The woman of today is celebrated, admired, loved and encouraged. But before this modern-age perception of a woman existed, the fairer sex oftentimes found themselves bound by society’s narrow perspective, molded by their standard expectations, limited in their actions, and regularly rendered helpless. But some females of the bygone era proved to be torchbearers and paved the path for the women of today. These queens-in their own right, defied all odds and proved how much power, talent, and determination comes packed in the female spirit. Here’s to taking inspiration from some of these amazing women from history.
Rani Laxmi Bai:
Of course, every listing of historical powerful women would first impress upon our minds, the fierce lady, Jhansi Ki Rani. After the death of her husband, the Maharaja of Jhansi, she didn’t lose courage or submit to the circumstances, but instead, she took over his responsibilities, and did so impressively well! When the British annexed the territories of Jhansi with treachery, she fought against them fiercely displaying great courage in the battlefield and making her an epitome of female bravery.
Regarded as the first female teacher of India, she fought against the patriarchy of that time, and various other oppressions against women such as Sati, child marriage, untouchability and other such social evils prevailing at the time, to put an end to it. She was the very first Feminist of India.
At a time when society had little respect towards the vocation of nursing, Florence changed the whole perspective of society and gave a new outlook to nursing altogether. She fought for better healthcare and sanitation facilities after she saw that she lost more soldiers from infections than in the battleground. She is to be credited for turning nursing from a mostly unskilled, looked-down-upon job to a highly skilled and respected profession.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in 1903, and the first person to win it twice for her research in radioactivity, which ultimately helped in curing cancer. She was aware of the risks of continuous exposure to radiation, (which would take a toll on her health) and which later proved to be the cause of her death – but that didn’t stop her from serving the society as much as possible with her research.
Cleopatra was the Egyptian queen, sworn by many for her beauty. She was an exceptional ruler of Egypt, influencing and establishing her power greatly. She led a naval battle fleet when she was greatly outnumbered, and defended Egypt however possible from invaders. The tales of her beauty are spread farther and wider than her monarch tales, but these tales of her beauty actually undermine the great Pharaoh she really was.
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist, poet, politician, and a renowned orator. Her poems earned her the sobriquet of ‘The Nightingale of India’. She was a child prodigy, and a Persian play written by her earned her a scholarship abroad. She was responsible for spreading Gandhian principles by traveling to Europe and the States. She gave up her writing to focus entirely on the freedom struggle of India and became the first woman governor of India after Independence.
Devi Ahilyabai was the valiant queen of Malva who in her 30-year reign, brought about peace, progress, and prosperity. She proved to be an exceptional ruler, fighting against the gender disadvantage of the 18th century and encouraging relatively modern approaches of small-scale industrialization in that era. She believed more in winning hearts than kingdoms and attended to the grievances of even the most overlooked sections of society. She is to be thanked for, for giving such encouragement to the handloom industry. The Maheshwari saris, originating from her administrative capital, was made famous by her. This was one strong, level-headed woman way ahead of her time.
After remembering these powerful women, many of whom wielded the sword, this amazing woman impressed solely, by wielding the pen, making complete sense of the age-old adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. This spectacular woman, did not mould to the society’s image of a 18th century lady, and wrote the famous novels such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and many others, in which she portrayed the female protagonist as a woman of her own mind, rather than the mindless, materialistic girls who were entirely dictated by the society. She did most of her writing during an era where a career in writing was deemed unfit for women and severely looked down upon. Her novels played a great role in opening up writing as a profession for women.
A lady who needs no introduction, Coco Chanel’s business is a well-known luxury brand today. This lady is actually the savior of the modern-day woman because she was the first to introduce ‘Practical clothing’ for women! She helped women in saying goodbye to Corsets and confining garments and advocated comfortable clothing paired with a classy side of fashion, above all. She was the first to introduce fashionable clothing for women, by borrowing elements of men’s clothing, such as trousers and suits in the 1920s.
It pains us a lot to list this modern-day savior as more historically relevant, but she was the epitome of a powerful woman. She was a Supreme Court lawyer and served as the Minister of External Affairs of India - and proved to be spectacular at her job. Whether it was Indians with Visa problems, or Indians stranded abroad in unfavorable circumstances, even a tweet would ensure she came to their rescue. She won hearts across the country when she was always there to help when needed. Instilling such faith and trust in the minds of the modern-day youth with trust issues is no easy feat!