Featured Women

Jane Addams


Jane Addams was one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era, helping to turn America to issues of concern to women, such as suffragism, the needs of children, local public health, and world peace.

Magdalena Aguirre


Magdalena Aguirre is an immigrant from El Salvador who left during the Civil War with her young daughter.

JoAnne Akalaitis


JoAnne Akalaitis is an avant-garde Lithuanian American theatre director and writer. She is the winner of five Obie Awards for direction (and sustained achievement) and founder of the critically acclaimed Mabou Mines in New York. She has staged works at Lincoln Center Theater, Court Theater, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and The Guthrie Theater.

Pancho Barnes


During her lifetime, Pancho Barnes was renowned for her individuality, larger-than-life personality, creativity, entrepreneurship, humor, generosity and integrity. A legend in the aviation community, she was one of the first female pilots to be licensed in the United States, and one of the most respected pilots of the Golden Age of Flight.

Nellie Bly


Nellie Bly was an American journalist widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.

Arlene Blum


Arlene Blum Ph.D., chemist, author, and mountaineer is a Research Associate in Chemistry at UC Berkeley and Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. Blum led the first American ascent of Annapurna I; the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India; and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back. Her current “mountain” is to work with decision makers in business and government to reduce the use of classes of chemicals of concern for healthier products, people and planet.

Arlene Blum received her Ph.D. in Biophysical Chemistry from UC Berkeley and has taught at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and Wellesley College.

Grace Lee Boggs


Grace Lee Boggs spent much of her life advocating for civil rights and labor rights. She became such a noted figure in Detroit’s Black Power movement that people assumed she must be partially black. She died in 2015 at the age of 100; her legacy still inspires and challenges people to think about their own activism.

Ruby Bridges


Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to attend an all-white public elementary school in the American South. She studied travel and tourism at the Kansas City business school and worked for American Express as a world travel agent. In 1999, Bridges formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation, headquartered in New Orleans. Ruby launched her foundation to promote the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of differences.

Brené Brown


Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Endowed Chair. She’s spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She’s the author of four books: The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyRising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. Her latest book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., was released in October 2018, and is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.  

Laurel Burch


Laurel Burch was a 20-year-old single mother who found metal in junkyards to hammer into jewelry to support her two children. She went on to win distinction as a fanciful designer and success as a savvy businesswoman. Laurel Burch Artworks still thrives today, under the watch of her daughter Aarin.

Julia Margaret Cameron


Julia Margaret Cameron was an iconoclastic photographer remembered for bringing art and expressiveness to the new science of photography.

Milena Canonero


Milena Canonero is an Italian costume designer, who has worked for both film and stage productions. She has won four Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, and been nominated for the award nine times.

Jerrie Cobb


Jerrie Cobb was a pilot who, by many accounts, should have been the first woman in space.

Jackie Cochran


Jackie Cochran rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become one of history’s most accomplished female aviators. She was the first woman to break the sound barrier and an important contributor to the formation of the wartime Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

Donatella Cinelli Colombini


Donatella Cinelli Colombini is something of a vineyard revolutionary, having opened Italy’s first winery run solely by women. The property now has 16 hectares of Sangiovese vineyards, producing the area’s famous Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines. Colombini has now taken the all-female concept a step further, producing the Prime Donne selection, which is chosen each year by a tasting panel of four women. She has also established an annual prize recognising female achievement – the Casato Prime Donne” International Award – which in 2015 was awarded to Giusi Nicolini, mayor of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, who was praised for her response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

Hannah Crafts


Hannah Crafts (the pen name of Hannah Bond) was an African-American writer who escaped from slavery in North Carolina in the late 1850’s. She wrote The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts, the first novel written by an African-American woman, the only known novel by a fugitive slave woman. The story was published in 2002 for the first time and rapidly became a bestseller.

Rachel Crothers


Rachel Crothers was an early feminist playwright and director. Among theater historians, she is generally recognized as “the most successful and prolific woman dramatist writing in the first part of the twentieth century.”

