The Amazing Story of the First Lady of Physics

Five months after China ended 5,000 years of monarchy and became a republic, a girl named Chien-Shiung Wu was born. As a grown woman, she earned nicknames like the “Chinese Marie Curie,” “Madame Wu,” and the “Dragon Lady” by her students at Columbia University. This is the amazing story of the “First Lady of Physics.” Early Life Born on May 31, 1912, Chien-Shiung (pronounced Chen Shoong) Wu was the only daughter and middle child of three. Her parents were, Zhong-Yi and Fanhua Fan. They lived in Liuhe, a small town near Shanghai, China. Wu’s parents wanted their daughter to study science and mathematics, but no schools in China admitted females. So her father (an engineer by training) started one of the first schools in China for girls, the Mingde Women’s Vocational Continuing School. He served as headmaster and her mother worked as a teacher. At 11, Wu continued her education at the boarding school, Suzhou Women’s Normal School Number 2. Students who attended the “normal school” (teacher-training college) wanted to go to college. When she finished school, government regulations required that she teach for a year. Wu served as a teacher at the Public School of China, in Shanghai in […]

She Threw Off Her Veil and Changed the World

She threw off her veil and changed the world. Huda Shaarawi (pronunciation) grew up in a harem and became Egypt’s leading women’s rights activist. Also, a philanthropist and founder of the first Egyptian feminist organization, Huda’s defiance still influences the world today. Early Life Huda Shaarawi (Also Huda Sharawi, Hudā Shaʿrāwī, Hoda Charaaoui) was born June 23, 1879 to a wealthy, landed family about 150 miles south of Cairo. Her birth name was Nour Al-Huda Mohamed Sultan Shaarawi. Her father, Muhammad Sultan Pasha, the first Egyptian to rise through all the ranks of government, died when she was four or five. After his death, her eldest cousin, Ali Shaarawi, became the trustee of his estate and her legal guardian. The Harem Huda grew up in the harem system. A system that existed in Muslim countries from the 17th century to the early 20th century. Harems were a secure, private part of the house. The harem secluded women and prepubescent children in this portion of their home. Women wore veils when they left their rooms. Royalty and wealthy families often had large harems that included wives, concubines, and female attendants or maids. But even the poor had harems, though their quarters […]

The First Female Presidential Candidate Spent Election Day in Jail

Fifty years before women could vote, a woman ran for the top office in the land. The law didn’t allow her to vote, but there was no law against her running for President of the United States of America. An activist for women’s rights, Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838-1927) the first female Presidential candidate spent election day in jail. Early Life Born on September 23, 1838 in Homer, Ohio, Victoria was the seventh of ten children. Her mother, Madame Roxanna “Roxy” Hummel Claflin, was a follower of the spiritualist movement. From early childhood, Victoria believed spirts guided and protected her. Her work as a spiritual clairvoyant and fortune-teller provided income for her impoverished family. Reuben Buckman Claflin, her father and a con man, burned the family’s rotting gristmill and tried to collect on his insurance. When the town recognized his arson and fraud, the family left town. Victoria completed only three years of school. The Claflin family medicine show traveled the country, telling fortunes and selling patent medicines. Biographers disagree on Victoria’s early history. One claims her father abused her physically (whippings). Another claims she was a victim of sexual abused by her father. First Marriage When she was fourteen, […]