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Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) made history as the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in World War I and World War II. A determined suffragist, she helped women in her home state of Montana win the vote and introduced what later became the 19th Amendment to secure suffrage for women nationwide.
Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a member of the Ferguson Uprising and co-founder of Campaign Zero, discusses how issues of social justice are interconnected, and how those who benefit from privilege have the responsibility to fight for the rights of those impacted by systemic inequalities.
Jovita Idár (1885-1946) helped organize the first Mexican American civil rights conference in 1911 to address racism, lynching, and dismal educational opportunities for Mexican American children.
Martha Hughes Cannon (1857-1932) completed medical school, became the fourth of six wives in a polygamous Mormon marriage, and joined the women’s suffrage movement. In 1896, she was elected the country’s first female state senator, defeating her own husband who was also on the ballot.
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) became a national leader as founder of the National Association of Colored Women, coining its motto “Lifting As We Climb,” while also serving as a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and actively wrote and spoke out about lynching and segregation throughout her life.
After answering an ad seeking a "young woman who can swim and dive; likes horses; desires to travel," Sonora Webster Carver became one of the most famous horse divers in the world. She continued diving for 11 years after being blinded in 1931 as a result of one of her performances, and later in life engaged in activism for the visually impaired.
Susan La Flesche Picotte became the first American Indian woman to graduate from medical school, and is notable for founding an independently funded hospital on the Omaha reservation in Nebraska.
Sissieretta Jones became the first Black woman to headline a concert on the main stage at Carnegie Hall in 1892. Jones was heralded as the greatest singer of her generation and a pioneer in the operatic tradition at a time when access to most classical concert halls in the U.S. were closed to black performers and patrons. She also performed at the White House and abroad.
Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003) made history and rocketed to international stardom in 1926 when, at age 20, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel, then considered one of the toughest endurance tests in the world, beating the fastest man's existing record by nearly two hours, and challenging notions about women being “the weaker sex.”
Queen Lili‘uokalani (1838-1917) was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch of Hawai‘i, who assumed the throne in the midst of a government takeover by American business owners supported by the U.S. military. After being deposed and placed under house arrest, she fought to preserve native Hawaiian rights and traditions.
Annie Smith Peck, one of the first women in America to become a college professor in the fields of Latin, elocution, and archaeology, took up mountain climbing in her forties. She gained international fame in 1895 when she first summited the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps -- not for her daring ascent, but because she undertook the climb wearing pants rather than a cumbersome skirt.
Gladys Bentley joined New York’s Harlem Renaissance jazz scene at age 16 and became an instant sensation and gender identity pioneer, performing piano and vocals at the most popular gay bars, wearing men’s clothing, and openly flirting with women in the audience.
Margaret Chung (1889-1959) overcame great racism and sexism to become the first American-born Chinese female doctor in 1916. She also helped establish WAVES, the women’s naval reserves, paving the way for women’s integration into the U.S armed forces.
Rose Schneiderman began working in a factory at age 16, and after experiencing unsafe work conditions and unequal pay first-hand, helped organize an all-women's chapter of a hat makers’ union. She became president of the National Women's Trade Union League, and an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, informing many of his New Deal labor policies.
Tye Leung Shulze resisted domestic servitude and an arranged child marriage to provide translation services and solace to Asian immigrant victims of human trafficking in San Francisco. In 1912, one year after California granted women the right to vote, she became the first Chinese American woman to vote in a U.S. election.
Williamina Fleming went from doing domestic work to being appointed the Curator of Astronomical Photographs at the Harvard College Observatory, making her the first woman to hold a title at Harvard University. She is credited with discovering 10 novae, over 300 variable stars, and 59 gaseous nebulae.
Lois Weber was an early film pioneer as the first American woman to direct a full-length feature film in 1913, and one of the first directors to own her own film studio. Infused with the conviction that film could change culture, she directed over 135 films about controversial subject matters such as capital punishment, police violence, birth control, and poverty.