For Women's Month, We Celebrate The Uncelebrated Female Changemakers | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

You’ve probably heard of Beethoven’s historic piano pieces or studied Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence equation in Physics, but have you ever wondered who was NASA’S head computer programmer or the technological design that’s now being used by our smartphones and Wi-Fi which was first rejected by the US Navy? Well, behind these are both part of the band of uncelebrated women we are putting a name on.

History has been progressively changing since the dawn of the female empowerment movement and the 21st century’s fierce fight for feminism. While we do have Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign that sparked social media rage for the cause back in 2014 or the celebrities that have signed the petition to overturn Roe v. Wade, we still have much to do to rewrite the white cis male-dominated authors of our history.

And, we’re starting off by introducing you to the unknown female powerhouses that we should celebrate.

PEARL YOUNG – Known for NASA’s World-Class Accuracy in Technical Reports

As the first female hired professional in NASA who revolutionized the way they wrote technical documents, Pearl Young was first hired in the era when women were reduced to only staffing and secretarial positions | NASA

Upon entering NACA (now known as NASA) as the first female hire, she immediately recognized that the current technical writing staff was lacking in proficiently and systematically writing technical documents. Reporting to the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Young responded to the discrepancies she witnessed swiftly. She established a new office with high-quality staff who were trained in her newly formulated system of approving and vetting technical documents. While NASA engineers were frustrated by the more tedious and long process to disseminate information, Pearl argued that consistency, logically analyzed, and most of all, absolute accuracy overrides speed. 

Conclusion: During her reign, NASA was able to publish and largely distribute over 16,000 research reports famous for their accuracy and thoroughness and most of all, became the beacon of standard and foundation of NASA’s reputation for being the most prominent aeronautical research institution in the world.

INDIRA GANDHI – Known for Leading Revolutionary Efforts For Modern India

As India’s long-standing first and only female prime minister, Indira Gandhi has been a long uncelebrated maker of modern India | Getty Images

Living at the mercy of the United States during the cold war era, India was staggering as poverty rates were high and there were insufficient funds in the country’s treasury to feed its people; eventually relying on the U.S.’s subsidy of red wheat. In light of this, Gandhi rose to acclaim as she led the now well-known green historic revolution of India. She was also the mastermind behind the division of Pakistan in 1971 which eventually went down military history. Despite her many feats, her feet remained grounded (even when she was personally insulted by U.S. President Richard Nixon) even when she got into a long-term agreement with the Soviet Union to do the first nuclear test in Pokhran in 1974 – a Cold War milestone.

Conclusion: Besides being at the forefront of women fearlessly entering high political positions and leadership, Indira Gandhi was monumental in the transformation of Indian politics, military history, and the country itself with her decisive win against Pakistan and success in food production.

MIKI GORMAN – Known for Defying The Odds For Women in Marathons

She confidently declared her win while eating 2 large mushroom crepes in a New York City brunch spot a day before her race – and that’s exactly what she did | Paul J. Sutton / DUOMO

Women have not won marathons for four more decades after Miki Gorman’s back-to-back bagging of first place in marathons; a larger-than-life feat, edging past over 50,000 participants repeatedly. Gorman has been the only woman who has won both the Boston and New York City marathons, claiming the ‘world’s best’ title with her time of 1:15:58. Gorman was born Michiko Suwa in China-occupied Japan, and she was living off of skeletal diets – only soybeans and a palm-sized serving of rice. Upon entering America, she was ashamed of her small and fragile frame which prompted her to tag along with her husband to an athletic club and went on to win the club’s trophy and now, even bigger achievements across world records.

Conclusion: An “unlikely” candidate to win upon signing up in her first marathon, Gorman was already 40 years old and had just given birth to her daughter the same year. She looked past her seemingly “obvious” disadvantages, that she was small and thin, and won against all odds.

