1. Nellie Bly is my personal favorite! She was a journalist in the 1890s who was given an assignment to investigate the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island due to accusations of the mistreatment of patients. She got in there by faking insanity and getting herself committed to the asylum, and when she was finally released, she ran an exposé in the New York World called “Ten Days In A Madhouse” that exposed the awful treatment of patients inside the asylum. This was considered a revolution in investigative journalism.
Plus, she read “Around The World In 80 Days”, basically decided she could do better, and went around the world in 72 days. She was also an inventor, and was one of the primary journalists to cover the suffragette movement. One of my favorite historical figures who doesn’t get enough attention!
2. Mala Zimetbaum was a jewish polish/belgian woman who got deported to Auschwitz in September 1942. She was fluent in multiple languages like polish, german, french, dutch and english so the SS assigned to “administrative duties” within the camps and she worked as a interpreter/messenger for the nazis. This work allowed her to get a slightly better treatment as in more food/decent clothing and not so nightmarish living condition in the camps, the SS trusted her and needed her so they let her survive there for two years.
Many survivors talk about how she always tried tp help as much as she could and never used her privileges against people. She snuck food/letters in the camps, would falsify the list of people sent to the gas chambers in order to save as many lives as possible and tried to save women from very harsh work in order to save their lives.
In 1944, with her lover, another inmate who worked occasionally in the women camp, she managed to escape auschwitz for about 2 weeks before getting caught by the nazis. She was very close to the Slovakian border and almost escaped. She got brought back to the camp, got tortured for weeks and sentenced to public hanging.
All jewish women had to see her execution. Before her hanging the nazi commander started a speech about how escaping is useless and while giving his speech, Mala took a razor blade from her hair and opened her veins to commit suicide. The commander grabbed her arm and she slapped him in the face. Her last words differs from versions to version but she apparently screamed “I’ll die a hero while you’ll die like a pig” before the nazis started beating her up and ordered the prisoners to bring her -alive- to the crematorium.
She is mentioned in almost all women survivor testimonies of auschwitz.