4. Wilma Rudolph
Photo Credit: Seiya234
You may know this name and the fact that Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics, but are you aware of the enormous odds she was up against?
Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940 in Bethlehem, Tennessee, the twentieth of 22 children. Born with polio, she also suffered from pneumonia and scarlet fever as a young child, and wore a leg brace between the ages of five and 11. With predictions that she would never be able to walk properly, Rudolph nevertheless got involved in school sports by the time she was 13, and soon began winning track races.
At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, her relay team won the bronze medal. Four years later, she set a world record for the 200 meter dash during the Olympic trials. Then during the Olympic games in Rome, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash and the 400 meter relay.
Wow! Starting off facing such formidable obstacles, Wilma Rudolph certainly achieved greatness and received numerous awards in recognition of her success, including the Black Sports Hall of Fame, the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
In 1993, she became the first recipient of President Clinton’s National Sports Award. She died of a brain tumor at the age of 54.
5. Maria Montessori
As a teacher myself, I had no hesitation in choosing Maria Montessori for this list. She was born in Rome, Italy in 1870 to an upper middle class family, and in 1896 she became Italy’s first female doctor. One can only imagine how persistent she had to be to achieve such a seemingly impossible goal.
After that she started working with disabled children but soon abandoned the traditional reading and reciting teaching methods, favoring the use of concrete objects. She revolutionized education by her belief that children learn best by doing and experiencing, and not by memorizing. When her students scored higher than the “regular” students on the same test, she knew she wanted to extend her approach to all children, and she opened a Casa dei Bambini in the slums of Rome.
Her influence on the education of young children has been enormous, not just in the numerous Montessori schools around the world, but for all preschool and kindergarten students.
Montessori died in 1952.
Of course there are plenty more female heroes — who would you like to see on this list?
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