NotableWomen

Maud Nathan was a reformer and labor activist who helped to found the New York Consumers' League and later the National Consumers' League, which sought to improve the working conditions for working-class women. Nathan also fought for women’s suffrage.

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Maya Angelou was a poet and award-winning author as well as an actor, lecturer, and civil rights activist. She is known for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.

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Mother Frances Cabrini was a nun. In Italy, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children. She then emigrated to America to work among Italian immigrants and later became the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized.

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Nellie Bly was the pen name of journalist Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, a pioneer in investigative, undercover, and participatory journalism. She investigated sweatshops and mental institutions. Also, with sponsorship by the New York World, she traveled around the world in 72 days.

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Patsy Takemoto Mink was a long-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1965 she became the first Asian American congresswoman. She was the co-author of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity.

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Pauli Murray was a trailblazing attorney, author, civil and women’s rights activist whose book States’ Laws on Race and Color was nicknamed “the Bible for civil rights lawyers” by Thurgood Marshall. In 1977, she became the first black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

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Pearl Kendrick and her research collaborator Grace Eldering developed the vaccine for pertussis or whooping cough. They also developed the standard, single-dose vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.

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Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and the first U.S. slave to publish a book of poetry. Titled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, it appeared in 1773. She received great acclaim in colonial America and Europe for her poetry.

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Queen Lili'uokalani was Hawaii's first queen and last monarch. Under pressure from United States’ interests, she abdicated the throne and the islands were annexed to the U.S. in 1898. She was also a prolific musician and songwriter whose song "Aloha 'Oe " was covered by artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

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Rebecca Crumpler was the first African American woman to become a physician. After serving as a nurse a number of years, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College and received her MD in 1864.

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Rosa Parks was a civil rights pioneer, launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and national efforts to end segregation. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a statue of her was installed in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall.

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Rosalyn Yalow was a medical physicist who conducted groundbreaking research that revolutionized the field of endocrinology. In 1977, Yalow became the second woman to earn a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

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Sacagawea was a Shoshone woman who aided the Lewis and Clark Expedition in its exploration of the Louisiana Purchase between 1804 and 1806. Serving as an interpreter, she helped establish contacts with various Native American peoples and ensured the success of the expedition.

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Sally Ride was an astronaut and physicist. Aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, she was the first American woman to travel into space and is considered one of the heroes of aviation.

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Sarah Winnemucca was an author, activist and educator. A member of the Paiute tribe, she served as an interpreter and negotiator between her people and the U.S. Army in the 1860s and '70s. Her autobiography is considered one of the first and most lasting early ethnographies written by an American Indian.

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Sojourner Truth campaigned for abolition and women’s rights, becoming famous for her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at a women’s rights convention in 1851. Named Isabella when she was born into slavery, she changed her name after gaining her freedom.

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Susan B. Anthony was a champion of temperance, abolition, labor rights, and women's suffrage. After meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony formed a lifelong partnership with her and led the fight for women's suffrage for most of the late 1800s.

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Susan La Flesche Picotte is considered to be the first Native American to earn a medical degree. She worked on the Omaha Reservation, promoting temperance and establishing a hospital. She also fought the government for the formal, legal allotment of land for members of the Omaha tribe.

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Victoria Woodhull was a journalist and women’s rights activist. She was the first woman to run a Wall Street brokerage firm and in 1872 she became the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States. Her running mate was abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass.

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Virginia Apgar was a physician specializing in obstetrical anesthesia. She was the first woman named a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is widely known as the creator of the Apgar Score that evaluates the health of newborns.

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Willa Cather was a novelist who is widely known for her early stories set in the Great Plains that explored the lives of nineteenth century settlers. She published twelve novels and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours.

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Wilma Mankiller was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Active in the Native American Rights movement, she began working for the Cherokee Nation with a focus on economic development. Becoming principle chief in 1985, she built up the Cherokee community and preserved its traditions.

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Wilma Rudolph was a track and field sprinter. At the 1960 Olympic Games held in Rome, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games.

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Zora Neale Hurston was an author and part of the Harlem Renaissance. She worked as a historian, folklorist and anthropologist, and wrote novels with characters located in the rural South. Her best known novel, published in 1937, is Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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Abigail Adams was a close advisor and wife of President John Adams. She took an active yet unofficial role in politics and policy, directing Adams to "remember the ladies” while he was helping to form the new government.

