Throughout the years we have seen some powerful and inspirational women change the course of history forever. Whether they were scientists, civil rights leaders, journalists, or simply someone who wanted to do the right thing, here are 10 Wonder Women you need to know about.
- Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
Amelia Earhart has many achievements, but she is primarily known for her accomplishments in aviation. After she served as a nurse’s aid during WW1, Earhart saved up enough money to buy her own plane at the age of 24. She had a number of firsts, including being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean in 1928 and to fly nonstop coast to coast in 1932. Earhart was tragically lost over the Pacific ocean while she was attempting to be the first person to fly around the world. Although her death was tragic, she will go down in history as one of the most inspirational women in the world, just like the women she kept in her scrapbook as a child.
- Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
Even as a child, Ella Fitzgerald always wanted to be a dancer. She would go watch others perform at the Apollo Theater, where she ended up being able to perform after winning a weekly drawing. During her performance, she decided last minute to sing instead of dance. Her career soon kicked off and she ended up recording a total of 200 albums in her lifetime. Fitzgerald became known as the “First Lady of Song” and earned 13 Grammys during her career, as well as the National Medal of Arts in 1987 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Fitzgerald’s last performance was at Carnegie Hall in 1991. She passed away three years later at 79 years old.
- Katharine Graham (1917-2001)
In 1963, Katharine Graham took the head of the publication for the Washington Post after her father's death and her husband’s suicide. With the paper under new leadership, the Washington Post set new standards in investigative journalism and re-defined the power of the press by challenging the establishment in Washington DC. Graham led the charge on the historic coverage of the Watergate break-in of 1972. With the help of her paper and other investigative journalists, Graham uncovered the truth that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation during his second term in office. During a time when women weren’t often in higher positions of power, Katharine Graham became an inspiration to women everywhere. She later earned the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the Watergate coverage and her 1998 memoir, Personal History.
- Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Georgia O'Keeffe grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She gained popularity after she moved to New York and her bold, yet sensual, paintings of flowers and nature were appreciated during the height of the industrial age. She also worked on depictions of New York City skyscrapers and other architectural pieces. After moving to New Mexico, she started working on pieces of large desert skies and animal bones. She was the first American artist to heavily influence the art world in Europe, rather than the other way around! O'Keeffe was awarded the Gold Medal of Painting by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1970, the Medal of Freedom in 1977, and is remembered as an important figure in Modernism art and one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
- Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks forever went down in history when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger while riding a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and fined for her actions. However, her single action sparked the start of the American Civil Rights Movement as black Americans across the country stood up against racial segregation. After being arrested, Parks and 40,000 other black bus riders in Montgomery boycotted the bus system for over a year. Even after being met with resistance and violence, both locally and nationally, Parks and other members of the community stood their ground. On June 5, 1956, a Montgomery court ruled that racially segregated seating on buses was a violation of the 14th Amendment. One of America’s most recognized boycotts ended after 381 days. Rosa Park went on to inspire generations, both during and after the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and was the only woman, and second African American, to lie in state at the capitol after her death. This is typically reserved for presidents of the United States, but Rosa Parks had accomplished and stood for so much in her life that they extended the honor to her as well.
- Babe Didrikson (1911-1956)
Even as a 5’5” teenager, Babe Didrikson had always dreamed of being the greatest athlete who ever lived. As a child, she got her nickname after Babe Ruth when she hit five home runs. She worked hard at her dream of being an athlete and ended up accomplishing wonders in track, basketball, baseball, and golf. She won three medals in track and field at the 1982 Olympics, setting four world records. She is the only track and field athlete, male or female, to win individual Olympic medals in separate running, jumping, and throwing events. She shifted her focus to golf, and in 1938 became the first woman to ever compete against men in a Professional Golfers’ Association tournament. In 1954, just one month after having surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, she won her 3rd U.S. Open. In her later years, Didrikson became known as a public advocate for cancer awareness. Didrikson passed away from colon cancer in 1956 but will go down as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
- Reverend Doctor Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919)
Anna Shaw was a child of English immigrants and grew up with very little education on a self-isolated farm in Michigan. She taught herself through reading, became a teacher at just 15 years old, and then entered high school when she was 24. Shaw became active in the Methodist church, became a licensed priest, and then entered Albion College in 1873 during a point in time when women weren’t known for going to college. She then graduated from Boston Theological Seminary, where she was the only woman in her class. Shaw was one of the first female physicians in America and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her work on the WW1 Women’s Council on National Defense. Shaw was always a lifelong advocate for women’s rights. She refused to perform marriages with traditional words about women having to obey their husbands in their vows. From the 1880s until her death in 1919 she worked across the country to help achieve women’s suffrage. One year after her death, women were finally given the right to vote when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed.
- Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
Eleanor Roosevelt is known for her time as the longest First Lady in office and her commitment to numerous humanitarian causes. She was an active volunteer and worked with many groups including the International Congress of Working Women and the League of Women Voters. Roosevelt challenged segregation and sat between blacks and whites in Birmingham, Alabama at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. After President Roosevelt’s death in 1945, she strongly pushed for the United States to join the United Nations. She was selected as a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945-1953 and was the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission. She was involved with the Democratic party for years and even after her time in the White House Roosevelt committed herself to helping others.
- Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
Zora Hurston is a famous writer known for depicting African American life in the South through her novels, short stories, and plays. She earned her associate’s degree from Howard University where she co-founded the school’s newspaper. She later graduated from Barnard College with a BA in anthropology. Hurston dedicated her life to promoting, exploring, and studying black culture in the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, and several other regions. Her most famous novel is “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. She wasn’t as well known during her life, but her work was reintroduced to appreciative later generations by novelist Alice Walker, whose work she influenced greatly.
- Julia Child (1912-2004)
Chef Julia Child was known for her French cooking and cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Before becoming a chef, she joined the Office of Strategic Services working in research. While there, she and a team developed a repellent to prevent sharks from bumping into and setting off underwater explosives. Child graduated from the Cordon Bleu cooking school in France. She would later come back to America and change food trends with her memorable style and challenging recipes. She captivated audiences across America for ten years with her classic TV show, The French Chef. In 1972 her show became the first television program to be captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing. She was awarded an Emmy, George Foster Peabody Award, and in 1993 became the first woman ever inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. Julia Child’s kitchen, pots, and pans are at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.