I’ve always felt that students need real-life heroes they can look up to. Individuals who, while often imperfect, still used their talents to make the world a better place. This idea became especially relevant earlier in the week on March 8th, when the world celebrated International Women’s Day. History is filled with extraordinary women. Scholars, warriors, trailblazers, and countless others who broke down barriers and encouraged others to do the same.

I’ve written before about my love of history, as well as women who have made great strides in the field of STEM. So, while International Women’s Day may technically be over, I’d still like to use this post as a belated celebration of exceptional women throughout history. Besides, every educator knows you can’t limit great lessons to just one day! Take a moment today and celebrate the work of these inspiring women with your students:

Anna Komnene (1083–1153), Princess and Historian

As the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, Princess Anna Komnene grew up with the best education the Eastern Roman Empire could provide. During her father’s reign she served as the administrator of a city hospital and was also present when her father held court. Unfortunately, she was later banished to a monastery by her younger brother who saw her as a threat to his reign. Undeterred, Anna spent the next decade composing the Alexiad, a record of her father’s reign and one of the most important historical resources of the late 11th and early 12th centuries.

Mary Seacole (1805–81), British-Jamaican Nurse

Mary Jane Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse known for providing care to British soldiers during the Crimean War. Her 1857 autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, is one of the earliest memoirs of a mixed-race woman. “She wasn’t just ambitious and positive-thinking – she was also someone with a lot of integrity and a passion to do good for other people in the world,” said Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernadine Evaristo in the September 2020 issue of BBC History Magazine.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1963), Politician, Diplomat, Activist

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest serving First Lady throughout her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office (1933-1945). She was an American politician, diplomat, and activist who later served as a United Nations spokeswoman. She worked hard to help the underprivileged of all creeds, races, and nations. This work made her one of the most loved–and for some years one of the most revered–women of her generation.

Patsy Mink (1927 – 2002), Congresswoman and Attorney

Patsy Mink was born in Hawaii and was a third-generation Japanese American. As a child, Mink and her family would often experience discrimination due to their background. Yet, this did little to dampen her resolve. In fact, these experiences would drive Mink to fight back against prejudice as a lawyer following her graduation from the University of Chicago Law School. Later, as the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. Mink would spend her political career championing civil rights legislation. In particular, she co-authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which forbids discrimination within areas of education.

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to highlight more exceptional women in history, be sure to check out the Quoting HERstory QR Quest! This activity explores influential women who have paved a path through history by examining their own lives and words. Treat your students to an exciting lesson that’s memorable, meaningful, and fun!

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.