From Marie Curie to Marilyn Monroe | Era-Defining Women

A Woman's World, 1850–1960 explores the many roles – domestic, social, cultural and professional – played by women across the world before second-wave feminism took hold.

Above: Elizabeth Arden, Canadian-American businesswoman who founded what is now Elizabeth Arden, Inc., and went on to build a cosmetics empire in the United States. By 1929, she owned 150 salons in Europe and the US. Arden was, at the peak of her career, one of the wealthiest women in the world.

Using Marina Amaral’s beautifully colourised images and author Dan Jones’s words, A Woman’s World features women both celebrated and ordinary, whether in the science lab, protesting on the streets, performing on stage, fighting in the trenches, running for election, or exploring the wild. This vivid and unique history brings to life and full colour the female experience in a century of extraordinary change. Here are some key selections of the magnificent characters that populate A Woman’s World.

Rosita Forbes

Rosita Forbes A Woman's World

Rosita Forbes was a famed English travel writer and explorer. After serving as an ambulance drive rand paramedic during the First World War, her maiden journey as a journalist was in Libya, in the winter of 1920-1. It was here she became the first non-Muslim woman to enter the closed city of Kufra. Dressed as a Muslim woman named ‘Khadija’, Rosita took photographs with a concealed camera before journeying by camel-train with Egyptian explorer Hassanien Bey.

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori A Woman's World

Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was an Italian educator who renewed education by developing a particular method known as the Montessori Method, which would initially be applied in Italian primary schools and later all over the world. Aimed particularly at preschool children, it was based on encouraging the initiative and response capacity of children through the use of specially designed teaching material. The method proposed great diversification of work and as much freedom as possible, so children would learn by themselves, in line with the rhythm of their own discoveries.

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson A Woman's World

Althea Gibson was an American tennis player and professional golfer, one of the first black athletes to cross the colour line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first African-American to win a Grand Slam title.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie White Coats A Woman's World

Marie Curie, born in 1867, was a Polish and naturalised-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker A Woman's World

Josephine Baker was an American-born French dancer, singer and actress. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France, where she became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics, directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant.

Eva Perón

Eva Peron A Woman's World

Eva Perón, born in 1919, was an Argentine actress, politician, activist, and philanthropist who served as First Lady of Argentina from June 1946 until her death in July 1952, as the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón. She was born in poverty in the rural village of Los Toldos, the youngest of five children. In 1934, at the age of 15, she moved to the nation’s capital of Buenos Aires to pursue a career as a stage, radio, and film actress.

Perón began her political career by campaigning for labour rights. She also ran the Ministries of Labor and Health, founded and ran the charitable Eva Perón Foundation, championed women’s suffrage in Argentina, and founded and ran the nation’s first large-scale female political party, the Female Peronist Party.

Virginia Woolf

Virgina Wolf A Woman's World

Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. She was born into an affluent household in South Kensington, London, in a blended family of eight which included the modernist painter Vanessa Bell.

Woolf was home-schooled in English classics and Victorian literature from a young age, and went on to attend the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London, where she studied classics and history and came into contact with early reformers of women’s higher education and the women’s rights movement. Her major works include To The Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway, and A Room of One’s Own.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe A Woman's World

Perhaps the most iconic woman of all time, Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, and model. Famous for playing comedic “blonde bombshell” characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s and was emblematic of the era’s sexual revolution.

Monroe was a top-billed actress for a decade with her films grossing $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2021) by the time of her death in 1962.

A Woman’s World, 1850-1960 by Marina Amaral & Dan Jones is released on 4th August 2022

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