In Praise of Ada, Opal, Emily, and History’s Other Hidden Figures

‘Women have been left out of most of the standard narratives of history’ – Jane Applegate, editor of the book she is holding

Just in time for Mother’s Day, a Cortlandt woman is celebrating the contributions of women with a new book, and a tour to support it.  

Jane Applegate is editor of Remarkable Women: Reclaiming Their Stories” which is authored by her friend and creative collaborator Alice Look. Applegate is also co-founder of the Remarkable Women Project — a nonprofit educational organization that shares true unheralded stories about talented women who have been forgotten or overlooked throughout history. The book features 23 woman who accomplished great things, against great odds, in a wide variety of fields including science, activism, journalism and even aviation – and it includes two stories about mothers and daughters. 

Applegate says the book “grew out of an independent short film project I had been producing during the pandemic in Europe in 2021. The film was about the six women who made possible the publication of James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel, Ulysses, in 1922.”  

She goes on to say the feedback from the project was so positive it inspired her to look for “more stories about other remarkable women behind famous men.” She discovered “a variety of well-known men who became well known thanks to the support and help of women, including German composer Richard Wagner, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore and the artist Marc Chagall, to name a few.” 

Applegate was so inspired by what she found, “Out of many conversations, emerged a proposal for a television program and a website.” Then Look, a former journalist and producer, created the Remarkable Woman of the Week blog – and she wrote the book based on that. Look is also co-founder and executive producer of the Remarkable Women Project. 

The book the two friends created features many women who made a difference, including Ada Lovelace, who was the first computer programmer in 1843, the “grandmother of Juneteenth” Opal Lee, and Katalin Kariko – winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize for Medicine for her groundbreaking work that made Covid-19 vaccines possible.  

Applegate says the next edition will feature remarkable women with ties to our region, including “Emily Roebling, an engineer who finished the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and was born and raised in Cold Spring.”  

Applegate says feedback for the project has been remarkable. “We hear comments like, ‘That’s amazing! A woman invented the dishwasher?’ or ‘Wow, I had no idea that a woman was involved in the first moonwalk.’” 

Applegate says the book is “incredibly timely and actually overdue in terms of giving women their proper place in history and credit for their contributions. Women have been left out of most of the standard narratives of history. Without their stories, history is incomplete, and their stories are part of our history.”

Part of Applegate’s and Look’s mission is to help other women by “sharing true stories about remarkable women to inspire everyone to live courageously.”  

Larry Epstein, a River Journal regular contributor, is an Emmy award-winning writer and producer who works at News 12 and previously was at Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and MSNBC. 









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About the Author: Larry Epstein