Each United States president since 1995 has issued an annual proclamation designating March as Women’s History Month. From sports to education, from medicine to the halls of Congress, women have been creating “firsts,” being “firsts” and doing “firsts” for centuries. Some names will be familiar, such as Katharine Graham and Rita Moreno. Others are lesser known, though their accomplishments are no less important.
Here is a list of 30 firsts, plus one, for women, in no particular order, gathered from www.wikipedia.com, in celebration of Women’s History Month, 2023.
• The first woman to graduate from a United States medical school was Elizabeth Blackwell. Although born in Great Britain, she immigrated to the United States. She attended Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York.
• Arabella Mansfield passed the Iowa state bar in 1869, becoming the first woman lawyer in the United States, despite the bar exam being restricted to males then.
• Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut, was the first woman in space, in 1963. At the time she was also the youngest woman in space. On her first space mission she orbited the earth 48 times in under three days.
• In 1917, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S House of Representatives. She represented Montana.
• Deb Haaland, one of the first of two Native American women elected to the United States House of Representatives, became the first Native American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary for a United States president when she was confirmed as secretary of the interior.
• Kamala Harris is the first woman vice president and is also of African American and Asian descent.
• The first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature was Gwendolyn Brooks. Her book, “Annie Allen,” won the prize in 1950. The book details the coming-of-age story of a young Black girl, through poetry.
• The first female pilot to fly nonstop, and alone, across the Atlantic Ocean was Amelia Earhart in 1932.
• Rita Moreno was the first Hispanic woman to receive an Academy Award. She won the award in 1962 for her portrayal of Anita in the film “West Side Story.”
• In the world of sports, Victoria Manalo Draves was the first Filipino-American woman representing the United States at the 1948 Olympic games in England. She earned gold medals in platform and springboard diving.
• Native-American Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to head a major Native American tribe when she was principal chief of the Cherokee Nation for 10 years starting in 1985.
• Women have made history in business as well, as when the Washington Post, a Fortune 500 company, named Katharine Graham as its first female CEO.
• The first woman to lead a major public university or college was Julia Sears, the president of then-Mankato Normal School, which is now Minnesota State College in Mankato, Minnesota.
• Alene Duerk achieved the highest rank ever by a woman in the U.S. Navy by being the first woman to be named a rear admiral.
• The first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize was acclaimed author Toni Morrison.
• In the world of music, Marin Alsop is the first woman to lead a major symphony. She has directed the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2007.
• America’s first female winemaker, Hannah Weinberger, took over her family’s winery in the late 1880s, becoming the Napa Valley’s first (but not last) female winemaker prior to Prohibition.
• Latina Sonia Sotomayor is the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice of Hispanic descent.
• Ellen Ochoa is the first female Latina to be chosen as an astronaut (1990) and the first in space on a Discovery space shuttle mission, in 1993.
• Asian-American Kim Ng became the first woman to lead a major sports franchise when she was named general manager of the Miami Marlins baseball team.
• Louise Swain was the first woman to vote in the United States, even before women could vote, when she cast her vote in 1870 in Laramie, Wyoming.
• Anne McDowell in 1855 became the first American woman to publish a newspaper completely run by women. It was called the Women’s Advocate.
• Macy Sulton was the first American woman to win Wimbledon, in 1905.
• In 1964, Alice Kurashige was the first Japanese-American woman commissioned into the United States Marine Corps.
• Vanessa Williams was the first African American woman to win the Miss America Pageant, in 1983.
• Closer to home, Penny Harrington in 1985 became chief of the Portland, Oregon Police Bureau, becoming the first woman to lead a major city police department.
• In 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
• Judy Garland was the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards and also the first woman to win the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award.
• Where would the American Red Cross be without Civil War nurse, Clara Barton? The woman created the organization in the United States and was its first leader.
• In 1966, Roberta Louise “Bobbi” Gigg was the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon.
• Finally, on Jan. 18 of this year, Hedvig Hjertaker of Bergen, Norway, became the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole. The 28-year-old woman made it alone to the destination in 49 days starting at the Hercules Inlet on the Antarctic continent, ending at the research station at the South Pole, for a total of 660 miles. She carried everything she needed on a sled weighing 220 pounds. She is the niece of Vigdis Hjertaker, a foreign exchange student in Joseph in 2000-2001.
Yes, we have come a long way baby.
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