Find Historic Women in History

Helen Adams Keller

Helen Adams Keller was a world-famous disabled rights activist born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27 of 1880, the healthy child of Captain Arthur H. Keller, a former Confederate soldier, and his wife Katherine Adams Keller, a descendant of former US President John Quincy Adams. At the age of 19 months, however, she fell ill. As a result, she lost her sight and her hearing. At the age of 6 she met Alexander Graham Bell, who was working on technology to help the deaf. On his advice she was taken to Boston, Massachusetts to visit the Perkins Institute for the Blind. There she met Anne Sullivan, a teacher who would, over the next 3 years, unlock her vast learning potential. With the continued help of Anne Sullivan, she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf and in 1904. She graduated with honors from Radcliffe College.

Keller wrote a number of books, starting with The Frost King in 1891. This book lead to charges of plagiarism due to the existence of a previous and similar story, Birdie and His Fairy Friends by Margaret Canby. She then wrote the autobiography The Story of My Life in 1903, at the age of 22. In 1913, Out of the Dark, which explained her support of socialism, was published. My Religion, published in 1927, was a spiritual autobiography, inspired by her acceptance of Christianity and the teachings of a theologian named Emanuel Swedenborg. Keller was a women's suffragist and lifelong advocate for the disabled and the working class. She founded the Helen Keller Foundation in 1915 and helped found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.

Keller met 25 United States Presidents, starting with Grover Cleveland and ending with Lyndon B. Johnson. She became friends with Charlie Chaplain and Mark Twain, among many others. She was a member of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World. She was especially popular in Japan, and over the course of her life she visited 39 countries. In 1964 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson. She died in June of 1968 at home in Easton, Connecticut, at the age of 88.

Helen Adams Keller Related Links:

  • Encyclopedia of World Biography - Helen Keller: An extended biographical account of the life of Helen Keller, a famous advocate for the physically disabled. Chronicles her life, struggles, education and philanthropic activities.

  • Helen Keller Kids Museum Online: A short biography of Helen Keller written by the American Foundation for the Blind. Written as an inspirational lesson for children.

  • The Helen Keller Foundation: A website for the charity organization named after Helen Keller. Dedicated to research and education in pursuit of curing or preventing blindness and deafness.

Araminta “Minty” Ross

Araminta “Minty” Ross, also known as Harriet Tubman, was born sometime in March of 1822, on a plantation owned by Anthony Thompson in in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was born into slavery and became a famous abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad, a system that smuggled slaves to freedom. She also fought in the Civil War and later joined the efforts for women's suffrage. In 1844, she married John Tubman, a free African American citizen, where she changed her name to Harriet, in honor of her mother Harriet Greene. It is because of this that she is now known as Harriet Tubman. Her marriage to John Tubman ended in 1851.

Araminta Ross began fighting against slavery as a child. In her youth she aided a runaway slave and as punishment she was hit by a heavy object. This resulted in a lifetime of blackouts, seizures and headaches. In 1849 she escaped slavery with her two brothers, Ben and Henry, then joined the Underground Railroad. In 1850, she rescued her niece Kessiah and her entire family, from a slave sale in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She then rescued her brother Moses in the spring of 1851. As of 1860, she had brought over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, including her parents, and the infamous fugitive slave Charles Nalle. She is also known for never having lost a slave on the Underground Railroad, and received the nickname “Moses” from a famous anti-slavery activist, named William Lloyd Garrison, for her ability to deliver slaves to freedom.

During the U.S. Civil War Harriet Tubman worked as a spy and armed scout for the Union forces. Her work as a scout resulted in the capture of the Confederate city of Jacksonville, Florida. She was also the first woman during the Civil War to lead an armed attack under Colonel James Montgomery. She lead three Union ships past a minefield to attack plantations located along the Combahee River. This raid resulted in plantations being set ablaze, plus the loss of Confederate property, food and supplies. It also ended with the liberation of over 700 slaves, many of whom joined the Union army.

Tubman was denied her legally entitled pension for her service to the United States, and did not receive one until the death of her second husband, Civil War veteran Nelson Davis. She continued her humanitarian service despite living in poverty, and went on to fight for women's suffrage, working with famous activists like Susan B. Anthony. In 1903, Tubman donated a 25 acre parcel of land to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church located in Auburn, New York. It became the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which first opened on June 23 of 1908 and was later known as the John Brown Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People. In 1911, she became ill and was admitted to the home named after her, and she died in 1913 of pneumonia. She was buried at Fort Hill Cemetery with full military honors.