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz


Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th century nun, self-taught scholar and acclaimed writer of the Latin American colonial period and the Hispanic Baroque. She was also a staunch advocate for women’s rights.

Painting by Miguel Cabrera, year unknown.

Dr. Christine Darden


Dr. Christine Darden is a mathematician and aerospace engineer who left teaching to become a data analyst for NASA at its Langley Research Center. In 1973, Darden was promoted to the position of aerospace engineer; in 1989, she was appointed as the technical leader of NASA’s Sonic Boom Group where she was responsible for developing the sonic boom research program internally at NASA. In 1994, Darden became the deputy program manager of The TU-144 Experiments Program; in 1999, she was appointed as the director in the Program Management Office of the Aerospace Performing Center at Langley Research Center. In March 2007, Darden retired from NASA as Director of the Office of Strategic Communication and Education.

Ella Deloria


Ella Cara Deloria is best known for her linguistic and ethnographic work on the Sioux Nation. Though not formally trained as anthropologist, she gained a reputation in the field. She brought a new perspective on her work, as she was born on the Yankton Sioux Reservation and part of a traditional Dakota Sioux family.

Phoolan Devi


Phoolan Devi, Indian bandit and politician (1963 – 2001), also known as the “Bandit Queen” became legendary for her acts of revenge and her Robin Hood-like activities. After being imprisoned she became a member of the Indian lower house of Parliament.

Carol Downer


Carol Downer is an American feminist lawyer and non-fiction author who has focused her career on abortion rights and women’s health around the world.

Sara Bard Field


Sara Bard Field was an American poet, suffragist, and socialist.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was an activist, labor organizer, and one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Alice Guy-Blaché


An early 20th Century filmmaking pioneer. She was the first woman to write, produce and direct films. She began in Paris with Gaumont Film and later built and operated a movie studio in New Jersey. She is the only woman to have built and operated her own studio! She experimented with sound syncing, color tinting, and special effects.

Clara Shortridge Foltz


Clara Shortridge Foltz was the first female lawyer on the West Coast, and pioneered the idea of the public defender. The Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles was renamed after her in 2002, and is now known as the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

María Irene Fornés


María Irene Fornés is a Cuban-American playwright and director, a leading figure of the Off-Off-Broadway movement. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize with her play And What of the Night? Other notable works include Fefu and Her Friends, Mud, Sarita, and Letters from Cuba. Fornés is revered in both Hispanic-American and experimental theatre, winning a total of nine Obie Awards.

Gilda Frantz


Dr. Gilda Frantz is an esteemed Jungian Analyst who continues to practice into her late 80’s. She serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Psychological Perspectives and recently published her first book, Sea Glass.

Loie Fuller


Loie Fuller was an American actress and dancer who was a pioneer of both modern dance and theatrical lighting techniques

Nancy Hanks


Nancy Hanks was the most effective leader the National Endowment for the Arts ever had – especially in terms of persuading legislators to increase its budget. Early in her tenure she increased the NEA budget from $8 million to $114 million. The NEA budget was $149.6 million in 1979 (two years after she left) and $149.8 million in 2017 – so no one since has managed to increase the NEA budget the way she did.


Lil Hardin


Lil Hardin was a pianist, composer, singer, and band leader who helped introduce America to jazz music. She established a reputation as “Hot Miss Lil,” one of the few female band members of her time. Lil played on many of the first jazz recordings ever made and wrote many of the early songs of the jazz era. Married to Louis Armstrong, she wrote songs and performed with him, helping to make him an international star.

Queen Hatshepsut


Queen Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BCE) was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second historically confirmed female pharaoh. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty.

Dolores Huerta


Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta helped organize the Delano grape strike in 1965 in California and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after the strike. Huerta is the originator of the phrase, “Sí, se puede”. In California, April 10 is Dolores Huerta day.

