Poignant pioneers

There will always be people in this world that do things first and, perhaps more importantly set the course for a series of events that hopefully change the world for the better. Two such examples of this would be in the cases of Juliana Morell and Stefania Wolicka, the first two women known to have received doctorates in any subject. Being in a modern university it is hard to imagine a world without an ability for women to receive degrees but I do feel it is important to celebrate the progress made in the world because of the actions of two women in their respective eras.

Juliana Morell lived from 1594 to 1653 and in her time, was taken to Lyon by her father after he was accused of murder, during this period Morell studied in Lyon. She studied rhetoric, ethics and music among other topics for nine hours a day by the age of eight and defended her theses on ethics in public at twelve years of age. Morell also studied physics, metaphysics and civil law, achieving a law doctorate in 1608 maintaining it for the rest of her life as a Dominican nun. Morell was the first and for a very long time last woman to achieve such high education, an achievement I believe cannot be overstated.

Stefania Wolicka was born 1851 in Warsaw when it was in the Russian Empire, an empire that at the time was attempting to limit women’s education. Wolicka disobeyed an order for women studying abroad to abandon their studies, this decree was sent out to stop revolutionary groups forming in Zurich, something the government apparently made up. Because Wolicka disobeyed a government order she was banned from teaching but she nevertheless published a doctoral dissertation and became the first woman to earn a doctorate in the modern era, another undermentioned achievement.

Both of these women performed significant feats in their eras, feats I think should be known, but it is also important to remember the many others who remain in a struggle for education equality in the world today.