Araminta Ross Related Links:

  • Harriet Tubman Biography: A website dedicated to the life history of Harriet Tubman. This page includes a brief chronology.

Margaret Tobin

Margaret Tobin, famously known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was born on January 18, 1867 to Irish immigrants John and Johanna Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri. As a young girl she was able to attend school until the age of 13 when she began working at a tobacco factory for low wages. At 19 years old she left Hannibal and moved to Leadville. It was here that she met 31 year old J.J. Brown to whom she married. Starting around 1893 Leadville began experiencing extreme hardship and poverty during what was called the Silver Crash. Her husband J.J. Brown was the superintendent at the Little Johnny Mine where he made the discovery of gold. As a result the owners gave the couple shares in the Ibex Mining Company and they quickly became millionaires. The Browns moved to Denver in 1894. Although they were wealthy, there was still extreme poverty around them and as a result Margaret became involved in the Progressive reform movement. In 1901 Margaret ran for a senate seat, however, she pulled out prior to election day. Her run for office introduced her to political issues which she followed for 20 years. Her campaign also put her at odds with her husband who held the belief that women should appear in print only three times in their lives; when they are born, are married and to announce their death.

The Browns began traveling to different locations around the world, however, they were unable to save their marriage. By 1909 they separated ways. In 1912 while traveling abroad, Brown received news that her grandson was ill. This prompted her to seek passage home earlier than intended,and she booked transport on the ill-fated Titanic. When the Titanic struck an iceberg, Brown helped people onto lifeboats until she was placed inside lifeboat #6 herself, where she helped paddle them away to safety. After their rescue by another liner, Brown sought out first-class travelers and managed to raise $10,000 worth of donations for the surviving women who after losing children, husbands and belongings would need to start their lives over. She later attributed her luck as “Typical Brown luck – We're unsinkable.”

Following the Titanic, Margaret became somewhat of a celebrity and political figure, particularly for women's rights, the improvement of mining conditions, and maritime reform. In 1914, Brown ran for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Her campaign was again unsuccessful. During WWI she volunteered her time to the American Hospital in Paris and helped raise money for the import of ambulances to Paris. For her wartime efforts she was inducted into the French Legion of Honor. On October 25, 1932 Molly Brown died at the Barbizon Hotel located in New York. She was 65 years old and died with only $1500 and her home in Denver to her name.

Related Margaret Tobin Brown Links:

  • Molly Brown House Museum: This is the website for Molly Browns house that was turned into a historical museum. Includes information on the life of Molly Brown

  • Molly Brown Biography: The Bio UK biography on Margaret Tobin. Primarly covers her early life and surviving the Titanic.

Amelia Mary Earhart

Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. In 1921, Amelia had her first flying lesson with pilot Neta Snook. Six months following that first lesson, Earhart saved enough money to purchase her first plane, a bright yellow, two -seat biplane that she named Canary. It was in this plane that she set her first women's record by reaching an altitude of 14.000 feet on October 1922. Prior to receiving her license, there were only 15 female licensed pilots. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly the Atlantic when she joined pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot Louis E. "Slim" Gordon. The flight from Newfoundland to Burry Port, Wales took approximately 21 hours and bought her much recognition

The following year she participated in the Cleveland Women's Air Derby where she took home third place. On February 7, 1931 she married publisher George Putnam whom she had met prior to her Atlantic flight. She made plans to once again fly the Atlantic, however this time she wanted to fly solo. In May of 1932, she was successful and became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She reached another solo flight record in 1935 when she was the first pilot to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean and then again to pilot a plane alone from Mexico City to Newark.

In 1937, Earhart made two attempts to be the first woman to fly around the world. Her first attempt in March of that year was unsuccessful and resulted in damage to her plane. In June of that year, she made a second attempt with navigator Frederick Noonan. The journey was fraught with difficulty and came to an end on her flight from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island when all transmission between Earhart and ITASCA was lost. Earhart's final broken transmission was at 8:45 on July 2, 1932. The U.S. government search for Earhart was the most costly of its time, spending $4 million in the attempt. Despite numerous theories the circumstances around her death continue to be a mystery and her remains have not officially been found.

