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Troublemakers and groundbreakers
Throughout history, women around the world have confronted seemingly insurmountable obstacles when pursuing education, career opportunities and accolades typically reserved for men.
But time and time again, ambitious, exceptional women from all cultures proved that they were more than capable of achieving groundbreaking accomplishments, even when unsupported or even vehemently opposed by society's established leaders.
Here are 10 extraordinary women — activists, scientists and innovators — whose remarkable deeds merit attention, recognition and acclaim.
Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)Slide 2 of 21
Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)
Like the more celebrated Paul Revere, Sybil Ludington also completed a grueling nighttime ride to alert colonial militia to a British attack — and she did it when she was only 16 years old.
When British troops descended on the town of Danbury, Connecticut, on April 26, 1777, a teenage Ludington, whose family lived nearby, set out on horseback to alert scattered fighters and to urge them to gather at the Ludington house under her father's command.
Her ride began after 9 p.m. and lasted through daybreak, covering approximately 40 miles (64 kilometers), according to Historic Patterson. While the revolutionary forces failed to repel the British from Danbury that day, Ludington's courage earned her the recognition and thanks of George Washington, which he delivered in person at her family home, an event described by the National Women's History Museum.Slide 3 of 21
Elizabeth Jennings (1830-1901)Slide 4 of 21
Elizabeth Jennings (1830-1901)
Known as "the schoolteacher on the streetcar," Elizabeth Jennings stood up for her civil rights by sitting down. Much like Rosa Parks — but more than a century earlier — Jennings challenged segregation when she was 24 years old by insisting on her right to a seat on a New York City streetcar, even after a white conductor ordered her to leave.
During the July 16, 1854, incident, Jennings was forcibly removed from the vehicle and pushed into the street by the conductor and a police officer.
After her letter describing her treatment was published in the New York Tribune, she successfully sued the Third Avenue Railway Company. Jennings was represented by Chester A. Arthur — who would become president of the United States in 1881 — and she collected $225 in damages, according to the African American Registry.
Her case established an important precedent, and most of the streetcar lines in New York City were integrated by 1860.Slide 5 of 21
Ida Wells (1862-1931)Slide 6 of 21
Ida Wells (1862-1931)
Writer, suffragist and civil rights activist, Ida Wells launched what would become a lifelong public campaign against injustice at the age of 25. In 1884, the Memphis native filed a lawsuit against the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company, after a conductor and two other train workers forcibly removed her from a seat that she refused to vacate for a white passenger.
She won the case in local courts, but her victory was overturned by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. After the suit, Wells used the power of her words to denounce injustice, deadly violence and discrimination against black people in the South, PBS wrote. After moving to Chicago, she continued to decry the horrors of lynching, while also marching for women's suffrage and preventing the establishment of segregated schools.
She later served as one of the founding members — of which only two were women — of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. In 1930, Wells became one of the first African American women to seek public office, when she ran as an independent candidate for state senator.Slide 7 of 21
Marie Stopes (1880-1958)Slide 8 of 21