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Women who have changed the world

Updated on February 14, 2013

Women through history

There are many women who have changed the world. Some of them are very famous and some of them not so much. Honestly while I was doing research for this topic, I have discovered that I don't know all of these famous women who have in some way changed the world or at least they tried to do that.

One is common to all these ladies - they were strong women who left something behind themselves. Throughout history women were in lower position most of the time, but some of them managed to find their place among men. And in that way they proved that are able to do some extraordinary things from science, ruling to politics and inventions.

This is a tribute to some women who changed the world. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Hatshepsut

This queen of ancient Egypt, who ruled from 1525-1503 BC, regardless of her place as a pharaohs wife, she undoubtedly surpassed all the great queens in the history of mankind, such as Elisabeth I of England, Kristina in Sweden and Maria Theresis of Austria.

During her reign Egypt was economically powerful, she increased its trade with neighboring countries, and made several important military and commercial operations. Hatshepsut was raised in the royal family at Thebes, the capital of ancient Egypt.

She had two older brothers who died early, and she remained the only heir to Tutankhamun's throne. During her father’s life Tuthmoses I she got married when she was 15 years old to her twelve years old brother - that was the custom in Egypt. Tuthmoses II was declared pharaoh, Hatshepsut and the king's wife. As the young pharaoh was colorless and physically weak person, at the very beginning of his reign, it was clear that Hatshepsut will quickly take in her hands all state affairs, including the military, because the young queen commanded in the wars that were led by her brother Tuthmoses II.

Hatshepsut never missed an opportunity to strengthen her popularity and status in the country. She even the simulated she was seriously ill saying that her husband tried to poison her because she was too fond of people. Unprecedented revolt was created in the palace. The Crown Council ruled that all the power is to be transferred to the Queen, while Tuthmoses II had to meet a formal position in the shadow of his ambitious wife. When he died (he was 40), malicious rumors claimed that he was killed by orders of relentless Hatshepsut.

She was very pretty. More than anything she knew how to use her erotic attraction. She was confident, dignified, and as the contemporaries say ''the most mellifluous from all of the queens’’. Beautiful queen, thanks to her unbridled ambition and unique talents, had managed to claim for herself all the rights fitting a Pharaoh. Her wish was to enter into history as a'' great'' pharaoh. To accomplish the goal she began to expand the boundaries of Egypt, by claiming new territories. But despite all this, the queen wanted to be the queen of peace. She encouraged the development of agriculture and was interested in everything: whether there is enough water in the Nile for irrigation of arable land, whether there is enough cattle, whether people have enough food to eat.

Neither in the field of architecture she didn't want to fall behind her great predecessors. During her reign were built many large and magnificent buildings. For this work she hired workers from all provinces in the country. Cities and slave traders were happy to send her auxiliary troops. They all participated with great enthusiasm in the works, and the citizens and nobles, in order to prove how much they love their Queen. The creator of all these monuments was brilliant architect named Zenmut. He was the Queen's favorite, and later her lover, the gray eminence of the court. Hatshepsut was confiding all rule over the entire building in the country to him, she named a ga the first minister and let him to educate her only daughter Nefrure.

Postdlf from w [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hypatia

The first prominent female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, Hypatia, was the daughter and disciple of Theon from Alexandria. For her it is said to have written the comments on the first six books of Diophantus ''Arithmetica'', and also about Apollonius' ''Conic sections''. From her father she inherited the knowledge of astronomical discoveries of Claudius Ptolemy, and commented on his work'' Almagest''.

She was also the undisputed leader of the Neo-Platonic school of philosophy and participated in the latest attempts to stop the spread of Christianity. As a living symbol of the old culture she was destined to be a pawn in the struggle for supremacy in Alexandria. In this city in Egypt, founded by the famous Alexander the Macedonian, Hypatia taught at the Museum of mathematics and philosophy, and her classes had interested many prestigious listeners. Among them was a philosopher Synesius, who later became a bishop. In his writings he describes Hypatia with highest terms and words calling her mother, sister, devoted teacher, saying all in superlative, about her teaching, her knowledge and sklls.

Unlike the support she had from this philosopher, Christian leaders have declared Hypatia's Neoplatonic philosophy as heresy. Her position in Alexandria was increasingly threatened because of her friendship with Orestes, the Roman governor who alone could equal to oppose Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. Bishops' followers have been spreading rumors that Hypatia gathers huge crowds of people at her lectures where she spread paganism.

One day walking home from classes, she was intercepted by a mob of religious fanatics who skinned her alive with oyster shells, torn her apart and had thrown her into fire. With Hypatia's death ended a long and glorious history of Greek mathematics. After this comes dark period which will end in 16th century, during the Renaissance and Humanism.

Hypatia symbolically represents coming of women into the world of science. Her whole life was dedicated to astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Thanks to her father who was also a mathematician and philosopher, and who allowed her to be educated in Athens, so that later she could come to Alexandria, she was able to grow into a true giant of ancient thought and science, not only as a theorist, but as practitioner. She herself for example made astronomical equipment and tables.

