“History is the Essence of Innumerable Biographies” -Thomas CarlyleWhat drives history? Before we answer this question, we must go deeper and answer a more important question: What is history? History is, simply, all of the events, ideas, people, and occurrences that have existed in the past. These things have been driven by one common factor: individuals. Although individuals driving history may seem like a rather simple answer, it is the only one that provides no flaws. One such individual who has driven history is Martin Luther. Luther, a German monk, was an inspirational figure who struggled to encourage people to think more for themselves. Martin Luther had an unconventional way of viewing the Church at the time. Luther believed that it was wrong for the Church to sell indulgences or “forgiveness from god.” Martin Luther thought that salvation could only be achieved through performing good deeds. During Luther’s protesting, he created the “95 Theses,” which were a list of arguments and problems against the Catholic Church. Martin Luther was a very strong leader, and through his teachings, many people began to follow him and share their beliefs. Eventually, this lead to the Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, and caused a sect to break off, known as the Protestants. This drastic change lead to an immense conflict between both groups which eventually caused the ostracism of the Protestant sect to the Americas. This relocation created many thoughts that influenced the rest of the world. Martin Luther’s ideas and teachings not only drove history in the past, but they continue to drive the present day. Another important individual who drove history was the Italian astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei. Galileo discovered something so important that it changed the selfish perspective that humans were the center of the universe and led to the growth of human knowledge. Utilizing mathematics and a telescope he had developed, Galileo observed that the planets revolved around the sun and not the Earth. This was a significant discovery because not only did it contradict what the church had taught, it also showed that the universe was not what it seemed. With this truth uncovered, many people began to fascinate over the universe. This triggered people to begin studying space extensively and eventually lead to present day space exploration. Galileo also left a lasting impression upon many great minds, such as Sir Isaac Newton, who used Galileo’s research and theories to further his own studies such as the physical laws, and their properties. Although Galileo’s research was for self-satisfaction, his discoveries lead people to develop their own individual minds and follow their own goals in life. As one can see, Galileo’s teachings were very influential in his day, and have lead to the present day sciences. Therefor an individual has yet again driven history.A final example of an individual who has driven history is the European philosopher Robert Owen. Owen was a man who derived a new system of economy, which we call socialism. Owen tried to develop a society where all the industries, means of distribution, and production of goods were controlled by the government. In this society, many common living problems were easily solved, such as the banning of child labor, free education, and most importantly, people receiving equal benefits and opportunities. Equality was a large part of Owen’s socialist society, which appealed to all citizens. Even though Owen’s society failed economically, many people consider it a success. Nevertheless, Owen’s ideas and teachings were later incorporated into many societies we see today. The economies of many Scandinavian Countries are socialist-based, and they prove to be very effective. Owen gave people a new way to think about how a society could be run fairly, and these ideas changed how people lived, thus driving history. If one views these three individuals, a religious monk, a scientist, and a philosopher, one can determine that individuals from every field drive history. There are innumerable people who have contributed to the growth of the human race. History is not driven by greed, not by necessity, but by the individual people who apply their knowledge to the conditions of their present world.
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The evolution of sculpture in ancient Greece is one of the most forthright examples of how art changes with the times and thoughts of the people. People, the Greeks in particular, were putting themselves in high standing as the epitome of form and relative celestial importance. There was an obvious transition of their work from the Archaic to the Classical Period. It became more refined as time passed and this showed me an example of how slow change produces dramatic effects. Three figures, created over an approximate period of 150 years, show the progress. From the 580 B.C.E. Kouros to the 525 B.C.E. Kuros from Anavysos to the Doryphorus of 450-440 B.C.E. With the increasing concern for the self in Greek culture we see a shift happening that is recorded in the attention and development of their art. Amazing changes began to take place and the sculptures serve as markers for an awakening of the human consciousness as we can see in later pieces.
The naturalism of the sculptures seem to increase dramatically from the first, where the shoulders are wider than the hips and little detail is given to the chest and arms to the second, where the chest and stomach are better defined and the hips are better proportioned to the shoulders. More detail is given to muscle tone and shape in the second sculpture. The final piece is the culmination of decades and even centuries, of advancing realization in Greek art. We see the style moving into its most refined stages with hints of more beautiful and awe-inspiring works just over the horizon. One arm is relaxed while the opposite leg is also. The other leg and arm are tense. The head and hands are in perfect proportion and the figure looks as if it would move.Citation styles:
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The renaissance was a period of European history that developed a renewed interest in the arts. The renaissance began in 14th century Italy, and spread to the rest of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, the society of the middle ages, which had an agricultural economy and a.
