Important and Famous Women in America

Important and Famous Women in America


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Name

Cause or Field

Lifespan

Summary

Religious freedom,leadership

1586-1659

Brought settlersseeking religious freedom to Gravesend at New Amsterdam (later New York). She was a respected and important community leader.

Religious freedom ofexpression

1591-1643

Banished from Boston byPuritans in 1637, due to her views on grace. In New York, nativeskilled her and all but one of her children.

Native and Englishamity

1595-1617

She saved the life ofCapt. John Smith at the hands of her father, Chief Powhatan. Latermarried the famous John Rolfe. Met royalty in England.

1600s

Margaret Brent

Human rights; women's suffrage

1600-1669

Thought to be North America's first feminist, Brent became one of the largest landowners in Maryland. Aided in settling land dispute; raised armed volunteer group.

Mary Barrett Dyer

Religious activism

Early 1600s- 1660

Quaker beliefs led to Dyer's hanging; later recognized as martyr for quickening the reversal of anti-Quaker laws in Massachusetts and other colonies.

Anne Bradstreet

Poetry

1612-1672

One of America's first poets; Bradstreet's poetry was noted for its important historic content until mid-1800s publication of Contemplations, a book of religious poems.

Mary Bliss Parsons

Illeged witchcraft

1628-1712

Wife of prominent Salem, Massachusetts, citizen, Parsons was acquitted of witchcraft charges in the most documented and unusual witch hunt trial in colonial history.

Mary Rowlandson

Colonial literature

1637-1710

After her capture during King Philip's War, Rowlandson wrote famous firsthand accounting of 17th-century Indian life and its Colonial/Indian conflicts.

1700s

Mary Musgrove

Trading, interpreting

1700-1765

A Georgia woman ofmixed race, she and her husband started a fur trade with theCreeks. As an important interpreter, she helped to avoid a war.

Politics and writing

1744-1818

She wrote lucidly abouther life and time in letters, and exerted political influence overher famous president husband John, and son, John Quincy.

Phillis Wheatley

Verse

1753-1784

The first significantblack poet in America, the former slave exemplified thesuperiority of the human spirit over the circumstances of birth.

Molly Pitcher

Patriotism in battle

1754-1832

At the Battle ofMonmouth, she brought water to Continental soldiers, attended thewounded and also replaced her fallen husband at a gun.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Education, philanthropy

1774-1821

First U.S. saint of theRoman Catholic Church. Parochial education in America began withher founding of a famous Catholic school in Maryland.

Elizabeth Clovis Lange

Education, religious

1784-1882

Founder of the OblateSisters of Providence, the first black Roman Catholic order in theU.S. She promoted education for deprived people.

Exploration

1787?-1812 or 1884

This resolute andresourceful Shoshone woman was a guide and interpreter for the famousLewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and 1806.

Sarah Josepha Hale

Advancement of women,journalism

1788-1879

Editor of magazines,notably Godey’s Lady’s Book, which promoted thebetterment of women. She supported important economic reform.

Abolition, women’srights

1793-1880

She and her husband,James, made their home a station on the Underground Railroad.Helped to organize the Women’s Rights Convention.

Sojourner Truth

Human rights, preaching

1797-1893

As a preacher, Truthcampaigned nationwide for the abolition of slavery and important women’srights. Also raised money for black Union soldiers.

1800s

Social reform and warnursing

1802-1887

An advocate of asylum,poorhouse and prison reform, she also helped alleviate Civil Warmisery as Superintendent of Female Nurses.

Phoebe Palmer

writing, Evangelism

1807-1874

One of the founders of the Holiness Movement, Methodist evangelist Palmer advocated Christian perfection or the cleansing of original sin prior to death.

Antislavery,

fiction

1811-1896

Famous for hercontroversial novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, anantislavery story based on her experiences. Also spoke againstslavery.

Abolition and women's rights

1815-1902

Stanton (and important friendSusan B. Anthony) fought for women’s suffrage when the 14thand 15th amendments excluded gender equality.

Biddy Mason

Business, real estateand philanthropy

1818-1891

Winning freedom fromslavery, she worked as a nurse/midwife, and became a canny,wealthy entrepreneur. She lavished money on charities.

Lucy Stone

Women's suffrageand abolition

1818-1893

A pioneer in the movement for women's rights, she lectured against slavery and advocated equality for women. Famous for becoming the first woman in Massachussets to earn a college degree.

Julia Ward Howe

Author, suffragist, abolitionist

1819-1910

A poet, lecturer, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." She also helped form the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Abolition and women’srights

1820-1906

A tireless campaignerfor gender equality, Anthony (and friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton)inspired a nationwide suffrage movement.

