International Women’s Day 2023: The trials and tribulations of women History Heroes
Introduction: A Woman’s World?
It’s a fact. Women have done sensational things throughout history. From Boudica to Frida Kahlo, from Cleopatra to Greta Thunberg – women have been key players in moving the world forward. But they’ve also faced many barriers in their lives, often making it even much more difficult to make their mark on history.
We’re used to celebrating heroes for their uniqueness; for their remarkable influences on the world around us. In this blog post, we take a look at just a handful of the women in our games, and what makes them similar…
Great (Women) Artists
Fitting 40 cards into one card game is always a big challenge! How on earth can we condense the world’s greatest artists into just a few figures?
In our artists pack, we have women artists like Artemisia Gentileschi, Yayoi Kusama and Georgia O’Keeffe. Gentileschi was born in 1593 in Rome, and became one of the most prominent artists of the 17th century. In 1616, she became the first woman to join the Academy of Art and Design in Florence – pretty impressive for a time where women had very few opportunities to pursue careers in art. After a traumatic experience with a man, she used her art to portray strong and defiant women – and she was certainly one herself!
Kusama was born in Japan 4 centuries later in 1929, and is famous for creating works of art using dots. In 1957, Kusama moved from Japan to New York after writing to History Hero and fellow artist Georgia O’Keeffe for advice. Although she quickly established herself as a leading player in the New York avant-garde movement, she faced sexism and racism so became secretive about her work to avoid male artists stealing her ideas. After a breakdown in 1977, Kusama moved to a mental hospital where she has resided ever since. Her art has been featured all over the world, from the Tate in London to the Wndr Museum in Chicago.
Kusama’s contemporary, Georgia O’Keeffe, is famous for painting huge flowers and has been called the Mother of American Modernism. O’Keeffe said “Men put me down as the best woman painter… I think I’m one of the best painters”. You wouldn’t hear Andy Warhol described as one of the best male painters!
Women in Sport
The history of women’s sport has been a long and complicated one. Our Sports card game includes fantastic sports women like Serena Williams and Olga Korbut.
Serena Williams is probably the greatest tennis player of all time. Born in 1981, she would win 39 Grand Slam Titles in 40 years, becoming known for her uniquely powerful serve. Despite this, she has faced a combination of sexism and racism at every step in her career, with commentators, journalists and sports professionals criticising Williams for things entirely unrelated to her sporting talent.
In 1971, gymnast Olga Korbut won 3 Olympic gold medals for the Soviet Union. Known as ‘The Sparrow from Minsk’, Korbut ushered in a new, daring and exciting era for women’s gymnastics, inventing a backflip off the uneven parallel bars (which was later banned for being too dangerous). Korbut has spoken out about the treatment of her and fellow women gymnasts throughout her career, prompting others to come forward and speak about the violence against them by their coaches.
Women’s sport has come a long way from the 1971 Olympics. In a massive win for women’s sport in Britain, the Lionesses won the EUROS in 2022. But as many Lionesses have expressed, we’ve still got a long way to go.
Bright ideas: Women Inventors
What do the bra, the ironing board and the dishwasher have in common? They were all invented by women! They’re also all related to women and traditional women’s work – clothes and tools to use in the home.
In 1914, Mary Phelps Jacob was granted the first patent for the modern bra which she called a ‘backless brassiere’. She invented it so that she could wear a daring dress to a New York ball! Phelps Jacob’s invention saved wealthy women from the restriction and pain of wearing corsets everyday.
Determined to make her invention after her husband died and left her in debt, Josephine Garis Cochrane invented the first commercially successful dishwashing machine, and got her patent in 1886. She even won awards for it!
Sarah Boone was a dressmaker who invented… you guessed it! The modern ironing board. She was one of the first African American women to be awarded a patent, in 1892, and she learned to read and write in her 40s to do so. It was illegal at the time to teach African Americans to read in Boone’s home state, North Carolina. Quite poetically, when she died Boone left no papers, letters or pictures – just her patent.
These domestic inventions likely came about in part due to women inventors seeing an opportunity to improve their own lives and make their world more efficient. It’s no coincidence that society’s ‘more impactful’ inventions like cars, televisions, trains and planes, were all invented by men… they were given opportunities to make big splashes.
International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women across the globe and throughout history. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the world around us, and how systems and societies need to change.
Learn more about 40 of history’s most incredible women in our Women Pack.