When the artist Carolee Schneemann first exhibited in Paris in 1964, a shocked Marcel Duchamp declared the performance the messiest work of art that France had ever witnessed. Meat Joy featured half a dozen men and women, semi-nude and plastered in red paint, writhing with dead fish and raw chicken, as well as each other.

Image: Carolee Schneemann’s Eye Body #11, 1963.

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For centuries, women all over the world have fought and ruled, written and taught. They’ve done business, explored, revolted and invented. They’ve done everything men have done — and a lot of things they haven’t.

Some of these women we know about. But so many others we don’t. For every Joan of Arc, there’s a Mongolian wrestler princess; for every Mata Hari, there’s a Colombian revolutionary spy; for every Ada Lovelace, there’s a pin-up Austrian telecoms inventor. 

The women who shaped our planet are too many to mention, so here are just a few of the most frankly badass females of all time. 

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