Celebrating First Women
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president? Or that she is the first woman to run for president on a major ticket? Her achievement reminds us all that women have long been making history. Some of you will remember that I mentioned Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the Equal Rights Party candidate in 1872. She was a fascinating woman—a stockbroker and publisher as well as a suffragist.
TO ALL THE READERS OUT THERE
Find out about other amazing first women. Lots of them are listed in references such as this.
Lady Astor (birth name Nancy Witcher Langborne), the first American-born woman to become a member of Parliament in Great Britain in 1919.
Harriet Maxwell Converse, the first white woman to become an Indian chief, made a chief of the Six Nations Tribe in 1891. She had been adopted as a member of the Seneca tribe. You can read a poem by Harriet Maxwell Converse at the Poetry’s Foundation website.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the first woman to appear as a congressional hearing witness in 1869. She was trying to keep the women of DC from being debarred from voting.
Sally Stearns, the first woman coxswain of a men’s collegiate varsity team, 1936.
Nan Jane Aspinwall, the first woman horseback rider to make a solo transcontinental trip from SanFrancisco to New York City, 1910.
Susanna Medora Salter, the first woman mayor, elected in Argonia, Kansas, 1887.
Belle Martell, the first woman licensed to be a prize fight referee, 1940.
Nellie Tayloe Ross, Director of the Mint, the first woman to have her name on the cornerstone of a US government building, 1936.
Sybilla Masters, the first woman to obtain a patent—for a machine for cutting and cleaning Indian corn, 1715.
And many others, in books such as this.
Alternatively, one could go to any field of interest—from playwright to astronaut—and find the first woman in those fields.
FOR THE WRITERS OUT THERE
Consider these pioneers as inspiration. What sort of character does it take to be a first? What might daily life be like for the first woman licensed as an electrical engineer? What price might such a woman pay in terms of family or love relationships? And ultimately, is it a story of triumph or tragedy?