Marie Curie and Helen Keller need not apply
July 3, 2010 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a list of real-life female role models. Who are some of your raddest baddest lady muses?

Times are tough, and I'm looking for icons to inspire me to buck up and carry on.

Last weekend, I was talking with two female friends of mine, and the conversation veered toward people whose lives and work we admire. Most we talked about were men, but it's not out of lack of inspiring women. Please share your role models with me. I'm in need of some.

They could be your style icons from forgotten eras, unheard-of intellectual superstars, CEOs and scientists I should know, artists or writers or anybody else whose power you invoke when you need a boost. I'm looking for as diverse and rich a roster as possible, so I'll hold off on naming names of my own for now.
Thanks in advance, looking forward to your responses.
posted by inkytea to Society & Culture (67 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
I posed this question a few years ago, and got some some interesting results. Hopefully some of them may help you. Good luck!
posted by Alterscape at 11:52 AM on July 3, 2010

Maud Menten of the Mikalis-Menten equation fame.

If I had an equation named after me, I'd pretty much spend the rest of my career wandering around the building and patting myself on the back. She went on to pioneer electrophoresis and the use of azo-dye with alkaline phosphatase which are to biochemistry what the saw and tape measure are to carpentry.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Kim Deal. Lady bass players are badass and she's the badass-est.
posted by youcancallmeal at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've been reading Pin-Up Grrrls and am absolutely enthralled by Adah Isaacs Menken. This woman controlled her public image so deliberately, in an age where theater and performance - especially women in theater - was so fraught with classist and sexist ideals, and openly lived life how she wanted. She was Gaga before Gaga's grandmother.
posted by divabat at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Crystal Eastman -- muckraking journalist, co-writer of the Equal Rights Amendment, and now almost completely forgotten.

Also, Delia Derbyshire.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 12:04 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Countess Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

Hedy Lamarr, actress and co-inventor of frequency hopping spread spectrum communications, which forms the basis of modern wireless communication techniques that we use today.
posted by mmascolino at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2010

Catherine the Great.

All right, so her rule was repressive--she was kind of panicked about what she saw as threats to the monarchy. She's not exactly a role model to anyone (I hope), but more an example of how women in history could be just as fascinating and influential as the men when given--or seizing, in her case--the chance. She's a good counter to the Parade of Dudes.

(The vulgar sexual rumors about her also show that for a long time, women in power had to deal with an extra dimension of attack.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:12 PM on July 3, 2010

Käthe Kollwitz!
posted by scody at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Grace Hopper was pretty badass. Mathematician, pioneering computer scientist, professor, Navy admiral, inventor of the compiler, co-inventor of the COBOL programming language. She also found the first bug in a computer program. She also had some good and inspiring quotes.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Martha Nussbaum. (wiki)
Nussbaum, though not a lawyer, is currently Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, a chair that includes appointments in the Philosophy Department, the Law School, and the Divinity School. She also holds Associate appointments in Classics and Political Science, is a member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She previously taught at Harvard and Brown where she held the rank of university professor.

And when I (as an undergrad assistant) had a question about her availability as a speaker for a series our university was holding on civic engagement, we talked on a variety of subjects, and although our plans didn't work, she provided me with tons of leads.

Anne Colby of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. And a fine communitarian.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:30 PM on July 3, 2010

Lady bass players are badass and she's the badass-est.

In that vein, Carol Kaye pretty much invented modern electric bass guitar technique, and she is bad ass.

Unrelatedly: Lydia Litvyak, "The White Lily of Leningrad". Russian fighter pilot during WWII, responsible for the following piece of bit of badassery among many others:
Litvyak scored against a difficult target on May 31, 1943: an artillery observation balloon manned by a German officer. German artillery was aided in targeting by reports from the observation post on the balloon. The elimination of the balloon had been attempted by other Soviet airmen but all had been driven away by a dense protective belt of anti-aircraft fire defending the balloon. Litvyak volunteered to take out the balloon but was turned down. She insisted, and described for her commander her plan: she would attack it from the rear after flying in a wide circle around the perimeter of the battleground and over German-held territory. The tactic worked—the hydrogen-filled balloon caught fire under her stream of tracer bullets and was destroyed.
So yeah.
posted by pts at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2010

I love this question, I wonder this, too.

