Women have faced mountainous struggles to be treated equally all through history while their male counterparts dismiss them as being the fairer sex.

Time and time again, women trailblazers prove them wrong with groundbreaking achievements. Every notable accomplishment paves the way for future generations and gets us one step closer to actual equality.

That’s why these women’s firsts won’t be the last.

First Woman to Obtain a Doctoral Degree: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

Year: 1678

Nationality: Venetian

The trailblazer: Elena Cornaro Piscopia was a Venetian noble who was the first woman to receive an academic degree and a doctoral degree.

A child prodigy, Piscopia read philosophy at an early age and was sent to the University of Padua to learn about philosophy. She didn’t expect to attain a degree, but her father, a wealthy and powerful Venetian, insisted she apply for a doctorate.

After first being denied because of her womanhood, she applied a second time. This time, the school relented. After showing her teachers that she did, in fact, know a thing or two about philosophy, she achieved her degree on June 25, 1678, at the age of 32.

She devoted the rest of her life to helping the poor and died far too young at the age of 38 from what was most likely tuberculosis.

First Female Surgeon: Margaret Ann Bulkley (aka Dr. James Barry)

Museum Africa/Wikipedia

Year: Circa 1813

Nationality: English

The trailblazer: While it’s difficult to pinpoint who was the first woman surgeon in modern times, we believe it’s Dr. James Barry.

Dr. James Barry was born as Margaret Ann Bulkley. She studied at Edinburgh Medical School and graduated in 1813 from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Female surgeons were banned, so Barry lived and dressed as a man of the time would. Accepted as a man, Barry enlisted in the British military and, after befriending the governor of Cape Town in South Africa, became Colonial Medical Inspector.

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She was one of the first surgeons to successfully perform a cesarean section in 1820. Her true gender was not revealed until after her death, during an autopsy.

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