5 Great Women Ignored By History For Absurdly Sexist Reasons

Despite what certain people would have us believe, the collective fate of mankind is not determined solely by the kindness of men. Women do things, too -- sometimes they even do stuff. It's just that men have written most of the history books, and wouldn't you know it? Those darn, sneaky ladies are nowhere to be found. Let's amend a few of those oversights ...

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5
Barbara McClintock Revolutionizes Genetics, But No One Notices Until A Man Makes The Same Discoveries

Smithsonian Institution

Here's the good news: When Barbara McClintock revolutionized science's understanding of genetics, no one stole credit for her work. The bad news: That's only because nobody even acknowledged it in the first place.

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At the University Of Missouri, McClintock discovered that chromosomes can break and then repair themselves, a process which frequently leads to mutation. Despite her talent, she was regularly excluded from staff meetings and denied advancement.

University of Missouri
"Sorry, the fire marshal said too many vaginas in the meeting hall is a safety hazard."

Realizing she would never progress at the University Of Missouri, she took an opening at the Carnegie Institution in New York instead. It was there, at the Cold Spring Harbor research facility, that she would revolutionize genetics. It was there, at the Cold Spring Harbor research facility, that nobody would give a lukewarm damn about her silly womantalk.

Up until this point, geneticists strictly adhered to Mendelian genetics -- where it was thought that parents pass on genes to their offspring via chromosomes that are immutably locked. That means a parent passes on chromosomes just as they received them from their parents, and so on. Sort of the genetic equivalent of a Madden game.

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How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

In 1948, McClintock turned this idea on its head: She discovered that certain parts of chromosomes could swap genes.

National Museum of American History
This corn came from a pork chop and a carrot [citation needed].

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It was revolutionary! In the sense that other scientists' fingers completed several revolutions as they made the "whoop de doo" gesture. In fact, Sewall Wright straight up told her she must have done the math wrong. Never mind that McClintock was an award-winning geneticist with a Ph.D., and willing to immediately divulge her research for his review. For years following her discovery, McClintock toured universities, lecturing on her findings, and wrote letters and papers to scientific journals -- all to no avail.

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After a decade, McClintock gave up on getting her work accepted, and moved on to other studies. Then in 1961, she read an article by male geneticists who had eventually come to the same conclusion. Now that the work had been officially verified by a series of penises and consequently accepted by the community, McClintock wrote a piece for American Naturalist pointing out that she'd done the same thing, years before. Then, in a flash -- if we define flash as "35 god damn years" -- McClintock saw recognition for her discoveries. She was awarded the Nobel Prize. In 1983.

Keystone/Getty Images
Yeah, that'd be our face too.

Just in time to do a spiteful victory breakdance to "Mr. Roboto" by Styx! Which we must surely assume she did.

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4
Keane's Kids Paintings Were Invented By The Other Keane

Margaret Keane

Ever notice how most of Tim Burton's main characters have disproportionately huge eyes? Not just the animated ones: Even Burton's live action protagonists, most of them played by -- get this, Johnny Depp -- commonly end up wearing some sort of prop that serves to embiggen their eyeballs. But the whole big eyes, pale skin, Burton-esque aesthetic was first popularized by artist Walter Keane, who became famous in the 1960s for his best-selling "Keane Kids" paintings. Except that Walter didn't actually paint them at all. It was his wife, Margaret Keane. You remember her, right? Wh- you don't? My god, it's almost like she got screwed out of something. But what?!

Brad Barket/Getty Images
The Fashion Hall Of Fame? Is that a thing?

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How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

Though talented, Margaret Keane was extremely withdrawn and shy -- far from the kind of salesperson you need to be for a career as a successful artist. She was also in the habit of signing her paintings with just her last name. Her husband, an art dealer and championship-level dickbag, immediately realized the opportunity this presented. He started taking his wife's paintings and selling them as his own, earning millions in the process. Oh, and if you dispute his professional bag o' wangs status, there's also the minor fact that he would lock Margaret in a room for up to 16 hours a day in order to mass produce his masterpieces. Meanwhile, Walter cavorted about in their huge house with his assorted hangers-on and generally enjoyed the whole "popular artist in the swinging 1960s" bit to the maximum.