Related Amelia Mary Earhart Links:

  • Amelia Earhart The Official Website: The About page for the Amelia Earhart Official Website. This page takes you to specific pages about the Biography, Achievements, Quotes, Videos and Photos.

  • Biography of Amelia Earhart: Contains facts about the life of Amelia Earhart. This includes information on her husband George P. Putnam, fashion, her flight fashion and many firsts.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu

On August 26, 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the woman that would be known to the world as Mother Teresa, was born in Skopje, Macedonia to Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu. By the age of 12 years, she felt the desire to follow the call of God and become a missionary. She left her family home to become a nun when she reached the age of 18, and joined the Irish community of nuns called Sisters of Loreto. In 1931, she took her vows as a nun in India and taught at St. Mary's High School in Calcutta until 1948. In 1948, she left the convent with the permission of her convent superiors and went to work with the poor where she opened an open-air school with no funds.

In 1950, she founded her own order called The Missionaries of Charity with the intent of serving the poorest of the poor. In 1965, by the decree of the Pope Paul VI, the order was turned into an International Religious Family. The Home for the Dying was opened in Calcutta in 1952. She founded the Mission of Charity Brothers in 1963, the Contemplative Sisters in 1976, the Contemplative Brothers in 1979, and the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984. For people of many faiths she founded the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers.

Mother Teresa had received many awards in her lifetime. In 1971, she was given the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. In 1972, she received the Nehru Prize for International peace and understanding. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace, the Balzan Prize and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards. When receiving her Nobel Prize she declined the traditional banquet for laureates and asked that the $6,000 funds instead go to Calcutta's poor as a donation. In 1985 the first AIDS hospice was established in New York, and by 1996, she received honorary citizenship in the United States. Mother Teresa died of heart failure on September 5, 1997. On October 19, 2003 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Related Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu Links

  • A Vocation of Service: This is a page that reviews Mother Teresa's work with the poor in detail, including significant dates. It is on EWTN Global Catholic Network website for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which also provides information on her early years, Beatification, and her words.

  • Beatification Mother Teresa of Calcutta: The Vatican page for the Beatification of Mother Teresa. The links to additional pages on this site are in English, Albanian, French, Italian and Spanish. It cover her biography and details regarding her Beatification.

  • The Nobel Peace Prize 1979 Mother Teresa: The Nobel prize page on Mother Teresa. This covers her life and the work that led to her Nobel Peace Prize.

Annelies Marie Frank

Annelies Marie Frank, more commonly known as Anne Frank, was born in 1929, to Otto and Edith Frank in Frankfurt, Germany. Her family lived in Frankfurt until 1933, when rising concerns about Hitler prompted the family to move to Amsterdam where her father began a new business. Following that move, Anne and her sister attended school and were able to live normal lives until the German invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. This changed young Anne's life, restricting her ability to use many public facilities such as the swimming pool, cinema and non-Jewish schools.

In 1942, Anne's family received orders to send their daughter Margo to a labor camp in Germany or face the arrest of their entire family. As a result, they moved into an empty portion of her father's office building that Anne calls The Secret Annex, in the diary that she began to keep. There are four other Jewish people that occupied the small space with her family, bringing the total to eight, living in very close quarters. The families live in the Secret Annex for two years, during which Anne continues to keep a diary of her time spent in hiding as a way to express her feelings and frustrations. During the time spent at the Secret Annex, they were given food and supplies by former trusted employees of Frank Otto. On August 4, 1944, Anne and everyone hiding in the Secret Annex were arrested due to a betrayl by an unknown person.

After their arrest, the group was taken to concentration camps where the women were separated from the men. Eventually, Anne and her sister Margo died of typhus while at camp Bergen-Belsen, weeks before its liberation. At the time of her death in March 1945, Anne was 15 years old. Upon his return home, her father Otto, the only survivor of the group of eight, was given Anne's diary which had been held by one of his helpers, Miep Gies. On June 25, 1947 pages from her diary were published and gave the world a look at the Holocaust from a young Jewish girls perspective.

