Historical Heroines

Heroines of the past who were active at some point between the late 18th century and the mid-20th century.

From Alice to Yva, explore the archive of Historical Heroines and learn about the rich lives and careers of pioneering women photographers. As we continue our mission, our online archives will continue grow.

Researched, written and curated by our volunteers. If you would like to contribute to this valuable resource, sign up to volunteer today.

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Nina Leen

Nina Leen (1914-1995) was one of LIFE Magazine’s pioneering female photographers of the 1940s and 1950s...

Norah Lyle Smyth

Norah Lyle-Smyth

Norah documented the early years of British suffrage and the ground-breaking work of socialist Sylvia Pankhurst in London’s East End....

Olive Cotton

Olive Cotton was one of the most important 20th century Australian modernist photographers. Based in Cowra, her pioneering work spanned the 1930s and 40s...

Olive Edis

Mary Olive Edis (1876-1955) opened her first studio with sister in Norfolk, UK. She was one of the first women to accepted as a member of the RPS....


PHOTOFAIRS New York, a new contemporary art fair dedicated to photo-based and digital artwork, runs from 8th – 10th September 2023....

Rose Mandel

Rose Mandel

The work of Rose Mandel shows a variety of dreamlike, symbolistic and abstract expressionistic images, charged with subtle meanings...

Ruth Bernhard 'Lifesavers'

Ruth Bernhard

German photographer Ruth Bernhard studied at the Berlin Academy of Art. In 1927, she relocated to New York to begin a career in commercial photography....

American Girl in Italy, Florence, 1951 Ruth Orkin © Mary Engel & APAG.us

Ruth Orkin

Photojournalist Ruth Orkin was voted one of the Top Ten Women Photographers by the Professional Photographers of America in 1959...

Shima Ryū

Ryu Shima (1823-1900) took what is the earliest known photograph to be created by a Japanese woman in 1864, and it was a wet-plate of Kakoku, her husband....

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