TRIVIA QUESTIONS with ANSWERS – NOTABLE WOMEN IN HISTORY  (CFUW Vernon Christmas Lunch – December 5, 2022)

 1.  Name 2 of the outstanding women we featured at our CFUW Vernon meetings in 2021-22.   [2 points]

Estelle Shook (Caravan Theatre); Sveva Caetani; Lady Aberdeen; Elaine Alec; Marie Chamberlain; Hilda Cryderman

2.  The name of Madam Marie Curie, 1867–1934, is well known. Name three things for which she is famous.     [3 points]

  • she and her husband identified two new elements: radium and polonium, named after her native Poland (1898)
  • the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903 in physics, for work on radioactivity; this was together with her husband Pierre and physicist Henri Becquerel who shared in the Nobel Prize)
  • founded the new science of radioactivity
  • first female professor at the University of Paris, (1906, taking over her husband’s teaching position at the Sorbonne after his death)
  • the first person – note the use of person there, not woman – to win a second Nobel Prize (1911, this one in chemistry for her work in isolating radium); she is still the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences
  • Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Marie developed a mobile x-ray unit that could be transported near to the frontline and allow her to analyze soldiers’ injuries. 


3.  What was Marie Tharp’s contribution to the study of the earth? [1920-2006]   [1 point]

She was effectively responsible for the discovery of tectonic plate shift and development of the theory of continental drift – a seemingly heretical theory at the time, (in the decade or so following WWII) which we now accept as absolute truth.   This she did by analyzing sonar data from US Military ships, sent to her by a colleague, as she being a woman, was not allowed to board.

4.  What was Nelly Bly’s profession and name one thing for which she is known?  [2 points]

Investigative journalist.  While with the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she reported on conditions of working women , slum life and similar topics.  She traveled for several months through Mexico in 1886–87, sending back reports on official corruption and the condition of the poor. Her sharply critical articles angered Mexican officials and caused her expulsion from the country.  It also caused her to be redirected to write on theatre and the arts.  She quit and went to work in New York. For her first assignment at the New York World, she went undercover at the asylum for mentally ill women on Blackwell’s Island to report on the horrors occurring there.  She was there for 10 days.  Her exposé of conditions among the patients, published in the World and later collected in Ten Days in a Mad House (1887), precipitated a grand-jury investigation of the asylum and helped bring about needed improvements in patient care.

In 1889, after convincing her editor it was a good idea for her to attempt to turn the fictional record in the book Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time. Also known for her around-the-world race against a fictional record brought her world renown

Bly was an inventor in her own right, receiving patents for a novel milk can and for a stacking garbage can, both under her married name of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman. For a time, she was one of the leading women industrialists in the United States.

Bly was the first woman and one of the first foreigners to visit the war zone between Serbia and Austria. She was arrested when she was mistaken for a British spy.

5.  This woman was known as the Lady with the Lamp; however she was also a statistician. Who was she and in what endeavour did she use her statistical skills?   [2 points]

Florence Nightingale.  With the support of Queen Victoria, Nightingale helped create a Royal Commission into the health of the army. It employed leading statisticians to analyze army mortality data, and what they found was horrifying: 16,000 of the 18,000 deaths were from preventable diseases—not battle. Nightingale translated this data into a new visual format, a polar area diagram, now known as a “Nightingale Rose Diagram.” It showed how the Sanitary Commission’s work decreased the death rate and made the complicated data accessible to all, inspiring new standards for sanitation in the army and beyond. She became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and was named an honorary member of the American Statistical Association. 

6.  Name three women who held the office of prime minister or president during the 20th century and the country that each lead. [6 points]

  • Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister United Kingdom,1979-1990; 
  • Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister India, 1966-1977, 1980-1984; 
  • Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister  Pakistan, 1988-1990, 1993-1996;
  • Kim Campbell, Prime Minister Canada, 1993; 
  • Golda Meir, Prime Minister Israel, 1969-1974; 
  • Isabel Martinez de Peron, President Argentina, 1974-1976; 
  • Mary Robinson, President Ireland, 1990-1997; 
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor Myanmar, 1990;  
  • Dame Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister Dominica, 1980-1995; 
  • Vigdís Finnbogadóttír, President Iceland, 1980-96;  
  • Gro Brundtland Harlem, Prime Minister , 1981, 1986-1989, 1990-1996; 
  • Soong Ching-Ling Honorary President Peoples’ Republic of China, 1981; 
  • Milka Planinc Federal Prime Minister  Yugoslavia, 1982-1986. 


7.  This mother, whose son was born in unsanitary conditions, was lead to believe, accurately as it turned out, that he would become a man of great importance.  Unfortunately, in his adulthood, she watched him in die a painful death.   Name the mother.   [1 point]

Mary, the mother of Jesus

8.  Name 2 of the “The Famous Five” and indicate what the group was famous for. [3 points]

  • Emily Murphy (1868-1933), Canada’s first woman magistrate;
  • Nellie McLung (1873-1951), Liberal MLA for Edmonton, 1921–26;
  • Henrietta Muir Edwards (1849-1931);
  • Louise Crummy McKinney (1868-1931), Alberta MLA 1917-21; and
  • Irene Parlby (1868-1965), MLA and cabinet minister.


Short answer:  This group of women activists launched what became a very significant case changing legal landscape with respect to the principles of constitutional interpretation employed in Canadian law.  (Each woman was known for being a high-profile women’s rights activist in her community, influential in enactment of Dower Act.)