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human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism on the other hand, doesnt mourn the idea of fragmentation or misunderstanding; it celebrates it. Post modernism also reacts against earlier modernist principles by reintroducing traditional or classical. a period. and nature was. major figures. -conscious.
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As cultural diversity spreads throughout the whole world, nowadays symbol "hero" itself is experiencing a variety of definitions. At present, hero like superman, batman and Mr. Incredible, can be a supernatural character winning over the evil and adversities; Hero can be a distinctive figure who contributes much to progress of human society, like Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln; Hero can also be one who is fighting challenges and making incredible achievements, for instance, Helen Keller and Nick Vujicic. The environment where a hero appears can be political areas, workplace and even narrow streets. Place and location are nearly not a restriction to the appearance of a hero. On the contrary, in the ancient Greece narrated in Iliad by Homer, the major environment for a hero is battlefields. Just as the etymology reveals, the word "hero" came from the Greek, with the original meaning of "protector" or "defender" . Therefore, it is not astonishing that heroes in Trojan War, like Achilles, Agamemnon and Ajax, are all distinct warriors and army leaders, whose major honors are acquired by killing thousands of enemies, attacking impregnable cities and capturing hundreds of slaves. Their experiences are usually filled with magical affairs and unbelievable stories. Taking Achilles as an example, when he was just born, he was held by heel dipped into river "Styx" to heal the wounds. As a consequence, he obtained invulnerability but left vulnerable at only the heel . Although Achilles could not avoid being finally killed by an arrow to his heel after the end of Trojan War, he was peerlessly brave and took another hero, Hector's Life for vengeance. Despite that such a story may be an exaggeration of the power and immortality of heroes; it at least reflects general public's expectations of a hero in ancient Greece.
The heroes of ancient Greek sort are however, casted out or in abjection to some degree. This opinion might be objected with the reason that most parts of world are in peace. However, George H.W. Bush and his son have not been widely accepted as heroes for their decisions and performance in Gulf War and Iraq War. Instead, George W. Bush has been frequently criticized for his waging a war against Iraq without a credible excuse and a clear mind. And he was even accused of committing war crime by some Americans and Europeans . Obviously, a war leader is not a hero any more in contemporary world. A more reasonable cause leading to such a change could be the alternation of people's ideology. Compared with fancy and brave Greek warriors, heroes in modern society or in contemporary ideology are more closely related to everyday life and ordinary people. Though supernatural figures, like superman and batman are still treated as heroes, most of them appear in the movies, TV series or comics. Nowadays, hero can frequently be ordinary people without any supernatural capabilities in specific circumstances, who win over all the challenges, fulfill their tasks or reach their destinations. Rather than facing death and enemies, what heroes today encounter is tough tasks, mission impossible, miserable situation or strong and nearly invincible powers. They fight against the adversities and struggle to survive. Most of the time, contemporary heroes use intelligence and tricky methods, rather than physical power or supernatural abilities, to triumph.
