Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re in need of costume inspiration, take a look at some of these atypical options for women. Flash back in time or honor a career you respect. Instead of using this holiday as a time to show a little leg, let’s use it to flaunt your brains and bare your strength.
CHING SHIH: Chinese pirate queen
Ching Shih’s name struck terror in the hearts of those traveling the China Sea in the early 19th century. She had over 300 ships in her command, putting her in charge of 40,000 men. She challenged empires and was one of the world’s most powerful pirates. The British referred to her as “The Terror of South China.” She was cunning and ruthless. In fact, she worked her way up the chain of command to get to the position of power that she craved. Ching Shih was also one of the few pirates who ever retire from the job, and undefeated at that. After being granted amnesty, she moved with her young son to Canton where she opened a gambling house.
DOROTHEA LANGE: documentary photographer that inspired the nation
Dorothea Lange is my new favorite role model. This feisty, strong-willed, and talented photographer captured such memorable moments. She believed that after recovering from polio as a child with a limp, she learned to blend into the background, unnoticed. That shadow-walking talent allowed her to see the world through a lens unknown. Truth and emotion seep through her pieces. Her work has influenced you, and you probably don’t even know it. If America could be summed up in a series of a few photographs, her pictures would undoubtedly be featured among them. Dorothea traveled the US during The Great Depression era, bringing to light the suffering of Americans trudging through poverty and the dust bowl. Her most famous image of The Migrant Mother is synonymous with the struggle of the times. Her documentary photography helped humanize conditions and incite the government and others to action.
TOMYRIS: ancient warrior queen
Ancient Iranian ruler, Tomyris, lead a Scythian pastoral-nomadic confederation in Central Asia. She and her armies defended the nation against various attacks and were often victorious, most notably she defeated and killed Persian king, Cyrus the Great. He founded Achaemenid Empire through many military conquests. Cyrus proposed a marriage between Tomyris and himself, but she refused knowing it was simply a ploy to take over what was hers. So he declared war and invaded her country. Historians described the battle as “more violent than any others fought between foreign nations” She was known for her cutthroat ways and merciless when it came to protecting her people and her land. She even defiled the bodies of those who opposed her.
MARIE CURIE: scientist who pioneered research on radioactivity
Polish scientist, Marie Curie, radically changed the world of science and helped shape the future to come. She led research on radioactivity, winning not just one, but two Nobel Prizes. That made her the first woman to receive the honor and the first person to win twice, and in multiple scientific fields. Now that shows some brains! She came up with a theory of radioactivity, found a way to isolate radioactive isotopes, and discovered the elements polonium and radium. Marie founded Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which are still active centers of medical research. During World War I, she created the first military field radiological center. Really the list of her accomplishments and discoveries could go on and on. Despite every obstacle she faced from poverty to not being accepted as a female scientist, she changed the world. Curie turned the foundation of physics on its head, experimented, discovered, and unleashed a wealth of knowledge, that whether we realize it or not, greatly affects our lives and the world as we know it.
GERTRUDE BELL: archaeologist, writer, diplomat, and foreign spy
Odds are that you’ve heard of Lawrence of Arabia. But what about Gertrude Bell, a woman who accomplished so much and immersed herself in the Middle East? They’re roles were quite similar during World War I. Bell’s life reads like a spy novel. She was a world traveler, writer, photographer, the only female political officer for British forces during the First World War, archaeologist, Red Cross volunteer, and spy. She spoke 6 languages, possessed great scientific skill and knowledge, and promoted education of women in the Middle East. Much of her time was spent traveling in dangerous situations. She wrote books about her trips and the different places she encountered, based on cultures, archaeology, and the people. As intermediary between the British and Arab governments and even privately between various groups in Iraq, she was sought after to help shape borders and policies in the regions. Bell founded an archaeology and museum in Iraq, hoping to preserve Iraqi culture and the important artifacts from Mesopotamian civilizations so that they may remain in their country of origin and retain the rich history. Her close relations with tribes across the Middle East were unique and offered a different perspective because she was allowed exclusive access into the chambers of the leader’s wives. She was able to offer insights that no man could through her writings, photographs, and friendships.
GUERRILLA GIRLS: female artists on a mission for fair representation In the mid 1980s, a group of feminists united to fight racism and sexism in the art world. The Guerrilla Girls wanted to expose the gender and racial inequality in museums and other fine art venues. They hoped to get more women and people of color recognized, not due to tokenism, but because of the quality of their work. It all began with a postering campaign in New York neighborhoods. One member, a notorious bad speller, wrote gorilla tactics instead of guerrilla tactics and their disguise was born. The Guerrilla Girls would go to institutions and popular museums to count the male to female ratio in artwork. The results were staggering. Less than 5% of the works were by women, yet 85% of the nudes were female. Through organized protests and spreading the knowledge of these unfortunate statistics by means of printed posters, stickers, billboards, and artwork, the cause became well known. Other statistics included: “Women in America earn only 2/3 of what men do. Women artists earn only 1/3 of what men do.” And the poster pictured below reads:
The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist:
Working without the pressure of success
Not having to be in shows with men
Having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs
Knowing your career might pick up after you’re eighty
Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine
Not being stuck in a tenured teaching position
Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others
Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood
Not having to choke on those big cigars or paint in Italian suits
Having more time to work when your mate dumps you for someone younger
Being included in revised versions of art history
Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called genius
Getting your picture in the art magazines wearing a gorilla suit
Amelia Earhart: world famous pilot
A stunt pilot’s tricks at a state fair first flickered Amelia Earhartt’s interest in flight. The buzz of the plane as it zoomed past spoke to her. Sometimes your passion finds you when you’re least expecting it. The things Amelia Earhart accomplished would have been respectable even if she had been a man. But the obstacles that she conquered to get where she did as a woman are downright impressive! In times when flying across the globe happens everyday and GPS is readily available, it may be hard to wrap your mind around how daring and dangerous Amelia’s flights were. She set countless records in her plane, beating men and women pilots alike. In her final letter to her husband, she wrote these words about her attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
Lumberjill: women who bolstered their country through logging
The logging industry is a lot more dangerous than most people realize. It’s laborious work requiring immense strength and a fearless nature. During WWII, an organization called the Women’s Timber Corps rose in popularity. As men left for war, women began filling in the holes they left. As those courageous females shouldered the brunt of the war effort at home, they constantly had to prove that they were just as capable as their male counterparts. Unfortunately, they were disbanded in 1946 with little to no recognition of their contribution.
Rosie the Riveter: an icon that inspired nations
Rosie the Riveter is perhaps one of the most important icons in women’s’ history. She represented the women who worked in factories and shipyards during WWII. This was a moment in time when images of women workers were widespread, inspiring the masses to action and giving hope to those who wanted to help but weren’t allowed to fight.