Amazing Women - What does a man know about how a woman thinks?

What does a man know about how a woman thinks? Dr Charles Margerison, an international psychologist, has boldly gone where few would tread. He has written what he thinks Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Coco Chanel, Simone de Beauvoir and other famous women would have said to him if he had interviewed them.

His books about various amazing women, reflects the achievements of some women who are well-known, as well as others who are not household names. Yet all of the women were exceptional in their contributions. How did Dr Margerison choose who to include in his stories?

Dr Charles Margerison

My goal with writing about amazing women was to allow people the opportunity to discover how amazing women lived, loved, and worked in their own distinct ways. Women like Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller and Marie Curie are well known and applauded for their contributions, but what did the following women do that was amazing? They all had extraordinary lives that benefited others in many ways.

  • Elizabeth Blackwell became the first qualified female doctor in the USA, and the first woman to be registered as a doctor in England
  • Madame CJ Walker came from a poor background to become the first African- American entrepreneur
  • Margaret Sanger was imprisoned for giving women advice on sex education
  • Golda Meir was born in the Ukraine, educated in America, and became the first female Prime Minister of Israel
  • Marie Curie moved from Poland to France where she studied Science and achieved the distinction of being the first person to win two Nobel Prizes
  • Edith Piaf lost her eyesight when she was a child, but regained it and started singing on the streets to commence her outstanding career

Each of these women were trailblazers and I feel it’s important that these achievements are recognised in an accessible way.

The story of Dr Elizabeth Blackwell is fascinating!

It was very difficult for women to qualify in medicine as it was regarded as a male-only profession before 1850. Indeed, women usually refused to go to a female doctor at first because they did not think they would know as much as a male doctor. Dr Elizabeth Blackwell started the change. She became the first female doctor in the USA and also the first female to be registered as a doctor in the UK.

Other women followed, despite opposition and another great example is that of Dr Elizabeth Garrett, who founded the 'New Hospital for Women' in London.

So many amazing women overcame situations into which they were born.

  • Harriet Tubman was born into slavery. Those conditions determined how she had to live her life, before escaping at the age of 29
  • Coco Chanel was born into a poor family and her mother died when she was young. Coco became an orphan at a convent when her father left the family. However, despite these family problems, she became an entrepreneur and multi-millionaire.

What can we learn from these amazing women?

In studying the lives of more than 500 people, I came to a short definition. It is that all of these people used their time exceptionally well, to contribute in ways that left legacies that are still regarded as exceptional. They produced results. Many did not live to an old age and probably knew that would be the case, therefore they had to succeed as quickly as possible. Motivation was a key factor in success.

Did you know that Lillian Gilbreth reared the 12 children portrayed in the best-selling book 'Cheaper by the Dozen'?

One of the first female engineers and also a psychologist, Lillian Gilbreth is a true early example of the 'working mother'. Discover how she coped with not only developing and running a successful business, but also mothering 12 children after the death of her husband when she was only 46 years of age. Her work on time management is world-renowned and her classic publications are still referred to and respected today. She provided time and motion studies that improved productivity, profit, safety and efficiency. Maybe that was the only way she could run her own household, so why not use the principles in business also? A true entrepreneur, she used her time well and there is much that can be learned from her determination and contributionsShe broke new ground with her book 'The Psychology of Management', which concerned the health of the industrial worker. 

To what extent were the beliefs of each person important?

Understanding the reasons that people devote their life to causes is important. In many cases, they put their lives at risk for their beliefs. The suffragettes, like Emmeline Pankhurst and others, put their beliefs about equality into action. Other women did likewise to improve women’s health, as in the case of Kato Shizue, the Japanese women's rights leader, and Margaret Sanger who did the same in the USA and Europe.  Women all over the world can learn key lessons from each one of the amazing women included in this title. In particular, their achievements were the result of their determination to continue on, regardless of how difficult the journey.

The reason it is important to study their work is that, from their achievements, we learn how to improve our own performance. That is a topic that has engaged my attention for personal and professional reasons. As a psychologist, a major part of my job has been to help people improve their performance in business, sport and life in general.  We must look forward and plan better ways of developing people’s talents.

