Women and Work

You can be most anything you want to be. Here is a sampling of just some of the careers you might consider, and women who have succeeded in them.

Ambassador Eugenie Anderson (1910-1997), the first U.S. woman ambassador and the first woman to sign a treaty on behalf of the United States, served as ambassador to Denmark from 1949 to 1953.


Maya Lin
Maya Lin

Architect When she was 21, Maya Lin (b. 1960) won a national competition to design and build the now-famous Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Astronaut Doctor, astronaut, and Peace Corps veteran Mae Jemison (b. 1956) became the first African-American woman to enter space when she served on the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor in September 1992.

Astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941), one of the greatest astronomers of the 20th century, discovered hundreds of stars and classified about 500,000 more.

Aviator Bessie Coleman (1893-1926) was the first black woman to receive a pilot's license and the first woman to get an international pilot's license

Ballerina American Indian Maria Tallchief (b. 1925) was a prima ballerina at the New York City Ballet for many years, as well as a founder of the Chicago City Ballet.

Bishop In 1989, Barbara Harris (b. 1930) was consecrated a bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, the first woman and one of the first African Americans to hold that position.

Botanist Ynes Mexia (1870-1938) collected plant specimens, many of them never before identified, in remote areas from Alaska to the Amazon to the Andes Mountains.

Chef American-born Julia Child (1912-2004) popularized French cooking in the United States with her television show, The French Chef, in the 1960s.


Wilma Mankiller
Wilma Mankiller
Chief Wilma Mankiller (b. 1945), a longtime activist for Native American rights, served as chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995, the first woman in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe.

Conductor Eve Queler (b. 1936) has conducted numerous orchestras and more than 60 operas worldwide, becoming one of the few women to be addressed as “maestro.”

Cowgirl Johanna July (1850?-1930?), born to a family of Seminole Indians and former slaves, was known throughout Texas for her ability to tame wild horses.

Separate and Unequal
Until the early 1960s, newspapers published separate job listings for men and women. Jobs were categorized according to sex, with the higher level jobs listed almost exclusively under "Help Wanted-Male." In some cases the ads ran identical jobs under male and female listings-but with separate pay scales. Separate, of course, meant unequal: between 1950 and 1960, women with full time jobs earned on average between 59-64 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in the same job.

Director French-American Alice Guy Blaché (1875-1968) was the first woman film director and one of the first directors to work with color and sound.

Diva Soul singer Aretha Franklin (b. 1942) has been a legend for more than 40 years. The Michigan legislature once declared her voice one of the state's greatest natural resources.

Diver U.S. diver Pat McCormick (b. 1930) won women's platform and springboard gold medals in both the 1952 and 1956 Olympics.

Doctor Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) was commissioned assistant surgeon for the Union Army during the Civil War and is the only woman ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

Environmentalist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) helped launch the environmental protection movement with her book Silent Spring, which changed how many Americans thought about pesticides.

General Brigadier General Wilma Vaught (b. 1930), one of the most decorated women in U.S military history, was the first female general in the Air Force. She was also a planner for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington, DC.

Heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (b. 1962) may be the all-time greatest heptathon competitor-a sport comprising six different track-and-field events. She has won three gold, one silver, and one bronze Olympic medals.

Ichthyologist Marine biologist and skin diver Eugenie Clark (b. 1922), “The Shark Lady,” has shared her lifelong love of fish in three books and many television specials.

Illustrator To create the eerie goblins and mysterious figures depicted in her books, Molly Bang (b. 1943) draws from the folktales she gathered in her worldwide travels.

Interior Designer The influential Elsie de Wolfe (1865-1950), generally considered the first American interior designer, popularized a fresh, airy look that included comfortable sofas, gilded mirrors, and light colors.

Jockey In 1970 Diane Crump became the first woman to ride the Kentucky Derby, leading the way for other female professional riders.

Journalist Anna Louise Strong (1885-1970) covered revolutions in China and Russia and traveled all over Asia, including areas, such as Tibet and Laos, that few westerners had seen.

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg (b. 1933), who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, has advanced women's rights during her impressive career by successfully arguing a number of sex discrimination cases.


Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta
Labor Leader Dolores Huerta (b. 1930) is a founder of the United Farm Workers, a labor union that helped give farm workers the right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Lawyer Arabella Mansfield (1846-1911), the nation's first woman lawyer, passed the Iowa bar exams in 1869 despite the fact that she never attended law school.

Meteorologist During World War II, Joanna Simpson (b. 1923) used her weather expertise to help plan battles. As chief scientist for NASA, her research made modern air flight safer.


Mary Hallaren
Mary Hallaren
Military Leader Mary Hallaren (1907-2005) led the first Women's Army Corps (WAC) battalion, a noncombatant force, in World War II and directed the organization after the war ended.

Pacifist Writer and peace activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) protested wars and weaponry and helped found the Catholic Worker, an influential pacifist newspaper.

Paleontologist Sue Hendrickson (b. 1949) made headlines for finding the largest, best-preserved T. rex yet discovered. The skeleton, nicknamed “Tyrannosaurus Sue,” was mounted at Chicago's Field Museum in 2000.

Philosopher The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) became famous in 1949 when she published her book The Second Sex, which traced the oppression of women throughout history using her theories of psychology and myth.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971), a photographer whose World War II photographs for Life magazine became world famous, was the creator of the photo-essay, a series of photos that tell a story.

Poet The varied career of Rita Dove (b. 1952) has included books of poetry about her own family life and travels, as well as a stint as poet laureate of the United States.

Publisher Katharine Graham (1917-2001) became the publisher of the Washington Post, one of the most powerful and influential newspapers in the United States, in 1969.


Patsy Takemoto Mink
Patsy Mink
Representative in Congress Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002), a Democrat from Hawaii, became the first Asian American congresswoman when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1965. She served for a total of 24 years.

Scientist The most famous woman scientist, Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the only person to win two Nobel Prizes-one for Physics (1903) and one for Chemistry (1911).

Sculptor Louise Nevelson (1900-1988) created huge, intriguing sculptures of found objects, including rough wood, broken mirrors, electric lights, and metal factory parts.


Nancy Kassebaum
Nancy Kassebaum

Senator When Nancy Kassebaum (b. 1932) was elected to the Senate from Kansas in 1978, she was the only woman there. She served for 18 years.

Sled-Dog Racer Susan Butcher (1954-2006) is a four-time winner of the Iditarod sled-dog race (in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990).


Mary Mcleod Bethune
Mary McCloud Bethune
Teacher Mary McCloud Bethune (1875-1955) devoted her life to teaching and founded the school that became Florida's historically black Bethune-Cookman College. She lectured widely on the necessity of education and served as adviser to three presidents.

Undersea Explorer Sylvia Earle (b. 1936), an environmental activist and marine botanist, has explored depths of more than 1,000 feet and once lived in an underwater research center for two weeks.

Veterinarian The first two women to graduate from veterinary school, Elinor McGrath and Florence Kimball, did so in 1910. They were also among the first veterinarians to specialize in pet care.

Zoologist A researcher who was fascinated by invertebrates (animals, such as jellyfish, that do not have spines), Libby Hyman (1888-1969) wrote a landmark six-volume Encyclopedia of Invertebrates.


Firsts in American Women's HistoryWomen of Influence

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