Patti Smith
Pema Chodron
Tina fey
Michelle Obama
Sylvia Plath
Katherine Bigalow (Hurt Locker - and I probably have her name wrong, sorry)
posted by marimeko at 12:46 PM on July 3, 2010

No question about it, Colette and MFK Fisher. Two women that pursued their passions.
posted by Allee Katze at 12:53 PM on July 3, 2010

Scientist wise then Jocelyn Bell Burnell, she discovered and explained Pulsars as her PhD research, winning a Nobel prize for her supervisor and his colleague but not being recognised in her own right (though history does recognise the work was hers). While this might be a cause for bitterness for many (and it would certainly haunt me I think) she has taken a position of forgiveness, in line with her Quaker faith. She was the subject of a BBC 'Beautiful Minds' documentary earlier this year, which you may still be able to get hold of.
posted by biffa at 12:54 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like to channel my inner Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry and yes, Kimora Lee Simmons.

Heaven help me, also Oprah.
posted by dzaz at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2010

This isn't someone famous--I hope that's okay--but when I'm in a tough spot I always think of a girl I knew in college who, when she was in high school, heard on the radio that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were auditioning touring guitar players. So, being a guitar player, she went down and auditioned. In front of her musical idols and a bunch of sneering industry types. And she was sixteen. Sixteen!

And they absolutely loved her. They told her that she was the best thing they'd seen all day, but since she was underage they couldn't take her with them on tour.

But she tried! Rather than being content with getting close to her favorite band by being a groupie, she met them on musical terms. Some people might not think that's a big deal. I think it's totally badass.
posted by corey flood at 1:08 PM on July 3, 2010 [19 favorites]

J.K. Rowling. Came through really tough times, wrote books that are adored by millions, and generally seems like a pretty cool lady.
posted by purlgurly at 1:09 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Miko is pretty awesome.
posted by hat at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also, Naomi Klein of "No Logo" and "Shock Doctrine" fame. And Sue Johanson (famous Canadian sex educator - widely known from "The Sunday Night Sex Show" - who opened up the first high school birth control clinic in Canada).
posted by purlgurly at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: Holy mackeral you all are nailing this. I can't wait to dig deeper.

Here are a couple of mine:
Nina Simone
Marina Abramović
PJ Harvey

Please, please, keep them coming. Also, corey flood, what moxie that took.
Anecdotes about people you know are most assuredly welcome!
posted by inkytea at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can't believe I forgot Kim Gordon.
posted by dzaz at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2010

Malvina Hoffman, 'the American Rodin', who went around the world in the 1930's sculpting humanity for the Field Museum. She wrote a great book about the project "Heads and Tales", there's an except here about getting Rodin to accept her as a student. She's freakin' cool, I sit up a bit straighter when I look at that picture.

Lady Anne Blunt, daughter of another good heroine Ada Lovelace-- 90% of Arabian Horses in the Europe and the US can trace their lineage back to the horses she brought back from her Arabian travels. You can read her Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates online; I wish her wonderful journals were online too! She fell off a lot of wild stallions and got back on again.

Sarah Guppy, Victorian engineer and boy-toy patroness.

Some energy-giving TED talks by women:
Graphic artist Marian Bantjes
Marine biologist Edith Widder
Neurologist Jill Bolte
posted by Erasmouse at 1:27 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm amazed by Amy Palmiero-Winters.
posted by peep at 1:38 PM on July 3, 2010

I enjoy reading Badass of the Week occasionally. It is a list of men and women. Anne Bonny, Jean Hachette and Joan of Arc are just an example of a few of the women who appear.

