Wise Women Stories

Wise Women Stories2019-04-19T11:32:52+00:00

Our mission is to shine a light on the determination, talent, achievements, passion and wisdom of 50+ women, both past and present.

Be inspired.

Receive a thoughtful quote from a wise woman (with a short bio) to start your day, Monday through Friday.

Dr Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco in 1932 and trained as an occupational therapist. In 1963 she took a brief trip to Africa, where she met the anthropologist Louis Leakey and had her first glimpse of mountain [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Julia Child

Julia McWilliams was born in California in 1912. At six feet, two inches (1.88m) tall, she played tennis, golf, and basketball as a youth and at Smith College, from which she graduated in with a major in History. [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Mary Blair

Artist, animator, and designer Mary Blair was born in Oklahoma 1911. Her first professional job in the animation industry was as an animator with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, afterwards joining her husband Lee Blair at the Ub Iwerks studio. In the [...]

Rachel Carson

Perhaps the finest nature writer of the Twentieth Century, Rachel Carson is remembered more today as the woman who challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature by chemicals, bombs and space travel than for her studies [...]

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, [...]

Vanessa Redgrave

Vanessa Redgrave was born in London in 1937 into a family of actors. Both of her grandparents and her parents were actors – Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson – as well as her siblings Corin and Lynn [...]

Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Chanel was born into poverty in the Loire Valley of France in 1883. When her mother died when she was 12, her father sent his two sons to work as farm labourers and his three daughters to [...]

Margaret Preston

Born Margaret McPherson in Port Adelaide in 1875, Margaret moved to Melbourne in 1893 where she studied at the National Gallery of Victoria School of Arts under the painter Fredrick McCubbin and Director, Bernard Hall. In 1904 she [...]

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, [...]

Dr Grace Hopper

Called the "queen of code" and "mother of computing", Grace Hopper was one of the world’s first computer programmers. Hopper attained a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University and was a professor of mathematics at Vassar College. When [...]

Shirley MacLaine

Born in 1934, young Shirley Beaty had weak ankles as a toddler – would falling over with the slightest misstep. So her mother enrolled her in a ballet class at the age of three which sparked her interest [...]

Wilma Mankiller

In 1983, Wilma Mankiller was elected the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation – the first woman ever to serve as chief of a major Native American tribe. Her last name, Mankiller derives from the high military [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Amelia Earhart

Born in 1897, Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer, feminist and author. Aged 23, she visited an airfield with her father where Frank Hawks gave her a ride that would change her life. "By the time I [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Tenley Albright

From an early age Tenley had two ambitions, to be a doctor and to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. She started skating at 9 years of age, but was diagnosed with polio the next year. [...]

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 [...]

Cecilia Payne

British born Cecilia Payne is the reason we know basically anything about variable stars (stars whose brightness as seen from earth fluctuates) as literally every other study on variable stars is based on her work. Cecilia won a [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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. [...]

Christine Lagarde

An anti-trust and labour lawyer, Christine Lagarde was the first female chair of major international law firm Baker & McKenzie, between 1999 and 2004. Born into a family of academics, as a teenager, Christine was a member of [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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, [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Maria Montessori

Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori enrolled in the University of Rome's school of medicine in 1893. As a woman, she faced hostility from both fellow students and professors, but despite opposition, graduated with her degree and [...]

Carmen Yulín Cruz

Carmen Yulín Cruz is the elected mayor of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, since 2012. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located approximately 1,600 km southeast of Miami, Florida. Puerto Ricans are [...]

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 [...]

Elizabeth Kenny

A self-trained Australian Bush nurse, Elizabeth Kenny was famous in the 1930s and 1940s for developing a controversial new approach for treating victims of polio. Instead of the conventional treatment of placing affected limbs in plaster casts, Kenny [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Dr Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up while the South was racially segregated. Her father instilled in his daughter that black people would have to prove themselves worthy of advancement, and would simply have to [...]

Helen Keller

Born in Alabama in 1880, Helen Keller contracted an illness which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis which left her both deaf and blind at 19 months old. When she was six years old, her mother was [...]

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, [...]

Vivienne Westwood

Considered one of the most unconventional and outspoken fashion designers in the world, Westwood rose to fame in the late 1970s when her early designs helped shape the look of the punk rock movement, in partnership with Malcolm [...]

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was a writer, cartographer, archaeologist, and explorer who helped establish modern day Jordan and Iraq after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Both the British government and the Arab leaders claimed that she was valuable help [...]

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand was born in Brooklyn, New York, growing up in near-poverty after her father died suddenly when she was one year old. Although she knew her voice was good and she liked the attention it brought when [...]

Posie Graeme-Evans

Posie Graeme-Evans has worked in Australian film and television for the last 30 years as a director, commissioning executive and creator/producer of hundreds of hours of drama and children’s series, including the worldwide smash hit McLeod’s Daughters and [...]

Lucille Ball

Beginning her career in 1929 as a model, Lucille Ball was the star of the self-produced sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, and Life with Lucy. After marrying Cuban bandleader Desi [...]

Kerri Judd QC

Kerri Judd's career has included stints as a judge's associate and a defence barrister and she represented the state at the royal commissions into the Black Saturday bushfires and child sexual abuse. She also spent time in Alice [...]

