By presidential proclamation, March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. In 1978, Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in California as “Women’s History Week, celebrated the week of March 8th in correspondence with International Women’s Day.
The local celebration gained national recognition when in 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation, designating the week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, the US Congress approved Public Law 100-9, declaring March as “Women’s History Month.”
Women’s History Month is dedicated to celebrating women that have made unheralded contributions to society. In recognition of women’s historic contributions, here are eight powerful, trailblazing women and their accomplishments.
1) Alice Guy-Blaché — Filmmaker, First Woman Director
Alice Guy-Blaché was the first female director, and one of the first to film a narrative story. Additionally, she was the first woman to establish and manage a film studio. She produced roughly 1,000 films. Of those 1,000 films, two of her most notable films were Esnerakda (1905) and La Vie du Christ (1906).
2) Cathay Williams — First African American Soldier
Private Cathay Williams began in the US military in a support role during the Civil War because she was a captured slave. After the war, Williams joined the Army under a male pseudonym, William Cathay, and became the first Black woman to enlist.
3) Emmy Noether — Mathematician, Known for Discovering Noether’s Theorem
Emmy Noether enrolled at the University of Erlangen in Germany for a PhD degree. She discovered Noether’s Theorem, a groundbreaking theorem that related the laws of nature and conservation to mathematical symmetry.
4) Gerty Theresa Cori — Biochemist, First Woman Nobel Laureate in Science
Gerty Cori studied at the Medical School of the German University of Prague as one of the few women students. There she met her husband, Carl Cori, who she worked with to create the Cori Cycle. Their carbohydrate research led to the creation of treatments for diabetes and made them recipients of the 1947 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
5) Grace Hopper — Computer Scientist, Invented the First Computer Compiler
Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and rear admiral in the United States Navy. She invented the first computer compiler, and she was instrumental in the development of the first all-electronic digital computer, UNIVAC.
6) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — Latina Politician and Lobbyist
Ros-Lehtinen was the first Latina to serve in the Florida house, the first Latina in the Florida Senate, the first Latina to serve in the US House of Representatives, the first Latina and the first Cuban-American in Congress, and the first woman to be chair of a regular standing committee of the House.
7) Marsha P. Johnson — African American Transgender Woman and Activist
Marsha P. Johnson is most known for her role in the Stonewall Inn riots — a 1916 uprising against police brutality by New York City’s LGBTQ+ community — for allegedly being the one to throw the first brick in the Stonewall riots. Johnson was a leading figure in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, as well as an AIDS activist during the 1980s AIDS epidemic.
8) Susan La Flesche Picotte — First Native American Doctor
After witnessing a Native American woman die because a white doctor refused to treat her, Dr. Picotte was driven by this tragedy to become a physician and care for the people she lived with on the reserve. She was the first person in the US to receive federal aid for professional education and the first Native American to receive a medical degree.
While this brief list does not encompass the entirety of influential female figures, hopefully it was successful in spotlighting women and their overlooked contributions.