Another noticeable difference between heroes in these two different eras is the changes or the effects they bring to the world. The symbol "hero" in contemporary ideology represents a power to improve the world, while the heroes in ancient Greek systems may be not a good person from the perspective of the whole human beings. In Iliad, it mentioned Achilles by "Sing Goddess, of the rage, of Achilles the accursed rage, which brought pain to thousands of the Achaeans" . Achilles, as a super hero in the Trojan War, brought war and pain of losing life and family members to both Trojan People and Greek people. His anger over the death of his cousin, Patroclus, led to an insane revenge. He killed a considerable number of people, but still kept on searching for Hector, the murderer of his cousin. He said that the fury made him "hack (Hector's) flesh away and eat (Hector's) raw" . Actually, such insanity after the death of Hector caused a more fierce conflict between the Trojan people and the Greeks. As a result, more and more innocent people died just because of a tiny indecent affair that had almost nothing to do with them. When turning to heroes nowadays, the stories seem more decent and positive. No matter what the job he is taking, how much money he has made and how much political power he is holding, a hero at present represents a positive and upstream force, which leads and pushes the development of the whole world. Aung San Suu Kyi, as a symbol of continuously chasing freedom and equality, had been house arrested for more than 15 years in the last 20 years. She gave up the opportunity of meeting her family and getting a permanent personal freedom by leaving her home country. All she runs after is a truly freedom and equality of all Burmese people. She had the opportunities to initiate a riot or a protest against the current government by violence. But she did not choose to make it in that way. Instead, she hoped to create a genuine dialogue or discussion with all parties involved to achieve an agreement. She hopes that Burmese people can obtain a happy life with such a peaceful method. To recognize her extraordinary efforts in development of civil rights in East Asia, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 . Compared with Achilles, Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be the other extreme end, while the Burmese rulers seem to be playing the part of Achilles today. Rather than being respected as heroes, they have received critics from different parties and are widely treated as atrocities all over the world. More importantly, violence and arms power are accepted as icons of evil by general public. Almost everything related to army and war is treated somewhat negative and unpleasant; maybe because most countries spare no effort to promote the importance of peace. Affected by the changes in people's ideology, it is rarely seen that a general or a warrior who brought chaos to the world, is widely accepted as hero.
In the aspect of personality, heroes today appear to be more "perfect" than ancient Greek heroes. In the media, heroes today hide the negative sides of themselves from the general public. In public opinions, Bill Gates is a hero of Information Industry. All the news and reports talked about his career, success and his charity courses. He is rarely mentioned of his personal life and personality, though. Most people have not even heard of his negative information; say for example, Gates had a problem in obeying traffic laws. Gates was arrested in 1975, 1977 and 1989 for driving without a license and driving drunk.  Similarly, Barack Obama is treated as a hero for his being the first African American President of United States. To many American citizens, especially African Americans, he is a perfect person. And President Obama has almost never been involved in any negative news. But it seems that the minority of people care about his smoking habit. Compared with the heroes nowadays, Ancient Greek heroes seemed less idealistic. Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek army in the Trojan War, though not as brave and powerful as Achilles, he fought himself and conducted a heroic performance in the battlefield. He was undoubtedly accepted as a hero. But at the same time, Iliad did not cover the facts that a hero can commit faults. Agamemnon was described by Homer as a mean person, an arrogant leader, and a cruel father. He took away the beloved woman of Achilles to show off his authority and leading position, which dishonored Achilles and later led to the withdrawal of Achilles. He sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to appease the goddess Artemis, which led to general public's opinion that he was cold blooded . It seems that ancient Greek heroes were faultier than the heroes today. It is rather difficult to achieve a quick decision why heroes in these two distinguished centuries are treated so differently. Two possible reasons are raised in this essay. The first one may be that the media today is manipulated by the powers or the governments to some degree. Media today is better named propaganda, rather than its original term. General public are shown ideal and perfect icons of Information Age, political powers or other possible fields, when the figures of heroes are established. To put it simple, general public is manipulated to hear and see the stories and backgrounds of a hero from monophony rather than polyphony. People cannot easily find a book or a report mentioning the dark side of a hero which describes as many facts as Iliad. General public may even not know there are dark sides of those well-known heroes. This reason might explain why heroes today are so idealistic all throughout the world, which is as incredible as a fairy tale. Another reason could be that the change in general public's perceptions has resulted in indifference on the personal and private life of a hero. People do not care about the personal affairs of a hero any more, rather than not being aware of. What they merely need is a well-established example to learn from, rather than a real person to know or make friend with. In other word, heroes in contemporary ideology are treated as idols, and general public imitate what a hero do, aiming at a self-improvement. Compared with contemporary heroes, those in ancient Greece are more like ordinary people, since they have feelings and faults. Whatever the true reason is, the phenomenon is apparently observed in the comparison between heroes in two eras.
To conclude, different aspects of symbol "hero" in contemporary world and in Ancient Greece are compared in this essay. The symbol "hero" has changed quietly in scope of definitions and personalities. It seems that contemporary heroes have a more broadened scope of definitions, no matter in environment of appearance or changes brought to the world, while traditional heroes in ancient Greek are less idealistic, because of the ordinary personalities they possess.