Longer answer:  This group of women launched a petition to the Supreme Court of Canada to determine the question of whether “person” in the constitutional provision dealing with the appointment of senators included females, followed the prime minister’s rejection of Emily Murphy’s application to become a senator.  While in 1918 the majority of Canadian women over the age of 21 became eligible to vote in federal elections and could become members of Parliament, Senate positions were still closed to them. The Supreme Court of Canada said no, the impugned provision did not include women within its purview.  However at that time the SCC was not the final court of appeal in Canada.  Rather the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom was and so an appeal was made to that court. In 1929, the Judicial Committee ruled that females were included in the definition of person in s. 24 of the Constitution Act.  But what has had broader legal impact was the basis on which this finding was made. Rather than the rigid interpretation to constitutional interpretation employed to that point, the court moved to a more progressive approach.  It stated that the constitution was not frozen in time rather was “a living tree which accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life.”

This significant constitutional law case is commonly known as the Persons Case but formally as Edwards v. A.G. of Canada. 

9.  Who is Anne Sullivan and what famous woman did she work with? [2 points]

Anne Sullivan was a gifted teacher who at age 20 was hired by Helen Keller’s family to try to teach the girl. Stricken by an illness at the age of 19 months, Keller was left blind and deaf.  Helen became very difficult to handle, being very frustrating at her inability to communicate.  Looking for special help, Helen’s parents spoke with Alexander Graham Bell who directed them to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. The director there suggested a former student named Annie Sullivan (1866 – 1936).  Anne had had a very difficult childhood, had been blind since age 5, but had her eyesight restored by surgery at about age 14. Anne came to work with Helen on March 3, 1887 and would be her helper and companion for the next 50 years.

Once Helen Keller (1880-1968) learned how to communicate, she pursued education.  Keller graduated, cum laude, from Radcliffe College in 1904, at the age of 24.  She became an American educator, advocate for the blind and deaf and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.  

10.  Who said the following? Provide answers for any 3.   [3 points]

(a)       “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

(b)       “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll off you.”

Hilary Clinton

(c)       “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Maya Angelou

(d)       “Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

Michelle Obama

(e)       “Failure is a great teacher, if you’re open to it.”

Oprah Winfrey

(f)        “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank

11.  What is the name of the then teenager who was shot for promoting the education of girls in her country and the name of the country? [2 points] 

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan, born 1997.  In 2012, while on a bus in Swat District of Pakistan after taking an exam, 14 year old Yousafzai and two other girls were shot by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism, in which she had been engaged since the age of 8; the gunman fled the scene. Yousafzai was hit in the head with a bullet and remained unconscious and in critical condition in a hospital in Rawalpindi. When her condition later improved enough for her to be transferred, she went to a hospital in Birmingham, UK.  Her family moved and remain in the UK.  In 2014, she was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

12.  On February 4, 2013, to celebrate her 100th birthday, the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan, USA, declared the day a “National Day of Courage.”  Whose courage was being celebrated, what was the courageous act and what item does the museum carry in recognition of that courage? [3 points]

Rosa Parks (1913-2005) a black woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who on Thursday, December 1, 1955 refused to move from her bus seat to make way for a white man.  The museum displays the bus.

Segregation was written into law; the front of a Montgomery bus was reserved for white citizens, and the seats behind them for Black citizens. However, it was only by custom that bus drivers had the authority to ask a Black person to give up a seat for a white rider.  Nonetheless, at one point on the route, a white man had no seat because all the seats in the designated “white” section were taken. So the driver told the riders in the four seats of the first row of the “colored” section to stand, in effect adding another row to the “white” section. The three others obeyed. Parks did not.  Eventually, two police officers approached the stopped bus, assessed the situation and placed Parks in custody.

13.  Klee Wyck, translating to “the smiling one”, was the name given to this famous Canadian artist and writer by Vancouver Island’s indigenous coastal people. Name this woman.    [1 point]

Emily Carr (1871 – 1945).  The name Klee Wyck was given by Vancouver Island’s coastal people to the famous Victoria artist Emily Carr on one of her many painting expeditions into the coastal wilderness in the early 1900s. The translation is from the Nuu-Chah-Nulth people’s word Klee Wyck.

14.  This young woman was condemned to death in part for leading the French resistance against the English. Who was she and how old was she at the time of her death?   [2 points]

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) 1412-1431, age 19

15.  This woman gave us a quiet scary warning. What is her name and what was she warning us about?   [2 points]

Rachel Louise Carson, (1907 –1964).  Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson was warning the public about the long-term effects of misusing pesticides.  In her book Silent Spring, published in 1962, she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government in this regard, calling for a change in the way we viewed the natural world.  She was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist.  She testified before Congress in 1963, calling for new policies to protect human health and the environment.

16.  What 19th century woman is seen as an “icon of feminist scientific achievement, a heroine of the mind, and one of the earliest visionaries in the early history of the computer”? (1 point)

Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke.  Lovelace was fascinated by Babbage’s Analytical Engine and worked with him on it.  In 1843 she translated a paper on the Analytical Engine from French, written by an Italian scientist and future prime minister of Italy, Luigi Federico Menabrea.  Lovelace went far beyond merely translating this paper – she wrote around 20,000 words of her own Notes (the word is usually capitalised in Lovelace’s studies) that discussed the Analytical Engine’s potential. Her translation She called her own particular brand of thinking about science “poetical science”, and also recognized that the Analytical Engine could even compose music if properly set up to do so and Notes were subsequently published under her initials, AAL. 

Lovelace’s Notes, on the other hand, reveal that she regarded the machine as something that could not only enact calculations, but could also carry out all kinds of processes that could govern all kinds of applications. She famously remarked that the “Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard Loom weaves flowers and leaves”. She called her own particular brand of thinking about science “poetical science”, and also recognised that the Analytical Engine could even compose music if properly set up to do so.

Total available points = 36

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