March is Women’s History Month so it’s the perfect time to celebrate the women in your life, and the ones who’ve come before you. We’ve all learned about our fearless, feminist ancestors like Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Julia Child. Yes, Julia Child! Before she was known for her cooking, she worked as an intelligence officer in the OSS, and she spoke four languages! She was a total badass.
Still there are many whose names we don’t know by heart, yet reap the benefits of their hard work and determination every day. So prepare for some speed dating y’all, cause it’s time to meet 9 women who made history you probably didn’t know about.
9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About
1. Victoria Woodhull
It amazes me we still ask the question “Is America ready for a woman president?” Um, yes. And we’ve been trying to elect one since 1870. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, and she did so before having the right to vote herself. In fact she spent election day in jail. Campaigning under the Equal Rights Party, her running mate was none other than abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She was also very outspoken on the issue of “free love,” which back then referred to a woman’s right to divorce her husband. No one knows how many votes Victoria received because the bastards running the patriarchy refused to count them.
2. Henrietta Lacks
Gaining popularity and recognition thanks to a book by Rebecca Skloot, Henrietta Lacks is the reason we have most vaccines and medical advancements today. At the time of her death in 1951, medical consent forms didn’t exist, so without her permission or that of her family, doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cells. The healthcare industry was desperately trying to find cures for diseases but keeping test cells alive was impossible. Until Henrietta. The cells from Henrietta’s body, known as HeLa cells, were the first ever to be kept alive and grown, resulting in great medical advancements including the polio vaccine.
3. Elizabeth Smith Miller
Did you put pants on today? Yoga pants and jeggings count! Well you have Elizabeth Smith Miller to thank for that. She was the first woman to wear pants in 1851. Finding the long skirts and dresses of the 1800’s too confining for her hobbies, she created an early version of the skort. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Technically she wore pantaloons with a wrap skirt over them, but we all know it was a skort, or at the very least a skant.
4. Sarah Josepha Buell Hale
Think you know the story of the first Thanksgiving? Think again. Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, wasn’t celebrated until 1863, over 240 years after the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians held what we consider the first Thanksgiving. Wanting to unite our war torn country, Sarah wrote to the president and members of congress every year for 17 years asking for a national day of gratitude. In November of 1863, President Lincoln announced the first national day of giving thanks, done so at Sarah’s subtle nudging.
5. Pauli Murray
Pursuing higher education in the 1930’s and 40’s when women were often barred from many colleges because of their gender, Pauli Murray became the first African-American woman to earn a graduate degree from Yale University and went on to become a civil rights lawyer and feminist. She is the co-founder of NOW (National Organization of Women) which still seeks to address issues of gender equality and women’s rights. In 1977, she also became the first black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.
6. Patsy Takemoto Mink
Patsy grew up watching and experiencing racism against Japanese Americans following WWII. She was determined to better the lives of all people regardless of their race or gender or education level. She studied medicine and law and was an active political figure in Hawaii before it was an official U.S. state. In 1964, she became the first Asian American woman elected to the House of Representatives. Patsy is most widely known for the passing of Title IX, or the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which she helped author. The act prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded schools and largely opened up opportunities for women in athletics.
7. Dorothea Dix
Dorothea was born in 1802, and at the age of 14 she started teaching. A job in a women’s prison led Dorothea to start researching the care of the mentally ill in hospitals and penitentiaries. The documentation she presented to legislative figures allowed for larger budget allocations that improved conditions in the institutions as well as built new ones. Her diligent work improved or founded over 30 hospitals for the mentally ill. She was appointed Superintendent of U.S. Army Nurses in 1861.
8. Ada and Minna Everleigh
The Everleigh sisters, Ada and Minna, are some of Chicago’s most notorious historical figures. During the late 1800’s, they opened up one of the finest brothels in the country, featuring a gold piano, right on Dearborn St. Before you sneer at their historical achievement, you should know how they changed the game. At a time when women’s only opportunities outside the home were teaching or prostitution, if you had to get a job, your choices were limited. And many women were actually getting drugged and kidnapped, forced into the sex industry with violence. Ada and Minna’s “butterflies” were kept in the lap of luxury with fancy clothes, education, and 3 square meals a day. As for their patrons, the Everleigh sisters were also great businesswomen who actually demanded proof of their client’s bank accounts before entrance and tolerated zero violence in their establishment.
9. Lillian Gilbreth
Lillian is the queen of professional women. Not only did she raise 12 children, she became the first female inducted into the Society of Industrial Engineers. She earned a degree in psychology and spent years working as a business consultant for top clients like Macy’s, General Electric, and even the President of the United States. You’re probably familiar with some of her inventions such as the shelves on refrigerator doors and the foot pedal on garbage cans.
So there you have it. Nine talented women who made history, and often aren’t recognized. Happy Women’s History Month!
Ever wondered where the new wave of feminists are? You’re in luck, cuz they’re out there!
AND because I’m blogging about it at one of the coolest new e-zines for badasses out there, The Indie Chicks.
Today I’m guest posting on the conundrum: I’m a Feminist. Now What?
Learn what it really means to be a feminist – Guys, that includes you too – and find out five ways you can make a difference starting now.
Every view, comment, like, and share helps me out because The Indie Chicks are currently looking for contributing writers. And I’ll tell you a secret, so scooch in…
I WOULD REALLY REALLY, LIKE OHMYGOD FANGIRL, LOOOOOOOVE TO WRITE FOR THE INDIE CHICKS REGULARLY!!!
