I need examples of non-USian women who have made major world-changing impacts in areas like medicine, law, AIDS policy, etc. in the last 30 years.
November 18, 2004 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some good examples of non-USian women who have made major world-changing impacts in areas like medicine, law, AIDS policy, etc. in the last 30 years or so. Can anyone help me out?
posted by bshort to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
Wangari Maathai?
posted by gwint at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2004

Also, Shirin Ebadi.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:56 PM on November 18, 2004

Well, apart from politicians/heads of state, a group which has included many women in the past 30 years from Margaret Thatcher to Benazir Bhutto to Megawati Sukarnoputra to Gro Harlem Brundtland to Mary Robinson to Corazon Aquino to Kim Campbell to Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike [former prime minister of Sri Lanka] to Tansu Ciller, etc., etc., I would suggest:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

This is an interesting article from 2001 about "Asia's Most Influential Women".

Maybe the folks at the International Museum of Women could help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2004

Sukarnoputri. My bad. Also, Ireland has another woman, Mary McAleese, as President, which makes them 2 for 8--not bad odds, that, compared to most countries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 PM on November 18, 2004

A couple more non-U.S.ian women than those already mentioned have won the Nobel Peace Prize in recent decades.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:44 PM on November 18, 2004

Wangari Maathai?

If you're looking for someone who has made a positive impact on AIDS policy, don't look here. Maathai contends that HIV is a biological weapon created by Western scientist to kill Africans. It concerns me that the Peace Prize committee would make such a harmful selection: they have, in effect, given credibility to a dangerous crackpot.

How about Rosalind Franklin?

And in medicine, of course, Florence Nightingale basically founded the modern discipline of nursing. She was also a pioneering public heath statistician. She's probably personally responsible for as many lives saved as any other individual in the history of medicine.

This page points out some other notable scientists.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2004

Whoops; you said last 30 years or so. Sorry about that.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:43 PM on November 18, 2004

Sattareh Farman Farmaian? She brought social work to Iran. She ran the first school for social work there from 1950-something to the end of the seventies. (I'm reading her autobiography, "Daughter of Persia," on the recommendation in another AskMe thread).
posted by whatzit at 4:26 PM on November 18, 2004

Gro Harlem Brundtland - physician, politcal activist, Norwegian Prime Minister, and now Director-General of the World Health Organization. A good person all round.
posted by flashboy at 4:57 PM on November 18, 2004

Wangari Maathai wasn't given the Peace Prize for her opinions about AIDS--she was given the Peace Prize for her work in saving forest land and promoting sustainable growth.

There have been quite a few Nobel winners with weird crackpot ideas--Linus Pauling believed that you could cure cancer with Vitamin C, for instance, and Kary Mullis believes that UFOs are extraterrestrial spaceships. And, of course, Henry Kissinger believed that the best way to achieve peace was by bombing the crap out of people.

So Maathai is just one of many who are only to be trusted on her main topic--saving forest lands and promoting sustainable growth.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on November 18, 2004

How about Dr. Helen Caldicott, who is one of the founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:03 PM on November 18, 2004

In the general area of law, perhaps Louise Arbour and Mary Robinson, the current (since 2004) and former (1997-2002) UN High Commissioner for Human Rights might fit the bill? Not sure how much power or influence they actually wield, but...
posted by flashboy at 5:36 PM on November 18, 2004


I know; and you make good points.

The scientists you mention didn't adapt their crackpot ideas until after they had received their awards however, and Kissinger, well, I'm not particularly fond of that award, either.

The award to Maathai has given considerably broader sounding to her views on AIDS. And those views are dangerous. AIDS is a real problem for Africa, and there's a real danger in introducing a distrust of Western science. What Africans need now more than anything is accurate education about AIDS--it's the most quickly applied, cost-effective method of slowing the spread of the disease. Maathai's loudly-voiced theories hamper AIDS education.

The trees are great, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:38 PM on November 18, 2004

I do agree that Maathai is talking out of her buttocks on AIDS. But to deny recognition to her meaningful work because of that would be wrong, IMHO. And, after all, Thabo Mbeki has been saying much the same kind of thing for a long time, and he's in a far better position to influence individuals and policies.

Kary Mullis was definitely a nutcase before he got a Nobel. I'm not sure whether or not he had ever said anything about UFOs in print before then, but it's not something that occurred to him afterwards.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:26 PM on November 18, 2004

But might there not also be a difference (in perception, at least) between the science Nobels, which emphatically only reward a specific element of their work in a specific discipline, and the "social" Nobels (Peace, Literature, perhaps Economics), which might be seen as conferring a general seal of approval? Certainly, in the wider world, scientists are rarely considered experts on anything outside of their own field, while activists', writers' and economists' views are usually respected on a wide range of often unrelated topics.

But we get off topic ourselves. Apologies.
posted by flashboy at 6:35 PM on November 18, 2004

Vandana Shiva has done a lot of work in agriculture and biodiversity. Not something you listed specifically, but her work is definitely worth learning about.
posted by makonan at 3:22 AM on November 19, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone, I really do appreciate it.
posted by bshort at 7:08 AM on November 19, 2004

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