BESSIE COLEMAN – Known for being The First Black Woman to Have A Pilot’s License

The woman to receive both the titles of first African-American Woman and Native American woman to be a licensed pilot across the Atlantic | Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

In the tight grip of the Jim Crow era, racism, segregation, and sexism were at an all-time high. Coleman declared her calling of being a historical figure in aeronautics, especially championing women after hearing her brother’s taunts about her then job as a beauty salon manicurist. She dove headfirst into dedicating all her blood, sweat, and tears to being the first licensed black female pilot in an era where even black men weren’t allowed to be one. She garnered much support from the community of black women in her flights, and this was crucial to her safety in a male-dominated and heavily segregated industry. 

Conclusion: Bessie Coleman was so close to opening a flight school for all before she plunged to her death on one of her flights with an unbuckled seat belt. Before her untimely death, she was refusing demeaning movie roles and firing male managers left and right. “We must have aviators,” Coleman firmly believed, “if we are to keep up with the times.” And her cause soared to new heights as her proponents solidified Coleman’s history by establishing aeronautical clubs and schools in her name.

KAREN SPÄRCK JONES – Known for Pioneering The Computer Science Technology Now Used By Google

The woman behind the underworkings of the Google search engine which reaches over 8.5 billion searches a day – and guess what? I’m pretty sure you don’t even know her name | LinkedIn

The woman we have to thank for the concept of both inverse document frequency (a statistic that displays how important a word is to a document) and index-term weighting (a test to assess the value of each term in a document) — a pioneering invention for computer science and the modern world. With her slogan, “Computing is too important to be left to men,” Jones lived up to her words as she started her first research position at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory. She also published her paper, “Synonymy and Semantic Classification” which is now a rudimentary research report in natural language processing.

Conclusion: She basically foreshadowed Google in 1972 when she laid the groundwork for the processing and technical concepts behind it. Jones was one of the few who made her life’s purpose to teach computers to understand us, instead of the other way around, which has been the way things are for the longest time now.

ELIZABETH PERATROVICH – Known for Being A Co-layer For The First Anti-Discrimination Act In America

The only woman in the room and the only woman with the seat on the table, Elizabeth Peratrovich is behind the first anti-discrimination act in the United States and she’s not credited enough for it | Alaska State Library – Historical Collection

As a member of the Tlingit Nation of Alaska, Peratrovich was essentially sentenced to a life of white discrimination with her neighbors showering the town with signs that read, “No Natives Allowed” and “No Dogs, No Natives”. Elizabeth’s plight for anti-discrimination across the North American continent was monumental to her hometown. She endlessly raised awareness, lobbied the legislature to pass Alaska’s anti-discrimination bill; the first of its kind in the country in 1945, and rallied the support of the population. She had the perfect answer when asked if passing the bill would eliminate discrimination, “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.” of which eventually won the opposition over.

Conclusion: Peratrovich’s advocacy for Alaska’s fair and equal treatment for natives was the foundation for the anti-discrimination act that has now founded a wide array of efforts by supportive political figures against prejudice and segregation. 

MABEL STARK – Known for Being The Best Animal Trainer In A Male-Dominated Field

Mabel Stark is the world’s tiger tamer you never knew about, going on to headline Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey, collecting over 700 scars from her lifelong jaunt | Entity Magazine

Literally running off to join the circus when she was 22, Mabel is one of pop culture’s most uncelebrated icons, one of the first to work on movies that required live animals being trained and sometimes as the sole credit for our 19th-century circus entertainment. “I like to do something that no other person can do. They say a woman didn’t have brains enough to do that, and they dared me to do it, so here I am,” this was what Stark declared and she went ahead and did it (just like every other woman in this article). Her training included forming intimate relationships with over 20 Sumatran tigers, which made her a sought-after but barely mentioned tiger trainer

Conclusion: She’s worked on films such as 1921’s ‘The Dangerous Woman’ and 1951’s ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ amongst many others. Her career has been a 57-year stint in this unbelievable role, hand-raising tiger cubs to their adulthood, even making friends with Rajah, a cub rejected by his mother.


Header image courtesy of Rebecca Wold /