In 1967, five years before the passing of Title IX (which required gender equity for sports in public education), twenty-year-old Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon. During the race, Switzer was physically accosted by race director Jock Semple, who tried to pull her out of the race by force (an act that, if we'd been around in 1967, would have definitely earned him a Douchebag Decree). Not deterred, Switzer went on to finish the Boston Marathon with an unofficial time of 4:20 (she was disqualified as only male runners were recognized as finishers). Her work in advocating women's rights in sports led to the official inclusion of women runners in the 1972 Boston Marathon and the first-ever women's marathon at the 1984 Olympics. Switzer's efforts to get women running spanned 30 countries when she founded the Avon Running Global Women's Circuit, a series of races for women.
Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace—better known as Ada Lovelace—described herself as an analyst and metaphysician in her only published article. Seeing as how that article included what is cited as the first computer program and the first incidence of computers being assigned abilities beyond mathematical functions, her description rings true. Born in 1815 to Lord Byron, moody English poet, and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, "princess of parallelograms," Ada was primed to develop what she once called "poetical science."
Jeannette Rankin was a suffragist and the first woman elected into the United States Congress in 1916. A lifelong pacifist, Rankin was the only person in Congress to vote against entering both WWI and WWII. She believed that many of the problems in government were tied to the fact that there weren't enough women in politics and she said many times, "the peace problem is a woman's problem."
Isadora Duncan might be the most famous dancer you've never seen dance. Often referred to as the "Mother of Modern Dance," she was a self-made and intensely driven, confident woman who saw personal freedoms, expression, justice, and dance as essentially intertwined. Isadora once said, "For me the dance is not only the art that gives expression through the human soul through movement, but also the foundation of a complete conception of life, more free, more harmonious, more natural."
Born on August 13, 1860 to Quaker parents Jacob and Susan, Phoebe Ann Mozee early life could not begin to foreshadow the wild adventures she would have. As she grew up, Annie's penchant for hunting became local legend and she started to garner fame and respect in her region for her excellent shot. After winning a competition against a traveling performer and sharp-shooter who she would later marry, Annie Oakley was catapulted into a life of world-wide fame all the while sticking to her guns—both literally and figuratively.
In honor of the recent wave of support for transgender inclusion in the Girl Scouts, let's delve into the history of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low. You might know her for leading a life of activism and creating opportunities for women, but did you know she spent the majority of her life with severely impaired hearing? Although trans activism like the recent support for the GSUSA cookie drive most likely was not on Gordon Low's radar, she fought for the inclusion of girls of all abilities in the Girl Scouts of USA.
In the midst of her university years, Djebar published her first two novels, La Soif and Les Impatients (she also took on her pen name, fearing that her father wouldn't approve of her writing). The novels were much less politicized than her later writing and received criticism for failing to acknowledge the then-current political climate in Algeria; still, these novels—written in French but set in Algeria, using romantic plots to explore female identity—foreshadowed many of the themes that are central to Djebar's later work.
Brown vs. Board of Education—the Supreme Court decision that ruled school segregation unconstitutional—passed in 1954, but turning legislature into action took several years to transpire. It wasn't until 1957 that nine black students, already enrolled at Little Rock Central High, began their first day of school, only to be met with an angry crowd and the Arkansas National Guard. The governor of Alabama, Orval Faubus (names don't get much more evil-sounding than that) prevented the students from entering the school. It took a presidential intervention on the part of Eisenhower to send the National Guard to escort the students. Behind the scenes though, was Daisy Bates.
Ella Baker is best known for her involvement in the civil rights movement during the late 1950s and 1960s, when she helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. These organizations were indeed pivotal, but, as Baker herself said, "One of the things that has to be faced is the process of waiting to change the system, how much we have got to do to find out who we are, where we have come from and where we are going." Baker believed that a revolution entailed an ongoing process rather than a finite blueprint; her accomplishments and ideology then, should be studied as a transformative trajectory rather than as discrete events.
The first time I heard of Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was during my American History class in high school. It was a brief, albeit important introduction to the first woman to receive an M.D. and become the first woman physician in the United States. A pioneer in educating women in medicine and a prominent figure in the emerging women's rights movement, Elizabeth Blackwell had a long and illustrious life. As I continued to read about her, I also found out that her family, more specifically her sisters, were also amazing trailblazers who helped Elizabeth Blackwell in many endeavors!