Women’s History: 25 Female Firsts You Should Know

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1Opha May Johnson

Opha May Johnson was the first woman known to have enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. She joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1918, officially becoming the first female Marine.


2. In 1969, Charlotte Reid became the first woman to wear pants to Congress. Women were forbidden to wear pants onto the floor until 1993.


3. Penny Marshall, who played Laverne on Laverne & Shirly, directed Big movie and was the first woman to gross over $100 million at the box office.


4. Bayard Wootten was a pioneering documentary photographer from North Carolina. She was the first woman to take an aerial photograph and she was the one who named and created the logo for Pepsi Cola.


5. Toni Stone was the first woman to ever play professional baseball as a regular on a big-league teams with men in Negro leagues. She played second base and maintained a .243 batting average.


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6Alice Huyler Ramsey

Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman to drive coast-to-coast across the USA in 1909. The 22-year-old housewife and mother completed the 3,800-mile journey from New York to San Francisco in a green Maxwell 30. The 59-day drive took 3-weeks longer than planned and 96% of the route was unpaved.


7. The first woman elected president of a country was Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland, who won the 1980 presidential election as well as three others to also become the longest-serving non-hereditary female head of state in history (almost exactly 16 years in office).


8. In 1999, Tori Murden McClure became the first woman and American to row a boat alone across the Atlantic Ocean. She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole.


9. After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart started her own fashion line. Unconventional materials such as parachute silk and textile from airplane wings were used in some designs, and she gave a nod to her love of aviation with buttons shaped like propellers.


10. In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to have run the entire Boston Marathon. 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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11Harriet Quimby

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


12. Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was the first woman ever to get a Ph.D. in computer science. She also helped invent BASIC (computer language).


13. Manon Rhèaume was the first and only woman to this day to ever play in the NHL.


14. Anandibai Joshi was the first female doctor from India. She was also the first woman in India to complete her studies in western medicine from the United States.


15. Cynisca was the first woman champion of the original Greek Olympic games. Women were not allowed to compete in or even attend the Olympics, but the Spartan princess owned and trained the horses that twice won the chariot-racing event.


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16Hattie Wyatt Caraway

Hattie Wyatt Caraway was not only the first woman to serve a full term in the United States Senate but also the first to be re-elected. She was the first female legislator to cosponsor the Equal Rights Amendment, and her grave is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


17. Louise Thaden was an American female aviation pioneer, a friend, and rival of Amelia Earhart. She is the holder of numerous records. She was the first woman to win the Bendrix trophy, and beat Amelia Earhart and 18 other top female pilots at the first Women’s Air Derby, a transcontinental race in 1929.


18. 20 years before the first woman was democratically elected in 1980 as president of a country (namely Iceland), stateswoman Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) was elected as prime minister, when she led her party to victory at the 1960 general election.


19. Esther Pohl Lovejoy was the first woman health officer in a major U.S. city. She prevented an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1907-1908, and brought public health priorities to Portland by working for pure food and milk, improved garbage collection, and inspection of school children for communicable diseases.


20. A Polish national named Wanda Rutkiewicz was the first woman to climb K2, the second-highest peak in the world in 1986. She was also the first European woman to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world.


21Constance Markievicz

Constance Markievicz was sentenced to "death by being shot" after Ireland's 1916 Easter Rebellion, but was spared "solely and only on account of her sex." Her sentence was reduced to life, but she was released after a year. She became Minister of Labour and the first woman elected to Parliament.


22. Annie Fox was the first woman to be awarded the Purple Heart for combat following her service as the head nurse at Hickam Field's Station Hospital during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.


23. The first woman to stream her life on the internet was a 19-year-old teenager named Jennifer Ringley who turned on a webcam that sat on top of the computer in her college dorm room in 1996. She broadcasted her life 24/7. At its peak, she got 7 million hits per day, a significant proportion of the internet at the time.


24. Cristeta Comerford has been the Executive Chef of the White House since 2005. She is the first woman and first person of Asian descent to hold the post.


25. 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.

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