In my opinion, this list is always inspiration.
posted by Ereshkigal313 at 1:42 PM on July 3, 2010

Elenore Roosevelt
Abigail Adams
posted by fifilaru at 1:53 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Supersymmetry, Extra Dimensions and the Origin of Mass: Exploring the Nature of the Universe Using PetaScale Data Analysis by Marjorie Shapiro. This google talk might blow you away. It blew me away.

posted by bukvich at 1:58 PM on July 3, 2010

What's wrong with Marie Curie?
posted by derogatorysphinx at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2010

Carol Queen
Sandy Lerner (The wikipedia page ignores her post-Urban Decay life, when she founded Liberty Media for Women and saved Ms. magazine from going out of business.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2010

Margaret Moth.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:43 PM on July 3, 2010

If you've never seen Patti Smith live, you NEED to. I saw her a year ago and it was a really powerful experience. Seeing Sonic Youth was kind of similar - really, any band with a powerful female presence is just super uplifting to me. But you've got to be there in *person* - feeling a whole crowd worshipping a badass woman creating art is like nothing else. I'm seeing Joanna Newsom this month and am really interested in what her stage presence is going to be like. She comes across kind of meek and girlish in interviews but a lot of her music seems to insinuate that she doesn't give a fuck what anyone thinks.

Other than musicians...well, I'm a computer scientist, so Grace Hopper, Fran Allen, Daohne Koller, pretty much anyone who's ever won an Anita Borg Women of Vision award...but again, what's really powerful is not reading the life stories of these women, it's being in the presence of strong, confident, brilliant women in person. Get yourself to a Women of Vision awards banquet, or the Grace Hopper conference in September, or any gathering in your field that serves a similar purpose. I try to make a habit of going to Grace Hopper every year if I can carve out the recharges my batteries like nothing else can.
posted by little light-giver at 2:51 PM on July 3, 2010

Katherine Paterson is one of the most inspiring people I know. She is gracious, down-to-earth, and kind -- and she writes some of the most powerful, thought-provoking, complex children's literature -- make that ANY literature -- out there.
posted by cider at 3:02 PM on July 3, 2010


Joni Mitchell. Great songwriter and performer whose chord changes are very challenging for a pop/folk context.

Regina Spektor. Grew up learning the piano in the Soviet Union. Then her family moved to NYC and couldn't afford a piano. But she didn't give up music -- she kept practicing by using the table as an imaginary piano.

Tori Amos. Co-founded the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Her fantastic debut album, Little Earthquakes, has a harrowingly raw a capella song about her experience as a rape victim. She could have easily made her debut a lot more commercially palatable by leaving that song off.


Mary Warnock. I've been reading her Intelligent Person's Guide to Ethics and find it a refreshingly plausible account of ethics, both theoretical and applied. But it's not just that I like her philosophy -- she talks in the book about her work to help the developmentally disabled gain access to education, and she uses this real-world experience to ground her theory.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Who's braver than her?
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:06 PM on July 3, 2010

Ani diFranco
Rosa Parks
Susan B. Anthony
Coretta Scott King
posted by mkultra at 3:08 PM on July 3, 2010

Ari Up. Colette. The Bronte sisters, for the struggle they had in getting published. Mo Mowlam. Victoria Wood. Lee Miller, absolutely. Frida Kahlo. Miranda Hart, for being a fellow tall big lass and funny about it.

Also, a fictional role model that was based on the story of a real person: Lynda Mansell.
posted by mippy at 3:19 PM on July 3, 2010

oh, and for style icons - Vivienne Westwood, who left her humdrum existence behind to take a chance on something more; Isabella Blow; Katharine Hepburn, who is, quite clearly, the most stylish Hepburn.
posted by mippy at 3:21 PM on July 3, 2010

