Image Credit: Flickr.com Beata Maria Szydło – Warsaw, Chancellery of the Prime Minister. Poland
As we come to the end of our global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women during Women’s History Month, the women of Poland deserve a chance to be highlighted. How much do you know about successful women in Poland? Below we highlight 10 remarkable Polish women whose achievements are nothing less than extraordinary
- Justyna Kowalczyk is a Polish skier who, since 2000 – has won two Olympic titles and two World Championships in cross-country skiing. She is the only skier to win the Tour de Ski four consecutive years, and one of only two women to win the FIS World Cup three consecutive years.
- Irena Szewińska is considered to be the greatest female athlete of her generation. She was one of the most famous, beloved and decorated athletes in Polish history. She was a sprinter who dominated women’s athletics for nearly two decades, extraordinary in hurdles and the long jump. Between 1964 and 1976, she earned seven Olympic medals – tying Shirley Strickland de la Hunty for most medals won by a woman in Olympic athletics competition. She served as president of the Polish Olympic Committee and as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
- Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Warsaw-born naturalized French physicist and chemist who conducted groundbreaking research on radioactivity and discovered radium and polonium. Mme. Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to receive the Nobel prize twice, and the only person to win the prize in two scientific categories, both physics and chemistry.
- Wisława Szymborska born near Poznań, she was an acclaimed Polish poet whose exploratory work into philosophical, moral, and ethical issues won her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 when she also received the Polish PEN Club prize. On the day of her passing the President of Poland spoke in tribute of the Nobel laureate, calling her the nation’s “guardian spirit” whose poems “were brilliant advice, through which the world became more understandable” and found significance in the details of everyday life
- Helena Rubenstein, born in Kraków, was a Polish entrepreneur best known for her global cosmetics empire. She emigrated to Australia to launch a global cosmetics empire then moved to the U.S. at the onset of World War I where she sold her successful business and became one of the wealthiest women worldwide. In 1953 she established the Helena Rubinstein Foundation to fund children’s health organizations.
- Irena Sendler was a social worker from Otwock who lived during the German occupation of Poland and risked her life to save thousands of children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Sendler was eventually captured and sentenced to death, but was saved at the last minute when Zegota members successfully bribed one of the Germans to halt the execution. Years later in 2003, Sendler was honored for her wartime work and awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle, in Warsaw.
- Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish-born German revolutionary. Luxemburg developed a humanitarian theory of Marxism emphasizing democracy and mass action to achieve global socialism. After World War I, Luxemburg and her supporters were captured and murdered due to encouragement of the communist uprising known as the Spartacus Revolt. Her life remains an inspiration for socialists worldwide.
- Wanda Rutkiewicz was the first woman to reach the summit of K2 and the third woman to reach the Summit of Everest. She is regarded as the greatest female climber ever. Almost 20 percent of all those who try to climb K2 die in the attempt, making it the second deadliest mountain after Kangchenjunga, the mountain on which Rutkiewicz died in 1992.
- Beata Maria Szydło is a Polish politician who previously served as Prime Minister of Poland from 2015 to 2017 and has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2019. . Szydło was the third woman to hold the office, after Hanna Suchocka and Ewa Kopacz. Szydło is Vice-Chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group. During her time in office, she was ranked 31st in Forbes magazine’s ranking of the world’s 100 most powerful women and the 10th among the most influential female political leaders.
- Anne Applebaum is a prize-winning author and historian with expertise in communist and post-communist Europe. She is a foreign policy columnist for the Washington Post, a Senior Fellow at the Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University and a Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics, where she co-leads ARENA, a research project on disinformation and 21st century propaganda. Her published books include Gulag, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. Her writing has also won the Cundill, Nonino and Lionel Gelber prizes. Her newest book, Twilight of Democracy, explores autocratic governments.
These fascinating Polish women deserve to be celebrated, along with hundreds of others we couldn’t include due to space constraints. Polish women’s rich contributions to European history and culture will not be forgotten.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.
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