Why do we consider Virginia Woolf as one of the greatest modern novelists?

       ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’, wrote Virginia Woolf in her novel ‘A Room of One’s Own’. Virginia’s father Adeline Stephen was a famous literary critic, and Virginia grew up in a book lined home. Along with other talented writers such as E.M. Forster and Dora Carrington, she formed the Bloomsbury group, which rejected Victorian values. She married Leonard Woolf, and together, they started the Hogarth Press which published some of the greatest writers of the day.

          ‘The Voyage Out’ was Virginia’s first novel. Virginia displayed the psychological and emotional motives of her characters in her novels. This is known as stream of consciousness. Virginia wove mental illness into her novel, ‘Miss Dalloway’. ‘The Waves’ and ‘To The Lighthouse’ are two of her notable novels. Virginia Woolf fought depression to become one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. 

How did Helen Keller triumph in the face of tragedy?

A sudden illness at 19 months of age left Helen Keller blind and deaf. Helen devised more than fifty signs to communicate with her family, but she was frustrated. A young teacher Anne Sullivan was sent to work with Helen. It was the beginning of a celebrated teacher-student relationship. Anne placed Helen’s hand under running water and spelled out the word ‘water’. Helen understood. This breakthrough put Helen on the track to academic success.

Anne introduced Helen to Braille. Helen became the first blind-deaf woman to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. She published three works including ‘The story of my life’, ‘Optimism’ and ‘The world I Live In’. She campaigned for the deaf-blind and the disabled. She was a founding member of the Permanent Blind War Relief, which is now known worldwide as Helen Keller International. Helen Keller showed the world that there are no boundaries to courage and faith. 

What are the achievements of Julia Morgan?

Julia Morgan was the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture from the prestigious Ecole Nationale in Paris. After graduation, she returned to her native San Francisco and worked for the architect John Galen Howard. Morgan opened her own architectural firm in 1904. Morgan’s style was noted for using exposed support beams, California redwood, and horizontal lines that blended with the landscape. She also used rectangular wooden tiles and preferred earth colours. One of her first independent projects was the bell tower on the campus of Mills College in Oakland. This bell tower withstood the San Francisco earth quake. Morgan gained fame for supervising the construction of Hearst Castle. She personally designed in minutest detail most of the structures in the castle. She was the architect of over 800 buildings in her lifetime. Julia Morgan was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2008.

Who is the founder of the Montessori education method?

Maria Montessori braved the opposition of society to become Italy’s first female doctor. However, she achieved fame in the field of children’s education. Initially, she worked with mentally retarded children, orphans, and the poor. She made some sensational discoveries. At that time it was believed that children could only be taught; they could not learn by themselves. Montessori found that children had a natural desire to learn, and could learn a lot by themselves. She found that this natural power of learning worked best when they were turned loose in a safe, hands on-learning environment. A child friendly environment, self correcting puzzles, and other equipment were essential to foster this learning. Mentally handicapped children schooled by Maria Montessori not only mastered the basics of self care, but also passed tests meant for mainstream children. Montessori believed that teachers should observe children. The Montessori Method has been embraced as the scientific method for teaching children.


How did Helena Rubinstein become one of the richest women in the world?

Helena Rubinstein made millions by selling make up. In fact, she laid the foundations of the beauty industry. She was bold, beautiful, and had a knack of spotting a business opportunity. Helena, who was Polish by birth, visited her relatives in Australia, when in her early thirties. She noticed that the women’s skins lost their beauty in the harsh sun. Helen had with her a jar of facial cream mixed to a family formula. She realized that she held the recipe for business success in her hands. She produced and marketed a wide range of products never before available to women including coloured face powder, and foundation cream. Later, she opened a string of beauty salons. Queen Alexandria and the actress Sarah Bernhardt were among the rich and the famous who frequented her salons. In 1953, she set up the Helena Rubenstein Foundation, which enables young women to take up higher education and follow non traditional careers.


Why is Rosa Luxemburg idolised by socialists?

Rosa Luxemburg, who had a limp, had a brilliant mind. She gained a place in the best girl’s school in Poland. Rosa cofounded the Social Democratic Party of Poland with Jogiches in 1893. Rosa was a socialist. Socialism aims to give more power to the people. All her life, Rosa passionately believed in international socialism. Rosa left Zurich for Berlin 1898. There, she attacked German militarism, and her physical courage won widespread admiration. Between 1904 and 1906, she was imprisoned several times. In 1914, she produced her most famous work, ‘The Accumulation of Capital’. She founded the German communist party with Liebknecht. They triggered the Spartacus uprising against the German government which was brutally crushed by the national militia, the Fierkorps. Rosa was murdered by the Fierkorps, and her body was thrown into a canal. Her life and her death inspired millions of socialists round the world.