Louise Nevelson ("true strength is delicate" is one of my mantras), Hannah Hoch, Diana Rigg, Bea Arthur, Adrienne Shelley, Setsuko Hara, Alice Notley, Elaine Equi, Delia Derbyshire, Lucile Hadzihalilovic (loved the interview in the bonus features for L'ecole), Olive Schreiner, Ines Arredondo, Olive Moore, Marguerite Young, Mary Wollstonecraft, Bella Abzug, Larissa Szporluk, Mary Gaitskill, Mary Timony, Carrie Brownstein, Liz Phair, P.J. Harvey, Elizabeth Bishop, Gina Berriault, Amy Hempel, Marianne Ferber, Margery Wolf, Nancy Folbre, Deirdre McCloskey, Penelope Fitzgerald, Laura Kipnis, Dawn Powell, Lucille Clifton, Colette, Violette Leduc, Elizabeth David, Paula Wolfert, Michelle Garcia from the Bleeding Heart Bakery, Joyce Goldstein, Julia Child, Diana Kennedy, Sara Moulton, Wislawa Szymborska, Anne Sexton, Marianne Moore, Germaine Greer, Pam Grier, Chantal Akerman, Fleur Jaeggy, Elizabeth Smart, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Beth Nugent, Wislawa Szymborska, Ai, Catherine Breillat, Sarah Orne Jewett, Isak Dinesan, Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Parker, Margaret Atwood, Christina Stead, Donna Haraway, Diane Williams, Christine Brooke-Rose, Janet Frame, Marilyn Wann, Tristan Taormino, Carol Queen, Rosalind Franklin, Katherine Anne Porter, Linda Hamilton, Madeline Kahn, Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros, Julie Doiron, the Slits, Yoko Ono, Barbara Ess, Elizabeth Stewart (wrote The V Book), Toni Weschler, Natalie Angier, Lydia Lunch, Deborah Levy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Joan Didion, in a limited sort of way Oriana Fallaci (yes yes I know about the turn at the end...), Marilyn Monroe, Jane Kamensky, Mary Douglas, Joan Scott, Lauryn Hill, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Scout Niblett, Rebecca Gates, Missy Elliott. And probably someone will roll their eyes, but Mary Daly and Andrea Dworkin were so, so important to me growing up. I still owe them something, as far from their original premises as I've come...
posted by ifjuly at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, Hazel Dickens and Dolly Parton and June Carter also come to mind...
posted by ifjuly at 3:47 PM on July 3, 2010

Rachel Carson
Eudora Welty
Flannery O" Connor
and my punk rock femme fatale (and I mean that in the most respectful way possible), Exene Cervenka.

Also, wholeheartedly 2nding Rosalind Franklin.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:55 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Helen Keller up there in the title got me wondering: are you thinking of the triumph-over-adversary saccharine-stories young blind-deaf girl, or the labor organizer and anti-war activist adult?
posted by mendel at 4:02 PM on July 3, 2010

I'm gonna get meta on this with two works of art that answer this question themselves:

Hot Topic, an awesome song (1999) by Le Tigre, name-checks:
* Carol Rama: erotic artist
* Eleanor Antin: performance artist, filmmaker, and installation artist
* Yoko Ono: Japanese artist and musician
* Carolee Schneeman: American performance artist
* Gretchen Phillips: American singer-songwriter and musician
* Cibo Matto: New York City-based band formed by Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori
* Leslie Feinberg: transgender activist, speaker, and author
* Faith Ringgold: African-American artist and author
* Mr. Lady: San-Francisco-based Lesbian-Feminist independent record label and video art distributor
* Laura Cottingham: art critic
* Mab Segrest: American feminist writer and activist
* The Butchies: Lesbian-Feminist band made up of Kaia Wilson, Allison Martlew, and Melissa York
* Tammy Rae Carland: zine editor, artist, filmmaker, and owner of Mr. Lady Records
* Sleater-Kinney: indie rock band
* Vivienne Dick: Irish experimental and documentary filmmaker
* Lorraine O'Grady: African-American performance artist and photographer
* Gayatri Spivak: Indian literary critic and theorist
* Angela Davis: American socialist organizer and professor
* Laurie Weeks: writer and performer
* Dorothy Allison: American lesbian writer and speaker
* Gertrude Stein: American writer
* Marlon Riggs: African-American poet, educator, filmmaker, and gay rights activist
* Billie Jean King: retired tennis player
* Ut: No Wave band
* DJ Cuttin Candy
* David Wojnarowicz: gay painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and activist
* Melissa York: rock drummer, former member of The Butchies
* Nina Simone: American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist
* Ann Peebles: internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter
* Tammy Hart
* The Slits: post-punk band
* Hanin Elias: German industrial/techno artist and former member of Atari Teenage Riot
* Hazel Dickens: American bluegrass singer
* Cathy Sissler: American musician, writer, and touring performance artist
* Shirley Muldowney: first female NHRA-licensed drag racer
* Urvashi Vaid: American LGBT civil rights activist
* Valie Export: Austrian artist
* Cathy Opie: North American photographer
* James Baldwin: American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist, and civil rights activist
* Diane DiMassa: American feminist author and cartoonist
* Aretha Franklin: American singer, songwriter, and pianist
* Joan Jett: American rock guitarist, singer, producer, and actress
* Mia X: female rapper
* Krystal Wakem: Tammy Rae Carland's niece
* Kara Walker: contemporary American artist
* Justin Bond: queer performer, best known as Kiki of Kiki and Herb
* Bridget Irish: American performance artist, lesbian feminist, and Marxist
* Juliana Lueking: spoken word artist
* Cecilia Dougherty: filmmaker
* Ariel Schrag: American cartoonist
* The Need: queercore band
* Vaginal Creme Davis: drag queen, performance artist, painter, independent curator, composer, and writer
* Alice Gerrard: bluegrass singer, banjoist, and guitarist
* Billy Tipton: American jazz pianist and saxophonist
* Julie Doucet: Canadian underground cartoonist and artist
* Yayoi Kusama: Japanese artist
* Eileen Myles: American poet
Top Girls is an awesome play (1982) by the incredible Caryl Churchill with a cast of characters that include, among several "non-famous" characters:
* Isabella Bird
* Pope Joan
* Lady Nijo
* Dull Gret
* Patient Griselda
Links can be found on the Wikipedia pages. Le Tigre and Caryl Churchill rule.
posted by skwt at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Two bonafide mathematical geniuses: Sofia Kovalevskaya and Emmy Noether. The latter has a theorem named after her that has become one of the most important tools in modern physics.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:03 PM on July 3, 2010

