1. Dorothea Erxleben Earns Her Medical Degree, 1754
The German woman was taught medicine at a young age by her father before becoming the first female in the world to graduate with a medical degree, earning hers from the University of Halle.
2. The First Institute Of Higher Education For Women In America Is Established, 1792
Sarah Pierce founded the school in Litchfield, Connecticut, in her own home before it became known as Litchfield Female Academy in 1827. Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was among her students.
3. Wyoming Territory Grants Women's Right To Vote, 1869
The territory’s legislature stated: “Every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may at every election… Cast her vote.” Though there was some pushback when it officially became a state in 1890, women were able to maintain the right to vote.
In 1924, the state also became the first to vote a female into a position of government: Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross, shown above.
4. Charlotte Cooper Wins Olympic Gold, 1900
Long after women were barred from even spectating at the original Olympic Games back when they were held in 776 BC, Charlotte’s tennis skills helped her become the first woman to earn the top spot while competing at the Summer Olympics in Paris.
She also racked up five Wimbledon championships during her impressive career.
5. Marie Curie Wins The Nobel Prize In Physics, 1903
She shared the award with Antoine Henri Becquerel and her husband Pierre. The first ever female to receive the award, she and her partners were honored “in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena.”
6. Sara Teasdale Wins The Pulitzer Prize For Poetry, 1918
Though folks usually think of Edith Wharton as the first female to win a Pulitzer with her achievement in fiction in 1921, Sara actually had her beat by a few years with her collection of poems, Love Songs. The confusion is understandable, however, as the award was initially known as the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize before adopting the Pulitzer title in 1922.
7. Gertrude Ederle Swims The English Channel, 1926
Though she was only 20 years old at the time, the young woman was able to not only make the daunting trek across the channel from France, she also beat the previously held record by doing so in just 14 hours and 31 minutes.
Reporters at the time dubbed Gertrude “Queen of the Waves.”
8. Amelia Earhart Crosses The Atlantic, 1932
The aviator’s solo flight from Newfoundland, Canada, was intended to emulate Charles Lindbergh’s previous journey, with Amelia landing in Paris. However, icy conditions on the nearly 15-hour trip caused her to make her descent in Derry, Ireland, instead.
She was greeted by a farmer of the land she’d touched down on, who asked how far she had flown. Amelia likely gave him a shock when she replied “from America!”
9. Arlene Francis Hosts Blind Date, 1943
After appearing as the only regular female host of the radio program What’s My Name? alongside four male hosts, Arlene became the first woman to helm her very own game show, first on radio in 1943 and then broadcast on ABC and NBC in 1949.
10. Valentina Tereshkova Goes To Space, 1963
After beating out more than 400 other applicants, the Russian cosmonaut became the first woman to enter space as the pilot of Vostok 6. Valentina spent three days in the craft, orbiting Earth 48 times.
11. Junko Tabei Climbs Mount Everest, 1975
After an unfortunate attempt by a different group of mountaineers who’d hoped to forge their own path in 1970 that resulted in eight deaths before reaching the summit, Junko became the first woman to make the full ascent as she successfully led her own group to the top five years later.
At one point, she was submerged in an avalanche and lost consciousness for six minutes before a Sherpa revived her to complete the mission.
12. Janet Guthrie Drives In The Indy 500, 1977
Despite the objections of many male drivers, Janet became the first woman to enter a NASCAR competition in 1976 before making her way around the laps of the Indianapolis 500 the very next year.
Three-time champion A.J. Foyt came to her defense when other drivers tried to prevent her from competing, even loaning her one of his backup cars.
13. Sandra Day O'Connor Is Appointed To The Supreme Court, 1981
President Ronald Reagan made good on his campaign promise to appoint the first ever female member of the Supreme Court when he nominated Sandra, but he only gave the Arizona judge one day’s notice before making the announcement.
Despite backlash, she was confirmed on September 21, 1981, with a 99-0 vote by the U.S. Senate — it would have been unanimous had Senator Max Baucus of Montana not been absent that day. He later apologized to Sandra by sending her a copy of A River Runs Through It.
14. Kathryn Bigelow Wins The Oscar For Best Director, 2010
Her film The Hurt Locker was nominated the same year her ex-husband, James Cameron, was up for several of the same awards with Avatar. Kathryn not only beat him to the Best Director title, she nabbed the Best Picture award, too.
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