Meet a few of our Heroines!

Helene Dutrieu

(1877-1961) Belgium

Helene left school at just 14 to help financially support her family as a professional cyclist. She went on to set the women’s world record for longest distance cycled in one hour. After a serious crash left her recovering for 8 months, she turned to flying, becoming the first licensed female pilot in Belgium in 1910. A pioneering aviator, she assembled her own plane from spare parts when she couldn’t afford to buy one and became the first woman to fly with a passenger.

Anna Ancher

(1859 - 1935) Denmark

As a young woman Anna loved painting. In those days, women were not allowed to enroll at the Royal Art Academy, so she attended a private art school and advanced her skills. Despite strong pressure from society that married women should devote themselves to household duties, she continued painting after marriage and after becoming a mother. She developed an eye for detail and became known for her truthful depictions of reality, painting the everyday lives of the Skagen people, especially fishermen, women and children. She is now considered to be one of Denmark's greatest visual artists.

Agnes Mary Clerk

(1842 – 1907) Ireland

Agnes was always fascinated with the universe. But while her brother was sent to school, she was taught at home. She stayed up late reading books from her father’s library and taught herself German, Latin, Spanish, French, Greek and Italian in order to read the many astronomy books that interested her. Agnes went on to publish articles and books on astronomy. Her History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century in particular was reprinted many times. Her ability to present complex findings to a wide audience made her the leading commentator on astronomy in the English-speaking world.

Amna Mahmoud Al-Jaydah

(1913-2000) Qatar

When Amna was young, education for girls in Qatar was limited to learning the Quran at home, and many people felt that educating girls was a waste of time. Still, in 1938 she asked the son of the Emir if she could open a school for girls in her house. A judge in Bahrain denounced her plan, but she didn’t give up. She started her school and it grew so popular that the government rented a second house that became the first official school for girls. Amna was not only the first female teacher in Qatar, but also the first female principal of a government school.

Augusta Marie Chiwy

(1921-2015) Belgium

Separated from her Congolese mother when she was young and raised in Belgium by her father, Augusta dreamed of being a teacher. But due to racial prejudices at this time, black people were forbidden to teach white children; so Augusta became a nurse in 1943. While visiting her father in Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge advanced on their town and her nursing skills were desperately needed. As a black nurse, U.S. army regulations prohibited her from treating white American soldiers. Still she volunteered to retrieve wounded soldiers from the battlefield and care for them in a makeshift aid station, saving hundreds of lives.