Very few people have never heard of Susan B. Anthony. She was one of the very first advocates for women's rights, including the right to vote. In fact, the 19th Amendment, which was passed in 1920 and prohibits women from being denied the right to vote, came from an amendment that Anthony wrote in 1878. There is no doubt that Anthony was a gifted and courageous woman. A variety of books about her are available for a variety of ages.
Marie Curie was an amazing woman. Most people who have heard of her know of her because of her work with her husband Pierre on radiation. But they probably aren't aware that she also was responsible for a new method for teaching science which included demonstrations of experiments. They may know that she won a Nobel prize in physics for her work, but not that she was the first woman to win one. Or that she was the first person ever to win two Nobel prizes. Or that she was the first woman in France to earn a PhD. Or...well, the accomplishments of this one woman are beyond impressive.
For ages 6 and up.
If you've heard about Florence Nightengale, then you know she was a nurse. What else do you know about her? She was born in 1820 to a privileged family and lived during a time when such women were not expected to work. In fact, they were expected not to work. However, not only did Florence want to work, she wanted to work as a nurse, which was not exactly a noble profession at the time. In fact, it was considered menial labor done quite often by prostitutes and alcoholics. Florence felt a deep concern for people, so she chose to pursue a career in nursing. In 1855 she left home for the battlefield of Crimea to nurse soldiers who were fighting in the Crimean War. Thanks to her efforts, an Army Medical School was created in 1857 and in 1868, a Sanitary Department was created. And yet there is more! Florence also created the Nightingale School for Nurses at St. Thomas' Hospital, the first of its kind, and reformed workhouses, personally training the midwives and nurses.
Ages 10 and up
You have probably heard of Mendelssohn, the famous German composer. But did you know that Felix Mendelssohn had a sister, just as musically gifted? She composed over 400 pieces. So why isn't she as famous as her brother? Are her works not very good? No, the reason is that while the two siblings were quite musically gifted as children, when they grew to adulthood, their father had very different ideas of what men and women could do with music. For men, music could be a career; for women, it could be only an "adornment." In spite of such social and paternal restrictions, Fanny was able to compose many musical pieces.
For ages 12 and up
One of my favorite quotations comes from Pearl S. Buck:
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off...
They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.
Can there be any doubt that she was a creatively gifted woman?
Ages 8 and up