19 Incredible Women Geniuses We Should All Know About

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1. Baroness Brenda Hale

Baroness Brenda Hale

Anita Corbin / National Portrait Gallery London / Via npg.org.uk

“She was the first and only female judge in the British House of Lords. After a long and distinguished career in legal academia, during which she literally wrote the book on British family law, she rose through the judiciary to its highest court. In February 2013 she was assessed as the fourth-most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.”

Submitted by laureno4b9ae7106.

2. Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs

“She escaped slavery in 1842, but in order to do so, she had to live in a tiny attic for seven years, with so little room to move that her muscles atrophied. After she fled to the North, she wrote her memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in which she details the mental and sexual abuse she faced as a house slave. She also dispels myths that were pervasive among white people at the time (and still perhaps today), like the erroneous concept that slaves sang because they were happy (the exact opposite was true). Her insights about the intersection of race and gender stay with me to this day, and guide my opinions about the current civil rights movement in our country. So here’s to Harriet Jacobs, who understood more about the conflicts over race and gender than most of us ever will.”

Submitted by marygrace915

3. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

“People only know her as the First Lady but she’s achieved incredible things in her own right. She’s a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, and then worked as a lawyer and a city administrator. She is by far the most highly educated First Lady to date.”

Submitted by Faiza Arshad, Facebook

4. Kate Bush

Kate Bush

Chris Moorhouse / Getty Images

“She started writing music when she was just a child and her first two albums consist of songs that she wrote between the ages of 13 and 17. She wrote all her songs, and produced most of them herself, too. She has an amazing vocal range and unbelievable piano skills. She also came up with dance routines for her songs. She is incredibly strong and remained in full control of her music and artistic vision from the start, in a time when women were often treated as performers only and not artists in the music industry. She doesn’t get enough credit for how much she has given to music. She’s up there with the Beatles, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd.”

Submitted by blah999

5. Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu

Smithsonian Institution / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“She worked with two other theoretical physicists, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, to help disprove the law of parity. She conducted experiments that disproved this long-held theorem. However, only the names of her (male) collaborators were on the Nobel Prize that this achievement received and she was never recognised for her contribution.”

Submitted by Natalya Lobanova

6. Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“She’s best known for writing the first every sci-fi/horror novel, Frankenstein, but she also wrote the first ever post-apocalyptic novel, The Last Man.”

Submitted by hellothisiscat4444.

7. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

Theo Wargo / Getty Images

“She came from total abject poverty and fought against prejudices women faced in the music industry to become a brilliant songwriter, even though record labels wanted her to just look pretty. This meant she earned more money from her work as she gained royalties from the music she created. She stayed in her hometown and has brought billions of dollars of investment there through Dollywood – not to mention her Imagination Library that provides books to poor children. She is a brilliant businesswoman and a goddess.”

Submitted by emman4414b47ef.

8. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“She’s obviously well-known, but she’s often perceived, rather reductively, as an angel of mercy who nursed sick and dying soldiers and patrolled hospital wards at night. While that happens to be true, it’s far from being the full extent of her accomplishments. She worked obsessively to improve the standards of healthcare for soldiers and the destitute poor; before she instigated large-scale reforms, military hospitals and poorhouses were filthy deathtraps. She also made efforts to improve sanitation in India. She established the modern profession of nursing. Also, here is my favourite Nightingale fact: She developed a method of graphical data representation called the polar area diagram, which is basically a circular histogram.”

Submitted by study.

9. Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin / Via phys-astro.sonoma.edu

“She is a female astronomer who discovered, among other things, dark matter. She had to overcome many discouraging comments her whole life. Her teacher in high school told her ‘as long as you don’t study science you’ll be fine’. Undeterred, she went on to study astronomy at Vassar. She later was the first woman to observe from the Palomar telescope. At 88, she continues to fight for a greater recognition of women in sciences.”

Submitted by beadcala00

10. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Chris Ware / Getty Images

“She was a gospel singer who basically invented rock ‘n’ roll in the ’30s and ’40s. If you listen to her first recordings from 1938 they sound way ahead of their time, and she was playing that kind of music way before any men did. She’s a contemporary of Cab Calloway and toured with Muddy Waters, yet most people who listen to this type of music haven’t heard of her. She’s not in the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame and she really should be!”

Submitted by Sophie Gadd

11. Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

Jonathunder / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“She’s a scientist and animal behaviourist as well as an autism spokesperson and one of the first public figures to openly talk about being on the autism spectrum and their experiences with it. She is absolutely incredible.”

Submitted by beeplaysbass

12. Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

“She’s often overshadowed by her other relatives, being a member of the Kennedy family, but she was just as incredible. She founded Camp Shriver, which developed into the Special Olympics, and was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a papal knighthood. She never cared what others thought of her and could be seen with pencils in her hair and covered in notes.”

Submitted by lauraflossyo

13. Amma Asante

Amma Asante

John Phillips / Getty Images

“She’s an actress, screenwriter, and director, as well as the founder of her own production company, Tantrum Films. Her films often centre around the untold stories of people of colour.”

Submitted by udokamayao

14. Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos

Len Delessio / Getty Images

“She studied physics, music, and composition at Brown and Columbia University. She oversaw the development of the Moog synthesiser and brought it into prominence with her synth covers of Bach, which won her no less than three Grammys. She wrote the score for The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and Tron, and was one of the first public figures to be openly trans and disclose that she’d undergone sex reassignment surgery.”

Submitted by Natalya Lobanova

15. Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“Many people will recognise her from the photo of her next to the huge pile of computer code that she wrote that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. However, that picture failed to mention that she did so at age 24 with just an undergraduate degree in maths. Even more impressive, she did this to support her family while her husband was at Harvard for law school, and she often had to bring her 4-year-old daughter to the lab on weekends. Her little girl would be napping on the floor of her office while she created programs that eventually landed.”

Submitted by acrawfo1

16. Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner

Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

“She was one of the first women to receive a PhD in physics. She discovered the Auger effect, but most of the credit was given to a French male scientist who discovered it independently a year later. She also made one of the key breakthroughs towards discovering and understanding nuclear fission (she was the one that discovered how to split the nucleus of an atom). This breakthrough was published with only the name of her collaborator on it, and consequently only he, Otto Hahn, received the Nobel Prize for it. Though the Nobel Prize committee has debated adding her name to the prize, she’s never been officially recognised.”

Submitted by Ellie Bate

17. Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin

Universal History Archive / Getty Images

“She was a chemist and an X-ray crystallographer that made huge contributions to the eventual discovery of DNA. However, her contributions were only recognised posthumously and she never received an arguably much deserved Nobel Prize.”

Submitted by rosalindp4cb44e73f

18. Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie

Creative Commons / Via Michael Hoefner / commons.wikimedia.org

“She’s a virtuoso percussionist that’s able to play some 500 instruments and has over 15 honorary doctorates. She’s managed all this while being profoundly deaf since the age of 12. As someone with a blind mother and a deaf father it’s so inspiring to see her perform.”

Submitted by stevew4a2381745

19. Sophia Duleep Singh

Sophia Duleep Singh

“She was a key figure in the women’s rights movement and a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union. She was active in protests to raise awareness of suffrage, led marches to parliament, and refused to pay taxes until women were given the vote. A forgotten figure, but a real leader.”

Submitted by Rachael Krishna

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