What are some tips and guidelines that have emerged?

Amazing people produced results rather than excuses. They converted inputs of time into outputs of art, music, science, business and other measurable activity. They managed their work time well.

The three key areas that contribute to amazing performance can be remembered simply as the three P's. Those who know their preferences and practice usually perform well.

  1. Preferences – Find out what interests you and what you prefer to do
  2. Practice – Focus on improving the things that interest you by regular practice
  3. Performance  - Set output standards and dates and produce results

What are some examples of women who triumphed against the odds that Dr Margerison regarded as amazing?

One of the stand-out stories is that of Anne Burras. America celebrates Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart and many others who have contributed to building the nation. They have monuments and memorabilia named after them, but Anne Burras has been ignored. In my opinion, she was probably the most important woman in American history.

At the age of 14, she arrived in Jamestown in 1608, as the maid of Mrs Forrest. They were the only two women amongst more than 200 men. When Mrs Forrest died, soon after arrival, teenager Anne felt very alone.  Not for long however, as John Leyden befriended her. They were the first colonial couple to be married. Anne gave birth to four daughters.

Anne Burras raised the first colonial family America. She and her daughters were the founding mothers of the settlers.

Therefore, I believe she has the right to be called the Founding European Mother of America.

What has brought Dr Margerison to write about these amazing women?

I have long had an interest in how people became amazing. In an age when we can send an email around the world in seconds, or speak to someone 10,000 miles away, I thought: why not conduct a virtual interview to reflect their personality and lives? I developed the idea of a biographical interview, called a BioView®, written and recorded as a virtual interview, based on information available in the historic records.

Instead of writing the usual conventional history in the third person, I decided to use the same information and become the ghost-writer for amazing women. Psychology is about the way we think and act. Therefore, I have looked at the motivations and personalities of amazing women in a personal way. Each of the BioViews® is based on the facts - but like all history, it is the interpretation what is crucial.

What is a BioView?

It is a word that I developed to reflect the link between a person's biography and an interview. Each of the stories can be told in about 1000 to 2000 words.  Each BioView® is a story of inspiration and triumph. I have tried to capture the ups and downs, the good times and the bad times, the successes and the failures. All the women I chose to ‘meet’ were inspirational and I learned a lot as a result. I hope that the women included in my book would feel that my BioViews® of their lives have done justice to their achievements. Find out more in my article 'Life Writing and BioView Stories'.

What is an example of one of the stories?

(Excerpt from Florence Nightingale 1820-1910)

From the age of 17, I knew my destiny lay with many men
I said ‘no’ to the proposals of marriage that I received
I felt strongly that my role in life was to help others
Beyond my education in Latin, Greek, German, French and Italian
My first name came from the city of Florence in Italy
That is where I was born
My parents came from a well-endowed English family
They were disappointed and upset when I chose to be a nurse
This occupation was seen by my parents as a menial type of work
Also, I worked to improve the Poor Laws in England
In 1837, God spoke to me and called me to his service
Too many people were caught in the poverty trap
On a visit to Kaiserwerth, Germany, I saw higher standards of care
It showed me that I could help improve nursing standards
On returning, Richard Monkton Milnes, an MP, courted me
He proposed marriage, but I had to say no
My parents again did not approve of my actions

How can women of today use these stories?

Each one of the BioViews® encourages you to look at your own life and be inspired by the often unknown life stories of fascinating characters. I have provided a first-person perspective on some of the world’s most amazing women. As a result, both readers and listeners have an easy way of learning about the amazing people who made major contributions to our world. I believe this can also help you achieve your own ambitions, or motivate you, in your journey through life.


Dr Charles Margerison is a Chartered Psychologist and has consulted widely for major organizations in the fields of organizational and educational psychology. He was previously Professor of Management at Cranfield University, UK, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr Margerison founded Amazing People Worldwide in 2006 and is supported by a dedicated global team. He previously co-founded Emerald Insights, and Team Management Systems and has authored more than 30 books.


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