10 of the World’s Most Important Female Teachers and Pioneers

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These ladies deserve some recognition!

While working with many talented female writers and reviewers here at MercuryNews, it is easy to think that things were always like this. It is easy to assume that women were always part of every business and intellectual circle.

However, the truth is that women have had to fight for equality and recognition and even still fight for these basic rights to this day. This article aims to celebrate women in education, and how these women helped pave the way for future generations of women.

Education and teaching are far-reaching and can mean much more than simple academic education. We need to learn lessons in morality, ambition, character, and even charity. Luckily these women can teach us all those lessons and more through their accomplishments and triumphs.

1. Helen Keller


Hellen Keller is not just a famous person; she has become a legendary figure. Born blind and deaf, Helen faced adversity that many of us could only imagine. But still, she persevered and learned how to write and read.

She used the few resources at her disposal (i.e sound and touch) to sense vibrations, touch lips and assemble the puzzle of how other humans speak.

Keller is also a founding member of the ACLU and a fervent critic of discrimination.

2. Roberta Bondar


Roberta has the type of CV that seems fake. Her various accomplishments are more than most people could even fathom taking on.

Becoming a neurologist is hard enough. It requires native intelligence, many years spent educating yourself, in addition to the financial burden of all those years in college and medical school. Students, research paper writers, and other people involved in Academia are notoriously busy.

That is impressive, but what if someone, after doing all of that, also becomes an astronaut? That is exactly the story of Roberta Bondar. Her first venture into aerospace was as a medical consultant for NASA.

This highly accomplished female teacher, astronaut, and businessperson has achieved more than many other people in the world.

3. Mary Jane McLeod Bethune


The beauty of education is that it is universal. There are no African numbers, European physics, or Asian thermodynamics. Most academic subjects study the nature of our shared reality, which is a humbling endeavor that can bring us together.

Bethune also has a resume that would require its own article to break down. She was an apt stateswoman, an educator, a fighter for equality, and a philanthropist. Her nickname was “the first lady of struggle”.

Let’s put it this way: if you were downtrodden during the Roosevelt administration, she was your best chance.

4. Marie Curie


Women were almost always well represented in the soft sciences. The stereotype is that their emotional and empathetic natures are most suited to psychology, sociology, and literature, rather than physics or hard math.

Marie Curie invalidated that stereotype due to her groundbreaking work with radioactivity. She is the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her scientific achievement.

The field of chemistry owes a lot to Curie. She broke down barriers and can serve as inspiration for every girl who aspires to work in a field that is traditionally seen as a "boy’s club".

5. Mary Shelley

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The background of her story is long, but basically, Shelley found herself in the company of another legendary literary figure: Lord Byron. As a bet, Byron and Shelley were supposed to attempt to write a ghost story.

She won that little competition, with a work that you may have heard of: Frankenstein.

This is considered to be history’s first science fiction and gothic horror novel. The subtitle for Frankenstein is “a Modern Prometheus”, as it showcases how ambition and a poorly understood new technology can birth a monster.

6. Mother Teresa

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Speaking of Frankenstein and how science can birth monsters, not every teacher has to teach science. Technology is usually morally neutral, and it can be used by good and bad people alike.

Morality is just as important, if not more important than understanding the mechanisms of the Universe. Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us by example and showed us how a single person’s dedication can touch many more lives.

Charity is never a bad cause.

7. Queen Victoria

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You know that you’ve done something right when an entire age of history is named after you. Queen Victoria was England’s monarch during what many consider to be the nation’s Golden Age.

Victorian England is considered British civilization’s peak, an age of unparalleled cultural relevance, moral fortitude, and national confidence.

As an outsider, the things that you consider to be stereotypically British probably come (at least were popularized) during this golden age.

8. Maria Montessori

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If you have to mass-produce something, usually the quality will suffer. Sadly, the Education system often aims for a happy medium, and almost treats students like assembly line products rather than unique beings.

Maria Montessori developed her namesake method, which has a much more personal and engaging touch in regard to teaching.

9. Margaret MacMillan


MacMillan is an esteemed Oxford teacher who specializes in history. She achieved excellence in her field, and also earned several honorary degrees.

Her most famous work is arguably “Women of the Raj”.

10. Joan of Arc


Let’s close things out with a woman that shaped history, and can serve as inspiration for all women, French people, Catholics, and freedom fighters.

Joan of Arc was a legendary figure in French history, a maiden of humble origins who fought against an occupying and invading army. In an age of knights, armor, and brutal physical strength, Joan taught everyone a lesson in courage, loyalty, and faith.

And, of course, like any good person in history, she was ultimately betrayed by her people and given to the enemy. Still, the thought of this tiny, pure girl acting as the focal point for the will of a besieged nation, remains one of history’s most powerful images.


Although there are some subjects and career paths that have been traditionally viewed as male-dominated, these 10 women prove that gender makes no difference and you can excel in any field you put your heart into.

These very impressive ladies dominated warfare, leadership, statecraft, academic education, religion, philosophy, writing, and so much more.

They have become totems of our society and inspirations for young women who wish to follow in their footsteps.

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