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The first Japanese woman to go to college didn't have a choice. But the experience changed her - and she changed Japan in return.
Fannie Lou Hamer
This uneducated, impoverished activist suffered unbelievable abuse in her journey to be able to vote -- but that did not stop her.
The "Last of the Aboriginal Tasmanians" (she wasn't) used brains, brawn, and sheer will to carve a place for herself, even as the world was collapsing around her.
Ludicrously over-accomplished athlete who invented flying ambulances and won the only gold medal ever awarded by the French Academy of Sports for "all sports" - yes, all of them.
A clever woman who rose from obscurity to become a political force, playing nations against each other to protect her people.
When invaders threatened her island home, she declared herself a living god, raised an army, and fought them tooth, nail, and occasional grenade.
When the English laid siege to her castle home, this Scottish woman bedeviled them until they gave up.
Carolina Maria de Jesus
Brash, funny, and difficult, this mother of three wrote her way out of extreme poverty with her uncompromising look at Brazilian society - and was alternately lauded and berated for it.
Olga of Kiev
Brutal princess-turned-Christian saint who burnt down enemy towns using pigeons.
Tossed off the expectations of Victorian society to become an expert mountaineer and archaeologist, traveled the Middle East by herself…