Memo blog

The Ordinary - Extraodinary Women of South Africa and the World🌍

Let's start a conversation!! - about YOU🙋‍♀️ - About the mountains that you modern women heroes carry in 2020!

As we celebrate Women’s Month, we read about all the extraordinary women who have accomplished crazy things in life. We are shown hectic events in honor of these women, - gala dinners, awards, and all the rest. Everybody speaks about women like Lilian Ngoyi, Sophie De Bruyn, Helen Joseph, and Bertha Mashaba who led thousands of women on a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to demand that Prime Minister JG Strijdom abolish the use of passes for African women on 9 August 1959.

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Photo Credit: Tamarcus Brown - Unsplash

This is all good... and ABSOLUTELY deserved.
But what about you? 👈🏾👈🏾 Aren't you a woman too?


Let's talk about you. You and the people you hang with. As a modern woman, there's a lot going from all sorts of directions and we think there is a super important conversation that needs to happen around these things.

Allow us to introduce you to Prof Molara Ogundipe - Nigerian author, well-renowned theorist, poet, and literary critic. In her book Re-creating ourselves, she wrote that she believed Women carry mountains on their backs. These mountains represent the things that women were dealing with at the time she wrote the book.

As a tribute to Prof. Molara - The question we are asking this Women's month is:

What are the mountains that the modern woman has to carry in 2019?

To help us to answer these questions we have partnered with some incredible writers who have been sharing their take over the past few weeks. All ladies... all awesome and all super keen to start some conversations around things that matter.

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So enough of the fluff and the whack Women's month campaigns - what are we really doing to drive social change? Stick around and read with us as we explore some of the great women heroes who Made ‘History’ in Healthcare and Medicine, this is going to be dope!

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”– Diane Mariechild

A tribute to the heroines who broke through the glass ceiling.

If official history is to be believed, it would appear that women played no role in shaping the world. The historical contribution of women is restricted to the ‘strong women’ behind a great man, the damsels whose distress led heroic men to wage wars to defend them or the muse who inspired a man to invent something that changed the world. It would be easy to think that men were the only people who mattered in history—or at least, the only ones worth remembering.

But take a deeper look into history, and you’ll find countless women who did incredible things that weren’t recognized in their time—or even in ours. NOT ANYMORE! Making space for women in the stories we tell about the past can help make space for women in the stories we tell about our future. That’s why we are focusing our spotlight on the lives of women throughout history and around the world who defied stereotypes and broke barriers in healthcare and medicine.

Mary Seacole (1805-81)

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican-born businesswoman and nurse who helped soldiers during the Crimean War. Born to a Scottish father and mixed-race mother, she developed an interest in medicine and nursing from her mother, who was a traditional healer.

At the start of the Crimean War in 1853, her application to join Florence Nightingale’s nursing team was refused because of her ethnicity. Undeterred, Mary Seacole sailed to The Crimea at her own expense where she opened the British Hotel near Balaclava a few months later in 1855 which she used as a base to transport food, wine, and medicines across the country to the battlefield front lines. She obtained special passes, which allowed her to look after the wounded and dying on both sides. Although her contribution was largely written out of history, a 2004 poll ranked her as the greatest black Briton ever. Her statue stands outside of St Thomas hospital in London, reinforcing her place in British history.

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Dr. Yoshioka Yayoi (1871-1959)

Yoshioka Yayoi was a Japanese physician, women’s rights activist, and educator who was the founder of Japan's first medical school for women. The daughter of a physician, Yayoi grew up in a time century when women's education was frowned upon.

In spite of this, she graduated from the Saisei-Gakusha school of medicine and received the 27th medical license granted to a woman in Japan. Realizing the difficulty of this career path for women in Japan, she resolved to start her own school of medicine, which she did before she was 30 years old. During her 53-year tenure as president, the Tokyo Women's Medical Institute educated more than 7,000 women doctors. Yoshioka also operated a hospital and was an active participant in government organisations. In 1955, she received the Fujin Bunka Sho, the highest award given to women in Japan.

Dr. Georgia E.L. Patton (1864-1900)

Dr. Georgia E.L. Patton was born into slavery in 1864, and she became the first black woman to be licensed as a doctor in Tennessee. After obtaining her medical degree in 1893 from the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College, Patton left immediately for Liberia as a medical missionary, where she served for two years despite her church’s refusal to fund the trip.

Patton contracted tuberculosis on what she thought would be a temporary trip back to the U.S., and never fully regained her health. Still, she set up a private practice in Memphis, where she was the only black female doctor. Patton practiced there for a few years, married, and had two children who died in infancy. Patton was only 36 years old when she died in 1900.

Dr. Helen Mayo (1878-1967)

Helen Mayo was an Australian physician and educator who was best known for helping to drastically decrease the high infant mortality rate in South Australia at the beginning of the 20th century and founding the first infant-mother health association in the region which was first known as the School of Mothers in Adelaide and later became the famous Mothers’ and Babies’ Health Association.

From the start of her career, Dr. Mayo had advocated the need for educating new mothers in looking after their babies. Dr. Mayo also made a significant contribution to the life of South Australians outside of the sphere of mothers' and babies' health. During World War II she organised the Red Cross donor transfusion service. Helen Mayo died in 1967. Various places bear her name in recognition of her enormous and varied contribution.

Dr Mary Susan Malahlela-Xakana (1916-1982)

Born in Polokwane in 1916, Dr. Malahele-Xakana attended the University of Fort Hare as an undergraduate; and in 1941 received support from the Native Trust Fund to study medicine at the University of Witwatersrand where she graduated in 1947 making her the first Black woman to register as a medical doctor in South Africa.

In addition to medicine, Dr. Malahele-Xakana dedicated her life to community work for 34 years of her life. She was a founding member of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), a movement working for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women; and active in the peace and anti-apartheid movements. Her last moment on this earth was spent in service, as In 1982, she collapsed and died while doing voluntary service for anti-apartheid activist and Mandela family physician, Dr Nthato Motlana. In 2015 the University of Witwatersrand erected a plaque on its grounds as a memorial to Dr Malahlela.

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