Famous Firsts by American Women

Here is a timeline about famous firsts by American women. This information includes such notable figures as the first published author in 1650 (Anne Bradstreet), to Elizabeth Blackwell receiving her medical degree in 1849, to astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson, who became the commander of the International Space Station in 2007. We also include the 2008 elections during which Senator Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire presidential primary, the first woman to do so, and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin became the first female vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket.
1587–1900 | 1901–present

1587
Virginia Dare is the first person born in America to English parents (Roanoke Island, Virginia).

1650
Anne Bradstreet’s book of poems, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, is published in England, making her the first published American woman writer.

1707
Henrietta Johnston begins to work as a portrait artist in Charles Town (now Charleston), South Carolina, making her the first known professional woman artist in America.

1766
Test your skills with the Women’s Firsts quiz.
Mary Katherine Goddard and her widowed mother become publishers of the Providence Gazette newspaper and the annual West’s Almanack, making her the first woman publisher in America. In 1775, Goddard became the first woman postmaster in the country (in Baltimore), and in 1777 she became the first printer to offer copies of the Declaration of Independence that included the signers’ names. In 1789 Goddard opened a Baltimore bookstore, probably the first woman in America to do so.

1767
Anne Catherine Hoof Green takes over her late husband’s printing and newspaper business, becoming the first American woman to run a print shop. The following year she is named the official printer for the colony of Maryland.

1790
Mother Bernardina Matthews establishes a Carmelite convent near Port Tobacco, Maryland, the first community of Roman Catholic nuns in the Thirteen Colonies. (The Ursuline convent established in New Orleans in 1727 was still in French territory.)

1792
Suzanne Vaillande appears in The Bird Catcher, in New York, the first ballet presented in the U.S. She was also probably the first woman to work as a choreographer and set designer in the United States.

1795
Anne Parrish establishes, in Philadelphia, the House of Industry, the first charitable organization for women in America.

1809
Mary Kies becomes the first woman to receive a patent, for a method of weaving straw with silk.
Elizabeth Ann Seton establishes the first American community of the Sisters of Charity, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1975 she became the first native-born American to be made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

1849
Elizabeth Blackwell receives her M.D. degree from the Medical Institution of Geneva, N.Y., becoming the first woman in the U.S. with a medical degree.

1853
Antoinette Blackwell becomes the first American woman to be ordained a minister in a recognized denomination (Congregational).

1864
Rebecca Lee Crumpler becomes the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College.

1866
Lucy Hobbs becomes the first woman to graduate from dental school, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery.

1869
Arabella Mansfield is granted admission to practice law in Iowa, making her the first woman lawyer. A year later, Ada H. Kepley, of Illinois, graduates from the Union College of Law in Chicago. She is the first woman lawyer to graduate from a law school.

1872
Victoria Claflin Woodhull becomes the first woman presidential candidate in the United States when she is nominated by the National Radical Reformers.

1873
Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to be admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earns her B.S. degree. She becomes the first female professional chemist in the U.S.

1879
Belva Ann Lockwood becomes the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mary Baker Eddy establishes the Church of Christ, Scientist, becoming the first woman to found a major religion, Christian Science.

1885
Sarah E. Goode becomes the first African-American woman to receive a patent, for a bed that folded up into a cabinet. Goode, who owned a furniture store in Chicago, intended the bed to be used in apartments.

1887
Susanna Medora Salter becomes the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.

1896
Alice Guy Blaché, the first American woman film director, shoots the first of her more than 300 films, a short feature called La Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy).

1897
H.H.A. Beach’s “Gaelic Symphony” is the first symphony by a woman performed in the United States, and possibly the world.
Sally Jean Priesand is ordained as the first woman rabbi in the United States.
Juanita Kreps becomes the first woman director of the New York Stock Exchange. She later becomes the first woman appointed Secretary of Commerce.

1901
On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a schoolteacher from Michigan, becomes the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

1914
Mary Davenport-Engberg is the first woman to conduct a symphony orchestra, in Bellingham, Washington.

1916
Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, is the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1921
American novelist Edith Wharton becomes the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She wins the award for her novel The Age of Innocence.

1922
Rebecca Felton, of Georgia, is appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill a temporary vacancy. The first woman senator, she serves for only two days.

1925
Nellie Tayloe Ross becomes the first woman to serve as governor of a state, in Wyoming. In the fall of 1924 she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross. (Miriam Amanda “Ma” Ferguson is inaugurated governor of Texas days later.)

