Reflecting on Women’s Equality in the United States

Today is National Women’s Equality Day in the United States; this 95th anniversary comes at an integral time in America where, for the first time, a woman could be elected and become the President of the United States. From Clinton to the suffragists of the early 20th century, the fight for women’s rights has been long and arduous, but the triumphs have changed the course of America. Check out some of the History Channel’s Famous Firsts in Women’s History since 1920.

EDITH WHARTON IS THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN A PULITZER PRIZE

Wharton won the prize for her 1920 novel The Age of Innocence. Like many of Wharton’s books, The Age of Innocence was a critique of the insularity and hypocrisy of the upper class in turn-of-the-century New York. The book has inspired several stage and screen adaptations, and the writer Cecily Von Ziegesar has said that it was the model for her popular Gossip Girl series of books.

AMELIA EARHART IS THE FIRST WOMAN TO CROSS THE ATLANTIC IN AN AIRPLANE

After that first trip across the ocean, which took more than 20 hours, Earhart became a celebrity: She won countless awards, got a ticker-tape parade down Broadway, wrote a best-selling book about her famous flight and became an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1937, Earhart attempted to be the first female pilot to fly around the world, and the first pilot of any gender to circumnavigate the globe at its widest point, the Equator. Along with her navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart successfully hopscotched from Miami to Brazil, Africa, India and Australia. Six weeks after they began their journey, Earhart and Noonan left New Guinea for the U.S. territory of Howland Island, but they never arrived. No trace of Earhart, Noonan or their plane was ever found.

THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE BECOMES THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE FOR FEMALE PLAYERS

Women had been playing professional baseball for decades: Starting in the 1890s, gender-integrated “Bloomer Girls” teams (named after the feminist Amelia Bloomer) traveled around the country, challenging men’s teams to games–and frequently winning. As the men’s minor leagues expanded, however, playing opportunities for Bloomer Girls decreased, and the last of the teams called it quits in 1934. But by 1943, so many major-league stars had joined the armed services and gone off to war that stadium owners and baseball executives worried that the game would never recover. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was the solution to this problem: It would keep ballparks filled and fans entertained until the war was over. For 12 seasons, more than 600 women played for the league’s teams, including the Racine (Wisconsin) Belles, the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Chicks and the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daisies.

JANET GUTHRIE IS THE FIRST WOMAN TO DRIVE IN INDY 500

Guthrie was an aerospace engineer, training to be an astronaut, when she was cut from the space program because she didn’t have her PhD. She turned to car racing instead and became the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Mechanical difficulties forced her out of the 1977 Indy race, but the next year she finished in ninth place (with a broken wrist!). The helmet and suit that Guthrie wore in her first Indy race are on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT BECOMES THE FIRST FEMALE SECRETARY OF STATE

In January 1997, the international-relations expert Madeleine K. Albright was sworn in as the United States’ 64th Secretary of State. She was the first woman to hold that job, which made her the highest-ranking woman in the federal government’s history. Before President Bill Clinton asked her to be part of his Cabinet, Albright had served as the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In 2004, Condoleezza Rice became the second woman–and first African-American woman to hold the job. Five years later, in January 2009, the former Senator (and First Lady) Hillary Rodham Clinton became the third female Secretary of State.

KATHRYN BIGELOW BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN AN OSCAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR

The American film director Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 film “The Hurt Locker” garnered six Oscars on March 7, 2010, including the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Written by Mark Boal, a former journalist who covered the war in Iraq, the movie follows an Army bomb squad unit as they conduct dangerous missions and battle personal demons in war-torn Baghdad. Bigelow, whose previous films include “Strange Days” and “Point Break,” was the first woman to take home the Best Director distinction. She triumphed over her former husband, James Cameron, whose science fiction epic “Avatar” was another presumed front-runner.

With Quota International’s own illustrious history as the United States’s first women-only service organization (incorporated in 1919), American Quotarians, and our sisters in 11 countries around the world, are proud of the monumental successes women have achieved in the last 96 years. With American legislation on the evolution of women’s rights at center stage, it’s nice to celebrate and remember where women have been and what has been accomplished. Happy Women’s Equality Day, Quotarians!

Photo caption: Quota International founder and Lifetime President, Wanda Frey Joiner (left) receives an official Quota flag at 1963 Los Angeles convention from Helen Agnew, Quota’s, “Betsy Ross.”

Content original found on: http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/famous-firsts-in-womens-history

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