It may be hard to believe, but it’s been less than 40 years since the U.S. dedicated a month to celebrate the historical contributions of women. In 1981, just 34 years ago, Congress agreed that women deserved a week, yes an entire week, to honor their roles in history. The National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress and the entire month of March was dedicated as Women’s History Month in 1987.
It may have taken the testosterone-heavy legislative branch awhile to recognize that women’s role in history should be officially recognized and celebrated, but if you were born into the estrogen sisterhood, then you probably already know the impact these women have on our lives today. Sheer luck, intelligence, beauty and guile were not the only contributors to the success of our female trailblazers — environment, status and other factors also played a significant role in their accomplishments.
Explore our picks of a few remarkable ladies who should be celebrated, not only for what they achieved, but also the progressive destinations that welcomed, inspired, trained and encouraged them.
MORRNAH NALAMAKU SIMEONA & HAWAII
Anyone who has ever visited the majestically beautiful Hawaiian Islands knows that natural harmony and cultural preservation are present everywhere you turn. That is why the story of native Kahuna and healer, Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona is the perfect embodiment of all this island paradise represents.
There is no direct translation for Kahuna, literally, but Ka means light and huna means secret, as in sacred wisdom. She was also a master of Hawaiian healing massage, LomiLomi, which has been described as the connection of the heart, hand and soul with the source of all life. Simeona developed a new system of healing based on an ancient spiritual tradition. She was also an educator who is honored as a Living Treasure of Hawaii.
HELENA RUBENSTEIN & AUSTRALIA
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there is nothing wrong with receiving a little help. Helena Rubinstein built a global empire out of helping women put their best faces forward, and it all started in the sun-drenched land Down Under. Born in Poland, Rubinstein immigrated to Australia in 1896 where she became a cosmetics entrepreneur and one of the world’s richest women. It was the best move she ever made.
Surrounded by women with sun damaged skin, she developed a face cream with a local chemist and sold the little jars of miracles to an eager clientele. Rubenstein established stores in Melbourne and Sydney, before branching out to Europe where she opened a store in London and eventually expanded to New York’s Fifth Ave.
She is widely considered to be one of the pioneers in the beauty industry, introducing products such as waterproof mascara and tinted bronzing gel. Her love of beauty wasn’t only skin deep, she was a serious patron of the arts. Rubinstein became an innovator in the collection of African sculpture, she befriended Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and commissioned paintings by Salvador Dali.
BESSIE COLEMAN & CHICAGO
How ironic that one of the pioneers for women in aviation called the Windy City home. Born in the south, Bessie Coleman moved to Chicago after graduating high school and it was there that she first discovered airplanes. Being black, and a woman, did not help her chances of finding an aviation school that would train her, so she packed up and headed across the ocean to the more accepting country of France.
In Paris, she blossomed by becoming the first black woman to receive a pilot’s license and the first woman to receive an international pilot’s license. Coleman returned to the States and attempted to establish a flight school for others like her, but the dream never took flight after an unfortunate plane incident that claimed her life.
MARIE CURIE & PARIS
We should make t-shirts that encourage everyone to think like a girl, especially if the woman in question is the brilliant and talented Marie Curie aka Madame Curie. Denied the opportunity to attend university in her homeland of Poland, Curie moved to France and enrolled at the Sorbonne in the City of Light (and love) — Paris. She completed a Masters in Physics and also earned one in math.
It was also in France where she met her husband, Pierre — the other half of their dynamic physics duo — who discovered polonium and radium. Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics and won her second one in chemistry, making her the first scientist to ever be granted a dual honor.
After her husband’s death, she took over his teaching position at the Sorbonne and was known to converse with great minds such as Albert Einstein. Curie’s work was her life and it ultimately took it. She died of aplastic anemia, attributed to prolonged radiation exposure. The legacy of perhaps the most famous female scientist of all time continues to thrive. Several schools are named for her and her own daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, followed in her footsteps winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.