La Maupin, if only because you'd never believe her story if it weren't documented. Even if you disapprove of some of her choices, she was wildly successful in two disparate fields (opera singing and duelling), which is worthy of recognition.
posted by immlass at 5:24 PM on July 3, 2010

Linguist, statistician, epidemiologist, nurse: Florence Nightingale.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:17 PM on July 3, 2010

Karen Blixen (also known as Isaac Dinesen), writer of Out of Africa, Babette's feast, etc.
Angela Merkel. My political views differ a lot from hers, but I admire her integrity and sobriety.
Virginia Woolf.
Rosa Parks.
Simone de Beauvoir. French writer and philospher. Feminist.
Simone Veil. Shoah survivor, French politician who made abortion legal.
Sophie Scholl. Member of a non-violent resistance group during WWII in Germany.
posted by OrangeCat at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2010

Refreshing the theme of badass bassists: Me'Shell Ndegeocello.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:17 PM on July 3, 2010

among many others, and I listed her in the recent heroes thread, but Jane Addams, still.
posted by lemniskate at 7:36 PM on July 3, 2010

Emma Goldman's less famous contemporaries have always been huge inspirations/fascinations of mine, particularly Voltairine De Cleyre, Lucy Parsons, and Mollie Steimer.

bell hooks.

Julie Doucet (my user name here is taken from one of her books) and Lynda Barry, Phoebe Gloeckner, Allison Bechdel.

Tracy Chapman! Sinead O'Connor. Kathleen Hanna, though she broke my heart by doing MichFest a while back. Buffie Saint-Marie.
posted by ellehumour at 8:12 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

So I'm somewhat late to the party, but this topic really gets me revved up because I, um, wrote a book about it. I would add Louisa May Alcott to the list...not only was she an unconventional woman who participated in the Underground Railroad, ran for recreation, and supported her family by writing pulp fiction in the 1850s, but she had a restless feminist's soul that struggled to find meaning and worth in an era that was NOT kind to women...and despite much drudgery in her life seemed to have as much fun as possible doing it.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:23 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Katharine Hepburn. Stylish, smart, talented, hilarious, and she took absolutely no shit from anyone. She seemed down to earth.. She was Kate and nobody and nothing was going to take that away from her. If ever there was a strong role model, a woman who was not going to let society, the media, and even the studio system define her, it was Katharine Hepburn. She is one of the few, few people for whom I have nothing but admiration and respect. And that goes for all the women and men that I admire. I don't admire her because she was a woman. I admire her because she was Katharine Hepburn. (I am a woman, btw).
posted by Mael Oui at 8:58 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anna Deveare Smith, who is a playwright, actor, and teacher. If people ask me who my heroes are, she is invariably the first person I bring up.