Related Annelies Marie Frank Links

  • Anne Frank's History: The Time Line of Anne Frank's life. This timeline with pictures covers her birth and life in Germany to the publishing of her diary.

  • Holocaust Encyclopedia: Anne Frank: The Holocaust Encyclopedia's entry on young Anne Frank and her life hiding during Nazi occupation. This entry also covers the events following her and her family's arrest and subsequent death in concentration camps. Links to photos and maps are also on this page.

Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra VII was born around 70-69 BC, and was the Macedonian daughter of King Ptolemy XII Auletes. She was considered a goddess from birth and thought of herself as a reincarnation of Isis. Upon the King's death, the throne was passed to 18 year old Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII, with Cleopatra as the dominant ruler. She was forced to flee in mid-48 BC but managed to raise an army to fight her brother. By August 48 BC, she joined forces with Julius Caesar after sneaking an audience with him by having herself rolled up in a carpet and presenting to him. Caesar became her lover and is considered the father of her son, Caesarion. She co-ruled alongside her brother Ptolemy XIV from 47 to 44 BC. When Julius Caesar was killed in 44 BC, Cleopatra had her brother Ptolemy XIV killed so that he would be unable to stand in the way of her son's succession.

Following the death of Caesar, she became the lover of Roman General Marc Antony and bore him three children. During her rule she built up Egypt's economy and attempted to maintain Egypt's distance from the Roman Empire. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide after the Roman armies under Octavian, Julius Caesar's heir, defeated their forces in the Battle of Actium. She died on August 12, 30 BC and as a result, Egypt fell under Roman rule.

Cleopatra VII Related Links

  • Ancient Egypt: This website lists the important events and dates that are associated with Cleopatra VII. This also includes names of family, liaisons and important people from her timeline.

  • Biography - Who Was Cleopatra?: The Smithsonian biography on Cleopatra. Her biography covers her struggles with her brother for the throne, her time with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and her suicide.

Jeanne d'Arc

Jeanne d'Arc, known outside of France as Joan of Arc and “the Maid of Orleans”, was a peasant girl who eventually became known as a warrior who led armies of French soldiers to victory during several battles during the Hundred Years War. She was born in Domrémy, France in January of 1412. Joan of Arc was a pious child, known for her charitable activities and for praying in church. She was illiterate and often dictated her letters. At the age of 12 she claimed to receive revelations from Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and the Archangel Michael, instructing her to dress like a man and end the siege of the city of Orleans and take future King Charles VII to his coronation in Rheims.

In May of 1429, she answered the call of her visions. When she first met Charles VII in the city of Chinon, he was in disguise, but she instantly recognized him. In addition she related a secret about the future king to him, convincing him of the validity of her visions. She was handed over to theologians who tested her for heresy and found her innocent; in addition they also found her fit to serve the future King. At Chinon, she asked to receive an ancient sword which she believed was buried behind the altar at the Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois chapel. The sword was found in the exact place of her predictions. After this, she was sent on her campaign to end the siege of Orleans. During this time, she remained dressed as a man; it is speculated that she did so to avoid being sexually assaulted.

She joined the Battle of Orleans on April 30, 1429, rescuing the city in all of 8 days while capturing English Lord Talbot in the process. As a direct result of her actions Charles VII became the king of France, crowned in the city of Reims in July of 1429, with Joan of Arc standing next to him, now known as “the Maid of Orleans”. After this, she was granted a nobel title after taking the city of Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier, where a statue of her was erected 5 centuries later in 1902. In May of 1430, she arrived in Compiègne and proceeded to defend the city against the Burgundians and the English. She was captured during this operation and was handed over to the English as part of a ransom. King Charles VII declined to rescue her, condemning her to a long trial initiated by Bishop Pierre Cauchon. This trial ended in her controversial conviction of heresy, for which she was burned at the stake on May 30 of 1431. She was thoroughly cremated and her ashes were scattered into the Siene river.

In 1452, Pope Callixtus III opened a re-trial, or “rehabilitation” of Joan of Arc, at the request of Inquisitor-General Jean Brehal. During the investigation that led to her acquittal, a play honoring Joan of Arc was performed in Orleans. Cardinal d'Estouteville of the Catholic Church declared that those who attended the play would receive an indulgence of a year and 10 days. In June of 1456 Inquisitor Brehal declared her to be a martyr and accused Bishop Cauchon of heresy on account of prosecuting an innocent woman over a non-religious vendetta. Joan of Arc was posthumously declared innocent in July of 1456. In 1849, Orleans Bishop Félix Dupanloup successfully pushed for her beatification which occurred in 1909, which then led to her being canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XV on May 16 of 1920.

