Awesome Stuff Women Did

Because women have done more in the past 10,000 years than just pop out babies and make sandwiches.

DISCLAIMER: We make no claim that all women featured here are saints. They did awesome stuff; the women themselves might not have been. Keep that in mind before sending angry notes.

sciencechicks:

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) was an Italian mathematician who wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus. She was also an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna.
Maria was born in Milan to a wealthy family. She was recognized early as a child prodigy. When she was 9 years old, she composed and delivered an hour-long speech in Latin to some of the most distinguished intellectuals of the day. By her thirteenth birthday she had acquired Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German, Latin, and was referred to as the “Walking Polyglot”. Maria was shy by nature and did not like all these public meetings. Around 15, she devoted her study to differential and integral calculus and avoided all social interactions. She also taught her siblings. 
She wrote the book Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana, published in 1748. The first volume discusses the analysis of finite quantities and the second of the analysis of infinitesimals. 
In 1750, she was appointed by Pope Benedict XIV to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy and physics at Bologna. She was the first women appointed as a mathematics professor at a university. After the death of her father in 1752 she took to the study of theology and devoted herself to the poor, homeless, and sick. After holding for some years the office of director of the Hospice Trivulzio for Blue Nuns at Milan, she herself joined the sisterhood.

sciencechicks:

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) was an Italian mathematician who wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus. She was also an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna.

Maria was born in Milan to a wealthy family. She was recognized early as a child prodigy. When she was 9 years old, she composed and delivered an hour-long speech in Latin to some of the most distinguished intellectuals of the day. By her thirteenth birthday she had acquired Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German, Latin, and was referred to as the “Walking Polyglot”. Maria was shy by nature and did not like all these public meetings. Around 15, she devoted her study to differential and integral calculus and avoided all social interactions. She also taught her siblings. 

She wrote the book Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana, published in 1748. The first volume discusses the analysis of finite quantities and the second of the analysis of infinitesimals. 

In 1750, she was appointed by Pope Benedict XIV to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy and physics at Bologna. She was the first women appointed as a mathematics professor at a university. After the death of her father in 1752 she took to the study of theology and devoted herself to the poor, homeless, and sick. After holding for some years the office of director of the Hospice Trivulzio for Blue Nuns at Milan, she herself joined the sisterhood.

Invented absinthe, inspiring some of the finest European writers, artists, and musicians of the 19th century. (Mère Henriod/Mother Henriot)

Invented absinthe, inspiring some of the finest European writers, artists, and musicians of the 19th century. (Mère Henriod/Mother Henriot)

Pioneered entomology. Documented the life cycles of 186 insect species, including the transformation of caterpillars to butterflies.  Proved definitively that insects do not spontaneous generate from mud, as believed by most contemporaries.  Published her findings (including her detailed paintings) in German instead of Latin, allowing the non-scientists to understand insects.  Went on a self-funded scientific expedition of Surinam, unheard of for women of her time, becoming the first European to observe and record much of the plant and insect life there.  One of the first naturalists to observe insects directly. (Maria Sibylla Merian)

Pioneered entomology. Documented the life cycles of 186 insect species, including the transformation of caterpillars to butterflies.  Proved definitively that insects do not spontaneous generate from mud, as believed by most contemporaries.  Published her findings (including her detailed paintings) in German instead of Latin, allowing the non-scientists to understand insects.  Went on a self-funded scientific expedition of Surinam, unheard of for women of her time, becoming the first European to observe and record much of the plant and insect life there.  One of the first naturalists to observe insects directly. (Maria Sibylla Merian)

rosietint:

In History: Sophie Germain
Germain, born April 1, 1776, was a mathematician who often worked under a pseudonym because she was concerned her work wouldn’t be taken seriously if people knew she was a woman. One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from  the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on  Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring  the subject for hundreds of years after.

rosietint:

In History: Sophie Germain

Germain, born April 1, 1776, was a mathematician who often worked under a pseudonym because she was concerned her work wouldn’t be taken seriously if people knew she was a woman. One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after.

Played the harpsichord before King Louis XIV at the age of five. Was noticed by Madame de Montespan, and was kept on in her entourage.  Her opera Céphale et Procris was the first written by a woman in France. Composed some of the earlist French examples of the sonata. Composed early examples of the new genre of accompanied harpsichord works, where the instrument is used in an obbligato role with the violin. (Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre)

fyeahblackhistory:

The Dahomey Amazons

The Dahomey Amazons were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the legendary Amazons described by the Ancient Greeks.

King Houegbadja (who ruled from 1645 to 1685), the third King of Dahomey, is said to have originally started the group which would become the Amazons as a corps of elephant hunters called the gbeto. During the 18th century, the king had some of his wives trained as royal bodyguards.

