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Women who changed education

Sometimes we take for granted how lucky we are to have education literally at our fingertips. There was a time when women didn’t even have the right to education. We all know that, it’s basic history, but it seems unbelievable. This is only thanks to so many women activists who changed the game for all. It’s thanks to millions of women who’ve dedicated their lives, or even just made small daily changes to better themselves and stay educated, that we can be where we are today. To celebrate this Women’s Month, we wanted to share a mini-history lesson with you on three pretty awesome women who made big changes in education.

Dora Tamana

This South African wonder woman was an anti-apartheid activist between the 1940’s and 1970’s, and even served two prison sentences in her sixties for her activism. She moved through many activist groups such as the Cape Flats Distress Programme, the Communist Party and the ANC Women’s League. What we think is really cool about Dora, though, is her involvement with the Athlone Committee for Nursery Education, with whom (alongside other warrior women) she founded several nursery schools in disadvantaged areas and established the Blouvlei Nursery School and Family Health Centre in 1955. Tamana’s tenacity for childcare and education not only provided opportunity and security for the young children who could attend the schools, but also empowered mothers whose children could be taken good care of so that they could work and provide for their families.

Maria Montessori

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a well-known style of schooling implemented across the world. And yes- it’s named after the woman who founded it in 1901. Maria Montessori began breaking barriers around education with her own by enrolling in an all-boys technical school to study engineering. Her studies evolved into medicine and she went on to become a doctor. She started developing her philosophy while working with children living with disability, and observing the benefits of sensory stimulation.

“Montessori is an international philosophy of education based on scientific observation of how the child learns.  The approach is child-centred and acknowledges the innate eagerness of the child to learn and acquire knowledge. It is a holistic approach to education which values all areas of the child’s development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive.” - The South African Montessori Association

Way to go, Maria!

Mary Wollenscraft

A pioneer in feminist philosophy, this trailblazing flame was already paving a better future for women in the 1790’s. Mary Wollenscraft was an English writer, whose most notable work was “A Vindication of the rights of Woman.” This was a really awesome piece of writing because in it she pointed out that women are definitely not inferior to men (as was thought at the time) but they are, unfortunately, uneducated and this is blocking their ability to thrive and fully live. This idea would become a catalyst in the movement towards women’s right to be educated in the west. But wait- there’s more- not only did Mary leave behind world-shifting legacies through her writing; she also raised a pretty woke daughter named Mary Shelley who went on to be the author of famed novel Frankenstein.

These are just three women whose work you might find interesting, but what really changed the game, and still does, is the everyday “plain jane” who believes in herself, who shows up for her education and that of her children #NeverStopLearning.

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