Related Jeanne d'Arc Links:


Sacagawea, the daughter of a Shoshone chief, was born in 1790. At 10 years old she was kidnapped by Hidatsa who sold her to a French Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau wed Sacagawea and another captive that he had purchased. In 1804, Charbonneau was approached by Lewis and Clark who needed an interpreter for their expedition. They requested Sacagawea to travel with them because they felt her presence would make them appear more peaceful to Indians that they would encounter. Before setting out for the expedition, in 1805 she gave birth to son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who she brought on her journey.

During their travels, Sacagewea was helpful in finding edible plants and helped save important documents from a boat that was capsized. On their journey, she was reunited with her brother Cameahwait who was became chief of the Shoshone Indians. Despite her reunion, she helped the expedition to purchase horses and continued on with the journey instead of staying with her people. Her husband and son continued with the expedition on the return trip until they reached the Mandan Villages. After her departure, there was much disagreement amongst historians regarding the details of her life and the truth of her death.

Sacagawea Related Links

  • Sacagawea: A PBS New Perspectives on the West overview of Sacagawea and her role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It briefly touches on her early life.

  • Sacagawea: As An Evolving Symbol of American Indian Women: Explains who Sacagawea was and her participation in the Lewis and Clark 1804 expedition. This page also covers her potential death and disputes regarding her death and her popularity in modern culture.

Elizabeth I 

Elizabeth I was born in September 1533 and was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his wife Anne Boleyn. She was declared illegitimate after the execution of her mother who was charged with adultery and incest after being unable to provide the King with a son. She was taught by famous scholars as a child as it was popular for nobility to do so. As an adult, she was able to speak five languages fluently. Following her father's death in 1547, her brother King Edward VI officially placed her back in the line of succession following her sister Mary. Upon her brothers death due to illness in 1553, her sister Mary became Queen Mary I. In July 1554 Mary married King Phillip II of Spain. Suspicion that Elizabeth was conspiring with her enemies to overthrow her, Mary had her sister arrested and sent her to the Tower of London in March 1554 for two months.

In November of 1558, with Queen Mary's death, Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne and was crowned Queen in January 1559. This marked the start of her reign, which is now known as the Elizabethan era. As Queen, she reinstated the Protestant Anglican Church and became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth never married and her main suitor Robert Dudley was considered not politically suitable due to the suspicion that he had murdered his wife in order to marry the Queen. The Catholic Church still deemed her illegitimate and felt she did not have a right to the throne. Many felt that Mary Queen of Scots was the rightful heir and when she fled to England after abdicating in favor of her son and escaping imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle, Elizabeth had her imprisoned for twenty years. This made Mary the focus of a Catholic rebellion to place her on the throne. As a result, Elizabeth's hand was forced and Mary was beheaded.

Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant leader, and helped establish the Protestant Church; she was the fourth Supreme Governor of the Church. She was involved in the undeclared Anglo-Spanish War. To defend the Church, she fought a war with Spain that ended in the Treaty of London, which ended Spain's ambitions of replacing Protestantism with Catholicism in England. Since she never married, and became known as the Virgin Queen. Queen Elizabeth I reigned for 44 years, establishing a level of stability unseen in neighboring kingdoms. Her reign ended with her death in March of 1603 at the age of 69. She was succeeded by James I of Scotland.

Elizabeth I Related Links:

  • Elizabeth I (1558-1603 AD) A Queen With The Heart Of a King: Britannia History on Queen Elizabeth I. This entry is a one page biography on the Queen and her life and trials.

  • Elizabeth I Biography: This page contains a brief biography on the life of Elizabeth I on the website. The website contains further information such as a timeline, portraits, her family and profile.

  • Folger Shakespeare Library:Queen Elizabeth I: The Folger Shakespeare Library page for Queen Elizabeth I. Choose from topics about her life and reign, such as courtship and love, portraits and the dress of the time, books and fun facts.

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