With women trailblazers like Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks fighting for equality, women today can be just about anything they set their minds to.
In the last 150 years, women’s roles have changed dramatically across the world.
Shirley Chisholm fought for racial and gender equality as the first African American woman in Congress.
Shirley Chisholm broke barriers in American politics as the first African American woman in Congress during a time of extreme discrimination in the United States.
She started her career as a nursery-school teacher and earned her master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University in 1951.
She went on to be the first woman and African American to run for president of the United States under a major political party in 1972.
Malala Yousafzai continues to fight for the right of girls to go to school.
Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan, where the Taliban took control. Girls were no longer allowed to go to school, and many of those institutions were being destroyed.
At just 11 years old, Yousafzai began to speak out against the Talibanon a blog and documented her experiences. After receiving some recognition for her work, at the age of 15, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on her way home from school in 2012.
After her recovery in the United Kingdom, Yousafzai started the Malala Fund, a charity that fights for girls’ education. In 2014, she became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner at just 17 years old.
As recently as 2018, there were still more than 130 million girls not in school, and Yousafzai continues to fight for equality with her work across the world.
Marie Curie’s groundbreaking discoveries led to the use of radiation to treat illness.
Marie Curie became a world-renowned physicist during a time when women weren’t regarded for these types of roles.
Born in Poland, Curie left Warsaw in 1891 to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris. There, she met her husband Pierre Curie, and together they began researching the separation of radium from radioactive residues.
Their work covering radioactivity earned them the Nobel Prize for Physics.
After her husband died in 1906, Curie threw herself into her career and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. She later earned a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry for her work in isolating pure radium.
Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Her groundbreaking work advanced the use of radiation to treat illness and furthered research around nuclear physics.
Junko Tabei broke gender stereotypes as the first female to climb to Mount Everest’s summit.
Not only was Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei the first woman to ever trek to Mount Everest’s summit, but she also was the first one to complete the Seven Summits — climbing the tallest mountain on every continent.
Tabei formed the Ladies’ Climbing Club in 1969, an all-woman mountaineering group that would eventually make the trek up Mount Everest together in 1975.
Although Tabei’s accomplishment of climbing Mount Everest was huge on its own, her Ladies’ Climbing Club broke barriers in Japan, where at the time it was believed that women should just be caring for their families.
Frida Kahlo’s art celebrated the female form and Mexican culture.
After overcoming a debilitating injury and tumultuous marriage, Frida Kahlo became one of Mexico’s most famous painters.
By the 1930s, Kahlo’s marriage was suffering. Her husband was having an affair with her sister while Kahlo was also having extramarital relations with both men and women, so the couple divorced.
Kahlo became known for her surrealist self-portraits that celebrate both the female form and Mexican culture.
Today, she is heralded as a feminist and LGBTQ icon.
Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space.
Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to ever go to space.
While working in a textile mill, Tereshkova joined a parachuting club, where she made 150 jumps. With that experience, she wrote a letter to the space center asking if she could join.
The Soviet space officials were already putting together a group of women for the next cosmonaut team. So in 1961, they decided to choose Tereshkova to join the next class of people to go to space.
Katherine Johnson’s keen mathematics skills helped put people in space.
Mathematician Katherine Johnson used her exceptional calculation skills to assess the flight paths of spacecrafts for NASA.
Prior to her work in the space industry, Johnson was one of the first three African American students to be accepted into the graduate program at West Virginia University in 1939. Soon after, she got married and started a family, putting her mathematics career on hold.
In 1953, Johnson began working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which was still segregated at the time.
Her work analyzing flight tests led to her joining the Space Task Group for what would become NASA later that year. She did trajectory analysis for the first human spaceflight and ran calculations personally for John Glenn’s orbital mission.
During her 33-year career, she was the first woman in her division to receive credit for a research report, and she went on to author or co-author 26 research papers.
Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-president Barack Obama in 2015.
Nancy Pelosi was the first female Speaker of the House.
Known now for her strength and grit as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has worked hard to get to this point.
Her early political involvement began while living in San Franciscowith her family, where she was a volunteer Democratic organizer with a knack for fundraising.
She eventually served on the Democratic National Committee and went on to run for California’s 12th District Congressional seat, just narrowly winning the first election.
After she proved herself in her first term, she continued to be reelected and hold her ground in Washington D.C. She was known to use her stern voice to unite the moderates and liberals of her party to join together.
In 2002, Pelosi was elected as the minority whip, and later that year, she was voted in as the minority leader. So in 2003, she went on to be the first woman to lead a party in Congress.
In 2007, Pelosi was elected as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House and continues to fill that position today.
Katharine Graham’s courage led her to become the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Katharine Graham paved the way for women in business as the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
After her husband died in 1963, Graham took over as president of the Washington Post Company and ultimately led the newspaper to success.
Because of Graham’s courage and tenacity, the Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the harsh realities of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, despite pushback from the Richard Nixon administration.