This International Women’s Day, we’re honoring Emma Willard (February 23, 1787–April 15, 1870). First and foremost, Willard was an educator. Brilliant and curious from a young age, she was a self-taught polymath with a “vision that girls should be as highly educated as boys.”

In 1814, at the age of 27, she founded an all-girls boarding school, creating the academically rigorous curriculum herself. By 40, she wrote a popular textbook History of the United States, or, Republic of America.

It was for this text that she developed innovative data visualizations and colorful maps in order to…

…give the events of history with clearness and accuracy; with such illustrations of time and place addressed to the eye, as shall secure their retention in the memory; and, at the same time, with such an order of arrangement, as will enable the mind to recall, at need, what it thus retains.

Willard had wide-ranging subject matter expertise that included in history, geography, astronomy, and health; she was a poet; and she was an outspoken advocate for women in education and beyond.

Read Maria Popova’s magnificent profile of Emma Willard (with even more visuals).