 M. Mark& C. Pearson, the Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes, New York, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001, pp 105-113
. Wikipedia, Hero, [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero
 Wikipedia, Achilles heel, [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles_heel#cite_note-0
 BBC News (2004), Bush 'Plotted Iraq War from Start', [Online]. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3387941.stm
 Wikipedia, Achilles, [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles
 Wikipedia, Aung San Suu Kyi, [Online]. Available:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aung_San_Suu_Kyi#Nobel_Peace_Prize
 About.com, Crime/Punishment: Bill Gates, [Online]. Available: http://crime.about.com/od/famousdiduno/ig/celebrity_mugshots/gatesbill.htm
 Wikipedia, Agamemnon, [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agamemnon
Anti-slavery activist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe was instrumental in the United States fight against slavery.
Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", Harriet was able to convey a vivid, yet accurate depiction of slavery and its human cost.
After Stowe married, her and her husband became active in the Underground Railroad, which helped thousands of blacks escape slavery.
When she published her story "Uncle Tom's Cabin," she drastically changed the opinion of the American people regarding the issue of slavery.
Abraham Lincoln even recognized her and her book as key factors behind the American Civil War.Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
Born into a poor family during a conflict between England and France, Joan of Arc was said to experience mystical visions from God. Just a 17 year old peasant, Joan of Arc was given command of the French army and lead them into battle against the English troops.
Ultimately, the English and French clergy put Joan of Arc to death, accusing her of witchcraft. A courageous and humble woman, in her short time on earth, Joan of Arc changed history for the French people.
"One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying." - Joan of ArcMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Author of "A Vindication for the Rights of Women", Mary Wollstonecraft (also known as Mary Shelley) was centuries ahead of her time, and because of this, she kept a low profile even long after her death.
Mary Wollstonecraft was a radical with large ideas and a strong desire for equality between the different sexes.
It was not until the 20th century that people began to recognize her influence.
Today, Wollstonecraft's writings are viewed as some of the key developments in the fight for women's rights.Harriet Tubman Risked Her Life to Help Free Thousands of Slaves
Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
An African-American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks became famous when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.
Known as the "mother of the modern day Civil Rights Movement," Parks was, and still is, an inspiration to many.
Her decision to not compromise on that bus motivated Martin Luther King Jr. to start the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the largest mass protests in civil rights history.
Parks quickly became the leading figure in the civil rights movement, and was fired from her job as a result.
Parks died in 2005, but before she did she received the honors of meeting with Nelson Mandela after his release from prison, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her work as an activist.Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
Wife to United States President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt was more than just a first lady. Passionate about human rights, Eleanor fought for gender equality vigilantly. Her political activism is attributed to Franklin Roosevelt's success during the presidential election.
While Franklin was in office, he was stricken with paralysis in his legs, and Eleanor became his main caretaker, but continued pursuing her political activism goals.
After her husband passed away, Eleanor was appointed the position of head of the United Nations by her husband's successor, Harry S. Truman. She is responsible for the creation of the Universal Decleration of Human Rights.Malala Yousafzai has been Nominated for Numerous Peace Awards
I am Malala is a book that everyone needs to read. This story brought me to tears. She is an inspiration and a role model for so many young girls.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanMalala Yousafzai (1997-)
The youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is a young Pakistani women who has put her life in danger fighting for women's rights.
A high profile activist, Malala was shot in the head at close range by a Taliban gunman.
But even bullets can not stop Malala, who recovered from her near death experience with more passion for her cause than ever before.
Today, Malala is one of the top advocates for human rights, education and women's rights.More by this Author
We take a look at some of the most groundbreaking and inspirational women in history: from Cleopatra to Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst.
These are the most inspirational women in history; their achievements seeming all the more impressive given the modern world we now live in, where fashion, trends and politics can alter with a hashtag as quickly as a heartbeat, meaning finding timeless inspiration can sometimes seem like an impossible task. It’s why the following women deserve celebrating and why they are as relevant now as they ever were in the past.
Throughout history, women have fought courageously and tirelessly to assert themselves as individuals and experts in their field, something most men have had the luxury of taking for granted.
Groundbreaking designers, space explorers, pilots, political activists and feminists, artists, monarchs and leaders. There is something these inspirational women all share in common: they are all warriors and continue to inspire us in our own modern lives.
Eleanor Roosevelt once challenged us all to, ‘do one thing every day that scares you.’ Below are just a select handful of headstrong women who echoed that call to arms and did just that.
Meet the most inspirational women in history:
‘I will not be triumphed over.’
