Happy Women’s History Month! While it may seem like we don’t need a whole month focused solely on women’s history, it’s my opinion that (sadly) we do. I didn’t get to learn about many awesome women until college. (Okay, Betsy Ross—maybe, but she just sewed a lot!) Maybe my Florida education had something to do with that, but I don’t think so. Most of the history we get in school is white and male.
But women get March, and we’re going to take it, thank you very much. And since we’re all moms, moms-to-be, or mom-curious here, I thought I’d focus on some of my favorite moms who rocked it in their day. These are women, and they are moms—and while the two are separate, I believe one informs the other. And as we all know, brilliance is at least ten times harder to achieve when you have a little attached to you. I tip my sippy cup to any mom who can manage to clean the house—much more so to one who steps up to change the world. So, with a slippery slosh of mommy’s milk, here are my top five moms who rocked history:
Cleopatra is considered to be the last pharaoh of Egypt. Cleo convinced Julius Caeser to help her take the throne back from her brother (and husband—yeah, ew—moving on…), and then they made a baby boy together. Cleopatra poisoned her co-regent and younger brother in 44 B.C., but she needed a man to keep the throne. Her three-year-old son fit the bill. This meant she could pretty much do whatever she wanted with the country—as long as she had plenty of milk and crackers for baby Caesarion. She then had three more children with Mark Antony. Cleopatra reigned for 22 years before she died, but she passed on her royal blood to her daughter who became queen of what is now Algeria.
A pregnant woman fighting for her throne? Yes, please. Maria Theresa took her rightful place as Austria’s queen in 1740—fending off European sovereigns and securing the Austrian Empire. She had 16 children over the next 20 years and ruled for a total of 40 during which she reformed education and criminal justice—among other things. And people think a woman can’t be president because of her PERIOD?!
This Polish-born French physicist was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win it twice. After her daughter was born, Marie Curie started researching radiation—eventually inventing the term “radioactivity.” She also discovered two elements: radium and polonium. She and her husband worked as a team and raised their two daughters until Pierre Curie died in 1906. This now single mother didn’t miss a step—running her own laboratory and developing mobile radiological centers for soldiers in World War I. Her daughter eventually also won a Nobel Prize, as did her son-in-law.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton made the minister remove the phrase “promise to obey” from her wedding vows when she got married in 1840. The suffragette and her husband had seven children between 1842 and 1859 with the last one coming when she was forty-freaking-four years old. During this time, Stanton helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention, drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, scripted many of Susan B. Anthony’s speeches, and worked tirelessly for the rights of women.
Meena Keshwar Kamal
Meena Keshwar Kamal was 20 years old in 1977 when she started the Revolutionary Association for the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). It was the first organized movement for women’s rights in Afghanistan. A mother of three, she led the organization in fighting the Soviet occupation of her country and oppressive fundamentalists. She also built schools and hospitals for refugee women in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was assassinated in 1987, and the whereabouts of her children are unknown. RAWA continues her work today—supporting women and children refugees and fighting for the rights of women.
Bonus: Michelle Obama
Let’s end on a happier note. Michelle Obama isn’t really history yet, but I had to sneak her in here. This mother of two is the coolest mom I know, and she’s led an innovative crusade against the obesity crisis. I think there’s only more to come from this amazing woman. And I’m sure we’re going to be friends—just as soon as she gets a little more time on her hands.
I couldn’t possibly have included every amazing mom in history, because we’re actually all kind of amazing. Still, I’d love to hear more about who your favorite moms who rocked history are in the comments below.