The First Commander: Eileen Collins

The first female Commander and pilot of a Space Shuttle, Colonel Eileen Marie Collins served with NASA and accomplished a distinguished and long career in the service, logging 38 days, eight hours and 20 minutes in outer space. Since retirement, Eileen has disappeared from the spotlight as has her trailblazing achievement, but what Eileen did …

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The Reformer: Edith Cowan

Unheard of outside of Australia, Edith Cowan is something of a bloody legend, as the Australians would say. An Australian social reformer who fought for the rights and welfare of children, women and the underprivileged, she devoted her life to lasting social change and, in the process, became the first Australian woman to serve as …

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The Baroness of Flight: Raymonde de Laroche

Raymonde de Laroche lived a short but adventurous life as a daredevil extraordinaire, widely believed to be the first woman to ever pilot an aircraft and the first, for sure, licenced female pilot, gaining her licence 111 years ago. Even more remarkably, she was only the 36th person of any gender to receive a pilot’s …

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The Simple Pleasures: Beatrix Potter

Known for ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, one of the bestselling children’s books of all time, Beatrix Potter was a writer and illustrator, but also a noted natural scientist and conservationist. It’s often said that childhood would be a lot less fascinating without her, the animal characters she created captivating and feeding the imagination of …

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The First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald

The joy of Ella Fitzgerald’s accessible and iconic elegance led to her being dubbed The First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and, for some, simply… Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation and a ‘horn-like’ improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. She was more than …

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The Star of India: Kalpana Chawla

The first female Indian astronaut and only the second Indian astronaut, after Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana making her name in NASA across several shuttle missions. Whilst her name is not known outside of India, in that country she is revered, a national hero, a name on the lips of every child taught in school about one …

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Peace to the East: The Lester Sisters

Muriel and Doris Lester were two of five children of Henry Edward Lester, an eminent Victorian shipping engineer, owning a ship repair yard in Blackwall Docks, born in 1883 and 1886. This was a life of a middle-class family living in Leytonstone. This was a prosperous part of Essex. Muriel and Doris grew up in …

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The Rhythm of Africa: Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley, the first black American to publish a book of poetry, had a childhood as the worst of nightmares. She was taken by force and sold into slavery as a very young child, transported to Boston, America. But her captors saw something in young Phillis, a raw talent that they were keen to nurture, …

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The Original ‘It’ Girl: Clara Bow

An American actress rising to stardom during the silent era of the 1920s, making the transition to the talkies in the 1930s, earning the nickname, ‘The Original It Girl’. She came to personify the Roaring Twenties and became its leading sex symbol, receiving 45,000 fan letters a month at the height of her fame. She …

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The First Nobel: Bertha von Suttner

The wonderfully named Baroness Bertha Sophie Felicitas Freifrau von Suttner, Countess Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, born on June 9th, 1843 (happy 178th birthday), was an Austrian-Bohemian pacifist and novelist who was the product of an aristocratic society, her family rooted in militaristic traditions of which she accepted without question. But in the second half …

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