10In June 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. (By Smithsonian Institution, Great Images in NASA Description, via Wikimedia Commons)

When Meryl Streep took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday to speak in favor of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president, she said: “What does it take to be the first female anything? It takes grit and it takes grace.” We agree.

We also thought that this moment in time, when we have the first female nominee for president from a major party, would be a good point to look back and remember some of the other women who were firsts across the centuries in the United States.

  • 1784 — Hannah Wilkinson Slater was granted a patent.
  • 1812 — Lucy Brewer joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • 1849 — Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States.
  • 1850 — Harriet Tubman was the first American woman to run an underground railroad, aiding slaves in their escapes.
  • 1853 — Antoinette Brown Blackwell was ordained as a minister by the Congregational Church.
  • 1866 — Mary Walker received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
  • 1870 — Esther Hobart Morris became the first female justice of the peace.
  • 1870 — Ada Kepley graduated from law school in America.
  • 1872 — Victoria Woodhull ran for president of the United States under the banner of the Equal Rights Party.
  • 1877 — Helen Magill White earned her Ph.D. degree, in Greek.
  • 1880 — Belva Lockwood argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • 1887 — Susanna M. Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kan., becoming the first female mayor in the United States.
  • 1905 — May Sutton became the first American woman to win Wimbledon.
  • 1911 — Harriet Quimby was the first woman in America to receive an airplane pilot’s license.
  • 1916 — Jeannette Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • 1917 — Loretta Perfectus Walsh enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
  • 1925 — Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected governor of Wyoming.
  • 1926 — Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel.
  • 1928 — Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1928 — Genevieve R. Cline was appointed as a federal judge.
  • 1932 — Hattie Caraway elected to the U.S. Senate.
  • 1933 — Frances Perkins became the first female cabinet member when Franklin Roosevelt appointed her secretary of labor.
  • 1942 — Anna Leah Fox received the Purple Heart after being wounded at Pearl Harbor.
  • 1948 — Esther McGowin Blake joined the U.S. Air Force.
  • 1949 — Georgia Neese Clark became treasurer of the United States.
  • 1956 — Tenley Albright became the first American woman to win the Olympic gold medal in figure skating.
  • 1959 — Arlene Pieper completed the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado.
  • 1964 — Jerrie Mock flew solo around the world.
  • 1967 — Muriel Siebert got a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • 1970 — Diane Crump became the first female jockey in the Kentucky Derby.
  • 1972 — Katharine Graham of The Washington Post became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
  • 1974 — Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut became the first woman to be elected a U.S. governor who was not the wife or widow of a governor.
  • 1976 — Emily Howell Warner became an American airline captain.
  • 1977 — Janet Guthrie competed in the Indianapolis 500.
  • 1978 — Janet Guthrie competed in the Daytona 500.
  • 1981 — Sandra Day O’Connor became an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space.
  • 1984 — Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president on a major-party platform.
  • 1987 — Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
  • 1991 — Geraldine Morrow became president of the American Dental Association.
  • 1992 — Mona Van Duyn was named U.S. poet laureate.
  • 1993 — Janet Reno became attorney general of the United States.
  • 1995 — Roberta Cooper Ramo became president of the American Bar Association.
  • 1997 — Nancy Dickey became president of the American Medical Association.
  • 1997 — Hazel J. Harper became president of the National Dental Association.
  • 1997 — Madeleine Albright became the U.S. secretary of state.
  • 1998 — Julie Taymor won the Tony Award for best director of a musical.
  • 1999 — Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard became the first woman to lead a fortune 50 company.
  • 2007 — Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
  • 2009 — Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in Economics, sharing the prize with Oliver E. Williamson.
  • 2010 — Kathryn Bigelow wins the Academy Award for best director for her film “The Hurt Locker.”
  • 2012 — Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire are the first all-female congressional delegation in U.S. history.
  • 2013 — Danica Patrick gets the pole position in the Daytona 500.
  • 2013 — Mary Barra of General Motors becomes the first female chief executive of a major automaker.
  • 2014 — Janet Yellen is confirmed by the Senate as the first female chairman of the Federal Reserve.
  • 2014 — Katie Higgins joins the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron.
  • 2016 — Hillary Clinton is nominated by the Democratic Party to run for president of the United States.

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  • Peter Bedrossian August 16, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Lt. Annie G. Fox was not wounded at Pearl Harbor: Her Purple Heart was properly awarded for merit based on her extraordinary organization of treating the wounded after the attack.

    The first known women to earn a Purple Heart was Beatrice Mary MAcDonald (also an Army nurse). She was wounded 17 August 1917 when a German bomb fell on her hospital in Belgium. She lost her right eye to shrapnel from that bombing. Like all WWI vets, she had to apply for the Purple Heart: It was awarded 4 January 1936.

  • Peter Burling July 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Honoring my bride, Jean K. Burling, who, in 1979, became the first woman lawyer appointed to the New Hampshire courts.