As we continue to celebrate Women's History Month here at Makeful, we're honoring women who paved the way for us today, and those that might have fallen under the radar and give them the recognition they truly deserve. Here are six extraordinary women you've probably never heard of (but you should totally know) who are crazy inspiring to us.
Ann Smith Franklin 1696 –1763
Ann Smith Franklin was America’s first female newspaper editor after inheriting the business from her husband, James Franklin. Name sound familiar? James had a brother named Benjamin. You mighta heard of him. Ann was not only the first female news editor, but she was also the first woman to write an almanac, and the first woman inducted into the University of Rhode Island’s Journalism Hall of Fame. Free speech indeed!
Hedy Lamarr 1914-2000
After fleeing her Nazi-sympathizing husband in Austria, actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr escaped to the United States where she became one of the most celebrated screen stars in Hollywood’s Golden Era. At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr joined forces with composer George Antheil to invent a frequency hopping guidance system that helped the Allied Forces intercept German torpedoes and win the war. We now know her invention as Bluetooth technology. Brava, Hedy.
Katherine Johnson 1918-Today
Though she has recently enjoyed more acclaim due to the recent Hollywood blockbuster hit “Hidden Figures”, Katherine Johnson’s work as NASA’s Research Mathematician went unrecognized for decades. She was handpicked at an early age to be one of the first black students to integrate West Virginia’s graduate school system and went on to play a key role in many historic NASA achievements, including the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Alice Coachman 1923-2014
Alice Coachman was a track and field star in the 1940’s who specialized in the high jump. She went on to become the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. This was an especially big deal because the Olympics were canceled twice due to World War II, but she finally got her chance to win in 1948. She was also notably the only American Woman to take home any Olympic Medal that year.
Dr. Antonia Novello 1944 – Today
Dr. Novello is both the first woman and the first Hispanic person to serve as Surgeon General of the United States. She spearheaded many campaigns for better healthcare for women and minorities and was responsible for the government’s memorable campaign against “Joe Camel” and other tobacco and cigarette advertising aimed at kids. After her term as Surgeon General, she went on to work with UNICEF, John’s Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and served as Commissioner of Public Heath for New York state.
Caresse Crosby 1891-1970
Aren’t you so happy you don’t have to wear a corset to work every day? Us too! We have a woman named Caresse Crosby to thank for deciding that corsets were too restricting, too hot, not to mention too dangerous. She fashioned the first bra out of two handkerchiefs and a ribbon and later sold the patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company who began to mass produce them after a high demand. Dear Ms. Crosby- our backs, and our ta-ta’s thank you!
Henrietta Lacks, 1920-1951
Vaccines, cloning, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping; these are just a few of the things that may not exist without the cells of one woman: Henrietta Lacks. A sample of Henrietta’s cells were taken without her consent while she was being treated for ovarian cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Researchers later found that for some reason unknown to this day, her cells multiplied at an abnormally fast rate and they would not die. Today, scientists still use Henrietta’s “immortal” cells (called HeLa cells) to conduct important research on diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and even nuclear testing.
Lina Wertmüller 1928- Today
Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for directing for her 1977 foreign film “Seven Beauties”. She did not take home the oscar, but she did break that particular glass ceiling for other women, though there is still lots of work to do in that category. To date, four women have been nominated for Best Director. In 2010 (2010!!) Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to take home the Oscar, which makes the ratio of women to men winners in the category 1 to 88.
Lois Jenson, 1948 – Today
In 1991, Lois Jensen led the first sexual harassment lawsuit on record against her former workplace the Eveleth Taconite Company on behalf of the mine’s female workers. The women were exposed to groping, obscene language, threats, deliberately shown pornography against their will, and many other offenses. They case was eventually settled out of court, but the real victory was that these brave women introduced the concept of sexual harassment laws for the workplace. The case was the subject of the film “North Country” starring Charlize Theron.