“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Lethabo-Thabo Royds.

If you read our blog then you’ll know that podcasts are my new thing. As I get more and more into them I keep finding new and interesting podcasts to listen to and my latest obsession is one called “Encylopedia Wommanica” by Wonder Media Network.

As the name suggests it’s all about women. Jenny and Lisa Kaplan from Wonder Media Network (WMN) created this podcast to celebrate women in history “who you may not know about but definitely should”. Jenny narrates it and each podcast is about 5 minutes or less.

I started listening to the podcast near August last year (fitting in South Africa as that is women’s month) but the podcast started a few months before in June 2019. They are uploading a new podcast every week day for a year and each month is themed so it stays interesting. Plus, no era is ignored and no continent is overlooked so there is great diversity in the women profiled. This especially appeals to me as I find Africa is often overlooked when people celebrate amazing achievements around the world and, as we know, Africa is filled with amazing people with incredible achievements.

Why I love it

I enjoy learning new things and this podcast shares new knowledge in fantastic bite-sized chunks. I also love the themes: from STEMinists to villains, they cover all sorts of women who made some kind of impact in their field.

Some podcasts from previous months

Quote by French Sculptor Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel was a French Sculptor. Listen to her story in the “Dreamers” series. Photo © Wonder Media Network

June: Pioneers

Aptly themed, the first month celebrates pioneers: “women who accomplished firsts”. I love that it’s “firsts” in all sorts of fields including journalism, music, film & tv, environmentalism, and more.

Below are some of the women profiled in this series. There were some names I recognised but many I did not.

  • Wangarĩ Maathai – Nobel laureate, environmentalist, and activist
  • Miriam Makeba – Mama Afrika herself
  • Lucille Ball – comedian, actress, and producer
  • Ethel Payne – journalist and columnist. She was also known as “the First Lady of the Black Press
  • Shirley Chisholm – the US’s first African American congresswoman
  • Rachel Carson – marine biologist and activist
  • Coccinelle – performer and transgender activist

July: Dreamers

This month is all about “women who made a significant impact through their creative work”. It spans creative industries, languages, and continents.

Below are some of the women profiled in this series. This time there were many names I recognised and only a few I did not. Even so, there was information in most of the podcasts that I hadn’t known before.

  • Zora Neale Hurston – author, lecturer, anthropologist
  • Al-Khansa – 7th century Arabic poet
  • Isabel Allende – author
  • Maya Angelou – author, activist, poet, and singer
  • Sofonisba Anguissola – Renaissance painter
  • Ella Fitzgerald – yes, the First lady of Song
  • Frida Kahlo – painter

August: Villainesses

The best way to describe this is to give you what Jenny Kaplan narrates: “Women have historically been put on pedestals and the feminine is often equated with purity and goodness. But women, like all people, are complex and diverse.”

Below are some of the women profiled in this series.

  • Ma Barker – matriarch of the infamous Barker-Karpis Gang
  • Griselda Blanco – notorious drug lord of the Medellin Cartel
  • Charlotte Corday – French Revolution assassin
  • Sarah Howe – a fraudster from the 1800s
  • Imelda Marcos – former First Lady of the Philippines – she and her husband are said to have amassed huge fortune while in power
  • Credonia Mwerinde – Cult leader
  • Seema Parihar – former bandit turned politician
  • Ching Shih – pirate

September: STEMinists

Some of the STEMinists profiled in the series.
Some of the STEMinists profiled in the series. Photo © Wonder Media Network

I have found this to be one of the most fascinating months because I learnt about so many incredible women who made life-changing contributions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (that’s what the STEM stands for). Jenny, in beginning the series, shares a very sad truth: these are “dramatically male-dominated fields but there are extraordinary – and sometimes forgotten – women who should be remembered for their contributions to those fields throughout time.”

The range of women include Nobel laureates and those whose work was stolen or credited to their male colleagues or partners. Let’s celebrate these STEMinists.

Below are some of the women profiled in this series.

  • Louisa Atkinson – botanist
  • Annie Jump Cannon – astrologer who basically created the contemporary stellar classification system
  • Marie Colinet – surgeon and midwife who created new techniques including the C-section
  • Marie Curie – the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two scientific fields and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize
  • Hypatia of Alexandria – philosopher, scientist, and mathematician
  • Mae Carol Jemison – engineer and the first black woman to travel into space
  • Hedy Lamar – actress and inventor often credited as the mother of Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth

October: Witches and Saints

Two of the women profiled in the series. Photo © Wonder Media Network

This month is interesting as we hear about women who were influential in a religion and are often remembered as either “witches” or “saints”. I like that the podcasts share some information and almost seem to leave it up to the listener to decide if they are witches or saints even if the history records have something different.

