MARIA SIBYlLLA MERIAN

by Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Maria Sibylla Merian.

Born in Frankfurt in 1647, Maria’s stepfather taught her to paint, and she soon drew her inspiration from studying the natural world. She began capturing and observing insects, creating detailed depictions of their life cycles and interactions. She married Johann Graff at 18 years old and had two daughters. Her husband never supported her work, and he ultimately divorced her in 1692.

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SEPTIMA CLARK

From Standford’s Martin Luther King Research & Education Institute 

A pioneer in grassroots citizenship education, Septima Clark was called the “Mother of the Movement” and the epitome of a “community teacher, intuitive fighter for human rights and leader of her unlettered and disillusioned people” 

The daughter of a laundrywoman and a former slave, Clark was born May 3rd 1898 in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1916 she graduated from secondary school and, after passing her teacher’s exam, taught at a black school on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston. For more than 30 years, she taught throughout South Carolina, including 18 years in Columbia and 9 in Charleston. 

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MARGARET SANGER

By Tim Sullivan

Today's fierce female is Margaret Sanger. Born to working-class Irish immigrants in 1879, her mother endured 18 pregnancies before dying at the age of 49.

Margaret moved to New York City, where she became a nurse and got involved in the labor movement. Her nursing work led her to see the great need for working-class women to become informed about contraception, and she became one of the first people to popularize the term "birth control" in her monthly newsletter, aptly named The Woman Rebel. This caused her to be indicted on federal charges for obscenity in 1914. She fled to England rather than stand trial.

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MARY ANN SHADD

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.com

By Keri Engel

Mary Ann Shadd was born in Delaware in 1823, the oldest of 13 children. Her father, Abraham Shadd, was active as a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and as a conductor on the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves travel north to freedom.

Mary Ann’s family moved to Pennsylvania when she was young, after it became illegal to educate African American children in Delaware.

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CATHERINE THE GREAT

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Catherine the Great.

Buckle up, because this lady is about to take us on a real JOURNEY today. Born Princess Sophie of the Austrian Empire, she was betrothed to her second cousin Peter at the age of 10. She detested him immediately. She moved to Russia at age 14 and married Peter the following year. She went to great lengths to make allies within the court, befriending her mother-in-law, Empress Elizabeth, and learning Russian. For his part, her German-born husband spoke not a word of the native tongue of the country he would one day rule.

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GERTRUDE ELION

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.com 

By Kate Walker 

As a young person, Gertrude enjoyed all her school subjects and she excelled as a student. But when her grandfather died of cancer, Elion – born on 23rd Jan 1918 – made it her resolve to try and find a cure for cancer so as to ensure that other people don’t lose their loved ones to this disease.

Gertrude b. Elion studied chemistry at Hunter College in New York and  graduated in 1937.  Society, however, did not believe that women had what it takes to excel as scientists and this made it difficult for her to join different graduate programs around the country. 

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LORRAINE HANSBERRY

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Lorraine Hansberry.

Born in Chicago in 1930, her father was a successful real-estate broker. When he purchased a home in a white neighborhood in the South Side, the neighbors sued to have the family evicted based on racially restrictive housing laws. The Hansberry vs. Lee case made it to the Supreme Court and was decided in her father’s favor.

After attending the University of Wisconsin, Lorraine moved to Harlem and joined the staff of Paul Robeson’s “Freedom Newspaper.” She worked alongside W.E.B. Dubois, publishing articles not only on the advances of the civil rights movement, but on the toppling of imperialism around the world.

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GRACE O'MALLEY

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Grace O’Malley (Grainne Ní Mháille).

Though commonly known as “The Pirate Queen,” Grace was, in fact, the daughter of the Eoghan Ní Mháille, the ruling Lord of the O’Malley dynasty that controlled part of southwest County Mayo. Though she had a living brother, Grace assumed her father’s place as the lord of the clan.

She married Donal O’Flaherty in 1546 and had three children. After taking a castle in Lough Corrib from the rival clan the Joyces, they retaliated by killing Donal while he was on a hunting trip.

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ANNE LEIBOVITZ

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Annie Leibovitz.

Born into a military family, Annie first dabbled in photography in the Philippines, where her father was stationed during the Vietnam War. She headed to the San Francisco Art Institute, where she majored in painting, but she became so taken with photography after one workshop that she changed her major.

She was hired by the fledgling magazine Rolling Stone in 1970, and over the next decade put the publication on the map with her stunning portraits of the biggest names in music.

