Historic women's firsts
Phillis Wheatley slave
Her 1767 historic first?
Originally from this area of Africa, Wheatley rose from slavery to become a successful author , opening doors for both black and women writers. It wasn't an easy task; she had to prove her authorship in court and travel to London to get printed, since this bustling American city refused to publish her work.
Elizabeth Blackwell quaker
Her 1849 historic first?
Blackwell was accepted to a New York college as a practical joke, but she went on to become a pioneer in the medical field despite formidable obstacles. Her moving story inspired a 1950s TV drama.
Mary Edwards Walker farming family in Oswego, New York
Her 1865 historic first?
During the Civil War, she became a prisoner of war after being captured behind enemy lines. She also became the first -- and only -- woman to receive this honor.
Mary Edwards Walker farming family in Oswego, New York
Victoria Woodhull spiritualist
Her 1872 historic first?
A controversial feminist , she ran for the top office under a newly formed party, even though women didn't yet have the right to vote. Her eccentric life included getting arrested just days before the election.
Belva Lockwood 14 teaching elementary school
Her 1879 historic first?
This fearless attorney went from being a farmer's wife to getting an education, and becoming one of the first female lawyers to accomplish this feat. She participated in arguing in the case of Kaiser v Stickney. As if that wasn't enough, she ran for president -- twice .
Marie Curie early life warsaw.
First woman to win a Nobel Prize
This brilliant scientist shared the coveted prize with her husband for their work in this field, then went on to win another for her discoveries in chemistry , making her the first person to win in two fields. Her inspiring story was made into a biographical film, starring a talented 1940s actress.
Edith wharton wealthy New York family privileged class.
First woman to win a Pulitzer Prize
Her revealing novel about upper-class New York City residents netted her a distinguished honor . Wharton also wrote short stories (her works), to both popular and critical acclaim.
Gertrude Ederle daughter german immigrant butcher
First woman to swim the English Channel
Even though the conditions were tricky, this Olympian swam an impressive 21 miles from France to England . Ederle set a world record , breaking the men's record by more than two hours.
Amelia Earhart Kansas tomboy
First woman to fly solo over the Atlantic
This legendary aviator accomplished several flying feats, then disappeared in her attempt to fly around the world . A recent movie, starring this actress, details her extraordinary life .
frances perkins worcester
First woman Cabinet member
This president believed in her abilities when he appointed her to a prestigious government post. Perkins proved more than capable and was instrumental in the development of the New Deal, the Social Security Act and child labor laws .
Althea Gibson harlem
First African-American female Wimbledon champion
Dubbed the "Jackie Robinson of tennis," Gibson broke race barriers when she bravely competed in a segregated sport . She not only took Wimbledon twice but also acquired 11 major titles and earned herself a ticker-tape parade .
Shirley Chisholm barbados
First African-American woman elected to Congress
Chisholm worked tirelessly in this congressional district before paving the way for future political hopefuls when she ran for president on the Democratic ticket, despite assassination attempts. Watch footage of some of her poignant speeches during her candidacy.
Diane Crump thoroughbred horse farm
First woman jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby
Although small , she could handle a horse as well as any man. Crump was the first woman to ride in a pari-mutuel race and also the first to ride in the famed Kentucky Derby with her horse Fathom .
Barbara Walters nightclub
First woman network news anchor
Breaking into a male-dominated field, Walters became well known for her one-on-one interviews with world leaders and celebrities . Her daytime talk show is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.
Junko Tabei mt nasu teacher 10 years old
First woman to climb Mount Everest
People tried to persuade her not to go, telling her that women couldn't climb the world's highest mountain, but Tabei showed them they were wrong. She also became the first woman to climb the world's seven highest peaks.
Janet Guthrie florida school for girls
First woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500
Guthrie had the need for speed when she broke into a testosterone-charged world. Although she encountered problems at the Indy 500, she finished as the "Top Rookie" at the Daytona 500.
Sandra Day O'Connor growing up cattle ranch
First woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Nominated by this president, O'Connor served 24 years on the court, often providing the swing vote to decide controversial cases. Even with great credentials, her career got off to a rocky start. But she overcame the odds to become a prominent figure in American judicial history .
Sally Ride nationally ranked tennis player
First American woman in space
Ride was looking for work in astrophysics when she answered an ad seeking applicants for the NASA space program. She boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, as the youngest astronaut in NASA's history and the first American woman in space.
Joan Benoit long-distance running to help recover from a broken leg
First woman to win an Olympic marathon
The year women were first allowed to run marathons in the Olympics Benoit came away with the gold . The world record-holder shocked spectators by doing incredibly well just days after this surgery.
Nancy Lieberman pickup teams
First woman to play pro men's basketball
This basketball star played with a professional men's team and became the first female pro basketball coach for this team. The Hall of Famer still had her game on at 50, when she booked a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock.
frances anne cordova oldest of 12 children
First female chief scientist at NASA
Córdova was not only the first woman to hold a prestigious NASA position ; she was also the youngest person. She has been awarded NASA's highest honor and was named one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" by this magazine.
Madeleine Albright prague
First female secretary of state
Appointed by this president , Albright became the highest-ranking woman in federal government history. She wielded her influence by shaping foreign policy and had an unusual diplomatic trademark, the use of which began with a special message to Saddam Hussein.
Lisa Leslie middle school boys team
First woman to dunk in professional basketball
It was a sight to behold when Leslie soared through the air to make history . The four-time gold medal Olympian spent 12 years with this team and earned the honor of becoming the first WNBA player to score 5,000 points.
Kathryn Bigelow painting
First woman to win an Oscar for best director
It was a landmark day when Bigelow won an Oscar, which was based on a journalist's war experiences, garnered great reviews.