Estelita “Esty” Juco


Estelita “Esty” Juco was a budding debutante in Manila when she was injured by a bomb in the final days of WWII, disabling her for life. Undeterred, this brilliant young woman went on to become a street parliamentarian and a justice-seeking journalist, protesting dictatorship and martial law. Esty Juco is a legend in the Philippines, a bold activist, a lifelong educator, and ultimately a legislator in the first post-dictatorship Congress, representing women and the disabled.

Ono no Komachi


Ono no Komachi (c. 825 – c. 900 AD) was a Japanese waka poet, one of the Rokkasen — the six best waka poets of the early Heian period. She was renowned for her unusual beauty and counts among the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy


Sarah Hrdy is professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and Associate in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard. A former Guggenheim fellow, she has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Her books include The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction; The Woman that Never Evolved; Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection; and Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, an exploration of psychological implications of humankind’s long legacy of shared child-rearing which has been awarded both the 2012 J.I. Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research and a second Howells Prize.



Raden Adjeng Kartini was a prominent Indonesian national hero from Java. She was also a pioneer in the area of education for girls and women’s rights for Indonesians. She took an interest in mysticism and opposed polygamy. Her advocacy for the education of girls was continued by her sisters. Kartini Schools were named for her and a fund established in her name to fund the education of girls. Her birthday is now celebrated as Kartini Day in Indonesia.

Adrienne Kennedy


Adrienne Kennedy has been a force in American theater since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her hauntingly fragmentary lyrical dramas. Her plays, many of them “autobiographically inspired”, explore issues of race, kinship, and violence in American society.

Florynce Kennedy


American civil rights attorney, political activist, and pioneer in second-wave feminism, Florynce Kennedy was an outspoken advocate for liberal causes. In her cowboy hat, pants, and pink sunglasses, Kennedy gained a reputation as a flamboyant activist who stood up to authority and did not care what people said about her. Only the second African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School, Kennedy fought for the rights of Black Panther members and African-American singers discriminated against by music companies. Disgusted by the racism in the courts, Kennedy turned her energy to activism, fighting for women’s liberation, abortion rights, civil rights, and consumer protection.

Sister Mary Corita Kent


Sister Mary Corita Kent’s artwork, with its messages of love and peace, was particularly popular during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. As both a nun and a woman making art in the twentieth century, she was in many ways cast to the margins of the different movements she was a part of. In recent years, Corita has gained increased recognition for her role in the Pop Art movement.

Carobeth Laird


Carobeth Laird was an anthropologist and a writer who didn’t publish her first book until she was ”discovered” by student researchers when she was 80 years old. Her best-selling book, ”Encounter With an Angry God: Recollections of My Life With John Peabody Harrington,” detailed Laird’s life among the American Indians, where she apprenticed with Peabody, who was her mentor in her cultural studies.

Hedy Lamarr


Hedy Lamarr was an actress in the “Golden Age” of MGM. She is known for the films Tortilla Flat, Lady of the Tropics, Boom Town, Samson and Delilah, and Ecstasy. She was originally from Vienna, Austria and was often called “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films.” In addition to being a film star, she and composer George Antheil patented a “Secret Communication System” to help the war effort during World War II. This technology paved the way for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Mollie Lowery


Clara Shortridge Foltz was the first female lawyer on the West Coast, and pioneered the idea of the public defender. The Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles was renamed after her in 2002, and is now known as the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Ada Lovelace


Ada Lovelace was a mathematician who saw the potential in Professor Charles Babbage’s designs for what would become the modern computer. Because she saw capabilities in the “computing machine” beyond mere calculation, she is often hailed as one of the first computer programmers.

Rose Mbowa


Rose Mbowa risked her personal safety to defend freedom of speech in Uganda during Idi Amin’s reign, creating programs to empower local African artists and their communities. Mbowa’s inspirational art and teachings are proof that one voice speaking truth in a time of darkness can make a difference.

Maria Sibylla Merian


Maria Sibylla Merian’s gorgeous drawings of the life cycles of plants, spiders, snakes, butterflies and other insects changed the way we see them. The re-issuing of her magnum opus “Insects of Suriname” in 2016 has helped bring her important contributions back to light.

