Inspirational Women Who Changed The World

Women have faced challenges and inequalities throughout history and across cultures. Endless inspirational women have come and gone leaving their mark on the world, challenging and changing thoughts and perceptions resulting in momentous revolutions. In celebration of all these trailblazers, here we highlight 12 of the many inspirational women who changed the world.


  • Florence Nightingale, who is recognised as ‘The lady with the lamp’, nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Her passion and dedication to nursing changed the public’s perception about this profession. Her insistence on improving sanitary conditions for the patients is believed to have saved many lives. After the war, she established the first scientific nursing school in London. International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday – May 12 – each year, recognising the importance of nurses in healthcare.


  • Emmeline Pankhurst was a passionate feminist and head of the British suffragette movement. She fought for women’s rights in the late 19th and early 20th century. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a group known for extreme forms of protest such as chaining themselves to railings and going on hunger strikes. Pankhurst died three weeks before a law was passed giving women equal voting rights with men. She has been heralded as a crucial figure in helping women achieve the right to vote.


  • Marie Curie was a Polish-French physicist and chemist best known for her work in radioactivity. She became the first female professor at the University of Paris in 1906. She had Masters Degrees in both physics and mathematics and was the first woman to obtain a Doctor of Science degree. She was also the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and the first lady to be enshrined in France’s national mausoleum, the Paris Panthéon.


  • Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who devoted her life to humanitarian and charity work. Her aim was to look after those who nobody else would. She founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the sick and poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and worked endlessly until ill health forced her to stop shortly before she died in September 1997.


  • Rosa Parks was a pioneer for civil rights in the United States for African-Americans. In 1955, in Alabama, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person – at the time she was legally obliged to.  Showing great courage, this incident instigated the civil rights movement in America, producing the Montgomery Bus Boycott that crippled the state capital’s public transport system.


  • Princess Diana was known as the People’s Princess. She was well-loved, using her platform in the UK’s monarchy for much good. Diana was deeply involved in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and worked with victims of AIDS, along with dozens of other charities. She was a pioneer for women with celebrity status to make a change in the world, dedicating her life to international causes. She was an inspiration to people in all walks of life and her sudden death resulted in international mourning. Today, her sons Prince William, the future British king, and Prince Harry continue her charity work.


  • Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who wrote a diary whilst hiding from German forces in Amsterdam during the Second World War. Anne and her family spent two years hiding in an annex, during which time Anne wrote in a diary gifted to her by her father. It is one of the most widely read books in the world, providing an intimate and remarkable account of both adolescence and the Holocaust. Anne died in 1945 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, just weeks before the war ended.


  • Dr Elizabeth Blackwell was the first female doctor in America, after becoming the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States. Elizabeth was born in Bristol and immigrated to America with her family at the age of eleven. She was a dedicated public health advocate, changing the course of modern medicine. She opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1856 and continued founding hospitals for women in both the United States and England. This broadened opportunities for women doctors by providing training and necessary experience and expanded specialised medical care for the poor.


  • Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. As a result, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross for her efforts, the first female to obtain this achievement. Amelia broke many records in a male-dominated society. Unfortunately, she met with tragedy when her aircraft went down over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.


  • Rosalind Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer. Her research was key in revealing the structure of DNA. She became a research associate at King’s College in London and during this time began her ground-breaking work on DNA structure. Photo 51, taken using X-ray diffraction, was taken by Franklin and is one of the earliest images of DNA. Her X-ray photographs of the double helix were used by scientists Francis Crick, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins, who in 1962 were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for their work on the DNA model. Franklin missed out on a Nobel Prize herself, dying from ovarian cancer in 1958 at the age of 37.


  • Benazir Bhutto became the 11th prime minister of Pakistan in 1988, and the first woman to head an Islamic country. She was a political activist from a young age and in 1984 she founded an underground organisation to resist the military dictatorship. She promoted democracy, ended military dictatorship in Pakistan and fought for women’s empowerment. She was assassinated in 2007 but her legacy modernised the state.


  • Valentina Tereshkova is a Russian astronaut and in 1963 she became the first woman in space. She began training as a skydiver and decided to apply for the women’s space team. Tereshkova spent three days aboard ‘Vostok 6’, making 48 orbits of Earth during that time. In this single flight, she accumulated more flight time than that of all American astronauts who before her combined. She earned the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace.