Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.
Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist who was part of the abolitionist group, Sons of Africa, composed of Africans living in Britain in the 18th century. Enslaved as a child and sold to different “masters,” he eventually purchased his freedom and became one of the leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.
Benjamin Banneker was born to a free African-American mother and a former slave father, and was largely self-educated. While he showed immense talent in both mathematics and astronomy, having predicted a solar eclipse with precision, he also wrote essays on civil rights and rallied against slavery.
Olympe de Gouges was an 18th-century French playwright and political activist. Her writings on women's rights and abolitionism were popular in various countries. She was an outspoken advocate against the slave trade in the French colonies. She demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. She was executed during the Reign of Terror.
English-born American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, is credited to have penned some of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. His works inspired the common people of America and motivated them to fight for independence from British rule. He was ostracized for criticizing Christianity and died a lonely man.
Lucretia Mott was an American women's rights activist, abolitionist, and social reformer. Mott played a major role in the events leading up to the Seneca Falls Convention, the first gathering supporting women's rights in the USA. Lucretia Mott's work influenced Elizabeth Cady Stanton whom she mentored. In 1983, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Eighteenth-century philanthropic educator Charles-Michel de l'Épée is regarded as the Father of the Deaf for pioneering the education of the deaf and dumb. He laid down the Signed French system, which enabled the deaf to participate in legal proceedings. His French Sign Language laid the path to the American Sign Language.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was a Swiss educational reformer and pedagogue. He is credited with establishing several educational institutions in French- and German-speaking regions of Switzerland. He also came up with many works explaining his modern principles of education. Thanks to Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Switzerland was able to overcome illiteracy as early as 1830.
Karađorđe was a Serbian revolutionary and freedom fighter. An important figure during the First Serbian Uprising, Karađorđe is best remembered for leading Serbia's fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s. He is also credited with founding the Karađorđević dynasty.
One of the rare literate slaves of the colonial era, Gabriel Prosser was born into slavery at a tobacco plantation in Virginia. He led one of the first great slave revolutions of the U.S., aspiring to create an all-Black state, with himself as the king. He was eventually hanged.
Granville Sharp was an activist who became one of the first English campaigners to support abolitionism in the UK. Sharp devised a plan to settle people in slavery and black people in Sierra Leone. He also established the St George's Bay Company and is thus considered a founding father of Sierra Leone. Sharp also worked towards correcting other social injustices.
The wife of Jean-Marie Roland, Madame Roland was a leading French revolutionary and often hosted significant political meets at her salon. She often directed her husband’s political actions and was responsible for creating a rift between the Jacobin and Girondin factions. She was later arrested and guillotined.
The man who lent his name to Parkinson’s disease, which he described as paralysis agitans in Essay on the Shaking Palsy, James Parkinson was a leading English surgeon. An avid paleontologist and geologist too, he often collected specimens and fossils. He and his son also offered the first description of appendicitis.
Born in Eberbach, Conrad Beissel had initially worked as a baker in Heidelberg and later moved to America. Part of the Schwarzenau Brethren, or the German Baptists, he later led his own group of people who formed the German Seventh Day Baptists and observed the Sabbath as a holy day.
Born to miniaturist D.B. Murphy, Anna Jameson initially worked as a governess. After a failed marriage, she gained fame as an art historian and critic and also became a champion for women’s rights. She wrote on a wide range of subjects, including travel, art, culture, and poetry.
The daughter of renowned Genevan scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, Albertine Necker de Saussure conducted experiments and maintained journals in her childhood. Following her marriage to a university lecturer, she remained a strong supporter of women’s education and even penned notes for her husband’s lectures. She is remembered for her iconic work l'Education Progressive.