From a former slave to two Nobel laureates, a selection of women writers in modern history and their often-overlooked narratives of Christmas.

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Sweden’s history provides insight into how it has quietly established itself as one of the most gender equal countries in the world, while the United States continues to loudly squabble over legislation guaranteeing equal legal rights regardless of gender.

“The prisoners could be forgiven for looking with fear upon the buses that arrived at the concentration camps in the spring of 1945. Transports had brought them to places like Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau. Transports had taken their loved ones to horrific deaths. Despite the rumors of rescue, it seemed more likely to be a cruel Nazi ploy.”

Read more in “When Sweden Rescued 31,000 Non-Swedes From Nazi Germany

In 1795, English writer Mary Wollstonecraft, internationally known for her defense of women’s rights, went on a journey to Scandinavia that helped her pull herself from the depths of despair and produce one of her finest works.

Tucked away in the church cemetery of a southern Swedish village is the gravestone of a civil servant who died in 1902. It would go unnoticed as the average grave of an ordinary man were it not for one remarkable feature: the shining silver medal embedded and encased in glass within the gravestone. All but forgotten and facing the scrap heap, the gravestone symbolizes the overlooked beauty and value of everyday history.

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.