10 Women in History Who Were Way Ahead Of Their Time, Even Becoming Role Models For Future Generations

Many fiercely bright, strong, and inspirational women have made their mark on history throughout the years as pioneers for racial equality and women's rights as well as in the fields of science, mathematics, aviation, and literature.
From 1890 to 1920, women rose to the top of a variety of social and political groups. The Progressive Era is the name given to this era. Progressive reformers aimed to eradicate political corruption, enhance people's quality of life, and step up government protection of the populace.
This wave of changes during the Progressive Era included the suffrage campaign. Leading suffragists were often involved in other progressive movements. Hull-House in Chicago was founded by Jane Addams as a settlement house that assisted and educated nearby immigrants. African Americans were not to be lynched, according to a movement organized by Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
In this article, we take a look back at 10 famous women who were so progressive at their time that they’ve become role models for the generations that come after.

#1 Catherine the Great

Source: © Hulu / YouTube

There are so many facets to Catherine the Great's narrative that we aren't even sure where to begin. There are many love desires and rebellions in life. The beginning of feminism in the Russian Empire is the subject of this historical play.

Source: © Follower of Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elde / Portrait of Catherine II of Russia / Kunsthistorisches Museum / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

Catherine the Great established the Smolny Institute for Girls in 1764. At the Smolny Institute, 200 girls ages 6 to 18 received a thorough education. The girls' schooling lasted 12 years, and they visited their parents seldom. Why? to instill in girls a new cultural norm of the time and transmit these ideas to future female generations.

#2 Urraca of León

Source: © Amazon Prime Video UK / YouTube

Urraca was referred to be the Bold Queen for a reason. Urraca remarried after losing her first husband, brother, and father. Alfonso, her cousin, was her second husband, and the marriage wasn't particularly happy. Urraca abandoned her spouse after experiencing abuse. As a result, Alfonso went back to his house in Aragon and declared war on his wife.

Source: © El Cid / Amazon Prime Video

Fortunately, their lineage prevented them from wrecking each other's life and declared the marriage to be null and void. The Queen never wed again and ruled the nation by herself till she passed away. This example enabled other women to hold positions of leadership independently.

#3 Anne Boleyn

Source: © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News

The second and maybe most well-known of Henry VIII's six wives is Anne Boleyn. Her tale, which was interwoven with political intrigue and tragic personal events, captured the interest of several generations of filmmakers.

Source: © Movieclips Classic Trailers / YouTube

The great-granddaughter of a hat manufacturer was very restrained when the married king expressed interest in her since she didn't want to become a favorite. The king was rejected by Anne, and he almost gave up. He tried all he could to get divorced and marry Anne, either because he fell in love or because he wasn't used to being rejected.
There was a brief marriage between them. Anne was charged with treason and magic even though she never gave birth to a prince. In the Middle Ages, the sole sanction for her crimes was her execution.

#4 Émilie du Châtelet

Source: © Unknown author / Madame Du Châtelet at her desk, detail / Private collection, Choisel, château de Breteuil / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

It appears that Emilie du Châtelet had success leading several lives. She enjoyed acting in amateur theater, singing in operas, playing the harpsichord, and dancing. She translated Newton's writings. Yes, Émilie is responsible for the French learning about gravity.
She had a deep interest in mathematics, physics, and philosophy. Surprisingly, despite her busy schedule, her personal life remained unaffected. Voltaire was with her.

#5 Agnodice

Source: © Unknown author / Agnodice / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

In Greece in the fourth century BCE, there were no female physicians. So, if the young Agnodice desired to become a doctor, what should she do? She traveled there to further her studies. She had to pretend to be a male in order to practice medicine when she returned to Athens.
Agnodice was placed on trial once the public learned the truth. Fortunately, Agnodice and other Greek women were able to preserve their freedom to practice medicine because of her content patients.

#6 Marie Antoinette

Source: © Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News

Marie Antoinette's life was brief yet eventful. Though not entirely accurate, her contemporaries believed that she was frivolous and gloomy. For instance, she never even said the famous saying "If they have no bread, let them eat cake"! From Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, which he authored in 1769, this adage was borrowed. Marie didn't even consider being married to the monarch at the moment; she was still living with her parents in Austria.


Rumor has it that another man requested her hand in marriage. There was Mozart. He performed at the Habsburgs' vacation home when he was just 6 years old. They first met here. Marie arrived to assist the guitarist when he tripped on the shiny floor. Mozart made a playful marriage proposal to her, but the future Queen of France declined.

#7 Clémentine Delait

Source: © Scherr / Madame Delait, the bearded lady of Plombières / Wikimedia Commons© Creative Commons CC BY 4.0

Clémentine Delait needed 36 years to transform her "problem" into a strength. She diligently concealed her bushy beard since she was a little girl. A patron of the bar owned by Clémentine's family saw that she had hair on her face and promised to pay her if she could grow a full beard.

Source: © Alchetron / Type de carte que Madame Delait dédicassait en 1918 / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

The "bearded woman" brand gained popularity fast, and images of Clémentine wearing skirts and men's suits were very well-liked. Madame Delait led a busy life. In addition to managing multiple bars and owning an underwear shop, she performed in a circus with wild animals. She never shaved her beard, which over time became silver.

#8 Annette Kellerman

Source: © Keystone View Co. / American professional lightweight boxer Benny Leonard receives a mock punch from actress and swimmer Annette Kellerman, on page 5 of the January 28, 1922 / National Police Gazette / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

As a "liberator of women's bodies," Annette Kellermann is well known. The fact is that Annette changed uncomfortable swimming trunks into a fashionable one-piece swimsuit that didn't restrict the motion of competitive swimmers.

Source: © Bain News Service, publisher / Miss Annette Kellerman / Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons© Public Domain

She was the first woman to partly swim across the English Channel in addition to having a successful athletic career. She also found success in Hollywood, launched a line of swimwear, and delivered talks on vegetarianism and good living. Even by today's standards, Annette was a determined young lady since she proposed to her future husband.

#9 Delia Akeley

Source: © The American Museum journal / American Museum of Natural History / Flickr

Delia Akeley demonstrates that life continues after the age of 50. This woman was obviously quite active. She traveled across half of Africa, twice saved her husband's life from elephant attacks and malaria mosquito bites, and then filed for divorce over a monkey (her husband was strongly against pets).

Source: © The American Museum journal / American Museum of Natural History / Flickr

After turning 50, Delia regained her energy. She traveled to Africa by herself, crossed it as the first white woman, lived with pygmies, and wrote several best-selling books on this incredible adventure. She remarried in between the voyages, and she lived to be a century old.

#10 Junko Tabei

Source: © Jaan Künnap / Wikimedia Commons© CC BY-SA 4.0

When women in her native Japan were primarily viewed as housewives, Junko Tabei began her journey into the mountains. She also claimed that some men turned her down and assumed she was looking for a spouse. She didn't care, though. She founded The Ladies Climbing Club in Japan in 1969.

Source: © Jaan Künnap / Wikimedia Commons© CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1975, Junko Tabei ascended the summit of Everest. Only males had scaled the peak before her. Her accomplishments didn't stop there, either. The highest peaks on 5 continents, the renowned 7 summits, were first scaled by Junko. Up until her last few days of life, she didn't leave the highlands.
Share this article