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Alice Childress was an actress, playwright, and author. An actor with the American Negro Theatre, she later became one of the first African American women to write and produce plays. Her written works deal with the problems and pressures facing urban African Americans.

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Alice Paul was a suffragist and co-founder of the National Woman's Party. When she was arrested and jailed for picketing the White House, she promptly went on a hunger strike, which garnered press and legitimacy for the movement. Paul's actions helped bring about the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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Alicia Dickerson Montemayor was a Mexican-American activist who served as Vice President General of the League of United Latin American Citizens. She was the first woman associate editor of the LULAC newspaper and urged fellow women and girls to join the Latin American activism movement.

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Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger in 1928. In 1932 she became only the second person since Charles Lindbergh to fly the Atlantic solo. She was also a women’s rights activist. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific while attempting to fly around the world in 1937.

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Amelia Boynton Robinson was a civil rights activist in Alabama. In 1965 she helped organize marches from Selma to Montgomery including what became known as Bloody Sunday. She was also the first African American woman to run for a Congressional seat in Alabama.

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Anne Bradstreet was a Puritan colonist and an American poet. Working in the Elizabethan literary tradition, she was the first woman writer to have a book published in the American colonies.

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Annie Dodge Wauneka was the first woman elected to serve on the Navajo Tribal Council. Heading the Council's Health and Welfare Committee, she worked to improve the health of her people through education, directing reforms, and political action.

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Annie Jump Cannon was a pioneering astronomer. She discovered over 300 stars and helped develop the standard scheme for classifying stars by their temperature. She was the first woman elected an officer of the American Astronomical Society.

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Babe Didrikson Zaharias was one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century. After winning two gold and one silver track and field medals at the 1932 Olympics, she went on to conquer the sport of golf, co-founding the Ladies Professional Golf Association. She won 10 LPGA major championships.

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Belva Lockwood was the first female attorney to gain the right to argue before the Supreme Court. She also founded the National Equal Rights Party and was twice its candidate for president, becoming the first woman to appear on a Presidential ballot.

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Bessie Coleman was a pioneer of women’s aviation. She was the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent to hold a pilot license. She made a living through stunt flying.

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Betty Ford was the wife of President Gerald Ford and First Lady of the Unites States. She was known for her candid discussion of women’s issues, including breast cancer, abortion, and equal rights. She also spoke of her fight with addiction and later established the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse.

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Biddy Mason was a midwife and nurse who was born into slavery but petitioned for and won her freedom when her owner moved to California. There, she invested in Los Angeles real estate, amassing a fortune. Her wealth was used to support charitable and religious work.

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Carrie Chapman Catt was a leading suffragist. As president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she was instrumental in winning passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. She later founded the League of Women Voters and continued the fight for women’s suffrage around the world.

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Chien-Shiung Wu recognized as the "First Lady of Physics," was a specialist in nuclear fission who was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project, the Army's secret project to develop the atomic bomb. She later taught at Columbia University, where she was a strong advocate for women in science.

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Christa McAuliffe was a teacher and astronaut. A high school social studies teacher, she was chosen to be the first American civilian to go into space in 1984. She died when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff.

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Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross Society. A nurse during the Civil War, she was known as "the angel of the battlefield." After the war, she served with the International Red Cross in Europe, which inspired her to found the American branch in 1881.

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Coretta Scott King was a Civil Rights activist, humanitarian, author, leader and the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over her long career she remained an advocate for global peace and nuclear disarmament, women’s and children’s rights, economic justice and Lesbian and Gay equality. In 1968, she founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

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Daisy Gatson Bates was a publisher and civil rights activist. With her husband, she published the Arkansas State Press in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1957, she aided nine African American students in desegregating Little Rock’s Central High School. Daisy Gatson Bates™ is a registered trademark.

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Dorothea Dix was a champion of the mentally ill and a Civil War nurse. She created the first mental asylums through extensive lobbying of state governments and the U.S. Congress. During the Civil War, she was named Superintendent of Army Nurses.

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Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor who incorporated Native American and African American themes into the Neoclassical style. She is considered the first woman of African American and Native American heritage to gain international recognition as a sculptor.

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Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady and an advocate for the rights of the poor, women, and minorities. After her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, she served as a delegate to the United Nations and helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to earn a medical degree (MD) in the United States, completing her training in 1849. She went on to help form the New York Infirmary for Women and Children to aid not only female patients but also to provide training to female physicians.

