There are millions of women who are or should be famous. Here's a select list of a few I specially want to keep in mind. It's a work in progress.
One day I might put them in some kind of order.
- in 1984, Naida Glavish stood her ground against the Post Office, as a telephone toll operator who risked being fired for greeting callers with: "Kia ora."
- Evelyn Berezin invented the first word processor computer in the 1950s.
- Mae Jemison : first African American woman to travel in space.
- Sally Ride : first American woman in space. She is the first known LGBT astronaut.
- Helen Sharman : first British astronaut in space and first woman to visit the Mir space station.
- Margaret Hamilton : led a team credited with developing the software for Apollo and Skylab, including the Apollo 11 moon landing.
- Nancy Roman : known to many as the "Mother of Hubble" for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope
- Valentina Tereshkova : first woman in space.
- Mathematician Dr. Gladys West was recognized for doing the computing responsible for creating the Geographical Positioning System, more commonly referred to as the GPS.
- The women mathematicians responsible for calculating ballistics tables for missiles being used by allied forces in World War 2. They included twins Doris Blumberg Polsky and Shirley Blumberg Melvin, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Alyce Hall.
- Tomoe Gozen. In 1184, she led 300 samurai into a fierce battle against 2,000 opposing Tiara clan warriors.
- The high-ranking female Viking Warrior of Birka in Sweden.
- Six British soldiers have become the first all-female group to cross the Antarctic using nothing but muscle power: Major Nics Wetherill, Major Natalie Taylor, Major Sandy Hennis, Captain Zanna Baker, Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson,and Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne.
- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. (Movie: Hidden Figures)
- Darleane Hoffman made important discoveries about the nature of fission — the atomic process at the heart of nuclear power. That's a fantastic achievement, but to be honest this was what caught my attention (in bold): On graduating in 1944 she wanted to do chemistry. Her counsellor asked if was "a suitable profession for a woman". Reply: "I'm sure it is!" At @IowaStateU she was usually the only woman in her class but "it didn't bother [her] at all." She got a job making Geiger counters - she was thrilled. During uni she had been a waitress on $7 a week. The lab forms required a middle initial. Darleane Christian (name at the time) didn't have one - so she made up X for Xanthasia!
- Biddy of the Buller: Bridget Goodwin was a rarity - a female goldminer (in New Zealand's goldrush in the 1800s). Four foot nothing, she wore moleskin trousers, smoked a pipe, drank hard, and - shocking to many - lived with two men, neither of whom she was married to.
- The 14 young women who were murdered in Montreal, Canada on December 6, 1989 by a man whose suicide note claimed that he was "fighting feminism". Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
- One of the most famous and feared pirates who ever lived was Ching Shih, a young Cantonese woman who became the ruler of one of the largest pirate fleets in history and the mastermind behind a floating criminal empire so powerful that even the Chinese military couldn’t stop it.
- Joan Wiffen CBE (4 February 1922 – 30 June 2009) was a New Zealand amateur paleontologist. She only had a very short secondary school education as her father believed that higher education was wasted on girls, so he made her leave. In 1975 Wiffen discovered the first dinosaur fossils in New Zealand in the Maungahounga Valley in Northern Hawkes Bay. Her first discovery was the tail bone of a theropod dinosaur. Her later finds included bones from a hypsilophodont, a pterosaur, an ankylosaur, mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. In 1999, Wiffen discovered the vertebra bone of a titanosaur in a tributary of the Te Hoe River.
- Anonymous: a single female scribe living in 12th-century Bavaria [who] is thought to have produced more than 40 books alone.
- Natalie Carbone Mangini was one of the first women nuclear chemists, and worked on the nuclear reactor for the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine. [Link and info suggested by @smokey]
- Susan Bennett was the original voice for Apple's Siri, the first AI assistant on a cell phone.
It was 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, of reading pages and pages of these nonsensical things … These sentences had to be read very, very consistently. They had to have the same pitch, same tone, same pacing. It was so tedious and so tough on the vocal cords.
- Phyllis Latour Doyle, secret agent for Britain during World War II, spent the war years sneaking information to the British using knitting as a cover. She parachuted into occupied Normandy in 1944 and rode stashed bicycles to troops, chatting with German soldiers under the pretense of being helpful—then, she would return to her knitting kit, in which she hid a silk yarn ready to be filled with secret knotted messages, which she would translate using Morse Code equipment.
- Olga Ladyzhenskaya: The author of more than 250 papers, Ladyzhenskaya’s methods for solving partial differential equations remain profoundly influential.
- Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
- Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (PhD, 1965): The first PhD in Computer Science in the US — While at Dartmouth, she was instrumental to the development of BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), a cutting-edge programming language. She also worked tirelessly to expand the reach of computer science, founding and leading a couple of organisations. In her words:
We’re having an information explosion …, and it’s certainly obvious that information is of no use unless it’s available.
- Katie Bouman is part of an international team of astronomers that created the world's largest telescope to take the very first picture of a black hole. The image was released in 2019.
- Nancy Wake, born in Wellington New Zealand on 30 August 1912 and of Māori ancestry, was a secret agent during the Second World War. She worked in the French Resistance. By 1943, Wake was the Gestapo's most wanted person with a 5-million-franc price on her head. She was nicknamed
- Jean Batten: Batten's ambition to learn to fly developed in the late 1920s … The mid 1930s were the heyday of Batten's flying career. After two failed attempts to fly from England to Australia in 1933 she successfully completed a return journey in May 1934. … In November 1935 she became the first woman to fly herself across the South Atlantic. In October 1936 she went one step further and made the first ever direct flight from England to New Zealand.
- On the seamstresses who wove the [Apollo moon landing] computer memory by hand: … The memory was literally woven … onto modules and the only way to get the wires exactly right was to have people using needles, and instead of thread wire, weave the computer program. … The Apollo computers had a total of 73 [kilobytes] of memory. If you get an email with the morning headlines from your local newspaper, it takes up more space than 73 [kilobytes]. … They hired seamstresses. … Every wire had to be right. Because if you got [it] wrong, the computer program didn’t work. They hired women, and it took eight weeks to manufacture the memory for a single Apollo flight computer, and that eight weeks of manufacturing was literally sitting at sophisticated looms weaving wires, one wire at a time.
- Susan Kare is the designer behind the original Mac icons and fonts. See a 60-second video of her talking about it.
Rick Cogley also has a list honouring important women. Take a look.