Breaking Barriers: 35 Inspirational Facts About Female Pioneers

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1Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on 16 June 1963, where she spent three days orbiting the Earth 48 times and she is the only woman to have completed a solo space mission.

2. Joan of Arc asked King Charles VII to exempt her village from taxes "forever." This was upheld for over 300 years until the French Revolution happened and the promise was forgotten.

3. Several years after Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom, she returned to rescue her enslaved husband. When she found out he'd remarried another woman and didn't want to leave, she thought about making a scene, decided it wasn't worth it, and then led several other slaves to freedom instead.

4. In 2015, Tu Youyou became the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize, for helping to create an anti-malaria medicine. In China, she is being called the "three noes" winner: no medical degree, no doctorate, and she's never worked overseas.

5. Bobbi Gibb is the first woman to have run the entire Boston Marathon in 1966. At the time when women were banned from entering because of their gender, she entered the marathon wearing her brother’s Bermuda shorts and a hooded sweatshirt and finished the race unofficially.

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6Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart wrote a prenup letter to her fiancée, George Putnam, stating she wanted an open marriage and “I shall not hold you to a medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly”. Also "I may have to keep someplace where I can go to be myself”.

7. When Marie Curie ran out of radium for her research in 1921, a women's magazine led a crowdfunding campaign and raised $100,000 to buy her some more.

8. Preventing an abort of the Apollo 11 mission has been attributed to the work of Margaret Hamilton, the lead flight software designer for Project Apollo. She was 31 when the lunar module landed on the moon, running her code, and is credited for coining the term “software engineering.”

9. Anne Frank wrote in her famous diary, "When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"

10. Rosalind Franklin is the unsung hero of DNA research. Her X-ray Crystallography allowed her colleagues Watson and Crick to accurately characterize the double helix. Many believe she should’ve shared in their Nobel prize.

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11Lou Henry Hoover

Lou Henry Hoover

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover was the first American woman to earn a geology degree. She spoke 5 languages fluently and is the only first lady to speak an Asian language. She established the American Women's War Relief Fund and founded the National Women’s Conference on Law Enforcement.

12. Susan B. Anthony, although known for her work on women's suffrage, was also an abolitionist. She collected anti-slavery petitions when she was 17, and in her 30's she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

13. The first female American soldier was Deborah Sampson, who enlisted using her dead brother's name to fight in the Revolutionary War. When she was wounded, she cut a musket ball out of her own leg to avoid doctors finding out she was a woman.

14. Annie Oakley was such a great shooter that she could repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground, while using a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet.

15. Rachel Carson was the author of Silent Spring (1962). The book accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation on the harmful effects of pesticides. The book is credited with inspiring the environmental movement, leading to the formation of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency

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16Mary Kenneth Keller

Mary Kenneth Keller

Mary Kenneth Keller from Cleveland, Ohio was the first woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science in the United States. She also earned a Masters degree in Mathematics and Physics and helped develop computer programming languages. She was a Catholic nun.

17. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT, and the second in the US to earn a doctorate in physics. She was also made an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2012 and awarded the National Medal of Science in 2014.

18. Margaret Thompson was the first woman to win an Olympic medal in a shooting sport (silver) in 1976 after tying with the gold medal winner. When the Olympic committee refused a shoot off, the gold medalist pulled Thompson onto the gold medal platform with him.

19. Prior to World War I, sharpshooter Annie Oakley was touring Europe. By his request, she knocked the ash from a cigarette being held by the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. When World War I broke out, she wrote to him and requested a second shot.

20. Florence Nightingale was a pioneer of applied statistics, and she used her meticulous records of death rates and poor conditions in barracks to persuade the government to improve army hygiene.

21Sally Tompkins

Sally Tompkins

A nurse named Sally Tompkins became the first woman to be commissioned as an officer in any form of the United States army. She was commissioned as a captain in 1861. Under her supervision, she had the lowest death rate of any hospital, Union or Confederate.

22. Harriet Quimby was the first woman to fly across the English Channel on April 16th, 1912, but she barely received any media attention because of the Titanic Disaster, which occurred the day before and consumed the interest of the public.

23. Carolina Beatriz Ângelo was the first Portuguese woman to vote. In 1911, the Portuguese law stated that only literate, head-of-household people had the right to vote. Being a widow with a child, she claimed the right to do so, as the law didn't specify any genders. It was accepted.

24. Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate. She was also the first woman to have her name be on the nomination at either major party's convention in 1964.

25. Maria Mitchell was the first female professional astronomer (born 1 August 1818) who discovered a comet & was awarded a medal by the King of Denmark. The inscription read: "Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising of the stars".

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