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8 women that have shaped the world

Words by Cheyanne Bryan

Despite the lack of representation in history classes, women have made memorable footprints around the globe. For this year’s International Women’s Day, we want to showcase some exceptional women who have made valuable contributions in their fields despite significant gender bias and a history of women’s creations being overlooked.

From leading mathematicians, to political activists and artists, here is a collection of women past and present that have shaped the world into what we know today. 


Becoming the world's youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at 17, Malala Yousafzai is a female education activist from Pakistan. Due to her vivacious spirit towards girls’ right to education, Malala was targeted by a gunman and suffered significant head injuries. Fortunately, she was treated in the UK and soon after recovering, she started the Malala Fund with her father. 


Arguably the first ever computer programmer, Ada Lovelace was a shining star among mathematics and science in the 19th century. Working alongside fellow scientist Charles Babbage, she was an essential part of developing our understanding of computers.


Before her death in 2011, Wangari Maathai was a driving force of social and environmental activism in Kenya through her organisation the Green Belt Movement, which led to her becoming the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.


In 2023, Simone Biles collected her 21st gold and 27th overall medal at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships – making her the most decorated American gymnast in history. Widely liked for her fun and bubbly personality, her routines push the boundaries and demonstrate her talent, skill and individuality.


Voted as one history’s greatest black Britons, Mary Seacole worked to treat fallen soldiers of the Crimean War. She drew on her Jamaican-Scottish heritage to use Caribbean herbal remedies in her practice and was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1990.


Bonnie Tu is the chairperson of Giant, the largest bike manufacturer in the world with over 12,000 stores across the globe. She also advocates for women in cycling through Liv Cycling which designs bikes and frames with the female body type in mind and is contributing to making travel and commuting more green for everyone. 


In 2018, Aaron Rose Philip became the first black, transgender and disabled model to receive representation from a major agency. She has gone on to appear in a number of high-profile fashion shoots and even published a memoir about her experiences with disability when she was only 14.


One cannot be mentioned without the other, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are best known for being prominent figures in the Stonewall Uprisings. The two are self-proclaimed drag performers and have campaigned for gay and trans issues in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Women in Sport. This is a charity with the aim of creating lasting positive change for women and girls in sport. Learn more here.

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. This charity helps empower women in low and middle income countries to enjoy economic opportunities through creating fairer business environments. Find out more here.

Bloody Good Period. This charity targets period poverty for those who menstruate and campaigns for menstrual equity. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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