Major Milestones in Women’s History
Women’s history is immensely powerful because it is filled with incredible achievements and transformative moments. It’s an integral part of history because women have contributed to so many significant events throughout time. The groundbreaking work of women has ignited an ongoing call for change and led to multiple advancements across various subjects. The courage, determination, and strength of women throughout history lends plenty of valuable lessons. Looking at the milestones within women’s history is inspirational and serves a great reminder of how truly resilient women are.
Advocacy for Women’s Rights in the White House, 1776
The fight for women’s rights in the United States starts as early as the birth of the nation. Abigail Adams, the wife of the second U.S. president, wrote a letter to her husband, John Adams, and the continental congress contending for the inclusion of women in democracy. She wrote “Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
First Woman to Become a Doctor, 1849
After studying medicine at Geneva Medical College, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree and the first female doctor in the United States.
19th Amendment is Passed, 1920
Women gain the right to vote through the ratification of the 19th Amendment. As part of the U.S. constitution the amendment promises “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The ratification of this amendment is such a historic moment in history for women and one of the greatest accomplishments of the suffrage movement.
First Woman to Win a Pulitzer Prize Award, 1921
Edith Wharton was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a defining moment for women in literature. Wharton was recognized for her novel titled “The Age of Innocence” a story that reveals personal insight about the life of upper class New Yorkers. Fun Fact: Wharton’s work actually inspired the writer, Cecil Von Ziegesar, when creating the Gossip Girl series.
NASA's First Woman Engineer, 1939
Kitty O’Brien Joyner was the first woman to graduate from University of Virginia’s engineering program. However, she did have to sue the university to attain her placement in the program which was historically all male. Nonetheless, O’Brien’s perseverance landed her at NASA’s Langley Research Center making her NASA’s first woman engineer. O’Brien trailblazed a path
for women in the engineering field.
Equal Pay Act, 1963
President John F. Kennedy passed one of the first federal anti-discrimination that prohibited gender based wage discrimination. The Equal Pay Act made it illegal for employers to pay men and women different salaries for the same job in the workplace.
First Congresswoman of Color, 1964
Patsy Mink was the first woman of color and Asian American woman elected into the United States House of Representatives. Mink served 12 terms where she represented Hawaii and was a major player behind several impactful legislative acts. Mink was heavily involved with the passing of Title IX, Early Childhood Education Act, and the Women’s Educational Equity Act.
National Organization for Women was founded, 1966
The National Organization for Women, also known as NOW, was founded in 1966 by a group of 28 women including Betty Friedan, Catherine Conroy and other activists. NOW’s original mission statement written by Rev. Pauli Murray stated, “The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” Today the organization continues to push for social, economic and political equality for women through grassroots campaigns.
Title IX Act, 1972
Signed on by President Richard Nixon, the Title IX Act is a civil rights law that protects citizens from gender based discrimination at educational institutions funded by federal money. This addition to the Education Amendments of 1972 provided women with increased opportunities to higher education.
First Female Justice on the Supreme Court, 1981
Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court after being sworn in by President Ronald Reagan. O’Connor constantly stood for women’s rights and even blocked a case that would have overturned Roe vs. Wade.
First Woman Speaker of the House, 2007
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi became the first female speaker of the house in 2007. Pelosi’s fulfillment of the role helped pass some of Obama’s legislative victories such as the Affordable Care Act. Her return to the position in 2019 marked her as the first lawmaker to hold the office twice in more than fifty years.
Record breaking Number of Women elected into Congress, 2018
The 2018 Midterm Elections prove to be a historic moment for women as a major breakthrough of women were elected into office. Victories from this election expanded representation in Congress. The election brought about many historical firsts, including the first Native American women and Muslim American women to be elected into office and more.
First Female Vice President, 2020
The results of the 2020 Presidential Election made Kamala Harris the first woman and first woman of color to be elected as Vice President. Vice President Harris was sworn into office earlier this year on January 20, 2021. Harris’s victory to office is a significant moment not only for women’s history but also the U.S. History. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” said Harris during her victory speech.
These are just a few of the momentous events from women’s history. There are countless times where women have shattered the glass ceiling and pushed new boundaries. These significant moments in women’s history are the precedents for a brighter future. These milestones facilitated social change and the progression towards gender equality. Let’s continue to make women’s history everyday.