Below are some of the women profiled in the series.

  • Brigid of Kildare – one of Ireland’s patron saints
  • Nehanda Charwe – spiritual leader, medium, struggle icon, and activist
  • Ann Goody Glover – she was hanged as a witch but contemporary literature and law suggest otherwise
  • Joan of Arc – I’m sure you recognise her name and may have even seen the 90s movie with Mila Jovovich
  • Khadījah – businesswoman and wife of the Prophet Muhammed
  • A Nong – warrior and activist
  • Doreen Valiente – Wiccan who wrote much of the early Wiccan literature

November: Tastemakers

The legendary chef, restauranteur, and tv personality Joyce Chen cooking
The legendary chef, restauranteur, and tv personality Joyce Chen. Photo © Wonder Media Network

This month is about tastemakers in the literal meaning of the term. Yes, it celebrates women who made some delicious and game-changing culinary contributions to the world.

Below are some of the women profiled in this series.

  • Joyce Chen – credited with popularising Chinese cuisine in the US. She was also a chef, tv personality, and restauranteur
  • Julia Child – credited with bringing French cuisine to the American mainstream. There’s a movie about her starring Meryl Streep
  • Barbe-Nicole Clicquot – she’s the brains behind the champagne brand and even revolutionised how champagne is made. The way it’s done now was invented by her!
  • Petrona C. de Gandulfo – chef and media personality. Apparently, her cookbook was such best seller in Argentina it is said to have been outsold only by the Bible ­
  • Edna Lewis – credited with popularising American Southern cooking and emphasised the use of fresh, in-season ingredients
  • Agnes Faye Morgan – chemist and nutritionist
  • Sylvia Woods – chef, author, and founder of the famous soul food restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem, New York

December: Beautiful minds

Photo of philosopher and political theorist Hanna Arendt
Philosopher and political theorist Hanna Arendt is one of the women profiled in the series. Hear her story in the “Beautiful minds” series. Photo © Wonder Media Network

This month celebrates “intellectual giants whose work had an extraordinary impact”. As you can tell, the series gets more and more interesting and for this month I really struggled to keep this list, of some of the women profiled, short.

  • Nana Asma’u – princess, activist, and poet
  • Simone de Beauvoir – writer and philosopher considered by many to be a foundational feminist
  • Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw – lawyer and activist who developed the theory of intersectionality
  • Juana Inés de la Cruz – poet, scholar, writer, and nun
  • Sylvia Plath – poet and writer
  • Ayn Rand – writer and philosopher
  • Bertha von Suttner – the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Gargi Vachaknavi – Ancient Indian philosopher and one of the few prominent women scholars involved in the Vedic religion, the ancient precursor to Hinduism
  • Virginia Woolf – revolutionary author who helped define modernism
  • Ban Zhao – first female historian of Ancient China
  • Olive Schreiner – South African author

January: Leaders

Photo of pirate queen and politician Sayyida al-Hurra
Hear the story of pirate queen and politician Sayyida al-Hurra in the “Leaders” series. Photo © Wonder Media Network

With January 2020 being a new month and the start of a new year and a new decade, this month of podcasts celebrates leaders throughout history. There are quite a few African women celebrated this month which is great.

Below are some of the women profiled in this series.

  • Sayyida al-Hurra – politician and pirate queen whose fleet controlled the Western Mediterranean
  • Anacaona – Taíno queen who stood up to colonizers
  • Taytu Betul – Empress and founder of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa
  • Benazir Bhutto – former two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman in modern history to lead a Muslim nation)
  • Cleopatra – This includes more info on the queen than the romanticised movies and plays share.
  • Hatshepsut – one of the most successful Ancient Egyptian pharaohs and one of the few female ones
  • Labotsibeni Mdluli – Swati queen who is recognised as one of the most brilliant African rulers
  • Pokou – Queen, Ashanti kingdom ruler, and founder of the Baoule tribe in what is now known as Côte d’Ivoire
  • Razia Sultana – the only female ruler of the sultanate of Delhi
  • Elizabeth I – the former queen of England

February is all about warriors and it has started with a bang. We have already heard about a genius military strategist and the only female emperor of China, among others. Download the podcast wherever you listen and learn more about some of the amazing women who shaped history. You can also check out the Wonder Media Network website.

You can see a full list of the female Nobel laureates here. There are many and it’s wonderful! Check out the podcast and let me know what you think.