With her knowledge, humility, perseverance and beauty she impressed all scholars of her time, and still is at the top of great people who with their actions changed the world.

Nefertiti

For her say that she loved to eat poultry, she preferred sleeping on mattresses from goat hair, and she loved being awake in the morning with the smell of myrrh and sounds of female orchestra. She had sense for luxury, well she was one of the most powerful women in history. Today her statues represent the most attractive museum exhibits of Ancient Egyptian culture.

When she arrived in Egypt, Nefertiti was only 15 years old. Her father, king of a small country on the territory of present-day Syria, sold her to the Pharaoh Amenophis III for a ton of gold, silver and ivory. Princess with light skin, who Egyptians worshipped for her beauty, became a widow after two years of marriage. But she was still a great queen. Later she married her 12 year old stepson Amenophis IV. Young couple had a very intensive and happy family life. They had three daughters, they were always present in the audience, and driving with their parents in luxurious carriages. They were always been with them.

In the fourth year of the reign Nefertiti and Amenophis have elevated the national god Aten. Egyptians since then have believed in only one god in whose honor Nefertiti had built Akhetaton, capital of Egypt, about 330 kilometers from Thebes, ancient Pharaonic city. In just three years one hundred thousand technicians and workers built the temple, residences, altars and execution site for the animals that were offered as sacrifice, paved the wide streets, planted trees and sculptured tombs.

In 1357 BC the city was completed, and ten years later it was turned into grim city where only beautiful queen lived with her most loyal subjects. Pharaoh suddenly got sick from insidious and mysterious disease – on his whole body were formed thick layers of fat. Nefertiti has led a double life for recent years and it was very intense. In this period she gave birth to three daughters from three different fathers. Pharaoh had finally died, after seventeen years of rule. Even during the mummification of his body, beautiful and powerful ruler ensured to secure her political influence, but all her attempts to find a suitable husband remained unsuccessful. That's why she married one of her daughters for eleven years old Tutankhaten, who climbed to the pharaohs throne.

New Pharaoh decided to listen to his new advisers. He soon left the magnificent city Akhetaton, again introduced the old Amon gods, Aton renounced his name and called himself the Tutankhamun. Akhetaton was completely deserted.

Nefertiti died when she was 34 year old, probably from the plague. Her tomb, if it existed at all, was never found.

Photo credit: mharrsch / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Agora [DVD]
Agora [DVD]

I have seen this movie and I highly recommend it. It is about the life of Hypatia. Great story and great actors, you will enjoy and learn a lot of new things.

 

Helen of Troy

Since she was famous for her beauty, Helen was proposed by most prominent Greek heroes. Therefore her father, by Odysseus' advice, before deciding about proposal solemnly got to swear all proposers to defend Helen and her chosen one, whoever he is, in every trouble. She decided to get married to Menelaus, who inherited the throne of Sparta, and she gave birth to a daughter named Hemione. When Paris seduced Helen (or it was something else) and took her to Troy, all former proposers have kept their promise and with Menelaus, under the command of his brother Agamemnon, they went to war. And so began the Trojan War. Pretty Helen, according to Homer's ''Illiad'', has longed for her family and homeland and repented, while she was living in Troy.

Trojan War – the sum of events surrounding the legendary city of Troy, in the period of ten years, which ancient tradition puts between 1194 and 1184 BC. It all started with kidnapping of beautiful Helen by the Trojan prince Paris. Insulted husband and his brother, the Mycenaean king Agamemnon, started to prepare and campaign against the city of Troy and its king, to liberate Helen and to retaliate for sustained offense. There were many preparatioms, coming to assembly place in Aulida, and departure toward Troy. The war lasted for nine years close to the town and its surroundings, with mutual losses. Only in its tenth year, the Greeks managed cunningly to invade Troy. They left before doors the wooden horse of Troy, which was slipped into town by naive Trojans. There was a troop of Greek soldiers inside the horse. They created panic in the city and with help of soldiers who entered the city they destroyed the legendary city of Troy. Helen and Menelaus happily returned to Sparta. Beautiful Helen is celebrated in many poetic and literary work, and is reffered as the ancient principle of beauty. She was blamed for her adultery, not kidnapping, guilty of atrocities of Trojan War and destruction of Troy, and often is moralistic condemned her weakness. Myth or history, poetic vision or legend? It doesn't matter. Beautiful Helen has entered history as a woman because of who started first major war with horrible casualties and destruction.

By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Cleopatra

This beautiful queen ruled Egypt, along with her brother, Ptolemy XII. She got married to him when she was 17. Her younger brother, who wanted to be undisputed ruler, overthrew his sister from the throne, and that almost led to great civil war in Egypt. The Romans had to intervene, who at the time were ''masters of world'', they tried to protect their interest of course.