Abolition

1820-1913

A “conductor”on the Underground Railroad, she led more than 300 slaves tofreedom. Also served Union forces in coastal South Carolina.

Education, medicine

1821-1910

The first womanphysician in the U.S. (MD, Geneva College, 1849). She opened a sluminfirmary and trained women in medicine.

Religion, writing

1821-1910

Founder of the [3823:Churchof Christ, Scientist]. Wrote Science and Health with Key tothe Scriptures, her famous adjunct to the Bible.

Aid to soldiers andfree education

1821-1912

Organized and delivered importantaid to Union and Confederate soldiers. Started the American RedCross. Started a free school in New Jersey.

Mary Walton

Pollution control,invention

1829-1906

This Manhattan inventor devised a method to reduce factory smoke emissions and reduced the track noise from elevated trains.

Writing, women's suffrage

1832-1888

An American literary icon of the 19th century, Alcott was also involved in women's suffrage.

Hetty Green

Finance

1835-1916

She inherited herfather’s fortune and invested it so cannily that she wasreputed to be the richest woman in the world at the time.

American Labor Movement

1837-1930

“Mother”Jones was present as a labor organizer and speaker at manysignificant labor struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Temperance and women’ssuffrage

1839-1898

A tireless campaigner,she was a founder and president of important organizations that fought forprohibition. Also work for women’s suffrage.

Ellen Swallow Richards

Chemistry andengineering

1842-1911

First woman to enrollin a technical institute (MIT), in 1870. Founded the science ofhome economics and promoted science for women.

Temperance

1846-1911

Notorious for violentdisruption of alcohol sales. She was jailed often, but her courageand eloquence impressed many people.

Annie Smith Peck

Women’s suffrage,mountaineering

1850-1935

She scaled the21,812-foot Peruvian mountain Huascaran, the loftiest WesternHemisphere peak climbed by an American man or woman.

Sharp-shooting andentertainment

1860-1926

Gifted with uncannymarksmanship and star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, sheestablished herself as a famous western folk legend.

Social Reform

1860-1935

Noted for Hull House,an influential haven for disadvantaged people. Active in a varietyof causes, she shared the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

Folk Art

1860-1961

Discovered by the NewYork art world in 1939, Moses’ style is noted for evocativethemes and pleasing figure arrangement.

Florence Bascom

Geology

1862-1945

First woman and femalegeologist to earn a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. A pioneer inmicroscope viewings of minerals and rocks.

Winifred EdgertonMerrill

Mathematics, education

1862-1951

First U.S. woman to earna Ph.D. in mathematics (Columbia, 1886; highest honors). Foundedthe famous Oaksmere School for Girls in 1906.

Social justice,investigative journalism

1864-1922

As an often-undercoverjournalist, Bly sided with poor and marginalized people. Alsonoted for a famous 72-day race around the world in 1889.

Teacher

1866-1936

Overcame childhood obstacles to become Helen Keller's teacher and lifelong companion.

Emily Greene Balch

Social Activism

1867-1961

1947 Nobel Peace Prize winner, founder the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and was an important woman advocate for peace during WWI and WWII.

Molly Dewson

Women's suffrage, politics

1874-1962

An author, and head of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Division, Dewson also fought for a minimum wage law.

Social reform andfamily planning

1879-1966

Dismayed by infantmortality, Sanger became a vocal advocate of contraception andestablished an important medically supervised family planning clinic.

Social reform, writingand lecturing

1880-1968

Deafened and blinded bya childhood disease, she overcame her disabilities, then workedfor the blind and numerous progressive causes.

Politics

1880-1973

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman ever elected to Congress. She was one of few congressional members to vote no on WWI and WWII.

Politics

1882-1965

Perkins was the first woman Cabinet member in the U.S. She served as FDR's Secretary of Labor, and played a key role in New Deal legislation.

Activism, traveling andspeaking

1884-1962

Enormously effectivewife of FDR, she was a Democratic Party activist, worked forracial equality and was U.S. Representative to the U.N.

Painter

1887-1986

Widely regarded as one of the great modernist painters of the 20th century, O'Keeffe was a major figure in American art for more than 70 years.

Aimee Semple McPherson

Broadcast evangelism

1890-1944

Southern Californiaevangelist famous for her Temple and “illustrated sermons.”Founded International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Zora Neale Hurston

Writing

1891?-1960

Folklorist, anthropologist and novelist. Most prolific black woman writer of the 1930s.