It seems strange and almost unfitting that a woman who came to define independent strength, determination and power in an age commanded by men should be named after the Greek for ‘glory of the father.’ By the time of her sudden death in 30 BC, glory would be entirely hers. Centuries later, Cleopatra still beguiles us. Much has been written about the Pharoah’s beauty: Roman consul Cassius Dio would speak of ‘a woman of surpassing beauty’. In actuality, her ‘beauty’ is the greatest myth that defines her legacy. It also undermines her real power. Far from the Hollywood visions of Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie we celebrate today, Cleopatra did not strike Antony and Caesar to their knees with her good looks, but rather with her wit, charm and intellect. Cleopatra’s beauty morphs with our changing fashions but her fierce dynamism never alters.
‘I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.’
In her own humble words, ‘all I was doing was trying to get home from work.’ In actuality, she did infinitely more: she became an overnight figurehead for the civil rights movement in the US. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African-American seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the Montgomery City bus. This isolated act and a single reply – ‘no, I’m not’ – ignited a boycott which continued for 381 days until the city repealed its law enforcing racial segregation on public buses. Rosa’s fearless rejection of racial segregation made her ‘the first lady of civil rights’. The day itself – the day she was arrested – will forever be known as Rosa Parks Day.
‘If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?’
In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft’s call for equality and her advocation of women’s rights struck 18th century society like a bolt of thunder splitting a tree in two. Thankfully we now live in an age where feminist thought is considered the norm – we have the likes of Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham and Germaine Greer to applaud for that – but in the late 1700s, Wollstonecraft’s suggestion that men and women should be considered equal as rational beings was about as revolutionary as Joan of Arc galloping on horseback with her sword drawn. The publication of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1792 is considered one of the earliest examples of feminist philosophy. It didn’t take long for a backlash to occur and it wasn’t reprinted until the mid 19th century. A true revolutionary, Wollstonecraft’s spirit still endures.Reading now
‘I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.’
Journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director…she did it all. Nora Ephron battled gender inequality in an industry that still misrepresents women in front of the cameras and behind the scenes too. Hitting her stride as a journalist at the Post she soon made a name for herself as a Hollywood screenwriter responsible for, perhaps, the greatest romantic comedy of all-time: ‘When Harry Met Sally’. Not content with a screenwriting career, Nora’s candid books gave a uniquely witty, sharp and – at times – heartbreaking insight into her private life. Her 1983 autobiographical novel, ‘Heartburn’, depicts the breakdown of her marriage with refreshing honesty and killer one-liners. In a commencement address in 1996, to her old women’s liberal-arts college in Wellesley, she would famously say: ‘Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.’
‘Trust in God – she will provide.’
As synonymous with women’s suffrage as the word ‘suffrage’ itself, in 1999 Time magazine named Emmeline Pankhurst one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, saying: ‘she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.’ In 1903 Pankhurst co-founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with a clear agenda focused on direct action to win women the vote. ‘Deeds not words, was to be our permanent motto’, she would later say. These words soon rang true. It was at Holloway Prison that Emmeline Pankhurst would stage her first hunger strike, withstanding violence and abuse to enable all women the right to vote.
‘I wasn’t really naked. I simply didn’t have any clothes on.’
Her moves were unmistakable: rhythmic hands, gyrating hips and elastic legs that propelled her round the dancefloor like a flurry of hypnotic windmill sails. New York’s ‘highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville’ would truly make her name in deco Paris at ‘La Revue Nègre’ in the mid 1920s. Ultimate womaniser, Ernest Hemingway, called her ‘the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.’ Yet, despite her popularity and fame, Rosa Parks’ fight was hers too. When she arrived back in America in the 1950s she was refused reservations at 36 hotels. She took her battle to the cabaret clubs, refusing to perform to racially-segregated audiences (despite a $10,000 offer by a Miami club). Not even threatening calls from the Klu Klux Klan scared her. In 1963, she stood beside Martin Luther King at the March on Washington. She was the only official female speaker there.
‘I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.’
On October 9, 2012, a gunman boarded Malala’s school bus in Pakistan, asked her name and shot her three times in the head. Her crime? Speaking out about education for girls. Fear lost and bravery triumphed. A figurehead of our time, the shooting of Malala was a watershed moment, propelling a teenage girl into an overnight stateswoman for equal rights. In 2013, Time magazine listed Malala Yousafzai as one of ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World’. On 10 October 2014, Malala co-received the Nobel Peace Prize. Lest we forget, she is still only 17 years old.
