The reality is that until fairly recent times, women who marshalled great achievements during the course of their lifetimes were significantly overlooked. There were women who were shattering some glass ceilings for generations and yet their life stories are not often told. Moreover, if the stories of these women’s lives are told, these tales are not accurately or completely shared.
Two women who history has overlooked by not fully telling their life stories are Helen Bonfils and Hedy Lamarr. Both of these women disrupted the world in different and yet highly positive ways.
Helen Bonfils was the daughter of a rapscallion named Frederick Bonfils. Bonfils was the founder of the Denver Post as well as what was the major daily newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri. Frederick Bonfils was a character out of Wild West fiction, except the stories about the man were true.
When he died in the 1930s, his youngest daughter became the publisher of the Denver Post. She was the first woman to assume the helm of a major daily newspaper and actually run the publication. She would also become the first female producer on Broadway.
Bonfils truly was a pioneer in two very challenging, competitive industries — publishing and entertainment — and took leadership mantles in both at the same time. She was also an amazing philanthropist. For example, Bonfils founded what became the largest blood bank system west of the Mississippi. Her money established, and keeps the doors open at, one of the largest theater complexes in the United States.
Bonfils was also bold in her personal life. When she was 68 years old, in the 1950s, she married a 28-year old man. The marriage proved rocky at best. Nonetheless, even her decision to marry a man 41 years her junior demonstrated a bold spirit that is rare among men and women alike.
Helen Bonfils is now the subject of a play entitled “The Bonfils Girl.”
If folks today remember Hedy Lamarr, they recall her as a pretty actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood. And, that would be a true depiction of Hedy Lamarr. In the 1930s, 1940s, and even into the 1950s, Lamarr was often called “the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Lamarr completed a few dozen films in her lifetime. During the Second World War, Lamarr was the biggest seller of Wart Bonds of any of the actors and actresses involved in the effort.
What nearly no one knows is that in addition to being a renowned actor, Hedy Lamarr was a highly accomplished inventor. Indeed, you likely are reading this article because of technological concepts developed by Lamarr.
Lamarr was born in Austria, became an ardent foe of Adolph Hitler, and fled her homeland before the start of World War II, settling in California and immediately being picked up by MGM. Her burning hatred of the German Nazi leader never subsided.
The Allies had a major problem keeping their torpedoes on course when trying to knock out German U-boats or submarines. The Nazis were able to jam the guidance systems on the torpedoes, routinely sending them off course.
In her spare time, and over the course of a very short period of time, Lamarr came up with a technological concept that would enable U.S. torpedoes to stay on course. Her technological design and its application to the military proved to be only the tip of the iceberg.
From the mind of Hedy Lamarr, a woman best known as “the most beautiful girl in the world,” came the technological underpinnings that permit everything from WiFi to GPS to Bluetooth to innumerable other devices and systems to exist. She slowly is becoming better known as “the mother of WiFi,” in addition to “the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Hedy Lamarr is now the subject of a play entitled “Stand Still & Look Stupid.” The closing words of the production encapsulate the life and achievements of this amazing women:
“Fourteen years after her death, Hedy Lamarr was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame. Spread spectrum technology, conceived by Hedy Lamarr, is indispensable for wireless communication. Her invention is described as the backbone of the digital communications age … from mobile phones to WiFi to GPS to Bluetooth to the barcode scanner at the market and countless other technologies. Global communication exists because of a woman once best known as the most beautiful girl in the world. By her own description, Hedy Lamarr stood still and looked stupid, and then … she changed the world forever.”
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. She currently writes for Checkworks.com, where you can get personal checks and business checks.