The pioneer women of 1984 and 1929

The creators of CNN Travel’s Crossroads initiative tell the stories of people in their home country who changed history or are changing it today The creators of CNN Travel’s Crossroads initiative tell the stories…

The pioneer women of 1984 and 1929

The creators of CNN Travel’s Crossroads initiative tell the stories of people in their home country who changed history or are changing it today

The creators of CNN Travel’s Crossroads initiative tell the stories of people in their home country who changed history or are changing it today

(CNN) — In the 1930s, England changed the future with the founding of the Industrial Revolution.

In the 1980s, the future of Afghan culture and economy was set in motion by a young woman named Maryam who stood behind an open-air television in a market square, launching an epic multimedia revolution.

These two stories alone span more than a century. And there are many more.

Between them, these three women of unassuming origin — each a pioneer in one of the last two centuries — have helped shape the destinies of two nations.

CNN spoke with CNN’s Rick Popper to learn more about these remarkable women, and you can see it in our new video series “Crossroads.”

Beth Ford makes her debut as the first female president of Land O’ Lakes C.E.

“My story is about a woman who has taken an ordinary job and turned it into one of the most respected brands in the world,” says Beth L. Ford, the first female president of Land O’ Lakes C.E., the company synonymous with the Land O’ Lakes Soup that still lies at the center of it all.

“She took an ordinary job and ran it as well as anyone in the industry ever has,” says Laura Mulvihill, managing editor of CNN, who became obsessed with Ford’s story after watching a documentary about her.

Mulvihill met Ford for coffee in October, and the conversation only got more interesting as Ford brought up with her the conversation their countries were having at the time about women in the workplace.

That led to Mulvihill’s introduction to

John Dougherty, who met Ford at London’s Regent Street mall in the late 1970s when she was a shop assistant, and who now is a radio broadcaster known as Dr. Bob on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) “Today” show.

“What happened was, John was very social, and he recognized something that nobody else, as a woman selling lemons, had recognized: not only was Beth a fantastic salesman, she was a good listener,” Mulvihill says.

“Her story about all the things she did that were important to her, but the behind-the-scenes stuff that she did, that helped Land O’ Lakes — the soup. Her job, her family, didn’t come into it — it wasn’t on her list of priorities at all.”

Ford says that understanding what she has done was a “defining experience.”

“It gave me an insight into what other women go through in their lives, not just in high places,” she says.

“Having got through that, now I know so much more about my own self than I ever could have imagined.”

Maryam Sharif became Afghanistan’s first female engineer.

Maryam Sharif, from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, goes back to her roots in a tale that is, perhaps, part history, part propaganda.

“At a time when a woman has become strong and a woman aspires to do anything, Afghan women, a lot of them, were trying to stay away from certain sectors of the work world,” says Mulvihill.

“So Maryam was an important one — back in the 70s, when she joined the first group of women who were building a defense and communications systems in Kabul to help the Afghan government.”

Maryam is no longer a women’s rights activist, but she still applies her training and skills to what is needed in Afghanistan.

Then there is Karima Sarkin, the first female member of parliament in Mongolia.

A down-to-earth woman on the make, Sarkin rose up from her nomadic camp in the steppes of Mongolia, from where she first stared her journey to national fame.

As CNN’s Rick Popper writes, “The nation had a new woman in town, determined to seize her country’s place in the world by demonstrating she could lead, even where men ruled.”

Her story is classic adventure, romance, triumph over adversity, and, she says, “the hard work of self-belief.”

Who knows what will change next.

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