Why are Emily Murphy and the Famous Five so fatuous?

 Emily Murphy was the first woman police magistrate in Alberta, in Canada, and in the British Empire. She was a strong advocate for the rights of women and children, and the leader of a group known as the Famous Five.

       The Famous Five are five women, truly pioneers, who in Alberta in the early part of the 20th century, shaped the future of the lives of all Canadian women to come. They are Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Nellie McClung. Because of their efforts, on October 18th, 1929, the Privy Council declared in the famous ‘Person’s Case of 1929’ that women were persons, and thus eligible to hold any appointed or elected office. All the members of the Famous Five came from the upper-middle class, were well educated, and were committed to social change and women’s suffrage.  They were social activists who felt it was their responsibility to make needed changes.

            For Murphy, the Persons’ Case was only one triumph in a lifetime of achievement. She combined family life with a writing career, and a wide variety of reform activities in the interests of women and children. Murphy was a member of the Canadian Women’s Press, the National Council of Women, the Federated Women’s Institutes, and 20 other organizations. But there is no doubt that it was the ‘Persons’ Case’, fought by the Famous Five, which significantly improved the democratic life of women throughout the British Empire.


Why is Sarah Breedlove Walker an inspiration for African American women?

          Sarah Breedlove was born in a poor farm family on December 23, 1867, in Delta, Louisiana. By the age of nineteen, Sarah was a widow with a young daughter to support, and she moved to St. Louis to work as a hotel washerwoman. In 1906, Sarah married Denver newspaperman Charles Joseph Walker, and changed her name to Madame C.J. Walker.

          Around 1910, Sarah came up with idea of straightening hair with a hot iron comb and an ointment to add softness and shine. It was an important development because for generations, black women had straightened tightly curled hair on ironing boards. This was sometimes harmful to the scalp and face and broke the hair. Sarah developed a variety of products to serve a range of hair care needs. She peddled them door to door, and then organized agents in ‘Walker Clubs’. She opened a shop, trained assistants, and then later added mail order sales, followed by a beauty school that taught the Walker Method of hair straightening and hair growing.

         Her next step was to build a factory, and soon she was employing 3,000 workers in America’s largest black-owned business. She became a social leader, and opened a hair care laboratory, and a chain of beauty salons in Harlem. Thus, a St. Louis washerwoman, created a cosmetic empire by inventing a system of hair straightening to become an inspiration for all African American women.

Why is Marie Curie an icon in the world of science?

          Marie Curie was one of the most famous women scientists in the world. Her parents were both school teachers, and they had high expectations from their children.

          Marie chose to study physics, which is a branch of science that investigates the four forces at work in the universe, both on a large scale, as in the solar system, or on a small scale, as in atoms. The structure of the atom, and the forces which hold it together were still unknown when Marie enrolled as a student at the Sorbonne in 1891. Here she met and married Pierre Curie, who encouraged her to do research. With Pierre acting as her advisor, Marie spent several years purifying uranium ore. It was a grueling task to isolate the ‘radioactive’ substances from tonnes of ordinary rock.

           Marie proposed that the radiation came from inside the atoms. Other scientists followed her lead, and started to investigate the structure of atoms. She discovered two new elements which the Curies named radium – after ‘radiation’ - and polonium - after Poland. In 1903, the Curies and Henri Becquerel received the Nobel Prize in physics for their combined research and discoveries on radioactivity.

           Marie Curie has become an icon and a role-model for other women to follow, for she was someone who succeeded-despite many difficulties, in carving a niche for herself in the world of science. 

Why is it said that Ann Sullivan Macy played a key role in Helen Keller’s achievements?

         Anne Sullivan Macy overcame poverty and blindness to obtain an education, which in turn, enabled her to teach Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf. Anne lost most of her sight at the age of seven, the result of an untreated bacterial infection known as trachoma. Soon after, her mother died, and her father abandoned her. Anne became a ward of the state, and was sent to a poorhouse. A chance encounter with a state official made it possible for her to attend the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston.

         Anne threw herself into her studies at Perkins, and soon learnt to use a manual alphabet. When the Keller family contacted the school looking for an instructor for their blind and deaf daughter Helen, Anne’s unique combination of knowledge and personal experience made her the ideal candidate. Anne taught Helen to read, write, sign and speak. Helen even went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College, and it was Anne who made it possible. She attended lectures with Helen, and spelled what the professors were saying into the palm of Helen’s hand.