Here is her TED talk (which is actually a spectacular one-woman show).
posted by tzikeh at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service in eastern Kentucky's Appalachian region and lowered what was at the time the highest maternal mortality rate in the country to well below the national average through nurse-midwifery care.
posted by jesourie at 1:59 AM on July 4, 2010

Harriet Tubman was a tremendous badass.
posted by Gortuk at 5:05 AM on July 4, 2010

Marine biologists Dr. Eugenie Clark and Dr. Sylvia Earle.
posted by cephalopodcast at 7:00 AM on July 4, 2010

Jane Austen
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:29 AM on July 5, 2010

Seconding Florence Nightingale.

Also Clara Barton: Teacher, nurse, humanitarian, founder of the American Red Cross.
posted by littlecatfeet at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all! So many great people to discover, so little time.

derogatorysphinx, Marie Curie was a certifiable badass. Also, good point mendel about Keller's political activism. These two needn't apply because they're the keynote speakers. I'm just glad to see such a personal, idiosyncratic list.
posted by inkytea at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi, Rosa Luxemburg, and my great aunt, Kate Steichmann, a founding member of the Eugene Debs Society (March 17, 1962). She and my great uncle Heine lived in Indianapolis, where he was an officer of the Deutsche Turnverein, and she was a fitness instructor. They were friends with Debs, putting him up at their house at times he was unwelcome in Chicago. Some time in the late 40's they retired, moved to California & bought a little property near San Diego. They wound up with an avocado farm. Henry died in '54, and Kate sold the farm in 1962 when she felt she could no longer keep up with the work. She gave money to help start the Debs foundation, and used the rest to travel the rest of her life, spending time with her extended family until she died. I met her when I was 15, in 1968, and she was in her 70s. She was wry and wiry, and I remember I had a hard time keeping up with her.

She recycled everything. I used to get birthday cards from her that had been sent to her by others. She would cross off that greeting & write in one of her own. She sent me birthday presents (a biography of Jane Addams, a dog-eared copy of Das Kapital in German) all wrapped up in copies of The International Worker. She stopped hopping around in her early 90s, moving in with a great niece in Washington. She wrote my family a month or so before she died, with a brief note saying it was time for her to be recycled.
posted by beelzbubba at 1:24 PM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

How about Zenyatta?
Undefeated filly. A record 17 consecutive wins. The only female to win the Breeders Cups Classic. Very well the greatest thoroughbred of our time. She is completely unstoppable.

Not to mention a killer personality to boot.
A sweetheart with unceasing self-confidence.

If she's not the epitome of girl power than I don't know who is.
posted by hoolz at 10:30 PM on July 9, 2010

oh hell, I can't believe I forgot Josephine Baker. she was awesome!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:57 PM on July 18, 2010

In case anyone finds this thread later, I'll add to the list:
Dr. Kirsten "Kiki" Sanford, neurophysiologist, is really awesome. (That's right--is!)
posted by Ky at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2010

I recently met my childhood heroine, one Ms Jenette Kahn. I grew up knowing that a woman headed up the company that put out Superman and Batman, but after this past weekend at San Diego Comic Con my awe for her has multiplied exponentially.

After starting a couple wonderfully successful childrens magazines, at the age of 28 she was appointed publisher of DC Comics (the first woman, the youngest person, and the first outsider to earn the title) and five years later she was also President and Editor in Chief. She was a crusader for creators rights, and revolutionized the industry with the transition from comics being for kids, to comics being for adult readers. I also I learned that among other things, she spearheaded a project to create anti-landmine comic books for kids in war torn countries. The books taught kids how to recognize and avoid land mines. She saved lives with comic books.
posted by mrsshotglass at 5:00 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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