So please tell me I’ll see you there!
Welcome to Guilty Pleasures Friday! If you feel guilty doing it, then it’s probably much more fun!
This week I interviewed New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Abbott, an expert in unruly women of history! Check out the author interview because Karen is AMAZING! I thought it would be fun today to discuss famous, or rather infamous, women of history!
Just For Fun:
Lucky Day: Reading telegram: “Three Amigos, Hollywood, California. You are very great. 100,000 pesos. Come to Santa Poco put on show, stop. The In-famous El Guapo.”
Dusty Bottoms: What does that mean, in-famous?
Ned Nederlander: Oh, Dusty. In-famous is when you’re MORE than famous. This man El Guapo, he’s not just famous, he’s IN-famous.
Lucky Day: 100,000 pesos to perform with this El Guapo, who’s probably the biggest actor to come out of Mexico!
Dusty Bottoms: Wow, in-famous? In-famous?
Top 5 Glamorously Guilty Women of History
1. Bette Davis
With a Hollywood career spanning 60 years and 100 films, Bette Davis is America’s Silver Screen Starlet! Bette was a game changer in the film industry, proving women could act in a variety of challenging and dramatic roles. She received numerous Oscar nominations, one my favorites includes her star role in Jezebel, which fans of Gone With the Wind would love. She became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and she became the first female president of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. Bette didn’t earn these titles for lack of want. She was noted as incredibly difficult to work with and took her career into her own hands multiple times. Sometimes in breach of contract! But through it all, she earned more compelling roles and became the highest paid woman in America in 1942. Using her fame and fortune for good, Bette also received the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for her founding of the Hollywood Canteen, an entertainment facility for soldiers passing through LA during the war.
Learn more at bettedavis.com
2. Ada and Minna Everleigh
The Everleigh Sisters quickly became the madams to know during the Victorian era of Chicago’s streets. Ada, the elder sister, was the brains behind the business, while Minna was the face and PR of the place. Together, they rivaled any other brothel or madam and wagered a war against the religious reformers of the day! Where many other brothels acquired their employees through means of kidnapping and poor circumstances, the Everleighs practically held auditions. Their “butterflies” were well fed, well dressed, and educated young women who were able to make more money than most given the opportunities available to women at the time.
Yet the sisters faced many a court case, being accused of murder three times! All by the same woman too! Rival madam, Vic Shaw, would stop at nothing to tear the Everleighs down. Despite the growing political tension, and the dead body of department store son Marshall Field Jr., the Everleigh sisters prevailed!
Learn more at sininthesecondcity.com
3. Gypsy Rose Lee
Born Rose Louise Hovick, Burlesque starlet Gypsy, began as a 12 pound baby! The eldest daughter of Rose Hovick, Louise spent much of her childhood trying to qualm her mother’s antics and dancing as a newsboy in the background to her sister, “Dainty June.” When showbiz had had its fill of Gypsy’s mother, and the girls couldn’t lie about their ages anymore, Gypsy and her mom fled from hotel to motel to tent by the parking lot. Eventually, she began her career working in strip clubs, and learned that her quick wit and humor could get her through the shows without having to reveal much actual flesh. She worked her way to the high society stages and created a customer base of men and their wives who came to hear her sing-song voice, her comedic monologues, and her tantalizing stage performance!
Learn more about gypsyroselee.net
4. Jackie Kennedy Onassis
The least guilty of anyone on my list, but quite possibly the most glamorous! Jackie Kennedy Onassis became First Lady at the age of 31. Her only bad behavior was reported in grade school for disrupting the class during geography lessons. Rather, Jackie was a true fashion icon and humanitarian. Renowned for her work in arts restoration, she began her career as a photographer and columnist for the Washington Times-Herald newspaper. She went on to boarding school and became fluent in French, Spanish and Italian, which assisted her greatly in her world travels as First Lady and goodwill ambassador. Restoring parts of the White House and preserving spaces such as the Smithsonian’s Renwick Building and Grand Central Station are among her list of accomplishments during office. Widowed at 34 after her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was murdered, she created the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in memorial. After the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, she began her career again in publishing, working at Doubleday as Senior Editor. A lifetime promoter of the arts, Jackie often held dinners and meetings at the White House where writers, artists and musicians could mingle with statesmen alike. Jackie was refined and only unruly in her passion for promoting the arts!
Learn more at jfklibrary.org
5. Margaret Sanger
Where would my Women’s Studies degree be if I didn’t include Margaret Sanger?! Many women of today owe their sexual health care to the activism led by Margaret Sanger. Working as a nurse in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s, Sanger experienced firsthand the health risks from frequent pregnancies and poverty. Her own mother died at the age of 50 from tuberculosis and cervical cancer, after 18 pregnancies in 22 years! Margaret is the founder of Planned Parenthood and the birth control movement. She was arrested in 1916 for distributing contraception. Her trial made public the health risks for women who had too many pregnancies too close together, and the disastrous consequences of back alley abortions. Her goal wasn’t to promote abortion by any means, but to give women more options as to when they bore children. Contraceptive access remains a history making change in the lives of all women. Much of our women’s health care system we owe to Margaret Sanger!
Learn more at biography.com
What women of history do you think are dangerously dynamic?
And SPECIAL CONGRATULATIONS to WINNER of the American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee book giveaway: