Sobekneferu was an Egyptian king who ruled between 1806 and 1802 BC. She is widely credited with being the first woman to take the title of king, and to rule the kingdom alone.

Franziska Scanagatta

Franziska Scanagatta was a Lieutenant in the Austrian army, serving between 1797 and 1800. She was able to enlist after disguising herself as a boy and taking her brother's place at the military school. She maintained her assumed identity throughout her military career, receiving promotions and medals along the way. Despite being forced to resign her position after the authorities were alerted to her gender, Franziska left the army with a military pension, and more importantly with the respect of her peers and superiors.

Murasaki Shikibu

Author Murasaki Shikibu is widely credited with writing the world's first novel. The Tale of Genji (源氏物語) was first published in or around 1000. The Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting to the Imperial Court was a talented poet and writer with a flair for story-telling, and her works are still studied by literary scholars and Japanese students more than a millennium later.

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (Nellie Bly)

Born Elizabeth Cochran in Pittsburgh in 1864, Nellie Bly was a renowned undercover journalist who focused her work on women, vulnerable people and oppressed societies. She is perhaps best known for her work exposing conditions in US asylums, which saw her being voluntarily committed to an institution for ten days. Bly also broke a world record by making it around the world in 72 days, and she was also an inventor, industrialist and charity worker.


Chilonis was a Spartan ruler who married a prince and gave birth to a future king - but she was also a soldier and warrior in her own right and a crucial part of the battle to secure Sparta against her husband's efforts to claim the throne for his own. This assault on Sparta occurred in 272 BC, and ultimately led to Chilonis breaking free of her abusive husband , who was forced into exile after his efforts to conquer the throne failed.

L’Inconnue de la Seine

The L'Inconnue de la Seine, or the 'Unknown of the Seine', was an unidentified woman found in Paris' Seine River in the late 1880s. She became an icon in European culture during the turn of the 20th Century, prompting a number of artistic works including stories, sculptures and even a ballet. Her death mask was reproduced and hung in homes all over the continent, and this image of the unknown woman eventually became the inspiration for the modern CPR doll.

Frances Mary Buss

Frances Mary Buss was a pioneer of women's education and the first woman to use the title 'headmistress'. She served as the head of the North London Collegiate School for Ladies until the end of her working life, and also founded the Camden School for Girls in 1871. Buss was active in campaigning for women's suffrage and for equal educational rights, and established the Association of Head Mistresses, the Teachers' Guild and the Cambridge Training College.

Grace Sherwood

Grace Sherwood, a Virginia midwife and farmer, is the last person convicted by the state of Virginia for the crime of witchcraft. Sherwood was imprisoned in 1706 after trial by ducking, 'proving' her guilt. Prior to her conviction, Sherwood had been accused and stood trial on at least two previous occasions.

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