Adoption advocacy,writing

1892-1973

Author of booksreflecting her life in China. Won the 1938 Nobel Prize inLiterature. Buck worked for the adoption of unwanted children.

Aviation

1897-1937

Famous for flying acrossthe Atlantic and Pacific oceans. She attempted to fly around theworld, then disappeared July 2, 1937.

Catholic-based SocialService, writing

1897-1980

Founded Catholic WorkerMovement with Peter Maurin in 1933, an important outreach to disadvantagedand marginalized people.

Racial amity, singing

1897-1993

She used her rare voiceto advance race relations. First black Metropolitan Opera star.Alternate U.N. delegate. Honored many times.

Margaret Chase Smith

Politics

1897-1995

Maine’s first congresswoman and re-elected four times, she was U.S. senator from 1949-73. Remembered for independence and character.

Sculpture

1899-1988

Best known for her abstract-expressionist boxes grouped together to form a new creation. She used found objects and everyday items. One of her works stands three stories high.

1900s

Anthropology andpsychology

1901-1978

She became famous forher gender role studies of the cultures of the Pacific Islands,Russia and the U.S. Authored several classic books.

Ella Baker

Human and civil rights

1903-1986

Helped form Southern Christian Leadership Conference of which Martin Luther King Jr. was president, important for organizing Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Clare Boothe Luce

Writing, politics anddiplomacy

1903-1987

She was managing editorof Vanity Fair and author of several successful plays, includingThe Women. Ambassador to Italy, 1953-56.

Esther Ross

Native American rights

1904-1988

Ross devoted 50 years to winning federal recognition of the Stillaguamish Tribe in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.

Margaret Bourke-White

Photography andphotojournalism

1904 or 1906-1971

Important internationalphotographic chronicler of people and events in war and peace. Onefamed picture: "Gandhi at His Spinning Wheel."

Ayn Rand

Fiction, philosophy

1905-1982

Russian-born, Randwrote important fiction, notably The Fountainhead, and AtlasShrugged. She espoused a philosophy of rationalself-interest.

Grace Hopper

Computer science

1906-1992

A Ph.D. from Yale(1934), Rear Adm. Hopper was one of the earliest computerprogrammers and a leader in software development concepts.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer

Science

1906-1972

Goeppert-Mayer won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics, professor of Physics at UCSD, La Jolla, California, National Academy of Sciences member.

The environment, marinebiology

1907-1964

Author of lucidlywritten books on ecological themes. Most famous for SilentSpring, a critical examination of chemical pesticides.

Obstetrics

1909-1974

Dr. Apgar developed the Apgar Score, whose five items help physicians and nurses to determine if a newborn requires emergency care. The score is now standard worldwide.

Stage and screen

1909-2003

Four-time Academy Awardwinner for best actress, Hepburn combined her statuesque lookswith a bold, plucky acting style.

BabeDidrikson Zaharias

Multiple athletics

1911-1956

This superathlete wonthree track and field Olympic medals and 31 LPGA titles. Famed forself-confidence and competitive spirit.

Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson

Politics, environment

1912-

First lady during Lyndon B. Johnson's administration; instrumental in promoting the Highway Beautification Act, founded Lady Bird Wildflower Center.

Patricia Ryan Nixon

Politics

1912-1993

First lady during Richard M. Nixon's administration; after her father's death at 18, Pat worked part time to obtain her degree, graduating cum laude from USC.

Barbara Tuchman

History

1912-1989

Tuchman was a two-timewinner of the Pulitzer Prize (The Guns of August, and Stillwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45).

Civil rights

1913-

Parks' refusal to giveup her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, onDecember 1, 1955, sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Daisy Gatson Bates

Civil rights and journalism

1914(?)-

After segregation was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, she led the fight to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas, schools from 1954-1957.

Martha Raye

Entertainment

1916-1994

An actor, comedienneand singer, Raye entertained and even nursed troops for 50 years.Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree.

Florence Chadwick

Swimming

1917-1995

The premier distanceswimmer of the1950s, she became the first woman to swim theEnglish Channel both ways (1950, ’51, ’55).

Katharine Graham

Newspaper and magazinepublishing

1917-2001

She was the influentialpresident and publisher of the Washington Post from 1963-93. Thepaper is famed for its Watergate investigation.

Jazz singing

1918-1996

Master of scat singing,she toured with such greats as Duke Ellington and the OscarPeterson Trio. She performed internationally.

Elizabeth Bloomer Ford

Social activism

1918-

First lady during Gerald R. Ford's presidency, co-founder of the country's leading treatment center for alcoholism and drug dependency.