In 1965, after 10 years of unhappy marriage and rampant career abuse, Margaret finally got a divorce. Although Walter initially managed to convince her to continue their painting arrangement, she soon had enough, and cut off Walter's supply of malnourished children drawings. In 1970, she finally told the world that she had been behind the paintings all along, and challenged Walter to a public paint-off to prove her claims. Walter never took up the challenge, and the dispute over the paintings raged on. Margaret finally took the case to the court, where it came out that Walter had, among other things, threatened to kill her and her child. Maybe those Keane Kids looked like that because they were god damn terrified.

Margaret Keane
They aren't the only ones.

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In the end, Margaret finally got her paint-off: working beside the jurors, she whipped up a Keane Kid painting in 53 minutes, while Walter tried to convince the judge that an injury prevented him from picking up the paint brush. Margaret Keane was awarded $4 million. As for Tim Burton, we're not saying he's one of the bad guys here -- he openly acknowledges Margaret's influence. In fact, he directed a movie about Keane in 2014. Unfortunately, Big Eyes -- just like its subject -- has gone largely unnoticed by the general public.

3
Artemisia Gentileschi Was A Master Painter Whose Work Was Attributed To Men, Because She Had The Audacity To Get Sexually Assaulted

Artemisia Gentileschi

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There's a lot of fancy historical art that doesn't portray women in the most ... independent light. Take this depiction of the biblical story, "Susanna And The Elders," by Alessandro Allori:

Alessandro Allori

That seems more like the start of a porn scene than an assault. Which is fine, if the story was about a porn scene, which it was not, and not about an assault, which it absolutely was. Susanna was out taking a bath in her garden, only to be perved on by two old men who tried to sexually assault her. Cute, Allori.

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Now, here's another take on the same story:

Artemisia Gentileschi

The latter painting is the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, who made a point of eschewing the whole "she was asking for it" theme. Which was actually a pretty novel concept at the time. The image below is Artemisia's depiction of Judith killing Holofernes. The story there goes like this: With the help of her maid, Abra, the titular Judith manipulated Holofernes into getting so drunk that he passed out. Once he was asleep, the women decapitated him, thus saving their town from Holofernes' army.

Artemisia Gentileschi
"You're lucky we don't take both of your heads."

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Artemisia's painting shows normal women, being strong, determined, and murderous. Compare this to another work telling the same story, by Caravaggio:

Caravaggio
"Oops, knife slipped! So sorry!"

Now Judith looks like she's holding a dirty diaper instead of a dude's soon-to-be-severed head, and her maid is depicted as a witch-like figure, compelling the sweet, innocent Judith to murder this man, even though it goes against her feminine ways. Artemisia's entire catalog of works is a realistic portrayal of women, which should stand out like a sore thumb in art galleries full of waify, submissive, and flirtatious female representation. And she was easily one of her generation's finest painters.

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So why have you never heard about her before?

It's probably because her name's hard to spell. That has to be it. Unlike, say Carvaggio.

How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

When Artemisia was 18, a friend of her father's, Agostino Tassi, raped her -- then tried to retroactively woo her with promises of marriage. A strategy as bold as it is idiotic as it is evil. Eventually, her father found out, and sued the man, which thrust Artemisia front and center in a highly publicized trial that turned her into the era's equivalent of tabloid fodder. The case saw Tassi questioning Artemisia's talent as an artist and virtue as a woman in equal measures, summoning "witnesses" who swore Artemisia was an insatiable succubus. As a result, she was subjected to embarrassing gynecological experiments and even outright torture as means of verifying her honesty, and although the Gentileschis eventually won the case, Artemisia's reputation was left in tatters.

Artemisia Gentileschi
Like the Mona Lisa, except it's her eye roll that follows you.

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Although Artemisia kept painting, and produced a number of masterpieces, art history quietly attempted to sweep her under the rug by attributing her works to a number of male contemporaries. That'll teach her to ... get sexually assaulted, stand up for herself, and then continue to produce masterworks that enrich culture? The nerve.