Houegbadja’s son King Agadja (ruling from 1708 to 1732) developed the female bodyguard into a militia and successfully used them in Dahomey’s defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727. European merchants recorded their presence, as well as similar female warriors amongst the Ashanti. For the next hundred years or so, they gained reputation as fearless warriors. Though they fought rarely, they usually acquitted themselves well in battle.

The group of female warriors was referred to as Mino, meaning “Our Mothers” in the Fon language by the male army of Dahomey.
From the time of King Ghezo (ruling from 1818 to 1858), Dahomey became increasingly militaristic. Ghezo placed great importance on the army and increased its budget and formalized its structures. The Mino were rigorously trained, given uniforms, and equipped with Danish guns (obtained via the slave trade). By this time the Mino consisted of between 4000 and 6000 women, about a third of the entire Dahomey army.

The Mino were recruited from among the ahosi (“king’s wives”) of which there were often hundreds. Some women in Fon society became ahosi voluntarily, while others were involuntarily enrolled if their husbands or fathers complained to the King about their behaviour. Membership among the Mino was supposed to hone any aggressive character traits for the purpose of war. During their membership they were not allowed to have children or be part of married life. Many of them were virgins. The regiment had a semi-sacred status, which was intertwined with the Fon belief in Vodun.

The Mino trained with intense physical exercise. Discipline was emphasised. In the latter period, they were armed with Winchester rifles, clubs and knives. Units were under female command. Captives who fell into the hands of the Amazons were often decapitated.

Conflict with France

European encroachment into west Africa gained pace during the latter half of the 19th century, and in 1890 King Behanzin started fighting French forces in the course of the First Franco-Dahomean War. According to Holmes, many of the French soldiers fighting in Dahomey hesitated before shooting or bayoneting the Mino. The resulting delay led to many of the French casualties. Ultimately, bolstered by the Foreign Legion, and armed with superior weaponry, including machine guns, the French inflicted casualties that were ten times worse on the Dahomey side. After several battles, the French prevailed. The Legionnaires later wrote about the “incredible courage and audacity” of the Amazons. The last surviving Amazon of Dahomey died in 1979.

Left her poor, Irish family to marry a pirate. Left that guy to marry a pirate captain. Had a baby but gave it up to stay a pirate. Fought bravely as part of a crew with her friend (and lesbian lover?) Mary Read against the British Navy. Eventually they were defeated but both women avoided hanging by claiming to be pregnant. (Anne Bonny)

Left her poor, Irish family to marry a pirate. Left that guy to marry a pirate captain. Had a baby but gave it up to stay a pirate. Fought bravely as part of a crew with her friend (and lesbian lover?) Mary Read against the British Navy. Eventually they were defeated but both women avoided hanging by claiming to be pregnant. (Anne Bonny)

Translated and wrote commentary on Sir Isaac Newton’s work, Principia Mathematica. Her translation, published posthumously in 1759, is still considered the French standard by which all others are measured.  She also published several papers throughout her lifetime, including one describing her research on fire, in which she correctly predicted what would later be described as infrared radiation.  And some modern biographers report having seen in her notebooks a derivative of the equation made famous by Einstein: E = MC2.  A crater on Venus was named in her honor.  Her longtime lover, the philosopher and poet Voltaire, wrote to the King of Prussia that she “was a great man whose only fault was being a woman.” (Èmilie du Châtelet)

Translated and wrote commentary on Sir Isaac Newton’s work, Principia Mathematica. Her translation, published posthumously in 1759, is still considered the French standard by which all others are measured.  She also published several papers throughout her lifetime, including one describing her research on fire, in which she correctly predicted what would later be described as infrared radiation.  And some modern biographers report having seen in her notebooks a derivative of the equation made famous by Einstein: E = MC2. A crater on Venus was named in her honor.  Her longtime lover, the philosopher and poet Voltaire, wrote to the King of Prussia that she “was a great man whose only fault was being a woman.” (Èmilie du Châtelet)

Pioneered comprehensive surveys of the night sky, carefully categorizing every visible object in the void.  Wrote an influential catalogue of nebulae, of which she discovered three.  Discovered eight comets and the dwarf galaxy Messier 110. (Caroline Lucretia Herschel)

Pioneered comprehensive surveys of the night sky, carefully categorizing every visible object in the void.  Wrote an influential catalogue of nebulae, of which she discovered three.  Discovered eight comets and the dwarf galaxy Messier 110. (Caroline Lucretia Herschel)

Developed a new corn mill, helping corn become a cash crop for the American colonies.  The patent was issued in her husband’s name, because the laws forbade women from owning property or entering into legal agreements. (Sybilla Masters)

Developed a new corn mill, helping corn become a cash crop for the American colonies.  The patent was issued in her husband’s name, because the laws forbade women from owning property or entering into legal agreements. (Sybilla Masters)