March: International Women's Day

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Some thoughts on International Women's Day, interesting articles and site update.

Marie Stopes in her laboratory

International Women's Day

8 March is International Women’s Day; this gives historians and students a great opportunity to remember key women who have influenced history.

We already mentioned in our last blog Rosa Luxembourg, as January 2019 was the 100 year anniversary of her death.

But it is always astonishing how many women have been overlooked by historians. Recently I have become aware of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who played a pivotal role in the US space manned flights.

NASA Computer Katherine Johnson Celebrates Her 100th Birthday (Forbes)

NASA human computer Katherine Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday in a ceremony that unveiled a statue and STEM scholarship in her honor at West Virginia State University. Defying racial and gender barriers, Johnson was renowned throughout her career for her mathematical precision.

I recommend the movie Hidden Figures for highlighting just how important her work was and the barriers she faced in her work.

Linked to the space theme, I was also fascinated to find out about the Mercury 13 women who trained to go into space and whose opportunities were abruptly ended by NASA and President Johnson.

Mercury 13: the untold story of women testing for spaceflight in the 1960s (the Guardian)

In a new Netflix documentary, the tales of 13 female pilots who dreamed of becoming astronauts yet were denied the opportunity by Nasa are finally brought to light.

I have also just watched a documentary on Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood actress who was also a prolific inventor; she actually invented an torpedo guidance system for the US navy – but never got any credit or money for this.

Hedy Lamarr: Hollywood's secret weapon inventor (

Hedy Lamarr played much more than "the most beautiful woman in the world" as an Austrian-American actress during Hollywood's Golden Age. The mathematically-minded inventor created a new torpedo guidance system for the U.S. Navy, among other things.

Again, there is documentary called Bombshell on Netflix about Hedy Lamarr which I would recommend.

More closely linked to our IB curriculum is this article on women scientists in the First World War: Unrecorded and unrecognized, much less inscribed in stone, is an entire class of patriots that British society has willfully forgotten over the past century: the women who gave their all for the war effort, including many who even gave their lives.

The Original Hidden Figures (Foreign Affairs)

Elaine Weiss reviews Patricia Fara's account of British female scientists during World War I.

Although you need a subscription for Foreign Affairs you can get one free article a month if you sign up.

And of course there are many other women who had key roles in every day life – also mainly unreported. This is a great photo of women during the Great Depression travelling the USA by horseback to bring books to communities.

Female Librarians on Horseback Delivering Books, ca. 1930s (History Daily)

The horseback librarians were mostly made up of women. They were paid salaries by the Works Progress Administration.


We always get excited on this blog about historical anniversaries and this is an interesting article by Dan Snow about why he also finds them important:

Why Are Historical Anniversaries so Important to Us? (History Hit)

15 years of TV shows, podcasts, online videos, social media posts, live events, books, articles and random conversations has convinced me of the power of anniversary. ...

New resources

This looks interesting – a new movie about Gareth Jones  who attempted to report on the reality of the Ukrainian famine

“Mr. Jones” tells the story of the man who exposed the Ukrainian famine (The Economist)

The film, starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard, portrays journalism as a type of heroism

This is also an interesting article on a topic which students enjoy debating:

Do historical objects belong in their country of origin? | History Today (

When, 3,000 years ago, sculptors in the Assyrian Empire chiselled into being winged, human-headed bulls for King Ashurnasirpal II, they could not have dreamt that their creations would end up centuries later in museums thousands of miles away. The five-legged, alabaster beasts were not made for brightly-lit galleries. Even if we wanted to, it would not be possible to return them to their place of origin. 

Site update

This month has seen the completion of Topic 10: Nationalism and Independence in India (1919–1964);

Topic 10: Nationalism and independence in India (1919–1964)

This topic examines the development of nationalism in India, from the end of the First World War to the achievement of Indian independence. It also examines the development of India to 1964.

In addition we have added a new Extended Essay on the French Revolution and the role of women

In the next few weeks we will be adding ATL pages to the Americas Civil War topic and Political developments in Latin America (1945–1980), as well as Political developments in the Middle East after 1945.

And our new project is World history topic 6: Causes and effects of Early Modern wars (1500–1750) for Paper 2. Please contact us if you have suggestions of which examples of wars you would like to see in this topic.


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