Elena Piscopia receives her doctorate: 25 June 1678

cropped portrait of Elena Piscopia seated with a book in her hand

On 25 June 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia is cross-examined in the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin in Padua. Crowds of nobles, scholars and city officials are watching. Her answers on two Aristotelian theses impress her examiners and she is awarded the Doctorate of Philosophy degree. She is one of the first women to receive a doctorate in the world.

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Valentina Tereshkova reaches orbit: 16 June 1963

Valentina Tereshkova in her spacesuit, preparing for launch

On 16 June 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space, orbiting the Earth 48 times in Vostok 6. With her flight, she clocked up more hours in space than all the preceding American manned missions combined. She remained the only woman to have flown in space for 19 years and she remains the only woman to have completed a solo space mission.

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Ada Lovelace meets Charles Babbage: 5 June 1833

Sketch of Ada Bryon at 17

On 5 June 1833, Ada Bryon attended a party at mathematician Charles Babbage’s house. She’d been presented at court a few days earlier so it was simply part of the London season. Except Babbage invited Ada to see his prototype Difference Engine. It was the start of an intellectual friendship that resulted in Ada becoming the first theoretical computer programmer.

We know machines run algorithms now, delivering customised playlists or sorting job applications. Ada was the first person to perceive the numbers to be used in calculations could also act as symbols for other systems.

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Alison Hargreaves summits Everest: 13 May 1995

Alison Hargreaves on Everest

On 13 May 1995, professional British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves reached the summit of mount Everest in the Himalayas. She was the first woman – and only the second person – to summit without either support from a Sherpa team or supplementary oxygen.

Hargreaves had set her ambition out clearly and shown she was going for it: she would become the first woman to climb Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga – the three highest mountains in the world – without oxygen.

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Jeanne d’Arc in battle in Orleans: 7 May 1429

1903 painting of Jeanne d'Arc. She is in armour in front of a cathedral and surrounded by white flowers

On 7 May 1429, Jeanne d’Arc led several charges on the besieged city of Orleans in France. She was struck by an arrow, dressed the wound and returned to the fray. The next day, the English army besieging Orleans retreated and the city was freed.

Having led the lifting the of the siege, Jeanne then led the French army as they routed the English armies and freed more cities. When Charles VII of France was crowned in Reims that summer, Jeanne d’Arc knelt at his feet.

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Bertha von Suttner wins the Nobel Peace Prize: 18 April 1906

Cropped photo of Bertha von Suttner in 1906

On 18 April 1906, Baroness Bertha von Suttner becomes the first woman to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. She had been instrumental in Albert Nobel creating a prize for peace at all.

Von Suttner was an international leader in the peace movement, and continued to campaign until her death, a few weeks before Franz Ferdinand’s assassination triggered the first World War she had sought to prevent.

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Greenham Women: 22 March 1982

Several women are seated on the ground with peace signs whilst a man and a police man attempt to move them

On 22 March 1982, around 250 women block access to the airbase at Greenham Common in the UK. It is the first time the women’s peace camp has put non-violence to the test on a large scale, and 34 women are arrested. By the end of 1982, 30,000 women would arrive for the ’embrace the base’ protest. By 1983, over 100 similar peace camps are set up near nuclear sites around the world.

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