International Women’s Day 2018 – 5 women who inspire us to keep learning

In honour of International Women’s Day 2018, we’ve been reading up on women who excelled in their fields, overcoming or ignoring the barriers of their time to pave the way for future generations. Here are five of our favourites.

1. Mary Treat, Naturalist

Mary Treat researched, documented and wrote about plants and butterflies, corresponding with Charles Darwin and Asa Gray and critiquing their work during the 19th century – a time when women scientists were few and far between. Despite her reputation and importance as a entomologist, biologist and science writer, a complete biography of her still doesn’t exist.

Read more about Mary Treat
Follow in her footsteps with a biology course

(Image from Women in History Blog.)

2. Edmonia Lewis, Artist

A trailblazer in the world of sculpture, Edmonia Lewis is acknowledged as the first professional female African-American and Native-American artist. Although born in New York in the mid-19th century Edmonia spent the majority of her life in Rome, where she learnt Italian and spent her time sculpting – without help from local workmen, despite the trend of doing so at the time.

Read more about Edmonia Lewis
Follow in her footsteps with an art course

3. Ellen Richards, Chemist

Ellen Richards was one of the first women admitted to MIT in 1873. She explored the chemistry of substances used in the home, laying the scientific groundwork for home economics. As well as conducting important research into sanitation and how to improve people’s living conditions, she paved the way for more women in science, eventually establishing a laboratory at MIT for women.

Read more about Ellen Richards
Follow in her footsteps with an chemistry course

4. Nora Stanton Barney, Engineer

From a line of outspoken suffragists and campaigners, Nora Stanton Barney campaigned for women’s rights and excelled as a civil engineer and architect in the first half of the 20th century. She was the first woman to earn membership to the American Society of Civil Engineers, who she later took to court for denying her a more senior membership because of her gender. At every turn she refused to let the sexism of the time hold her back.

Read more about Nora Stanton Barney
Follow in her footsteps with an engineering course

5. Katherine Sui Fun Cheung

Katherine Sui Fun Cheung was the first Chinese-American to hold a pilot’s license, earning it at a time when only 1% of pilots in the USA were women. An expert in acrobatic displays she swooped and barrel-rolled her way into the history books, meeting Amelia Earhart and joining all-women’s flying club the Ninety-Nines. A couple of years ago a documentary was made about her remarkable story.

Read more about Katherine Sui Fun Cheung
Follow in her footsteps with courses about technology

(Image from Popular Aviation Flying Magazine)

Which women inspire you to keep learning? Let us know in the comments.


Comments (16)


  • pauline smith

    how can i do your moc test i to do it

  • Marian *

    How about the female mathematicians , who have been detailed in the film: Hidden Figures?

  • Ligia Margarita Gaitan Diaz

    I was very inspired by Edmonia Lewis the artist.Her work is wonderful;inspite the difficult time she had to pass.

  • Marie Grace

    Ellen Richard is the one who inspires me most because she encouraged me to study science as women.

  • Cynthia Adiasani

    Ellen Richards inspires me most because she paved the way for more women in science, eventually establishing a laboratory at MIT for women. What a brave attitude she may have put up. I know she may have had it though but never discouraged.

  • Andrew sanga Gani

    It’s very inspirational to learn about those great women and very proud Of them

  • Janaki

    My inspiration comes from my parents and that includes my mother who stimulated my curiosity about the world, at a very young age. She taught me about the fauna and flora in our village. She inspired me to write poetry, make dolls with rags, to sing and dance and how to spot the constellations in the night sky and many other interesting things. She was a very compassionate person who was ver popular among the villagers. She had the time to listen to women’s grievances as well as to share their happiness. She taught women what she knew and learned new things unknown to her from them. She was a firm believer in education and always encouraged everyone around her to learn things and not to waste time. At the age of 82 when she passed away she was still learning another foreign language. Now I have retired and learning a variety of new subjects, which I didn’t know before and did not have the time to study while raising our children and doing a full time job. I am a lifelong learner now and my mother is my role model.

  • Francisca

    I have to say woman in any field of any interest inspire me everyday. Recently I’ve been researching social work and it’s history. I could name seven women who helped establish the Social Security Administration, health benefits to women and children (to this day still do) and formed the Children’s Bureau making America’s first woman to hold a position in politics during the women’s sufferage movement. But I will mention one that may surprise most Pheobe Hearst.

  • Abdu

    These are a few of them ,and there are many many other unknown women whom just open the horizon to others to be in the sky.

  • Kamod Dongare

    Nice to read about 5 inspiring women. Its a Good way to keep peoples active in life.

  • Ann

    Mary Kingsley 1862- 1900, niece of Charles Kingsley. She lived at home and cared for her parents until they died when she was 30. She then travelled to and explored west Africa, collecting fishes and insects; then on a second visit, investigating tribal customs and fetishes. Back in England, Mary wrote the book that made her famous ‘Travels in West Africa, wrote articles and lectured all over the country. In 1900, when she went to South Africa to nurse Boer prisoners of war, she caught enteric fever and died.

  • Anna

    1.Elena Blavatskaya – a philosopher, a publicist, a traveler, an adventurer and a very outstanding an charismatic woman of 19th century. 2.Sophia Kovalevskaya – She was the first major Russian female mathematician and a pioneer for women in mathematics around the world. She was the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe and was also one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor. 3.Alexandra Kollontay – a unique Soviet diplomat, the first female-minister in history, a model of ehtics, wisdom and endurance.

    • CI

      +1 for mentioning Alexandra Kollontai – beyond inspiring.

  • Sarah K.Gibson

    These women showed fantastic courage and perseverance in the face of male and often female hostility, scorn and low expectations. They must be celebrated!

  • Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama graduated cum laude from Princeton and from Harvard Law School at 24. She is also elegant, athletic and helped people learn more about gardening and choosing healthy food. Her infectious smile and worthwhile causes will stay in our hearts.

    • Gillian. Probyn

      Hoping she might be first female US President.