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Elizabeth Peratrovich was a Tlingit Native Alaskan who worked to end racial discrimination against Alaska Natives. She is credited with gaining passage of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American suffragist who helped organize the convention at Seneca Falls in 1848 and drafted the Declaration of Sentiments adopted there. For the rest of her life, she helped lead the fight for women’s suffrage

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Ellen Swallow Richards was a chemist. The first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she later studied the ecological impact of urbanization and helped develop sanitary sewer treatment systems. She also advocated the use of science in the household, creating the field of home economics.

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Emma Lazarus was a poet and writer. Her most famous work is “The New Colossus,” an excerpt of which appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. She often wrote about Jewish themes and was also a strong advocate for recent Jewish immigrants in New York.

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Emma Willard was a champion of women's education. After teaching in and leading various schools for women, she opened the first school for the higher education of women—the Troy Female Seminary.

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Esther Martinez was a linguist, storyteller, and author best known for preserving the language of the Tewa people of New Mexico. In 2006, a Congressional Act was passed, bearing her name, to preserve Native American languages.

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver was an advocate for children and people with disabilities. She was a founder of the Special Olympics and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert was an educator and author. Starting as a school teacher, she went on to study home economics, becoming an Extension Agent for New Mexico. She was also involved in the early Hispanic civil rights movement and wrote novels that captured early life in New Mexico.

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Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who focused on securing voting rights for African Americans. She helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration drive in Mississippi and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the segregated politics of that state.

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Felisa Rincon de Gautier was mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Elected in 1946, she was the first woman to lead a capital city. After serving over twenty years as mayor, she remained active in local and national politics for the rest of her life.

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Florence Chadwick was a record-setting long-distance swimmer. She set new records for swimming the English Channel and did so in both directions. She was the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, and the Straits of Gibraltar.

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Frances Willard was an educator and temperance reformer. After years of teaching, she was named president of the Evanston College for Ladies. She left education to become a temperance and women’s suffrage advocate, serving as the president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1879 until her death in 1898.

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Georgia O'Keeffe was an influential painter and artist. One of the founders of American Modernism, she combined abstraction and symbolism into visually compelling works.

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Gertrude Stein was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She later moved to Paris and opened an art and literary salon that influenced many young writers and artists of the burgeoning modern art movement.

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Grace Hopper was a pioneering computer scientist and a US Navy Rear Admiral. Besides being an early programmer, she is considered the original “debugger” for removing a moth from a computer. She also invented the programming language compiler.

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Harriet Tubman was born into slavery. After escaping to freedom, she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad where she helped lead over 300 enslaved people to freedom. During the Civil War, she served as a Union Army scout and spy.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe was an author and abolitionist. Her popular novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin which portrayed the harshness of slavery became a best seller before the Civil War.

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Hedy Lamarr was an actress and inventor. She became a leading film actress in the 1940s. As a hobby, she was an inventor and received a patent for a radio-controlled torpedo, which used a new frequency hopping system that has become the basis of wireless technology.

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Helen Keller was an author and lecturer, supporting women's and labor rights. A 1904 graduate of Radcliffe College, she was the first blind and deaf person to earn a college degree and later helped found the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Henrietta Swan Leavitt was a pioneering astronomer. She invented a way to determine the absolute magnitudes of stars, which allowed astronomers to calculate their distance from Earth. This, in turn, allowed for calculations of the expansion and age of the universe.

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Hetty Green was a financier who built a fortune through stock and land investing. She became known as the richest woman in America in her time and opened the way for women in the financial industry.

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist and civil rights activist who used her writing to mount an anti-lynching campaign. She was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago in 1913, one of the earliest black suffrage groups.

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Irene Morgan Kirkaldy was an African American civil rights pioneer. In 1944, she was arrested for not giving up her seat on an interstate bus in Virginia. The Supreme Court overturned her conviction, serving as a precedent to later challenges to segregation.

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Jane Addams was a social reformer and founder of the American settlement house movement. She is most closely associated with Hull House in Chicago and was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Jane Cunningham Croly was a journalist, author, and women’s club founder. An early female syndicated columnist, she wrote under the pseudonym Jennie June. She also founded the Sorosis club that later expanded into the General Federation of Women's Clubs.

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Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is considered the first Native American writer and poet, leaving a lasting impression on Native American literature. Her Ojibwe name was Bamewawagezhikaquay.

