Emilia Casanova de Villaverde: Firebrand of The Cuban Revolution

Caves Beneath Her Bronx Mansion Were Packed With Guns and Explosives

US forces landing in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898 with headshot of Emilia Casanova de Villaverde
Internationally famed for devoting her fortune and entire adult life to a crusade to overthrow the colonial Spanish rulers of Cuba, Emilia Casanova de Villaverde died 17 months before U.S. forces invaded and conquered the island in 1898, severing its ties to Spain. Here, U.S. troops go ashore at Daiquiri, Cuba.

The future Emilia Casanova de Villaverde was a willful, headstrong teenager and never one to hold her tongue. She lacked the “coquettish manners believed to be natural in young women.” But what she had was a fire in her belly for Cuban independence in the late 19th century when Cuba was still governed by Spain. So much so that at a convivial banquet attended by Spanish authorities, she rose to lift her glass in a very public toast “to the freedom of the world and the independence of Cuba.” Talk about knowing how to clear a room.

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History’s Deadliest Female Sniper: Ukraine’s Lyudmila Pavlichenko

World War II Hero Credited with 309 Nazi Kills

World War II Ukranian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko with rifle
Enrolled in Kyiv University as a history student when the Nazis invaded in 1941, 25-year-old Ukrainian rifle sportswoman Lyudmila Pavlichenko joined the military and went on to gain international fame as a World War II sniper. Today’s female Ukrainian warriors follow in her footsteps.

Of all the fierce Ukrainian warriors who have grabbed the world’s attention as they battle the current Russian invasion, one of the most unusual (and deliberately unsung) is a female Ukrainian Marine sniper known to the outside world only as “Charcoal.”

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Socialite, Arctic Explorer, Wartime Secret Agent: Louise Boyd

Turning Fabulous Wealth and Arduous Journeys into New Scientific Knowledge

1931 photo of the head of the Franz Josef Fiord, a Russian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean
Born into fabulous San Francisco wealth in 1887, Louise Arner Boyd spent it all during a long career of organizing her own scientific expeditions to some of the planet’s most remote and foreboding frozen regions. She left behind troves of documentation that remain relevant in today’s struggle against climate change.

Louise Boyd wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Hers was made of gold. Her grandfather made a fortune in the California Gold Rush of 1848; her father was a mining magnate with a stake in a gold mine, and president of San Francisco’s Boyd Investment Company. Her mother was a New York socialite.

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Ida Holdgreve: Wright Brothers’ Plane Seamstress

Played a major role in earliest era of powered human flight

Seamstress Ida Holdgreve at work in the Wright Brothers’ Ohio factory in 1911. Her work was crucial in the earliest era of powered human flight when airplanes were made of wood, wire and fabric, including the DH-4, which was the only American-built plane to fly in combat in World War I.

Had computers and Spell Check! existed in 1910, we might never know the name Ida Holdgreve. Lucky for her, a simple typo in a local newspaper ad led to her finding a place in history as the first woman to work in the American aviation industry.

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Dr. Margaret Chung: Proud ‘Mom’ of WWII’s Fair-Haired Bastards

First Chinese American Female Physician and Wartime Celebrity

Planes of the 'Flying Tigers' unit in World War II.
In one of the more unlikely pairings of World War II, Margaret Chung, the country’s first Chinese-American female physician, helped recruit fighter pilots for the “Flying Tigers.” That unit of P40 aircraft, famed for its planes’ shark face nose art, was secretly equipped and trained by the U.S. military. Its pilots operated in China as mercenaries helping to repel Japanese air raids during the year before America officially entered the war.

From the time she was 10 years old, Margaret Chung wanted to become a doctor. But with no dolls or toys to practice on, she resorted to using banana peels to practice her suture technique. Born into a time when the stories of Chinese Americans were those of rejection and exclusion, Margaret Chung learned early on she would need to forge a distinctive path for herself if she were to achieve her dreams.

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Code Cracker Extraordinaire Elizebeth Smith Friedman

A Cryptographic Sleuth Who Took Down Mobsters, Spies, and Nazis

Top secret Cryptoanalyst Elizebeth Smith Friedman cracked the Nazi military's Enigma code systems.
A driving force in the creation of the modern craft and science of cryptography, or code cracking, Elizebeth Smith Friedman spent a top secret career bringing down mobsters, spies and Nazi enemies.

Most people can’t name anyone whose career took them from searching for hidden messages in Shakespeare’s works to Nazi code busting to foiling Prohibition rum runners and sending mobsters to the slam. But that’s exactly how Elizebeth Smith Friedman liked it. She was perfectly happy working in the shadows as a complete unknown.

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