This selection of Times obituaries from 1872 to 2014 revisits the lives of 125 women who have all, in their own way, played an important part in women’s educational, professional, social, cultural and emotional journey over the best part of two centuries. The anthology starts with the obituary of 91-year-old pioneering mathematician and scientist Mary Somerville (d. 1872) and concludes with that of 110-year-old concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer (d.
2014). In between come a formidable trio of later scientists: the discoverer of radium Marie Curie; the unsung heroine of DNA, Rosalind Franklin; and the only British woman to win a Nobel Prize for science, Dorothy Hodgkin. Plus a further quintet of great pianists: Clara Schumann, Myra Hess, Eileen Joyce, Tatiana Nikolayeva and Moura Lympany.
Among campaigners, there is nursing reformer Florence Nightingale (d. 1910), along with suffragists Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst (d. 1928, 1958 and 1960), the 20th century’s best-known promoter of contraception (Marie Stopes, d.
1958), civil rights worker Rosa Parks (d. 2005), founder of the hospice movement Cicely Saunders (d. 2005), anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman (d.
2009) and Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai (d. 2011). Interspersed are women prime ministers from Golda Meir of Israel (d.
1978) to Margaret Thatcher (d. 2013); actresses from Sarah Bernhardt (d. 1923) to Marilyn Monroe (d.
1962) and Elizabeth Taylor (d. 2011); novelists from George Eliot (d. 1880) to Doris Lessing (d.
2013); singers from Jenny Lind (d. 1887) to Joan Sutherland (d. 2010); plus aviators, a mountaineer, a Channel swimmer, war correspondents, ballerinas, sportswomen, botanists, US first ladies, iconic members of the British royal family, and more.