Europe – The women’s path to equal rights and opportunities was a harsh one, still, European women had the luck of being in a more privileged position when compared to some countries even though some vocations were still unavailable. Even though Western-European women were in a better position employment-and-opportunity-wise, this did not stop many Slavic women from pursuing their dreams. Below is the timeline of some events that helped shape women’s rights all over the world:
- 1754: Germany – Dorothea Erxleben is the first female doctor granted a M.D. in Germany
- 1817: England – Public whipping of women abolished
- 1847: Belgium – Elementary schools for both genders
- 1863: Serbia – First high school open to women in Belgrade (and the entire Balkans)
- 1876: Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands – Universities open to women
- 1907: France – Married women given control of their income
- 1918: Czechoslovakia – Women given the same rights as men; divorce legalized for both sexes
- 1942: Russia – Women formally accepted into the military
- 1975: Italy – Law provides for gender equality within marriage, abolishing the legal dominance of the husband
- 1976: Austria – Marriage law removes the husband’s power to restrict his wife’s employment
- 2004: Chile – Divorce is legalized
- 2013: Turkey – Women lawmakers allowed to wear trousers in parliament assembly
- 2014: Tunisia – Tunisian Constitution of 2014 recognizes equality between men and women
- 2015: England, Wales and Scotland – Forcing someone to marry (including abroad) made criminal offense
- 2016: Global – The International Criminal Court convicted someone of sexual violence for the first time; rape added to war crimes conviction of Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo
With this in mind, it’s important to honor female scientists and inventors that managed to make a name for themselves despite many obstacles.
1. Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014)
Kwolek (originally Chwałek) was born to Polish parents in Pennsylvania, in 1923. Among other things, she is the inventor of Kevlar – a material used for bicycle tires and racing sails to bulletproof vests and so on. In 1995 she became the 4th woman ever to be added to the US National Inventors Hall of Fame.
2. Zlata Bartl (1920-2008)
Zlata Bartl was a Bosnian Croat scientist and is the inventor of condiment Vegeta, now sold in 40 countries worldwide. She worked as a chemical technician for Podravka, where she created Vegeta in 1959 which would become one of the most popular Croatian brands. She has since received numerous recognitions and awards, including the Order of Danica Hrvatska.
3. Ľudmila Pajdušáková (1916-1979)
Ľudmila Pajdušáková was a Slovak astronomer that specialized in solar astronomy, and also discovered a number of comets. She observed at Skalnaté Pleso Observatory and became its third director from 1958 to 1979. The asteroid 3636 Pajdušáková is named after her.
4. Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891)
Sofia Kovalevskaya (of mixed Russian and Polish descent) was the first major Russian female mathematician. She was responsible for some important original contributions to analysis, partial differential equations and mechanics. She was the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe and was also one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor.
5. Valentina Tereshkova (1937)
Tereshkova was born in central Russia but her parents were from Belarus. She is a retired Russian cosmonaut and the first woman to have flown in space. Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydiver.
6. Roumiana Metcheva (1950)
Metcheva is a Bulgarian Antarctic researcher, best known for her work on ecotoxicology and biodiversity protection in the Antarctic. She is the Head of Department of Ecosystem Research, Environmental Risk Assessment and Conservation Biology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Mount Mecheva was named after her for recognition of her work.
7. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic (1948)
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic is a Serbian biomedical engineer. She has published over 340 scientific papers, 60 book chapters and three books on tissue engineering. According to Google Scholar, her papers have been cited over 31,000 times. In 2007, Vunjak-Novakovic became the first woman engineer to receive the distinction of giving the Director’s Lecture at the National Institute of Health. In 2008, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, and in 2009, she was elected to the New York Academy of Sciences.
8. Maria Skłodowska-Curie
Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win twice in multiple sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.
9. Sunita Williams (1965)
Sunita is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer born to a Slovene mother and Indian father. She holds the world records for total spacewalks by a woman (7) and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes).
10. Roberta Bondar (1945)
Bondar was born to an Ukranian father in Canada. She is Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space. For more than a decade she was NASA’s head of space medicine. Bondar has received many honours including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the NASA Space Medal, over 22 honorary degrees and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.