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Jovita Idár was a Mexican-American journalist and activist who wrote under a pseudonym to expose the poor living conditions of Mexican-American workers. She supported the Mexican revolution and was the first president of the League of Mexican Women, which offered free education to Mexican children in Texas.

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Julia Ward Howe was an abolitionist and suffragist. She became famous for writing the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." As a suffragist, she helped found numerous organizations, including the American Woman Suffrage Association.

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Juliette Gordon Low became acquainted with the Girl Guide movement while she lived in England. Returning to the United States, Low established the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912.

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Katharine Graham led The Washington Post for decades, including the period of its famous investigation of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Her autobiography, Personal History, won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Katharine Lee Bates was a poet and the head of the English Department at Wellesley College. Her most famous poem provided the words for the song "America the Beautiful."

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Lady Deborah Moody was a colonial settler. In the 1640s she led a group of religious dissenters to found the town of Gravesend in what is now Brooklyn, New York, becoming the first woman to be granted a land patent in colonial America.

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Lucy Stone was an abolitionist and suffragist. She cofounded the American Woman Suffrage Association and served as the editor of the Woman’s Journal, an influential suffrage weekly. She was also the first woman to earn a college degree in Massachusetts.

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Lyda Conley was a Native American of the Wyandotte Nation in Kansas and a lawyer. She was also the first woman admitted to the Kansas State Bar and the first Native American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

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Ma Rainey was an early blues singer known as “The Mother of the Blues.” She introduced America to the blues through stage and tent shows and was one of the first blues singers to record their songs.

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Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur and one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. After suffering a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss, she created a successful line of hair care and beauty products, which enabled her to become a noted philanthropist.

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Maggie L. Walker was an African American entrepreneur and pioneer in the field of banking. As grand secretary of the Independent Order of Saint Luke, she worked for the social and financial advancement of the African American community.

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Mahalia Jackson known as "The Queen of Gospel," was an internationally famous gospel singer and civil rights activist. She used her singing to support the civil rights movement, including singing at the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.

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Margaret Bourke-White was a pioneering photographer. During World War II she served as one of the few female war correspondents, operating in dangerous combat areas. She was also one of the founding photojournalists of Life magazine.

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Margaret Brent was the first woman lawyer in America, representing the leaders of colonial Maryland. An excellent litigator, she used English law to assert her rights as an unmarried woman to property. She unsuccessfully petitioned the Maryland Assembly for the right to vote.

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Margaret Fuller was an author, journalist and women's rights advocate. Her best known work is Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) which helped lay the foundation for modern feminism. She died in a shipwreck off Long Island while returning from writing war dispatches from Italy.

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Margaret Sanger was an activist for women’s rights. Trained as a nurse, she worked to increase the availability of contraceptives for family planning. She coined the term “birth control” and founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

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Margaret Chase Smith was a U.S. Senator from Maine who had previously served as a U.S. Representative. She was the first woman to represent Maine in Congress and to serve in both houses. She famously delivered a "Declaration of Conscience" against McCarthyism in 1950, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.

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Maria Goeppert-Mayer was a theoretical physicist known for her work on the structure of the atomic nucleus. In 1963 she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and only the second woman to win the prize in that field after Marie Curie.

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Maria Mitchell was the country’s first female professional astronomer. In 1847, she discovered a comet which was later named after her. She co-founded the American Association for the Advancement of Women and became a professor at Vassar College.

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Marian Anderson was a world famous contralto singer. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform because of her race in 1939, Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, a nationally broadcast performance that set the stage for the civil rights movement.

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Mary Cassatt was a leading painter of the late nineteenth century Impressionist movement. Living much of her life in France, she concentrated on producing images of women in their domestic and maternal roles.

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Mary Roebling was the first woman to head a major American bank, the Trenton Trust Company. She eventually became chair of the National State Bank and founded the Women's Bank of Denver. She was the American Stock Exchange's first woman governor.

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Mary Walton was an inventor. Her inventions included devices to reduce pollution from locomotive and factory chimneys and a noise deadening system for elevated railways.

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Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of Christian Science, a religious denomination that promotes healing through spiritual faith without the use of medications. She also began the printing of the Christian Science Monitor, an award-winning newspaper.

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Mary Edwards Walker was a surgeon who served with the Union Army during the Civil War. For this work, she became the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor. She later became a strong supporter of women’s suffrage.

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Mary Harris Jones was a union activist and organizer. Originally focusing on mine workers, she also helped unions and strikers across the country. Jones also helped found the Industrial Workers of the World.

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