Julius Caesar, a leading Roman emperor comes to Alexandria to personally resolve the conflict. This was the first time that he saw Cleopatra and that was love at first sight, which will be remembered in history of the world as the most famous love story. After secretly agreed meeting with Caesar she came to him in a bent carpet, which the servant has brought before the emperor. When a beautiful young queen appeared before Caesar, he was speechless. And so started the most famous love story that lasted until Caesar’s assassination in Rome by the Republicans. From this relationship was born a son, Caesarion.

Of corse during their relationship, the affairs of Rome and Egypt were all right. After Caesar's death, on arrival in Alexandria, new Roman emperor Antonius, fell in love with her. He ruled the eastern parts of the Roman state. She had a passionate affair with him and they got a son.She was able to provide for her sons to rule over Egypt. At the time they were together, Cleopatra and Anthony were among the biggest spenders. In life everything has to end, and so one day ended sweet life i n Alexandria. Conflicts with Octavian had increasingly worsening, about superiority in governing the Roman Empire. There was a battle in which he won Octavian won. Antony fled from the scene of the battle and took refuge in Alexandria. When Octavian troops entered into the suburbs of this beautiful city, Antony, completely broken and lost, wounded himself with a knife. When he heard that Cleopatra was still alive, his last wish was to die in hands of beloved woman. That wish was fulfilled. Almost crazy from pain Cleopatra scratched herself on her face and chest. And then she told her servant to bring a snake in a basket of figs, which she released on her chest. The most famous queen in the world died from snake bite.

Photo credit: mharrsch / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Theodora Byzantine

Her way of life is above all a story about a woman who always knew what she wanted. She was from one plebeian family. Her father was a bear keeper at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Theodora's mother had great hopes for her, because she saw an opportunity to improve the situation of the family. When she was a little child, Theodora has performed in the circus, as mime actress. She was still a child when she ran away from home and become independent as a ‘’girl for entertainment’’. Since then started her life full of lust which lasted until the conclusion of the marriage with Justinian, the Byzantine emperor.

Since her education wasn’t so good, it is understandable that she had to develop her skills in a different way. She specially developed her own system for seducing men, to which couldn’t resist the Emperor Justinian himself. Of course, until she became queen, her life was very hard, but she stoically endured everything – she always had a smile on her face even when her lovers would insult or beat her. She knew exactly what men wanted and she used her charm to succeed, and she succeeded. Marriage with Justinian raised Theodora into the highest social circles.

Justinian ruled from 527 to 565. Becoming empress Theodora respected, at least looking from the outside, very strict life. With her husband she lived in great harmony, which was very unusual for that time. Along with power, another thing broke onto the surface – she was ruthless and relentless to those who weren’t showing her proper respect as an empress. She didn’t allow anyone to remind her of her past or to tell a joke on her account. She was very vengeful.

She died in 548, when she was only 40. Her last wish was to bathe her body in rose oil and to sprinkle it with expensive perfumes. It is something that she did every day. Her wish was fulfilled and she died in full beauty.

Photo credit: deflam / Foter / CC BY-NC

Joan of Arc

In the end of late XIV and early XV century lasted a Hundred Years War etween English and French court, which dynasty should inherit the French crown. Even after long and exhausting fights, the French failed to expell the English from their provinces. France was tired of war, and that is when the scene entered a 16 years old girl whos name was Joan of Arc.

She heard voices, particularly the voice of St. Michael, as he invites her to free the kingdom from the enemy. In those days, when people were mostly religious, this story was welcome to the king, as a chance to return his army confidence. The king entrusted the army to Joan (a unit of about 800 men), and she managed to convey her enthusiasm onto cruel warriors. Joan managed to force the English to stop the siege of Orleans, and beat them at Pate. The English have retreated. That same year, king Charles VII comes in Rems, where he was crowned. He became the undisputable king of france. Joan has one small troop, suddenly attacking and besieging lonely cities. In May 1430, during the siege of Compiegne, which was defended by an Burgundian ally Duke Jean of Luxemburg, Joan falls in his slavery, and he sells her six months later to the English. Trial of Joan of Arc in Rouen, in the winter of 1431, is well known.

She was charged with heresy and brought before the ecclesiastical court, under the chairmanship of Bishop, who was completely loyal to the English. The aim of the English was that with disabling Joan of Arc they would suppress people’s resistance. Joan defended herself very simple, very skillful and strong. She finally agrees to submit, to give up her beliefs and to stop wearing male suit. She was declared guilty in her return. She was given to holy court, that is the English. She was sentenced to death by burning at the stake, on May 30th 1431 on the Old Square in Rouen. Joan showed strong will of her character and faith. Her suffering caused great excitement even among the English soldiers who were there watching her burning.

In 19th century she was declared as a national hero of France.

Photo credit: sofi01 / Foter / CC BY-NC

Leave your comments! - What do you think about these great women?

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    • pumpum profile image
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      pumpum 2 years ago

      Wow, three daughters, that sounds amazing. I am expecting a baby and I hope all the best for my child. Thank you for your comment :)

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Fascinating set of women. I have three grown, successful, professional daughters, so stories such as this are always of interest! ;-)