Milestones in Women's Leadership in American History
|Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were president and vice president, respectively, of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
||Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York State. After she gained her freedom, she became a prominent speaker for both the abolitionist movement and the women's liberation movement.
||Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree.
March 31, 1776
In a letter, Abigail Adams asks husband John Adams “Remember the Ladies.”
|Mary “Mother” Jones was a revered labor organizer known as “The Grandmother of all Agitators.”
||Madam C.J. Walker, the daughter of freed slaves, sold hair care products and cosmetics to become the first African-American millionaire. She used her wealth to fund African-American institutions such as the N.A.A.C.P., Tuskegee Institute and the Bethune-Cookman College.
||Harriet Tubman, also known as a black Moses, took emancipation into her own hands as an escaped slave, guiding other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
|Ida B. Wells Barnett was an anti-lynching activist, journalist and suffragist.
||Margaret Sanger was an American birth-control activist. She opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York and was jailed for violating the Comstock Act (an anti-obscenity law).
||Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist, noted for her work in Samoa and Papua, New Guinea.
July 19, 1848
The first women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton authors the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments, based on the Declaration of Independence. It demands women’s equality and suffrage.
January 23, 1849
Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree.
January 25, 1851 [ 1800s ] [ top ]
Sojourner Truth addresses the first Black Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio.
March 20, 1852
Harriet Beecher Stow million copies.
November 28, 1858
The Young Women’s Christian Association is founded.
March 1, 1864 [ 1800s ] [ top ]
Rebecca Lee is the first African American woman to earn medical degree.
May 10, 1872 [ 1800s ] [ top ]
Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to run for President.
June 6, 1872
Susan B. Anthony is arrested for leading a group of women to register to vote in Rochester, New York.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union is founded.
May 3, 1879
Belva Lockwood becomes the first woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court.
May 21, 1881 [ 1800s ] [ top ]
Clara Barton founds the American Red Cross.
July 5, 1884
Congress awards Sarah Emma Edmonds a pension for her service in the Civil War; Edmonds fought dressed as a man.
April 4, 1887
Susanna Medora Salter is the first woman to be elected Mayor of a town—Argonia, Kansas.
September 1, 1889
Jean G. Fine and Dr. Jane E. Robbins establish College Settlement House at 95 Rivington Street in New York City.
September 18, 1889
Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr open Hull House in Chicago, one of the most prominent settlement houses of its time.
February 1890 [ 1800s ] [ top ]
The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association merge, forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster move to New York’s Lower East Side and establish a visiting nurse service that grows into Henry Street Settlement.
July 21, 1896
The National Association of Colored Women is formed.
|Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American, is a poet, actress, documentary filmmaker and activist.
||Muriel Siebert is known as “The First Woman of Finance.” She is the founder and president of the New York Stock Exchange brokerage firm Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc.
||Sarah Weddington is believed to be the youngest person ever to win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She successfully argued her case in the landmark lawsuit Roe v. Wade at the age of 26.
May 23, 1903
Mary “Mother” Jones leads the “March of the Mill Children” where thousands of child laborers from the Philadelphia textile mills strike for better working conditions.
June 24, 1903
Marie Curie announces the discovery of radium.
November 19, 1903
The Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) is formed by labor and settlement house leaders. The New York branch holds meetings at University Settlement and organizes garment workers to fight for better working conditions.
October 3, 1904
Mary McLeod Bethune opens the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida. The school eventually became the highly respected Bethune-Cookman College.
February 12, 1909
New York settlement leaders Lillian Wald and Mary White Ovington along with journalist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells-Barnett participate in the National Negro Conference from which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed.
November 22, 1909
In a joint effort by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Women’s Trade Union League, 20,000 garment workers strike for better wages and working conditions.
March 25, 1911 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
Fire erupts at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company near New York’s Washington Square Park; 146 people, mostly immigrant woman, trapped by blocked exits, either jump to their deaths or perish in the flames.
January 2, 1913
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union, later renamed the National Woman’s Party.
Margaret Sanger’s The Woman Rebel is published.
June 22, 1914
Alice Gertrude Bryand and Florence West Duckering are the first women admitted to the American College of Surgeons.
April 29, 1915
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom founded.
October 16, 1916
Margaret Sanger opens the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York and is jailed for violating the Comstock Act (an anti-obscenity law).
November 7, 1916
Jeanette Rankin, Republican of Montana, is the first woman elected to Congress.
January 10, 1917
Suffragist Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party are the first group to wage a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. Every day except Sunday for over 18 months, the women picketed the White House in support of woman suffrage.
July 25, 1918
Annette Abbott Adams becomes the first female U.S. Attorney.
February 14-16, 1920 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
The League of Women Voters is founded.
August 19, 1920
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
April 2, 1931 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
Pitcher Jackie Mitchell, 17, is the first woman signed to an all-male minor-league baseball team. In an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Mitchell strikes out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The following day, the Baseball Commissioner voids her contract saying that baseball is too strenuous for women. The ban is not lifted until 1992.
May 21, 1932
Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to complete a solo transatlantic flight.
March 4, 1933
Frances Perkins becomes Secretary of Labor. She is the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the U.S.
April 9, 1939
Marian Anderson sings to an audience of more than 75,000 at Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to sing at Constitution Hall because of her race.
July 22, 1939
Jane Bolin is sworn in by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as a justice of the Domestic Relations [Family] Court of New York, making her the first African-American woman judge in the United States.
June 23, 1940 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
The first group of women graduate from Harvard Medical School since its founding in 1783.
January 29, 1942
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is established.
July 20, 1942
The first class of the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) begins at Fort Des Moines, Iowa; the WACS accept women regardless of race.
