Six little-known women from around the world – starting with a Russian-Jewish immigrant and ending with a French former chambermaid – who contributed to first-wave feminism in the United States.

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While the stories of history’s first female doctors of philosophy are inspiring, they also highlight the galling realities of women’s centuries-long struggle to obtain equal educational opportunities and professional and intellectual respect. Seen as a whole, they have the power to light a fire beneath armchair inspiration and provoke similarly bold and progressive action.