Bella Abzug

Political activism,writing

1920-1997

Attorney andCongresswoman, Abzug worked for a variety of progressive causes,especially women’s issues. She was a noted author.

Marie Maynard Daly

Biochemistry

1921-

First African-Americanwoman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry (Columbia University, 1948). Holder of various professorships. Focus: nucleic acids.

Betty Goldstein Friedan

Feminism

1921-2006

Author of the revolutionary book: Feminine Mystique, co-founder of National Organization for Women (NOW).

Social activism

1921-

First lady during Ronald Reagan's presidency and championed the "Just Say No" to drugs program for school-aged children.

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Physics, Medicine

1921-

Co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology, assisted in developing a technique to measure minute quantities of insulin in the blood.

Entertainment

1922-1969

Made famous as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," Garland was one of the greatest stars of Hollywood's Golden Era of musical film.

Helen Gurley Brown

Feminism and writing

1922-

Author of Sex and the Single Girl, a book about the positive benefits of single life; revived foundering Cosmopolitan magazine

Alice Coachman

Track and field

1923-

At the 1948 Olympics in London, Coachman was the first black woman and only American woman to win a gold medal in that year's Games.

Social activism, politics

1924-2005

A Democrat, she was the first black woman elected to Congress (1968). Also the first black woman to run for president in a major party (1972).

Phyllis Schlafly

Political activism,writing

1924-

Republican activistagainst the feminist movement. Testified against the Equal Rights Amendment. Author of several books.

Barbara Pierce Bush

Politics

1925-

First lady during George H.W. Bush's presidency, warmly received by public and press as "everybody's grandmother;" mother of six children; articulately frank.

Acting

1926-1962

Completing 30 motion pictures, Monroe became an American icon and worldwide sensation before her mysterious death.

Rosalynn Smith Carter

Activism

1927-

First lady during Jimmy Carter's presidency, vice chair of The Carter Center, which promotes peace and human rights worldwide.

Writing, civil rights

1928-

A poet, historian, author, civil rights activist, producer and director, she composed and read verse at the Clinton inauguration in 1993.

Sarah Caldwell

Opera direction andconducting

1928-

She founded the OperaCompany of Boston in 1957. In 1976, she became the first woman toconduct at the Metropolitan Opera House.

[3717:Shirley Temple Black

Diplomacy, acting

1928-

Becoming a diplomat later in life, Shirley Temple was perhaps the most famous child star in history.

Audrey Hepburn

Aid to needy children;actor

1929-1993

Special ambassador toUNICEF, she worked to help poor children. 1953 Academy Awardwinner for Best Actress in “Roman Holiday.”

Politics, society

1929-1994

First lady during John F. Kennedy's presidency. By "inspir[ing] an attention to culture never before evident at a national level," she brought grace and sophistication to the White House.

civil rights, music

1929-2006

Known as the First Lady of civil rights, Coretta carried on the dreams of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr.

Carolyn Shoemaker

Discovery, astronomy

1929-

Holder of the recordfor the most comet discoveries (32) as well as more than 800asteroids. Took up astronomy at the age of 51.

Sandra Day O'Connor

Law, justice

1930-

She became the firstwoman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She felt the court's role was to interpret the law, not legislate it.

Barbara Harris

Religion, socialoutreach, civil rights

1930-

She became the firstwoman bishop of the Episcopal Church (also a first for Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy).

Mary Dawson

Paleontology, mammals

1931-

Curator of VertebratePaleontology, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 1970. ArnoldGuyot Prize honoree for Arctic research.

Alice Rivlin

Federal budget

1931-

The founding directorof the Congressional Budget Office (1975), she has held severalother governmental and professorial positions.

Barbara Walters

Television journalism

1931-

The first woman toanchor TV nightly news, on ABC. Correspondent, then co-anchor of20/20. She has interviewed numerous famous people.

Toni Morrison

Literature

1931-

Won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and a Pulitzer Prize in 1988, she is a master of dialog and richly depicts Black America.

Literature

1932-1963

Plath wrote poems of stark self-realization and confession, was the first to win the Pulitzer Prize posthumously.

Literature

1933-

First Jewish woman and currently only female justice on the Supreme Court. Strong advocate for women's rights and civil rights in general.

Gloria Steinem

Feminism, journalism

1934-

Articulates women’sissues with lectures and on TV. Helped found several women’sorganizations. Founder of Ms. Magazine.

Children’s andcivil rights

1939-

Founder and presidentof Children’s Defense Fund. Originally a 1960s civil rightsactivist. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Track and Field

1940-1994

Winner of three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.



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