They have been pioneers in their own fields, establishing a unique identity and inspiring so many with their deeds. Here we talk about the 10 influential women in US history. These iconic women came out of their comfort zones to tread the path less traveled. In space exploration, sports, science, aviation, peace, literature, and journalism, these ten most influential women carved extraordinary names for themselves in their respective fields. They opened new horizons, influencing subsequent generations of women.
History was created on May 20, 1932, when 34-year-old Amelia Earhart flew from New Foundland, Canada, and landed in Northern Ireland after a solo flight lasting 14 hours, and 56 minutes. The first female aviator flew solo across the Atlantic. Soon, it became a passion and Amelia etched her name in world history as the first female aviator to cover the long-distance solo flight. She became the associate editor of The Cosmopolitan magazine promoting commercial aviation. Amelia will be remembered for her brave, pioneering feat in the field of aviation.
Emily Greene Balch
In 1946, Emily Greene Balch won the Nobel Peace Prize for her tremendous peace initiatives in World War I and II. Emily was appointed as the first international secretary-treasurer of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She played an instrumental role in drug control and disarmament, along with the newly formed League of Nations. Emily Greene Balch was an economist and sociologist, who remained committed to uplifting the poor and peace advocacy.
Disability need not be an obstacle to success. Who better than Helen Keller to prove this. Having lost her eyesight as well as hearing ability at the tender age of nineteen months, Helen triumphed over her disability to write fourteen books and numerous essays on diverse topics. Helen was the first deafblind woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The gritty woman earned the distinction of traveling to 35 countries, raising awareness for blind people. Widely and globally known, Helen Keller left an indelible impression on the world that she saw through her reading and writing.
A Ph.D. from Yale University and a professor of Mathematics, Grace Hopper, the American Computer scientist is credited with developing programming languages. We cannot imagine a process today without computer intervention. However, as early as 1949, Grace had discovered a programming language based on English. Not just a pioneer in the field of programming languages, Grace Hopper was a Navy admiral who served till the age of 71. One of the first computer programmers, to invent a linker, Grace has not only left a mark on US history but has set an example for the entire world.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Born in 1911, Babe Didrikson Zaharias was an inspiring US woman sportsperson with a dynamic multi-disciplinary sports persona. Babe had a multi-faceted personality and showed her caliber in track and field, basketball, baseball, and golf. Known as the greatest athlete of all times, Babe proved her mettle in many sports, winning two gold medals in track and field events and then going on a winning spree with a multitude of Golf titles. Furthermore, Babe has an incredibly unique feat to her credit. She remains the only track and field athlete ever to win a medal in running, throwing, and jumping.
The first American woman to have ventured into space, in 1983, Sally Ride also became the youngest astronaut. The ride came across an article in The Stanford Daily by Nasa, for recruiting new astronauts. After a rigorous selection process, Sally Ride emerged as the first American woman to finally foray into space in the Space Shuttle Challenger. Sally Ride etched her name in US history as the pioneering women astronaut.
Known as the ‘Florence Nightingale of America’, Clarissa Harlow Barton was a self-taught nurse, who founded the American Red Cross. When the American civil war broke out in 1861, Clara played a pivotal role in nursing the wounded soldiers, taking care of them, providing supplies to and even giving them much needed emotional support. This was the time when women had not found the right to vote, yet Clara pursued her nursing duties by tending to the injured soldiers and proved her superlative humanitarian spirit.
The first African American female NASA scientist was a mathematician and physicist par excellence. Known as the ‘Human Computer’, Katherine was a genius at manual complex calculations and paved the way for predicting trajectories. She was also instrumental in calculating paths for Apollo modules to Moon. Bestowed with many awards, Katherine was conferred with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barak Obama.
World war II saw a feisty and fiery female journalist descending onto the warzone. Marguerite Higgins was the New York Herald Tribune correspondent who ‘covered’ World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars as a fearless ‘war correspondent’. Awarded with the coveted Pulitzer Prize, Marguerite was an epitome of women empowerment as she aced her reporting in what truly was a men’s domain. Higgins, in her illustrious career, interviewed many political leaders. ‘Witness to War’ is the famous biography of this magnificent US woman who stood out due to her personality extraordinaire.
‘The First lady of Civil Rights’ and ‘The mother of the Freedom Movement’ are the titles bestowed upon Rosa Parks who earned profound respect for her fearless rejection of vacating a row of seats in the colored section for a white passenger. Her initiative led to a turnaround, with the bus segregation being announced unconstitutional in 1956. Her journey ahead was turbulent, however, Rosa’s indomitable spirit led her to continue the fight. She wrote her autobiography, ‘Rosa Parks: My Story, and remained committed to the cause of social justice till the very end.
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