         Helen Keller became world famous for the way she overcame her difficulties-and much of the credit for achievements must go to Anne - for if a student achieves extraordinary heights, it is sometimes because of an equally extraordinary teacher. 

Why is Mary Church Terrell to be admired?

          Mary Church Terrell was an early civil rights advocate, an educator, an author, and a lecturer on woman suffrage and rights for African Americans. An early advocate of women’s rights, Terrell was an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, addressing in particular the concerns of black women. In 1896, she became the first president of the newly formed National Association of Coloured Women, an organization that under her leadership, worked to achieve educational and social reform, and an end to discriminatory practices. Appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education in 1895, Terrell was the first black woman to hold such a position.

          Mary was an articulate spokeswoman, efficient political organizer, and prolific writer. She addressed a wide range of social issues in her long career. Her last act as an activist was to lead a successful three-year struggle against segregation in public eating places and hotels in the nation’s capital. Do you know what segregation is? It is the forced separation of a race in a community or country. In those days, segregation existed in many parts of the USA, and coloured people were kept separate from the whites in public places. This unfair system was finally abolished thanks to the work of brave people like Mary. 

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt was a suffrage movement leader and the founder of the League of Women Voters. She became head of field organizing for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1895, and in 1900, having earned the trust of the leaders of that organization, became its president. Her leadership was the key in the final passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was also one of the founders of the Women’s Peace Party during World War I, and helped to organize the League of Women Voters after the passage of the 19th Amendment. She supported the League of Nations after World War I, and the founding of the United Nations after World War II. Between the wars, she worked for Jewish refugee relief efforts, and for child labour protection laws. 

Why Ida Wells is considered one of the forerunners of the Civil Rights Movement?

          Ida Wells was born a slave in 1862, and was orphaned by the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. But somehow Ida Wells managed to get an education and become a teacher. Then, in 1884, she was forcibly removed from the first-class ladies coach on a railroad, and she filed a suit against the railroad. Though she first won the case and later lost it before the Memphis Supreme Court, the incident set off her career in journalism. She became the Memphis correspondent for African-American newspapers in Northern cities.

          Ida’s stories about the atrocities committed against the blacks made her a hero in the African American community, but angered white people in Memphis. She moved to New York, and launched an anti-lynching crusade. For the next several years, Ida Wells became one of America’s most prolific writers and speakers about the lynching that were happening with some regularity in the South.

          Wells spoke all over the North, and on two occasions, conducted speaking tours of England. In the process, she had many admirers but, in an era where her candour was very unique, many critics as well.

          In addition to being an active writer and speaker for her entire life, Ida also married and raised four children. Today, many people regard Ida - a journalist, activist, teacher, organizer and plaintiff- as one of the forerunners of the Civil Rights Movement.

Why Jane Addams is considered a great social reformer?

Jane Adams was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and perhaps, the most famous social worker from the United States. As a young woman, Jane desperately wanted to make a difference in the world. She found her opportunity when she visited Toynbee Hall, the settlement house in London. It inspired her to start Hull House. Hull House’s purpose was two-fold. Its primary purpose was to serve the poor inner city residents. Its other purpose was to give an outlet for educated, well to do women to prove they useful to society. Hull House worked for social change, addressing such issues as child labour, public health reform, garbage collection, labour laws and race relations.

          Jane believed women had a social responsibility to work for peace because, working men would never be against war. She took on a leadership role in the Woman’s Peace Party. Jane had a heart attack in 1926. She never fully regained her health. As a matter of fact, she was being admitted to a Baltimore hospital on the very day on December 10, 1931, that the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to her in Oslo. True to her cause, Jane gave all her prize money away.


Why is it said that Emmeline Pankhurst changed the ideas of womanhood?

              Emmeline Pankhurst and her husband Richard Pankhurst believed that women should have the same rights as men. In 1889, Emmeline founded the Women’s Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. In October 1903, she helped found the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU. Emmeline’s daughters Christabel and Sylvia were both active in the cause. British politicians, the press and the public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of suffragettes, as the women who fought for their rights were called. Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years, and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding.

              When World War I broke out in 1914, Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. After the war, Emmeline was chosen as the Conservative candidate for an East London seat, but her health failed before she could be elected. She died on 14th June in London, a few weeks after the Representation of the People Act establishing voting equality for men and women was passed. Emmeline Pankhurst was born a Victorian Englishwoman, but she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.