Joanne Rowling

Joanne Rowling is a British novelist, philanthropist, film producer, television producer and screenwriter, best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series. The books have won multiple awards, and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling [...]

Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg is one of today’s best-known Buddhist teachers. Born in New York City in 1952, Sharon Salzberg experienced a childhood involving considerable loss and turmoil. However, the teachings of Buddhism would eventually turn her life around. Through [...]

Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes was an American actress whose career spanned 80 years. Making her stage debut in 1905 as a five-year-old singer, she is one of 15 people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a [...]

Mireille Guiliano

A native of France, Mireille Guiliano grew up in Lorraine amidst cooks, chefs, and restaurateurs. After a year as an exchange student in the United States, she completed her education in Paris, receiving her Master's degree in French [...]

Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

Elinor Catherine Hamlin is an Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist who, with her husband, New Zealander Dr. Reginald Hamlin, co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The Fistula Hospital is the world's only medical centre dedicated exclusively to providing free obstetric [...]

Amina J. Mohammed

Former Minister of Environment of Nigeria, Amina Mohammed was born in Nigeria in 1961. The eldest of five daughters, her mother is British, while her father is a Nigerian. In a 2017 article in the Guardian Ms Mohammed [...]

Isha Judd

Born in Melbourne in 1962, Isha Judd has lived in South America since 2000, where she has built a large following as a writer and teacher as an Ambassador for Peace. She is the founder of Isha Educating [...]

Annie Lennox

Annie Lennox Musician and AIDS Activist Since 2005, pop singer Annie Lennox has devoted the majority of her time to her SING campaign, raising awareness and money to combat HIV/AIDS. She shares the experiences that have inspired her, [...]

Dr Musimbi Kanyoro

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro President and CEO of Global Fund for Women Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is an activist for women and girls’ health and human rights, and passionate about using philanthropy and technology to drive social change. Born in [...]

Pam Warhurst

Pam Warhurst: Eating our landscapes With energy and humour, Pam Warhurst tells the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change [...]

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is currently Chancellor of Germany. She is also the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Merkel has been described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, [...]

Dr Jane Goodall

"My job is giving people hope" • This video interview is part of the Human – the movie project Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born in 1934 in London. Jane had always been passionate about animals and Africa, which brought her to [...]

Annie Liebovitz

An American portrait photographer, Anna-Lou Leibovitz was born in Connecticut, in 1949, the third of six children. Her mother Marilyn was a modern dance instructor of Estonian-Jewish heritage. Her father Samuel was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air [...]

Jane Fonda

Jane Seymour Fonda is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model and fitness guru. She is a two-time Academy Award winner, two-time BAFTA Award winner, and four-time Golden Globe Award winner. In 2014, Fonda was the recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 2017, she was awarded [...]

Heather McKay

Heather McKay, AM, MBE, AO was born Heather Blundell in 1941, the eighth of eleven children growing up in Queanbeyan, NSW. She played tennis in summer and hockey in winter. and most of her brothers and sisters also [...]

Alla Wolf Tasker

Alla Wolf Tasker has enough national and international awards to fill virtually every wall of her house on the lake. Recent accolades include a listing in Tatler’s Top 100 hotels in the world, listing in The Australian’s Hottest [...]

Joan Baez

American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist, Joan Baez has performed publicly for over 55 years. Joan Baez was born in New York in 1941 after her grandfather had emigrated to the US from Mexico. When a child, a friend [...]

Francine Christophe

Francine Christophe is a French writer and poetess born in 1933. She was deported with her mother to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. Released in 1945, she continues to share her experience and memories and regularly speaks to [...]

Betty Friedan

A leading figure in the women's movement in the United States, Betty Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is often credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century. The "Problem That Has No [...]

Marie Curie

Marie Skłodowska Curie was born on 7 November in 1867 in Poland (later naturalised French). The physicist and chemist pioneered the research on radioactivity together with her husband Pierre Curie. Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity (a term that [...]

Corazón Aquino

Corazón Aquino: Political Pioneer Corazón Aquino was a Filipina politician who served as the 11th President of the Philippines, the first woman to hold that office, and the first female president in Asia. Regarded as the "Icon of [...]

Jill Bolte Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor: An extraordinary journey One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realised she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions [...]

Helena Rubinstein

Not that many people know about Helena Rubinstein's Australian connections. Chaya Rubinstein was born in Kraców, Poland in 1870, the eldest of eight daughters of Horace Rubinstein, an egg merchant and his wife Augusta. When her father suggested marriage [...]

Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville: Pioneer Scientist Mary Fairfax Somerville was born on 27 December 1780, the daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir William George Fairfax (scion of a distinguished family of Fairfaxes), and was related to several prominent Scottish houses through her mother. She [...]

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen: First woman Chair of US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen became the new chair of the US Federal Reserve on 31 January 2014. Yellen, 67, is the first woman to head the US Federal Reserve in its [...]

Hanna Rosin

Hanna Rosin reviews startling new data that shows women actually surpassing men in several important measures, such as college graduation rates. Do these trends, both US-centric and global, signal the "end of men"? Probably not – but they point [...]