Wise Women

Faith Thomas

Faith Thomas was the first indigenous woman selected to play any sport for Australia. Faith was born in the Nepabunna Aboriginal mission in South Australia in 1933. Her mother, Ivy, was a traditional Adnyamathana woman from the Flinders Ranges, her father [...]

Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading was born in 1950 in Basseterre on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, the third of six children. When she was three years old, her parents moved with their two eldest boys to Birmingham, England, while Joan was sent to live with her [...]

Margaret Fulton

Born in Scotland in 1924, Margaret's parents emigrated to Australia when she was 3 years old. She began as a cooking teacher at the Overseas Corporation in 1947 and was later promoted to sales manager. Gaining a reputation as a Home [...]

Susan Ryan

Born in Sydney in 1942, Susan Ryan graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Master of Arts in English Literature from the ANU. Following graduation she served as a delegate to the ACT Labor [...]

Danielle Steel

Danielle Schuelein-Steel was born in New York City in 1947, and spent much of her childhood in France. Danielle started writing stories as a child, and by her late teens had begun writing poetry. From an early age she was included [...]

Dame Carol Kidu

Carol Millwater was born in Brisbane in 1948. Originally trained as a teacher, Carol’s life was transformed when she met her future husband Buri Kidu, a young boy on a colonial scholarship from Papua New Guinea, on a school camp in [...]

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy was born in Dublin in 1939, the oldest of the four children. She went on to study at University College Dublin (where she earned a bachelor's degree in history), worked as a teacher of French, Latin, and history at [...]

Gloria Steinem

Born in Ohio in 1934, Gloria had an unsettled childhood, living in a trailer from which her father carried out his trade as a roaming antiques dealer, attending school sporadically until she was 11. Before Gloria was born, her mother had [...]

Quentin Bryce

The second of four daughters, Quentin Bryce grew up in the small town of Ilfracombe, near Longreach, where all of the children in her family were home-schooled. Later moving to Brisbane, Quentin met her future husband Michael at school (they were [...]

Dame Judi Dench

Judi Dench has developed a reputation as one of the greatest British actresses of the post-war period, primarily through her work in theatre, and later films. Judi Dench was born in Yorkshire in 1934. She attended a Quaker school in York [...]

Susan Alberti

Businesswoman, philanthropist and women’s football pioneer Susan Alberti was named the 2018 Victorian of the Year. A defining moment in Susan's life was her journey to New York to collect her daughter Danielle who was suffering severe complications from type 1 [...]

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen got her big debut as a comedian in 1986 aged 28, on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson after working in standup for a few years and making regular appearances on the talk show circuit. Finding success as an actress [...]

Pat O’Shane

Trailblazer Pat O'Shane's life is full of "firsts" - the first female Aboriginal teacher in Queensland; the first Aboriginal to earn a law degree; the first Aboriginal barrister; and the first woman and indigenous person to be the head of a [...]

Melissa Fleming

As Head of Communications and chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming works to drive empathy and generate support for the world’s 65 million refugees and displaced people. Prior to working for the UNHCR, she served [...]

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi is an 89 year old Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting,  performance, film, fashion, poetry and fiction. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to [...]

Susan Kiefel

In January 2017, Susan Kiefel was sworn in as the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Australia. That she came into the law without any prior social or family connection, marked her as an outlier in the upper echelons [...]

Amy Tan

Born in the US to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At age 15, she lost her older brother and father, both to brain tumours within six months of each other. Believing they [...]

Olga Korbut

As a young gymnast from Belarus, Olga Korbut was nicknamed the "Sparrow from Minsk", winning four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games, in 1972 and 1976 for the Soviet team. She also won an individual gold [...]

Robyn Archer

A specialist in cabaret, Robyn Archer has released 10 solo albums, several more as collaborations, and written 20-odd shows for theatre, including The Pack of Women which was adapted into a TV special for the ABC. Born in Adelaide, Robyn was [...]

Barbara Deming

A prolific author and activist, American Barbara Deming is known for her nonviolent political activism. She directed plays, taught dramatic literature and wrote and published fiction and non-fiction works. On a trip to India in 1959, inspired by Gandhi's writings, Barbara [...]

Violet Roumeliotis

As CEO of Settlement Services International (SSI), Violet Roumeliotis was named Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year for 2017 – selected from 4000 entrants for her work building her not-for-profit organisation that helps settle refugees in Australia. Growing up as [...]

Gerda Lerner

Gerda Lerner was a historian and scholar who pioneered the field of women's history. Born in Vienna, Gerda became involved in the anti-Nazi resistance in 1938. After spending 6 weeks in gaol, Gerda was sponsored to emigrate to the United States. [...]

Tu Youyou

Born in China in 1930, Tu Youyou was educated at private schools but was forced to take a two-year break from schooling when she contracted tuberculosis at 15. Her recovery from TB left her determined to pursue a career in medicine, [...]

Ann Dunwoody

General Ann Dunwoody (retired) is the first woman in US military history to achieve a four star officer rank. Her father, Brigadier General Dunwoody, was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and [...]

Isabel Allende

The feminist author is known for the strong portrayals of women she gives in her works. Born into a Chilean family with political ties, she went into exile in the United States in the 1970s – an event that, she believes, [...]

Lente Roode

It was during her childhood that Lente developed a great love for animals and the African bushveld. At just six years old Lente was given an orphaned cheetah cub after a neighbouring farmer had shot its mother. Together, Lente and her [...]

Jody Williams

Born in 1950 in Vermont, USA., Jody Williams learned to hate injustice at an early age when she witnessed fellow school children ruthlessly bullying her brother who was deaf and suffered from schizophrenia. Williams spent eleven years on various projects related [...]

Helen Clark

The eldest of four daughters of a farming family based in the Waikato region, Helen graduated with an MA (Honours) from the University of Auckland in 1974, majoring in politics. As a teenager Helen became politically active, protesting against the Vietnam [...]

Gillian Armstrong

Born in Melbourne, Armstrong attended Swinburne Technical College with the intention of becoming a theatre costume designer, but became increasingly interested in film. In 1972 Armstrong won a scholarship to join the first 12 students at Australia’s first and only film [...]

Dr Shirin Ebadi

Shirin studied law at the University of Tehran and passed the judicial qualification exams upon her graduation in 1969, continuing her studies, to earn a Ph.D. in law. As a lawyer, she is known for taking up pro bono cases of [...]

Christina Fonfé

After learning 80 percent of those who drowned during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami were women and children, British swimming instructor Christina Fonfé left her life in England behind to teach Sri Lankan women and girls basic swimming survival skills. Christina [...]

Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop was born in New York City to professional musician parents, and was educated at the Masters School. She attended Yale University, but later transferred to the Juilliard School, where she earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in violin. [...]

Jenny Kee

Born in Bondi in 1947 to a Chinese father and Anglo-Italian mother, Jenny Kee's eclectic designer style is a fusion of fashion and art. Jenny studied fashion design at the East Sydney Technical College in 1963, however her love of exotic [...]

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright paved the way for women when she became the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton's administration. Her position made her the highest-ranking woman in the federal government's history – representing the US at the transfer of [...]

Michelle Obama

Michelle Robinson was raised on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle’s father suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had a profound emotional effect on her as she was growing up. She was determined to stay out of trouble and be a good [...]

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is one of the most-honoured female country performers of all time. A composer of more than 3,000 songs, she is also one of the few to have received at least one nomination from the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony [...]

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