The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah I finished The Nightingale just before the National Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust (April 12, 2018). It's one of several books I've read this year about the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. That specific WWII topic is one I had not read much about until this year. I …

Gertrude Belle Elion

Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) was a Nobel Prize winning biochemist and pharmacologist who developed numerous drugs to battle diseases like AIDS, cancer, and herpes, among other diseases. Born in New York City in 1918, she graduated from Hunter College with a chemistry degree in 1937. She couldn’t get a graduate research fellowship because she was …

Elizabeth Blackwell

Today, March 30th, is National Doctor's Day. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to graduate from a U.S. medical school as a trained physician.  She received her M.D. degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College). She was born in 1821 in England, the third of nine children. Her father believed his …

Stephanie Rader

Stephanie Rader was an undercover U.S. spy in Europe after WWII. She was born in Toledo in 1915, the daughter of Polish immigrants, and grew up in Poughkeepsie. Her parents did not speak English at home, and her first exposure to English was when she went to school. Her Polish language skills would later serve …

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a Rock Star of her time--and of all time! She was a writer and poet, a nun, a self-taught scholar in 17th Century New Spain (Mexico), and a feminist before the concept of feminism existed. She was a relentless advocate for women's rights at a time when few …

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, which position she held from 1985-1995. Before I go on, in case you don't read to the end, I want to encourage you to watch the linked video. It's 55 minutes long--so, longer than the average YouTube video--but about the …

Marva Collins

Marva Collins was a teacher who founded Westside Preparatory Academy, a school on Chicago’s South Side, where she developed and used an innovative teaching method called the Collins Method. She was committed to providing educational opportunities for poor, African American students. Born in 1936 in Alabama, she grew up in the segregated south with parents …

Kim Foxx

Kim Foxx is the first African American woman to serve as Cook County State's Attorney. Covering all of Chicago, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office is the second largest prosecutor's office in the US. Kim was elected in a hotly contested election on a platform of criminal justice reform and to working with the public …

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr was an inventor and an actress. She was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914 in Vienna, Austria. Both of her parents were Jewish. Although her mother had converted to Catholicism and raised her as a Catholic, her Jewish heritage would result in her eventually leaving Austria to escape the Nazis and drive …

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist who took on the ingrained and institutionalized racism of the late-1800s and early-1900s in the US. The The New York Times recently published a profile of her in the form of an obituary. It vividly tells her story, so I will quote from it here: "It was not …

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink was a lawyer and the first woman of color elected to Congress.  She served 13 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1989 to 2003. She co-authored Title IX, which was later renamed in her honor as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. …

Gloria Steinem

Today (March 25, 2018) is Gloria Steinem's 84th birthday. Since the late 1960s, she has been a driving force in the feminist movement. She started her career as a journalist, and gained early fame when she wrote a 1963 exposé entitled "A Bunny's Tale" after working undercover as a Playboy bunny. The article detailed the …

Florence Ellinwood Allen

Florence Ellinood Allen was the first woman to serve on a state's highest court (Ohio) and the first woman to hold an Article III federal judicial appointment. She was also the first woman to be an assistant county prosecutor in the US and the first woman to be elected to be a judge. She was …

Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace

Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace was a masterful mathematician and is now known as the first computer programmer, having envisioned the modern computer. She was born in 1815, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Her parents separated shortly after her birth and her father died when she was 8. Her mother raised her to be …

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States. There were a couple of problems with her candidacy, among which was that she was not yet 35 years old when she ran and, if elected, would not have been 35 even by the time of the inauguration. The inauguration would …

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta embodies this year's International Women's Day theme: "Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives." She has dedicated her life to improving the lives of farm workers and fighting discrimination against them. She was born in New Mexico, but moved with her mother to California when she was very young. Her mother operated an …

Sarah T. Hughes

Judge Sarah T. Hughes, the first woman federal district judge for the Northern District of Texas, swore in LBJ as President of the United States aboard Air Force One after JFK was killed. She is the only woman ever to have sworn in a president. She attended George Washington University law school as a night …

It’s Rosie the Riveter Day

Today--March 21--is the second annual Rosie the Riveter Day to commemorate the contributions of women to the workforce during WWII. During WWII, women helped build ships and airplanes, and generally did all the work previously thought to be the exclusive province of men. Since the men had to go to war, women picked up where …

Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was a lawyer, author, and the first African American woman to be an ordained Episcopal priest. She was also a deputy attorney general, a professor, and a poet. She reinvented herself and her career numerous times and, in the process, accomplished many important firsts, all while advocating on behalf of women's rights and …

Arabella Mansfield

Arabella Mansfield was the first woman to become a licensed attorney in the US. She "read the law" in her brother's law office. Despite an Iowa law restricting bar admission to males over 21, she passed the bar exam. She sued to challenge the law barring her admission and won, making Iowa the first state …