May 1, 1950 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
Gwendolyn Brooks is the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In May of 1976, Brooks also becomes the first black woman inducted into the National Institute for Arts and Letters.
February 18, 1953
Rachel Carson is elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
September 21, 1955
Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian political organization in the U.S., is founded by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.
December 1, 1955
Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, touching off the modern Civil Rights movement.
March 11, 1959
Lorraine Hansberry becomes the first African American to have a drama performed on Broadway with A Raisin in the Sun.
April 16-17, 1960 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
Ella Baker, a longtime civil rights activist, invites students involved in protest sit-ins to a conference in Raleigh, N.C. The group organizes the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a significant force in the modern Civil Rights movement.
May 9, 1960
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the Birth Control Pill.
November 1 1961
Dagmar Wilson founds Women Strike for Peace, an organization dedicated to eliminating the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
February 19, 1963
Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, a precursor to the women’s liberation movement.
August 22, 1964
Fannie Lou Hamer, chair-woman of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, gives testimony to the Democratic Party National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J. She unsuccessfully demands that the MFDP be seated as the Mississippi delegation in place of the racist all-white delegation. She asks on national television, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we are threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings?”
Patsy Takemoto Mink becomes the first woman of color and Pacific Islander elected to the House of Representatives.
June 30, 1966
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is formed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
November 8, 1966
Barbara Jordan becomes the first African American to serve in the Texas state senate since 1883. She later serves in the U.S. Congress .
May 12, 1968
Coretta Scott King and Ethel Kennedy lead a Mother’s Day parade of about 5,000 “welfare mothers” in Washington, D.C.
|Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman vice-presidential candidate on a national party ticket.
||Carol Mosley Braun is the first African-American woman elected to the Senate.
||Carmen Farina is Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education and one of the most innovative and successful educators in the United States.
May 1 1970 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
Lesbians in the women’s liberation movement form a “Lavender Menace” action to protest homophobia at a National Organization for Women (NOW) conference.
August 26, 1970
Betty Friedan leads the Women’s Strike For Equality in New York City on the fiftieth anniversary of women’s suffrage.
March 22, 1971
The Equal Rights Amendment is passed by Congress after a forty-eight year struggle. It has never been ratified.
September 26, 1971
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announces she will run for the Presidency.
June 23, 1972
Title IX bans sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal assistance.
August 12, 1972
Wendy Rue founds the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), the largest business women’s organization in the U.S.
January 22, 1973
Roe v. Wade is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that laws prohibiting abortions violate a constitutional right to privacy. Texas attorney Sarah Weddington argued the case.
September 20, 1973
Billie Jean King defeats Bobby “No broad can beat me” Riggs in the battle of the sexes tennis match.
January 8, 1975
Ella Grasso is sworn in as the first female governor of Connecticut.
October 4, 1976
Barbara Walters becomes the first woman co-anchor of the ABC evening news.
July 7, 1981 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
June 18, 1983
Dr. Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.
July 12, 1984
Presidential hopeful Walter Mondale chooses Geraldine Ferraro (D-New York) as his running-mate. Ferraro is the first woman vice-presidential candidate listed on a national party ticket.
December 14, 1985
Wilma Mankiller is sworn in as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is the first woman in modern American history to lead a Native American tribe.
April 7, 1987
The National Museum of Women in the Arts—the first museum devoted to women artists—opens in Washington D.C.
August 29, 1989
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Latina woman and first Cuban American elected to Congress.
June 1, 1990 [ 1900 ] [ top ]
The Hispanic Federation is founded. It has registered tens of thousands of voters in New York City under the leadership of Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez.
November 4, 1992
Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first African American woman elected to the Senate; Nydia Velazquez becomes the first Puerto Rican woman elected to congress.
March 12, 1993
Janet Reno becomes the first female Attorney General in the U.S.
April 28, 1993
The Ms. Foundation sponsors the first “Take Our Daughters to Work” day.
August 10, 1993
Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
October 8, 1993
Toni Morrison becomes the first African American to win the Nobel Prize for literature.
December 17, 1993
Judith Rodin is named president of the University of Pennsylvania; she is the first woman to head an Ivy League institution.
The U.S. Census Bureau shows that women now own about one-third of all U.S. businesses.
January 23, 1997
Madeleine Albright becomes the first female U.S. Secretary of State.
May 20, 1997
Major General Claudia Kennedy is promoted to Lieutenant General; she is the first female three star general in the U.S. Army.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) debuts.
October 1, 1997
Virginia Apuzzo becomes the highest ranking “out” lesbian official in the Clinton Administration when she is appointed Assistant to the President for Administration and Management.
|Phyllis Lyons and Del Martin are pioneering lesbian rights activists who formed Daughters of Bilitis in 1955.
||Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcom X, had the strength to rebuild her life and family after her husband’s assassination. She earned a doctorate in education and became the director of Medgar Evers College/CUNY’s Department of Communications and Public Relations.
||Condoleeza Rice became the first female and African American National Security Advisor and second female and second African American Secretary of State.
February 29, 2000
Doris “Granny D” Haddock finishes a 3,200 mile walk across the country to advocate campaign finance and a voice for the people of the nation; she is 90 years old.
August 30, 2001
Ashley Martin becomes the first woman to score points in a Division I football game; Martin played for Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama.
March 24, 2002
Halle Berry becomes the first African American woman to win an academy award for best actress.
November 14, 2002
Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman elected to serve as House Democratic Leader.
November 7, 2006
Ellen Young, an immigrant from Taiwan, is elected to the New York State Legislature, becoming the first Asian-American women elected to the State Legislature.