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AMELIA BLOOMER

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.com

  By Keri Engel

Amelia Bloomer was born Amelia Jenks in 1818 to a middle-class family in New York. After graduating school she worked as a teacher for a short time before gaining employment as a live-in tutor and governess for a wealthy family. It was at this job that she met Dexter Bloomer, a local attorney she fell in love with and soon married at the age of 22.

Soon after, she started her own newspaper, The Lily, to write about her views on the subject.  She believed that writing was the best way for women to campaign for suffrage and other rights.

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TILLIE LEWIS

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Tillie Lewis.

Born to Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1896, Tillie worked as a Ziegield Follies girl as a teenager before marrying Louis Weisburg in 1916. Louis owned a wholesale grocery company that imported tomatoes and other produce from Italy. Tillie became convinced that those same tomatoes could be grown domestically, but her husband and other agriculture experts told her she was crazy. Tillie divorced Louis and up and moved to Italy.

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THEODORA

Theodora by Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Theodora, Empress of the Byzantine Empire from 527-548 C.E.

Born to a bear tamer, Theodora became an actress in her early teens, which was then a profession closely associated with sex work. When she caught the eye of the heir to the throne, Justinian, he pled with his uncle, the Emperor to repeal the law stating anyone of his rank could not marry an actress. He relented, and they were wed.

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NZINGA MBANDE

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Nzinga Mbande.

Born to the ngola (king) of Ndongo and Matamba in 1583, she was sent into exile when her father was overthrown. As the Portuguese forces pressed farther into the region in their quest to dominate the slave trade, they mistook ngola to be the name of the country - the region is still called Angola to this day.

Nzinga’s brother, Mbandi, successfully recovered rule of the kingdom, but he was almost immediately thrust into war with the invading Portuguese forces. After losing several battles, he sent his sister to negotiate for a treaty.

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MAGGIE LENA WALKER

Maggie Lena Walker by Tim Sullivan

Today's fierce female is Maggie Lena Walker.

Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1864, her mother was a newly freed slave, while her father was an Irish journalist. Her father left before she was born. Her mother supported the family as a laundress, while Maggie pursued her education through Richmond public schools. She joined her graduating classmates in 1883 in their peaceful protest over the city’s refusal to allow the use of public buildings for their commencement ceremonies. They were unsuccessful. 

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BUFFALO CALF ROAD

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.com

By Rosemary Agonito

The remarkable story of a young Cheyenne warrior woman in her early twenties, Buffalo Calf Road, spans a period of 3 years from 1876 until her death in 1879. During this time the Cheyenne were caught in the westward expansion of pioneers, miners and the army, all determined to colonize the land on the great plains occupied by native peoples. The Cheyenne and other native tribes endured attacks, massacres and forced removals to reservations.

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JACINDA ARDERN

by Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Jacinda Ardern.



Born in 1980, Jacinda was raised Mormon before renouncing her religion in 2005 due to their lack of support for gay rights. She was introduced to politics by her aunt, a veteran campaigner for the Labour Party. She became a senior leader of Young Labour at 17, and she was elected as a Member of the New Zealand Parliament in 2008.

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MARIA GLENN

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.com

By Naomi Clifford


Maria Glenn was a shy young woman living in Regency England who endured criticism and vilification and was stoic in the face of bullying by her numerous powerful enemies.


Maria Glenn, the daughter of a barrister, was born in the West Indies in 1801. She moved to Taunton in Somerset when she was 11, lived in France for two decades as an adult and returned to England when she was in her early forties.

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MAYA LIN

by Tim Sullivan
Today’s fierce female is Maya Lin.

Born in Ohio to Chinese immigrants, Maya stunned the architect world as an undergraduate at Yale when she won the contest to design the Vietnam Memorial in Washington out of more than 1,400 entries, all made anonymously. The project had only earned her a B when she submitted it to her professor.

The decision was incredibly controversial because of the unique and modern design, but particularly because of her gender and Asianheritage. After pledging significant funding to the memorial, Ross Perot withdrew his support, referring to Maya as an “egg roll.”

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CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON

From AMAZINGWOMENINHISTORY.COM 

by Anne Boyd Rioux 

The author Constance Fenimore Woolson ( date of birth) , who wrote five novels for adults and dozens of stories, was widely considered during her lifetime one of the most important American fiction writers of the nineteenth century.

While Woolson may not be a household name today, she is a bit of a novelty for students of American literature because of her close friendship with Henry James, who enshrined his memories of her and their friendship in some of his most famous works, The Beast in the Jungle and The Wings of the Dove.

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