‘Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.’
Amelia Earhart gave women their wings, quite literally. The first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, she was – incredibly – only the sixth woman to be issued a pilot’s license. In 1931, at the same time as setting a world altitude record of 18,415 feet, Earhart also joined ‘the Ninety-Nines’, an organization of female pilots who banded together to encourage women in aviation. She once described fears as ‘paper tigers’, adding, ‘please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it.’ During an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean. She was never found. Her final failure became, like she once said, a challenge to us all.
‘If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?’
In 1963, Valentina, a former textile worker from the Soviet Union became the first woman in space, orbiting the earth forty-eight times. She put the previous four American astronauts – all male – to shame with their combined total of thirty-six. Not only that, she logged more flight time than the total combined times of every American astronaut who had flown before her. She was only 26 years old. Right on, sister.
‘Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
To understand Frida is to understand her pain. That doesn’t make her a victim of her own suffering – quite the contrary. The many outwood traumas that plagued her life – including a horrific bus accident leaving her crippled and unable to conceive – gave her the tools in which to paint her inner truth. Her husband Diego Rivera once talked about Frida’s art as ‘paintings that exalted the feminine qualities of endurance and truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering.’ He would go on to conclude: ‘Never before has a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas.’ ‘I paint my own reality’, Frida Kahlo once said. Her paintings are fearless because they paint the conflicting duality of female experience. In some respects, Frida’s art is both the rose petal and the thorn.
‘The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.‘
Often regarded as ‘the lady with the lamp’, Florence Nightingale defied her parents to become a nurse. When the Crimean War broke out in 1853, Florence took 38 nurses to Turkey’s military hospital – the first time women had been allowed to do so. Her campaign to improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals led to Florence publishing a book called ‘Notes on Nursing’ in 1859, which is still in print today. Yet another female first was yet to come: Florence became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858.
‘I’ve been through it all, baby, I’m mother courage.’
Look up ‘survivor’ in the dictionary and you may well see Elizabeth Taylor glancing proudly up at you, under the weight of some dazzling diamonds, no doubt. Not only did she go through it all, she did so with a Balenciaga handbag crammed full of pithy one-liners to shut up her tabloid critics in the process.
‘The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.’
Coco Chanel didn’t just challenge the gender norms of the time through her own personal life and career – her clothes set the female body free and redesigned it’s sillhouette. Men’s clothes became women’s too: breton tops, crewneck sweaters, trousers, flat heels and suits. Her own figure – boyish frame, cropped hair and tanned skin – fast became a fashionable rejection of the traditional feminine ideal. Not only that, her dresses flipped two fingers up to restrictive corsets. Vogue quickly dubbed her little black dress ‘the garçonne’ (little boy look).
‘Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.’
Marie Curie won two Nobel Peace Prizes – in 1903 and again in 1911 – but that doesn’t mean her male contemporaries gave her an easy time. To the contrary, she battled sexism throughout her entire career. ‘I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career,’ she once revealed. ‘Well, it has not been easy.’ Her critics never wore her down, however. Not only did Marie Curie’s research contribute to the development of x-rays in surgery, her tenacious spirit set her apart from her male peers. During World War she even helped equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, driving them herself to the front lines.
‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.’
She was the daughter of one of the most feared Kings to ever sit on the throne of England – and a Queen whose fierce intellect and courtly charms split the church in two. Elizabeth would become one of England’s longest serving monarchs (she ruled for 44 years) and would restore stability, defining her reign so effectively we now refer to it merely as ‘Elizabethan’. The best bit? She did so without a man by her side. Instead, Elizabeth declared she was married to her kingdom, referring to her subjects once in 1599 as ‘all my husbands, my good people’. Over the decades she would become as feared and revered as her father, Henry VIII, with Pope Sixtus V declaring: ‘She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all’.
‘I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’
Found guilty of treason, sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad at the age of 49, Edith Cavell’s courage was heavily punished in her lifetime. The nurse used the Red Cross hospital she was working at to save the lives of soldiers from both sides of the First World War, without any discrimination, as well as smuggling over 200 Allied soldiers from Belgium, famously saying ‘I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved’.