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2
Rosalind Franklin Pioneered DNA Research, But Men Assumed She Was A Research Assistant And Stole It

Vittorio Luzzati

Rosalind Franklin was a chemist and pioneer of biology who revolutionized the field. In fact, she discovered the structure of DNA.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives
That's probably important!

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But it didn't come easy: Rosalind was constantly belittled and underestimated because of her gender, though that didn't stop her from taking a sort of picture of the very structure of DNA -- at the tender young age of 33 -- and chronicling her discovery for the annals of science. She changed the world! Now, if only this entry would stop right about ... here ...

How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

Back in 1951, Rosalind Franklin worked at King's College in London, where fellow DNA researcher Maurice Wilkins mistook her for a technical assistant. Because she was a woman, you see, and they lack testicles, which are necessary for science. You set your balls on one side of a scale and use them to weigh things. Science things. You literally cannot science without a sack.

Franklin soon had a breakthrough in her research, and managed to take the aforementioned X-ray pictures of DNA. Wilkins stumbled upon her evidence, known as Picture 51, and figured "hey, free science!" He showed the picture to his Cambridge University colleagues, James Watson and Francis Crick, who just so happened to be big fans of DNA ...

Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling/King's College London
And dudes. We're sure that had nothing to do with it.

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Picture 51 was a revelation for Watson and Crick, because it was a photo of the very thing they were researching. They cobbled up a paper and published it with great gusto in the April 1953 issue of Nature. But don't worry -- Franklin also got to publish her findings in Nature. In that very same issue!

... as a supporting article to the heroes of the day, who would go on to rake in the esteem and, more importantly, the Nobel prizes. And even more more importantly, the sweet, sweet pop culture references.

1
Emilie du Chatelet Was A Super-Scientist -- You May Remember Her As "Voltaire's Girlfriend"

Marianne Loir

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Emilie du Chatelet was born in 1706 to a wealthy French aristocratic family, but much to the chagrin of her mother and polite society at large, she possessed a considerable intellect and had no intention of not using it. This nearly earned her a one-way trip to the convent, courtesy of dear old mom, but her father recognized her talent, and actively encouraged it.

Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Those aren't knitting needles.

He arranged for her to meet many notable scientists of the era and, in time, Emilie grew into a scientific powerhouse in her own right -- she was a physics pioneer, and discovered the precursor to infrared radiation, clarified the concept of energy and energy conservation, and published several important papers. Oh, and she also translated a little tome called Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica into French, something that was previously considered impossible due to the convoluted way Newton wrote his notes. Oh, but Emilie wasn't just translating the piece -- she added commentary which allowed his theories to be better understood and taught, as well as tested. In fact, her version remains the standard French edition to this day.

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How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

When a distinguished writer and philosopher starts dating one of the most talented scientists of the era, nothing can stop him! Yes, him -- not "her," or "them." Her boyfriend had the good luck to be Voltaire. She had the bad luck to be "not Voltaire."

I.F. Duboury
Here she is inspiring him with her boob.

Emilie and Voltaire frequently collaborated, and though Voltaire's fame did help Emilie get a platform for her ideas, that teamwork ended up inadvertently sabotaging her legacy. The scientific community already scoffed at her work because she lacked the necessary instruments -- how does one even measure small distances without a handy penis? -- so when they saw Voltaire's name on some of it, they went "thank God! We knew there had to be wang involved," and credited him with her efforts. Until recently, Emilie du Chatelet was largely regarded as Voltaire's precocious girlfriend, and not much more.

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Luckily, humanity has totally learned that lesson, and now only focuses on a woman's work and talent, instead of her love life. Also, did you hear Angelina Jolie won't let Brad Pitt see their kids? We know! OMG.

When CJ Rigdon isn't working on her novel or writing articles like these, she's blogging about feminism and fandoms on her Tumblr. Justin has a free comedy podcast here, and a chuckles website here. Luke Miller used to keep America's skies safe as an air traffic controller, but now he writes fart jokes for Cracked. You can find Tiago Svn on Twitter.

For more women who kicked ass, check out 5 Real Princesses Too Badass For Disney Movies and 5 Whores Who Changed The Course Of History.

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