Whilst Mary Wollstonecraft is not particularly ‘unsung’ nowadays, in fact she is deemed one of the foremost feminist philosophers; she was widely criticised during her lifetime for both her radical writings and unconventional lifestyle. Born in 1757 to a financially unstable family, Wollstonecraft took up different occupations before making the revolutionary decision to become an author.
Helen Merrill, born on the 21st July 1930 to Croatian immigrant parents in New York City, is an internationally known jazz vocalist whose recording career has spanned six decades and is popular with fans of jazz all over the world, especially Japan and Italy, as well as her native, the United States. She began singing in jazz clubs in the Bronx at the incredibly young age of fourteen and by the time she was sixteen, Merrill had taken up music full time. Merrill combines jazz, pop and blues songs along with several traditional Croatian songs and has recorded and performed with some of the most notable figures in the American jazz scene including Chet Baker and Stan Getz.
Someone who marked a momentous milestone for women, yet is overlooked in public memory, is Shirley Chisholm, the first black women elected to Congress, and the first black woman to run for a presidential nomination.
Manal al-Sharif is a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist, and author of “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening”, who helped kickstart the protest movement for the right for women to drive in the country in 2011.
Determined from an early age to devote her life to music and to become a composer in her own right Dame Ethel Smyth DBE DMus, overcame her father’s strong opposition to this intention and became a significant English composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Sappho has many labels, varying from being the godmother of feminism, an LGBT icon, the muse of a thousand poets to ‘a sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness’. And yet despite this, little is known of her life. She was born in Lesbos and was a teacher at an academy for unmarried women who later became well known for her homoerotic and highly emotional poetry. Based on surviving writings, she is suspected to have married and had one daughter, Cleis, before her death.