10 Amazing Female Nobel Laureates Who Should Be Household Names

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Female Nobel Laureates
9 min read

The Nobel Prize has been around since 1901 and in all these years, thousands have had the chance to take home the prestigious award. However, as we all know, the Nobel prize is not something anyone can get their hands on. A lifelong passion, the drive to achieve, and a heartfelt desire to change the world. These are the magic ingredients that make a Nobel laureate. 

Since 1901, there have been 919 individuals and 24 organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Out of this huge number, only 57 have been women!

Marie Curie

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She won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. 

In the field of Physics, 211 men have been awarded the accolade. Despite having hundreds of women in STEM fields, only four women have managed to fight their way into the hallowed halls of Nobel Prize Winners. Everyone has heard of Madame Marie Curie. She has been the only woman awarded the Prize twice! 

Toni Morrison

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She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993

A black American writer with a powerful voice and ‘poetic import,’ Toni Morrison dedicated her life to writing about American reality as a black woman. Her stories about black identity in America resonated with millions. She used her popularity as an editor, professor, activist, and author to bring social and political change. She was the first black woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize. 

Ada E. Yonath

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She won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009

Out of the 183 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, only five have been women. Ada E. Yonath shares her accolade with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz for their studies on the ribosome. Her research helped the world make some incredible leaps in the field of genetics and DNA. She was the first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize

Jane Addams 

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She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931

Many do not know of this historic suffragette. During her time, Jane Addams was an advocate for immigrants, the poor, women, and peace. Additionally, she also established the first settlement house in the US, called Hull House. Here, Addams and other educated women would share their knowledge, education, and wealth with the less fortunate. She was the first American woman to win this award. 

Malala Yousafzai 

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She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014

Everyone in this generation has heard of Malala Yousafzai and her struggles. She is a champion for education for women and the rights of children. At 14, she was shot by the Taliban for her efforts in the field but forged forward relentlessly. Her dedication to the cause is evident in her activism, which is still going strong. At 17, Malala was the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date. 

Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu

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She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979

Better known as Mother Teresa, Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu made a significant change in the world. She devoted her life to helping the poor, needy, and shunned, earning her the title of ‘mother.’ her organizations, ‘the Missionaries of Charity,’ work on the principles of universal love, which helped her break through the barriers of race, caste, class, and more. Despite the many criticisms that surround the lady, it is undeniable that she helped thousands to better their lives. She is the only Indian woman on the Nobel Prize roster. 

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

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She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992

This Guatemalan activist has worked years to shed light on the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. Her 1982 publication titled I, Rigoberta Menchú brought the horrors of the civil war into the eyes of the general public. Her incessant work around human rights has made her an important figure in the fight against discrimination. She founded the country’s first Indigenous political party, Winaq

Wangari Muta Maathai

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She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004

Wangari Muta Maathai has been recognized worldwide for her efforts in the fields of human rights, environmental conservation, and democracy. In 1977, she initiated a grassroots movement called The Green Belt Movement that prioritized planting trees, building climate resilience, and empowering women and girls. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as well as the first female professor in Kenya.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

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She won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008

A dedicated scientist and activist, Barré-Sinoussi changed the world by advancing treatment for her work with HIV. She was an important figure in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. Her discoveries led to the ability to detect AIDS and thus, battle the disease. Not only has she worked as a scientist, but she has also been a strong advocate for people who do not have access to AIDS drugs. At 40, she and her colleagues formed the International Aids Society

Alice Munro

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She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013

With Louise Glück winning the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, it becomes important to talk about the other women who have won the prestigious award. Known for her collections of short stories, she writes about relationships, memory, and the visceral reality we call life. Her work revolutionized the format of short stories! She was the first Canadian woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. 

There are so many other female laureates who have whacked it out of the park when it comes to carving a niche for themselves. Out of the nine Nobel laureates who have been named so far in 2020, four have been women. Despite having a hand in almost every sector in the world, the number of female Nobel laureates is astonishingly low! 

Change can only come when we start recognizing the many women who contribute to society. Gender discrimination in the workplace is visible through the notable erasure of women from prestigious award lists. 

Gender equality comes when we all work together to make a change. It starts with women appearing in the list of Nobel laureates and ends with the world becoming a better place. Here is to hoping that this skewed ratio will one day soon be set right! 

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