1926
American Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

1931
Maxine Dunlap becomes first American woman to earn a glider pilot license.

1932

Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, traveling from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Ireland in approximately 15 hours.
Hattie Wyatt Caraway, of Arkansas, becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

1933
Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman member of a presidential cabinet.

1934
Lettie Pate Whitehead becomes the first American woman to serve as a director of a major corporation, The Coca-Cola Company.
On October 23, 1934, American adventurer Jeanette Piccard sets an altitude record for female balloonists when she ascends 57,579 feet.

1946
Mother Maria Frances Cabrini (1850-1917) is canonized by Pope Pius XII. She is the first U.S. citizen (she was born in Italy) to become a saint.
Edith Houghton becomes the first woman hired as a first major-league baseball scout.

1953
Jerrie Cobb is the first woman in the U.S. to undergo astronaut testing. NASA, however, cancels the women’s program in 1963. It is not until 1983 that an American woman gets sent into space.

1960
Oveta Culp Hobby becomes the first woman to serve as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. She is also the first director of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and the first woman to receive the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal.
Jacqueline Cochran breaks the sound barrier by flying an F-86 over Roger’s Dry Lake, California, at the speed of 652.337 miles per hour. Eleven years later, she flies at a speed of 1,429.2 miles per hour, more than twice the speed of sound.

1964
Margaret Chase Smith, of Maine, becomes the first woman nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.

1965
Patsy Takemoto Mink, of Hawaii, is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years.

1967
Muriel “Mickey” Siebert becomes the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and the first woman to head one of its member firms.
Althea Gibson is the first African-American tennis player to win a singles title at Wimbledon.

1969
Shirley Chisholm, of New York, becomes the first African-American woman in Congress. Her motto is, “Unbought and unbossed.” She served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years.
Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) becomes the first black woman U.S. Representative.

1970
Diane Crump becomes the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

1972
Sally Jean Priesand is ordained as the first woman rabbi in the United States.
Juanita Kreps becomes the first woman director of the New York Stock Exchange. She later becomes the first woman appointed Secretary of Commerce.

1975
Elizabeth Ann Seton is canonized, making her the first American-born saint.

1976
Sarah Caldwell becomes the first woman to conduct at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

1981

Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.

1983

Dr. Sally K. Ride becomes the first American woman to be sent into space.

1984
Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman to run for vice-president on a major party ticket.

1985
Wilma Mankiller becomes the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

1989
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, becomes the first Hispanic woman elected to congress. She serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In Boston, the Reverend Barbara C. Harris becomes the first woman consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

1990
Dr. Antonia Novello is sworn in as U.S. Surgeon General, becoming the first woman (and first Hispanic) to hold that job.

1991
On January 2, Sharon Pratt Dixon is sworn in as mayor of Washington, DC, becoming the first black woman to serve as mayor of a major city.

1992
Carol Moseley-Braun, of Illinois, becomes the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Mae Jemison becomes the first black female astronaut.

1993
Shiela Widnall becomes the first secretary of a branch of the U.S. military when she is appointed to head the Air Force.
Janet Reno becomes the first woman U.S. attorney general.
Toni Morrison becomes the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

1997

Madeleine Albright is sworn in as U.S. secretary of state. She is the first woman in this position as well as the highest-ranking woman in the United States government.

1998
During Operation Desert Fox in Iraq, Lt. Kendra Williams, USN, becomes the first U.S. female combat pilot to bomb an enemy target.

1999
Lt. Col. Eileen Collins is the first woman astronaut to command a space shuttle mission.
Nancy Ruth Mace is the first female cadet to graduate from the Citadel, the formerly all-male military school in South Carolina.

2000
Hillary Clinton is elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first First Lady ever elected to national office.

2005
Condoleeza Rice becomes the first African-American female Secretary of State.

2006
Effa Manley, co-owner of the Negro Leagues team Newark Eagles, becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2007
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) becomes the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Harvard University names Drew Gilpin Faust its first woman president in the school’s 371-year history.
Dr. Peggy Whitson, an American astronaut, becomes the first woman to command the International Space Station.

2008
Hillary Clinton wins the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, becoming the first woman in U.S. history to win a presidential primary contest.
Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, becomes the first woman to run for vice president on the Republican ticket.

2009
On February 9, the first African American female flight crew took their historic flight, having come together accidentally when the scheduled first officer called in sick. Captain Rachelle Jones, first officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers flew together on an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight from Atlanta to Nashville.

2010
In February, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman ever to win an Academy Award as best director. She claimed the Oscar for her 2009 Iraq War movie The Hurt Locker.

2 thoughts on “Famous Firsts by American Women

  1. Pingback: Famous Firsts by American Women | 4comculture.com

LEAVE A COMMENT