewell’s success on “The Facts of Life” led to numerous other television and film roles, including appearances on “Sesame Street,” “21 Jump Street,” and “Deadwood.” She also became a vocal advocate for disability rights and a sought-after speaker on the subject.
Jewell’s contributions to the entertainment industry and disability rights movement were recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Victory Award from the California Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1992.
Today, Jewell continues to work as an actress and comedian, as well as an advocate for disability rights. Her groundbreaking work on “The Facts of Life” helped to pave the way for greater representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry, and her tireless advocacy has helped to improve the lives of countless individuals with disabilities.
24. Stephanie Kwolek - Kevlar
Stephanie Kwolek was a pioneering chemist who made significant contributions to the field of polymer science. Born on July 31, 1923, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Kwolek was the daughter of Polish immigrants.
Kwolek was a gifted student and showed an early aptitude for science and mathematics. She went on to study chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1946. After graduation, she began working for the DuPont Company in Buffalo, New York, where she spent most of her career.
During her time at DuPont, Kwolek made several groundbreaking contributions to the field of polymer science. She invented a new type of synthetic fiber called Kevlar, which is used in a wide range of applications, including body armor, tires, and fiber optic cables.
Kwolek's discovery of Kevlar was a major breakthrough in materials science and has saved countless lives. Her invention has been credited with preventing injuries and fatalities in law enforcement and military settings, as well as in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Kwolek's contributions to science were recognized with numerous awards and honors during her lifetime, including the National Medal of Technology in 1996, becoming the fourth woman to receive this prestigious award. She was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995.
Kwolek passed away on June 18, 2014, at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy as a trailblazer in the field of polymer science and a champion for women in STEM fields. Her groundbreaking discoveries continue to influence the field today, and her legacy serves as an inspiration to future generations of scientists and inventors.
25. Jane Cooke Wright - Chemotherapy
Jane Cooke Wright was a pioneering African American oncologist and cancer researcher who made groundbreaking contributions to the field of chemotherapy. Born on November 30, 1919, in New York City, Wright grew up in a family of medical professionals. Her father, Louis T. Wright, was a prominent surgeon and her mother, Corinne Cooke Wright, was a public school teacher.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, Wright went on to attend New York Medical College, where she received her medical degree in 1945. She then completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
In 1949, Wright joined the research team at the Cancer Research Foundation of Harlem Hospital, where she began investigating the effects of chemotherapy drugs on cancer cells. Her work focused on developing new treatments for cancer that were less toxic than traditional methods such as radiation therapy and surgery.
Wright’s most significant contribution to the field of oncology was her development of a method for testing the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs on cancer cells in the laboratory. This method, known as the “in vitro technique” has become a standard tool for cancer research and drug development.
In addition to her research, Wright was also a prominent advocate for diversity in medicine. She was a founding member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and served on numerous committees and boards throughout her career.
Wright received many honors and awards for her contributions to medicine and cancer research, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. She passed away on February 19, 2013, at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy of groundbreaking research and advocacy.
26. Florence Parpart - Electric Refrigerator
Florence Parpart was a prolific inventor and entrepreneur who made significant contributions to the field of household appliances in the early 20th century. Born on April 20, 1874, in New York City, Parpart grew up in a family of inventors and entrepreneurs. Her father was a successful businessman who held several patents, and her mother was a prominent suffragist and social reformer.
After completing her education, Parpart went to work for her father’s company, where she gained experience in business and engineering. In 1914, she founded her own company, the Parpart Electric Company, which focused on developing and producing household appliances.
One of Parpart’s most significant inventions was the modern refrigerator, which incorporated several of her patented innovations, including an improved cooling system and a more efficient design. Her refrigerator design was widely adopted and remained popular for decades.
In addition to her work on the refrigerator, Parpart also invented several other household appliances, including a vacuum cleaner, a street-cleaning machine, and an improved version of the modern iron.
Throughout her career, Parpart was a vocal advocate for women's rights and encouraged other women to pursue careers in science and engineering. She served as a mentor and role model for many young women in the field, and her work helped to pave the way for future generations of female inventors and entrepreneurs.
Parpart passed away in 1958, but her legacy lives on as a pioneer in the field of household appliances and a trailblazer for women in science and engineering.
27. Yvonne C. Brill - Hydrazine Resistojet Propulsion System
Yvonne C. Brill was a pioneering rocket scientist who made significant contributions to the field of rocket propulsion. Born on December 30, 1924, in Winnipeg, Canada, Brill was the daughter of Jewish immigrants. She grew up with a passion for science and mathematics and went on to study chemical engineering at the University of Manitoba.
During her time at Rocketdyne, Brill made several groundbreaking contributions to the field of rocket propulsion. She invented a new type of rocket engine that was more efficient and reliable than previous designs, and she developed a system for positioning and stabilizing satellites in orbit.
Brill’s work on rocket propulsion systems played a critical role in the United States’ success in the space race. Her designs were used in a wide range of spacecraft, including the Apollo missions that landed astronauts on the moon.
After completing her education, Brill began working for Douglas Aircraft Company in California, where she worked on the design and development of rocket engines. In 1951, she moved to Minneapolis to work for a small aerospace company called Rocketdyne, where she spent most of her career.
Despite facing discrimination and sexism throughout her career, Brill remained dedicated to her work and continued to push the boundaries of rocket science. She was a vocal advocate for women in STEM fields and served as a mentor and inspiration to many young women.
Brill received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to rocket science, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011. She passed away on March 27, 2013, at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy as a trailblazer in the field of rocket propulsion and a champion for women in STEM.
28. Hertha Ayrton - Physicist, Engineer, and Suffragette
Hertha Ayrton was a pioneering physicist, engineer, and suffragette who made significant contributions to the field of electrical engineering. Born on April 28, 1854, in Portsmouth, England, Ayrton was the third of eight children in a Jewish family.
Ayrton was a gifted student and showed an early aptitude for mathematics and science. She began studying at Girton College, Cambridge, in 1876 but was not allowed to graduate because she was a woman. Undeterred, she continued her studies independently and went on to become one of the most accomplished scientists of her time.
Ayrton’s research focused on electrical engineering, and she made several important discoveries in the field. She invented a new type of fan that was more efficient and effective than previous designs, and she developed a method for calculating the resistance of electric arcs, which helped to improve the safety of electrical systems.
Ayrton was a passionate advocate for women's rights and suffrage. She gave numerous speeches and wrote articles about the importance of women's education and empowerment, and she was an active member of several suffrage organizations.
Ayrton's accomplishments were recognized with numerous awards and honors during her lifetime, including the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society in 1906, becoming the first woman to receive this prestigious award. She also became the first woman to read a paper before the Institution of Electrical Engineers.
Ayrton passed away on August 23, 1923, leaving behind a legacy as a trailblazer for women in STEM fields and a champion for women's rights. Her groundbreaking contributions to electrical engineering continue to influence the field today, and her legacy serves as an inspiration to future generations of scientists and activists.
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