Fempire Loves: Five Badass Women You've Never Heard Of

For a large part of history, the voices of women were deadened, and their accomplishments ignored. History, after all, is written by the victors – and, for the most part, it’s been testosterone types both giving out and wearing the majority of the gold medals. All of this means that an abundance of historically-significant, positively-brilliant, genuinely-badass high-achieving ladies have been left wholly out of the limelight. None of this lessens the impact or extent of their achievements – so we reckon

  1. 1

    Agent 355

    We concede that it’s difficult to give proper recognition to a woman whose face and name are unknown – but the tale of Agent 355 is at least as exciting as the adventures of 007 (or more, since she was real)…Agent 355 was one of George Washington’s most trusted spies during the American Revolution. The number, 355, could be de-crypted from the system the Culper Ring used to mean "lady”. Often planted in upper-class New York parties, she was described as someone with “beguiling charm”, and is the only member of Washington’s Culper Spy network whose identity remains completely unknown. Making her a pretty damn excellent spy, in our opinion.

  2. 2

    Hildegard von Bingen

    As well as having perhaps the best name ever to happen to a body, Hilde was what we would call today “hella smart”. Living in medieval times, she was a consult to kings and popes alike, as well as being a poet, a writer, a mystic and a composer. When she wasn’t penning scientific treatises, of course. She is widely considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany, AND she invented her own language. She died at the ripe old age of 81, probably relatively proud of what she had managed to achieve.

  3. 3

    Nettie Stevens

    Chromosomes. You’ve got some. The shape of a certain pairing of them determines your sex. And the woman who determined that was one Nettie Stevens, 1862 – 1912, though very few history books will tell you so. Nettie conducted the majority of her scientific research paired up with a man named Thomas Morgan, who took the credit for observations that were entirely her own, and later claimed the Nobel Prize for the same work.

  4. 4

    Ada Lovelace

    The only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron (mad, bad and dangerous to know, you know the one), Ada died in 1852, and has since been hailed as the first computer programmer. Can she time travel, you ask? No – her mentor Charles Baggage was the creator of the Difference Engine, widely recognized to be the first ever computer. During her work with Babbage, Ada wrote an algorithm that the engine could use to compute Bernoulli numbers. Sadly, the invention was never built and her code never tested – but that doesn’t negate her achievements. Did we mention that she was 17 years old when she wrote the code?

  5. 5

    Raden Ajeng Kartini

    In Indonesia, the 21st of April is “Kartini Day”, to celebrate the life and work of Ajeng, who is known as the country’s first feminist. She was a vocal advocate for women’s education and emancipation, as well as writing substantively about the improvement of public health and the protection of traditional arts on the island of Java. Part of Indonesian culture at the time involved the practice of seclusion, whereby a girl was kept separate from society from the age she turned 12 until she was married. Kartini spent this time educating herself, even procuring Dutch penpals to enable her to practice her Dutch. Today, there is a fund in her name which aids the education of young girls, as well as a whole host of Kartini Schools, which do the same. The kicker? She died in 1904, at the age of 25.

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