Making up 50.8 percent of the population, according to a statistic by census.gov, it’s evident women play a role in this ever changing society. By breaking barriers daily, there are simply too many women who’ve left important legacies. From literature, to medicine, to law, to athletics, here are just a few pioneers who’ve made incredible advances in their respected fields.
The 19th century
Clara Barton: Barton’s work during the Civil War, where she arranged medical care for Union troops, laid the foundation for her legacy of service. She provided supplies, nursed wounded soldiers and worked alongside the military during an era of complete male domination. Later, in 1881, Barton founded the American Red Cross. Through her advocacy and humanitarian skills, Barton was an inspiration for other countries to begin similar organizations for peacetime aid. Additionally, Barton spoke passionately about education and prison reform, women’s suffrage and civil rights. Barton’s contributions have been nothing short of tremendous. The Red Cross provides around 40 percent of the nation’s blood and blood components, redcrossblood.org said. In her later life, she also established the National First Aid Association of America, emphasizing emergency prepared and the development of first aid kits.
“I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.”
Louise Michel: Michel quickly became involved in charity and revolutionary politics. An important figure in the Paris Commune, Michel also had a large role in the fight for women’s rights. In 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, Michel worked as an ambulance nurse and treated many soldiers. After the defeat of the Parisian government, Michel was taken as a prisoner, charged with possession and use of weapons and attempts to overthrow the government. Throughout her life, Michel was arrested and importestoned several other times, but continued to promote and advocate for her work. Michel is most remembered for her efforts towards social equality and fight against injustice and monarchy.
“I am ambitious for humanity: I should like that everyone were an artist, sufficiently poetic that all human vanity would disappear.”
Mary Walton: Walton was a true pioneer, paving the way for a more environmentally friendly world. During the Industrial Revolution, Walton helped reduce air pollution by inventing a device that minimized smoke in the air. The device would force the smoke through water tanks that held the pollutants before discharging them into the sewage system. When Walton traveled to England to promote her device, British officials described it as “one of the greatest inventions of the age.” Later in her career, Walton combined tar, sand and cotton to create a noise reduction system that would be used to mask the vibration of trains. Walton’s contributions in the STEM field crown her as a role model, recognizing her determination and creativity towards solving problems.
The 20th century
Virginia Apgar: While working in obstetric anesthesiology, Apgar developed a system known as the Apgar score. The system evaluates and measures five items of a newborn baby. The conditions include heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflex response and color. Apgar’s contribution into the medical field has allowed nurses to evaluate whether newborns need medical attention following their birth. The five score system is now used around the world as a standard measurement. Additionally, Apgar was an advocate for promoting public support and funding for birth defect research. In 1995, Apgar was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
“Nobody, but nobody, is going to stop breathing on me.”
Katharine Graham: Famed for the Watergate investigation, Graham was the president and publisher of the Washington Post. During her career, Graham made an effort to report on factual and accurate stories, visiting the army base during the Vietnam War multiple times during her coverage. Later, the Post, along with the New York Times ran into issues with the U.S. government, over publishing rights of classified Pentagon papers. Under Graham’s power, the Post grew as a major news source and was considered one of the two best newspapers in the country. Graham’s role in building and improving her business left the nation calling her one of the nation’s most loved female publishers when she passed away in 2001.
“A mistake is simply another way of doing things.”
Patsy Takemoto Mink: Mink made history when she became the first Asian-American congresswoman by being elected to the United States House of Representatives. An advocate for women’s rights, education, civil rights and social welfare, Mink left a considerable legacy for female politicians. After earning her law degree at the University of Chicago, Mink returned to Hawaii, where she was born, and started her own law practice. Mink became the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. Besides her role in making history, Mink made great legislative achievements. One of her most notable was the passage of Title IX of the federal Education Amendments, according to womenshistory.org. In 1974, Mink also helped pass the Women’s Education Equity Act. Overcoming gender and racial discrimination, Mink fought for the rights of individuals whose voices were not heard.
“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences … to make sure that others … do not have to suffer the same discrimination.“
The 21st century
Ai-Jen Poo: An American activist, Poo is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She was crucial in securing New York’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. The seven year legislative campaign emphasized Poo’s advocacy, determination and commitment towards a new movement. Additionally, Poo sparked a worker-led movement for improved working condition and labor standards in domestic and private-household work spaces. Her work and vision is transforming the landscape of working conditions, according to macfound.org. Her focus on civil society and community organization has lead to successful legislative campaigns on the global stage. Currently, Poo is working to develop the Caring Across Generations campaign. Her effort is to unite elders and home care workers need long term care, health care and support for immigration.
“It’s precisely the people who are considered the least ‘likely’ leaders who end up inspiring others the most. Everyday people and everyday acts of courage eventually change everything.”
J. K. Rowling: As the world’s first billionaire author, Rowling’s famous series of eight books changed the literary world. As an unknown, recently divorced single mother living in the United Kingdom, Rowling’s Harry Potter series changed the business model for teen books. Noted as one of the biggest forces in entertainment, Rowling showed an entirely new idea, introducing the possibility of interacting with pop culture, Vox.com said. In the publishing industry, the novels made it possible to publish long works with an intended children’s audience. Secondly, Rowling’s work made children’s literature an unstoppable force. Additionally, Harry Potter opened doors for the world of fandom and “geek culture,” Vox said. Beyond good publicity and marketing, Rowling’s writing transformed the industry, created careers and interested its readers in escaping to unimaginable worlds of magic.
“Are you the sort of person who gloats when they see a woman fall, or the kind that celebrates a magnificent recovery?”
Ibtihaj Muhammad: The 2016 Summer Olympics was short put: monumental. Muhammad became the first female Muslim American to compete in the games wearing a hijab. She was also the first to medal for the United States, earning bronze in fencing. Aside from the sport, Muhammad also helped start the organization Athletes For Impact, which helps athletes push toward a social change. Though her career is certainly not ending soon, Muhammad’s impact has already been present. Launching a clothing line aimed at bringing modest clothing to American markets and representing Nike in the “Just Do It” campaign have been just a couple ways Muhammad has reshaped what it means to be a diverse athlete.
“I’m one of those people who feels like I have to be strong for those people who may not be able to find that strength. I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard.”
Which female pioneer did you learn most about?
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