8 Women Who Inspire Us to Keep Learning

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Let’s face it: we weren’t going to let March go by without a little bit of love for International Women’s Day.

In this blog post, we celebrate the people who have led by example by being lifelong learners, educators and all-around badass women.

All of them have one thing in common (besides being featured in Google Doodles): each were seized by a moment which sent them on a mission to learn something new for the good of humanity.

We’ll go into some of those moments below for the benefit of course-building inspiration, because you never know—your online course might just trigger other brilliant women to take up this path towards lifelong learning!

In fact, why not cite these women in the next learning activity that you create? 😉

As educators in a global, online community, we have a greater degree of influence and it is likely that your course will touch someone and truly encourage them to go on and achieve great things.  So kudos to all educators, and here’s wishing everyone a Happy International Women’s Day 2019.

1. Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress who was often touted as the “Most Beautiful Woman in the World”, but her brilliance went beyond her beauty — and into the field of invention.

Having escaped both Nazi Germany and her marriage with a munitions manufacturer, she took refuge in the United States. While there, she came up with the idea of a radio-guided torpedo which could evade being intercepted by outside signals. The frequency-hopping technology that she eventually patented became the basis for the invention of wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS!

2. Maria Montessori

Montessori schools have taken off around the world, and with good reason: they are founded on the principle of respect for the child.

Montessori was the first woman to study medicine in Italy, becoming a psychiatric researcher at the University of Rome. This led her to question the teaching methods used for children with cognitive disabilities and take up teaching at a school for children with varying disabilities to test her methods. Eventually, she compiled her research and ran training sessions for not just Italians, but over a thousand teachers in India, too.

3. Wangari Maathai

Rural Kenyan women were reporting that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing.

Maathai, a Nobel Peace laureate, founded The Green Belt Movement (GBM) to respond to these needs. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Maathai was formally educated in Kenya, the U.S. and Germany. Upon her return to Kenya, she introduced the idea of community-based tree planting as a way of opening her community’s eyes to their power as citizens. Since then, her movement has planted  over 51 million trees and has expanded its efforts to over thirty African countries, the United States, and Haiti.

4. Sally Ride

Sally Ride was an astronaut, physicist and engineer. The third woman in space and the youngest astronaut to date, Ride was asked many inappropriate questions such as “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”

But in true barrier-breaking fashion, Ride persisted in her belief that women could reach for the stars by improving science education and helping young women and girls foster an interest in science. She co-wrote seven books and served as CEO of Sally Ride Science to inspire boys and girls through classroom outreach and teacher training.

5. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale defied convention by studying to become a nurse. Best known as the “lady with the lamp”, she was also something of a “human computer”.

Having started a hospital for the poor and wounded, she began to collect and analyse statistical data to improve the hospital. Through data analysis and visualisation, she advocated a solution to poor sanitation as a means of reducing mortality rates in hospitals. A recent paper in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society has even referred to Nightingale’s 1860 protocol for hospital data collection as “conceptually more complete” than many systems today!

Eventually, she penned the book, “Notes on Nursing” to be used in nurse training schools.

6. Malala Yousafzai

“I spoke out publicly on behalf of girls and our right to learn. And this made me a target.”

Her father, a humanitarian activist, was her biggest advocate from the day she was born. Malala’s voice flourished from a young age against the Taliban’s denial of education for young women. After being attacked by assassins and catapulted onto the international political stage, she continued on her path of activism. She established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl the opportunity to achieve a future she chooses.

7. Olga Skorokhodova

Skorokhodova was a deafblind Soviet researcher in the field of deaf and blind communication. When she was five years old, she lost her sight and her hearing to meningitis.

Under the care of Professor Ivan A. Sokolyansky, she recovered her speech, and kept notes on her progress. Olga developed a heightened sense of touch, smell, vibration, temperature, and taste, in order to compensate for her lack of hearing and vision. As the world’s only known deafblind researcher, she would later use those experiences to inform her research and inspire new learnings on the subject.

8. R.A. Kartini

Kartini was a young Indonesian feminist who advocated the progressive education of girls in her community regardless of class or social background. To this day, several schools bear her name.

She went to a Dutch school between the ages of 6 and 12, where her interest in activism was sparked by her sewing teacher. When she was forced to stop attending school, she continued her own studies and wrote protest letters which advocated empowerment and the lifelong pursuit of education. Her activism resulted in the creation of the first Indonesian primary school for girls.

There are definitely more names which belong on this list. Let us know which one of your favourite lifelong learners aren’t included here and share their stories in the comment section below!

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