8 Forgotten Women Who Сhanged the World

Bygone Badass Broads” is the book written by Mackenzi Lee that features the real stories of 52 remarkable and forgotten women who changed the world. Each of them has their own incredible story: living in a different time, coming from all over the world, the only thing that unites them all is their incredible heroism and cunning that let them dare to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time.

These all 52 ladies undoubtedly are extremely powerful role-models that should be remembered & admired, therefore I can not recommend “Bygone Badass Broads” more for those interested in the topic of motivation, leadership & willpower.  Below I will share some of my favorite stories from the book 


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Empress Xi Ling Shi (2700 BC, China) – The Legendary Inventor of Silk

Empress Xi Ling Shi – a wife of Emperor Huangdi, the Chinese Emperor – is an extremely important figure in Chinese history as she was the one discovered silk filaments, becoming the world’s first raw silk manufacturer and the inventor of silk looms, which put China on the international trade maps. For two thousand years, only the Chinese knew the secret to its production, making raw silk manufacturing one of the longest kept industrial secrets in the world. The discovery of silk and its production were so important to the history of the country that Empress Xi Ling Shi became a Chinese deity, called “Silkworm Mother” .


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Agnodice (3rd century BC, Greece) – The Midwife Disguised as a Man

In Ancient Greece, only men were allowed to be physicians—women were banned from the profession because of the fear that they might perform abortions. From an early age, Agnodice knew she wanted to become a doctor, and she knew she wanted to help women. After learning to deliver babies in Egypt where it was allowed for women, she disguised herself as a man to practice medicine in Ancient Athens. Not a long time after that Agnodice’s gender was revealed and she was put on trial for her deception – the punishment for her crimes was execution. However, all the women Agnodice had treated, stood up for her ready to raise a militant defense for their lady gynecologist – in the end Agnodice was acquitted and allowed to continue practicing medicine


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The Queen Arawelo (c. 15 CE, Somalia) – The Queen of Gender Equality

Once upon a time, in the land that is present-day Somalia, there was a kingdom ruled by a strong and beautiful queen known throughout her kingdom as Queen Arawelo. Queen Arawelo took the throne after the death of her brutal, sexist, father and changed the matriarchy game forever. Her first order of business:  breaking all stereotypical gender roles from her kingdom. “Citing the past decades of war that had stricken Somalia as evidence that men break everything they touch, she packed her government with women. Under Arawelo, girls ran the world, and their men stayed home, took care of house duties. Under Arawelo, Somalia experienced a long period of prosperity. Arawelo remains one of the greatest rulers in Somali history and one of the feminists of world history. A variation on her name is still a Somalian term for a girl or woman who is assertive and independent


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Khutulun (1260–1306, Mongolia) – Wrestling Champion of the World

Khutulun  – great-great-granddaughter of famous Genghis Kahn – was a Mongolian Warrior Princess with 14 older brothers. Pressured by her parents, she said she would marry the first man to beat her in a wrestling competition, but any loser would have to give her 100 horses. Khutulun died at the age of 45 with lots of horses and no husband. Khutulun became a general in the Mongol army, fighting enemies across Asia and continuing her undefeated wrestling career until she died, probably in a battle


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Sayyida Hurra (1485–1561, Morocco) – The Mediterranean Pirate Queen

Born in 1485 to a Muslim family in Grenada, in 1492 Sayyida and her family had to emigrate to present-day Morocco as Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the Granada and their armies murdered and enslaved many Muslims. As a young woman, she married another refugee, who also happened to be a governor of the city of Tétouan in Morocco, making her the first lady. When her husband died, Sayyida seized the throne and declared herself governor of Tétouan (the last Muslim woman holding this title). This is when her revenge on the Spanish monarchy that destroyed her family and her people really started. Sayyida made an alliance with the Barbary pirates, the scourge of many European trade routes and reigning overlords of the Mediterranean Sea. Under Sayyida’s leadership, her new pirates assembled a fleet that prowled European shipping routes and destroyed any ship they encountered. For twenty years, Sayyida ruled the western Mediterranean sea with a fleet of pirates at her beck and call and revenge in her heart.


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Christina (1626–1689,Sweden) – Gender Non-Conforming King of Sweden

Christina inherited the crown when her father died in the Thirty Years’ war when she was just nine. Since Christina was too young to rule, a regent was put on the throne until she came of age, and two women were appointed by the court to raise her. Once Christina was 14 she finally got onto the throne, she pulled her country out of war, and decided to make it an intellectual capital of Europe. She was also renowned ì for her militant protection of personal freedoms, for her charities, and as protectress of Jews. And she was super not interested in getting married: Despite everyone saying that the lady king should marry and make babies and have a man king to man rule, Christina refused. Ten years into her reign, Christina abdicated the throne saying that: “it is a far greater happiness to obey no one than to rule the world”.


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Emily Roebling (1843–1903, USA) – Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge owes its existence to Emily Roebling. While many would name John Roebling or Washington Roebling as the creator of the bridge, Emily Roebling was the one actually driving force behind most of the operation as her husband Washington Roebling – a civil engineer and the Chief Engineer during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge on papers – developed a serious disease. As the only person to visit her husband during his sickness, Emily was to relay information from Washington to his assistants and report the progress of work on the bridge – She was his eyes and ears at the site,while doubling as nurse and confident.


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Mariya Oktyabraskaya – (1905–1944, Russia) – Smashing Nazis in a Tank of Her Own

Mariya Oktyabraskaya was a nice communist housewife until the Nazis killed her husband – at that point, Mariya transformed into a concentrated beam of Nazi-hating nuclear rage. Mariya sold everything she owned and used the money to buy a big brandnew 26-ton T-34 Main Battle Tank. A tank that she learned to drive herself. A tank that she named Fighting Girlfriend. Maria was assigned to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade, an elite band of the Russian military where she was put right into the first front lines. And it stayed like this for the next year – Mariya and her tank continued to destroy fascists. She was promoted to sergeant for her bravery, and Fighting Girlfriend took part in the largest tank battle in history, the Battle of Kursk, which helped turn the tide of the war away from Hitler once and for all.


I hope that you also managed to find some inspiration and motivation in these bright, ambitious and brave women.

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5 Comments

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  1. Unfairly forgotten. I have never heard these names. Interesting stories, inspiring strength . Thanks for sharing !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating history of accomplished women. From a more modern era, I was fascinated by the story of Mariya Oktyabraskaya. Women made a great contribution toward helping win WW II.

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  3. Needless to say I’m very well aware of Queen Christina of Sweden. The Somali and Moroccan queens I believe should be hailed as role models to Somali and Moroccan women that are treated as properties by the men in their families. If they have managed to get to the West they should follow the examples of the two queens and create lives worth having for themselves. Not walk three steps behind their husbands. .

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  4. This looks like a fascinating book! Thanks for sharing the stories of a few of these incredible women with us.

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  5. What a great roundup of amazing women. The best part of reading this for me was that none of them was familiar to me. Thanks for sharing.

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