Deena Metzger


Deena Metzger is an American writer, healer, and teacher whose work spans multiple genres including the novel, poetry, non-fiction, and plays.

Her novel La Negra y Blanca won the 2012 Oakland Pen Award for Literature. She first introduced and convened Daré, monthly gatherings for community and individual healing in 1999 and then ReVisioning Medicine in 2004. Metzger is known her image in Hella Hamid’s 1977 photograph, sometimes referred to as “The Warrior,” or “Tree” poster, in which the post-mastectomy Metzger stands in a celebratory pose.

Merata Mita


A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita – Making Waves.

Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs


Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Meyers were the co-creators of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI). Their work was based on the conceptual theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that humans experience the world using four principal psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time.

Una Ryan


Una Ryan is a British-American biologist who has conducted research on vascular biology, publishing over 300 papers. After an extended research and academic career she began a career in the biotech industry. She was Director for Health Sciences of Monsanto Company; CEO, president and director of AVANT Immunotherapeutics; and is currently the Chairman of The Bay Area BioEconomy Initiative, among many other associations. She is an angel investor and focuses her funds on women-led companies. She has won numerous awards and recognition during her career including the National Institute of Health’s 10-year merit award, Order of the British Empire and the Albert Einstein Award.

Gitta Ryle


A child survivor of the Holocaust who found her purpose after a long life of struggle and anxiety, Gitta visits dozens of schools each year telling the story of the Holocaust and encouraging children toward peace and making the world a better place.

Manuelita Saenz


Manuelita Sáenz was a Colombian colonel who received The Order of the Sun for her service in the South American revolution. She saved Simon Bolivar’s life twice and is known as “The Liberator of the Liberator.”

Sonia Sanchez


Sonia Sanchez is a Robert Frost award-winning poet and activist in the Black Arts Movement. She has also written plays, children’s books and taught for over thirty years, including founding the Black studies program at San Francisco State University.

Smarita Sengupta


Smarita Sengupta is the founder and director of Destiny Reflection, a Kolkata-based social enterprise that rehabilitates survivors of human trafficking. A fellow of Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) and Columbia University & Ford, she established Destiny Reflection to help women and girls develop life skills, and to provide housing and employment for safe reintegration. Products made by survivors now retail globally. She is a recipient of the Leader of Impact Award from GWLN; Iconic Women of the Year Creating a Better World at Women Economic Forum, 2017 and was nominated for CNN & News18 Indian of the Year – Public Service in 2015.

Mam-Yassin Sarr


Mam-Yassin Sarr is the Co-founder and director of Starfish International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance humanity through girls’ education and service-learning opportunities in The Gambia, West Africa. The mission of Starfish International is to empower Gambian girls by providing them with an advanced education that is focused on service to humanity, while at the same time providing international service-learning opportunities for volunteers.

Margaret Taylor-Burroughs


Margaret Taylor-Burroughs was an American visual artist, writer, poet, educator, and arts organizer. She co-founded the Ebony Museum of Chicago, now the DuSable Museum of African American History. An active member of the African-American community, she also helped to establish the South Side Community Art Center, whose opening was dedicated by the First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt. Taylor-Burroughs was a prolific writer, with her efforts directed toward the exploration of the Black experience and to children, especially to their appreciation of their cultural identity and to their introduction and growing awareness of art.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong


Harriet Williams Russell Strong was an American social activist, inventor, conservationist and leading figure of the early woman’s movement. She is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Her pioneering innovations in water storage and flood control enabled the construction of the Hoover dam and the All-American Canal. She founded the Ebell of Los Angeles in 1894.

Madam C.J. Walker


Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, created specialized hair products for African-American hair. Also a civil rights activist, in 1917, Madam C.J. Walker was part of a delegation that traveled to the White House to petition President Woodrow Wilson to make lynching a federal crime.

Mary Edwards Walker


Dr. Mary Walker was an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, and the first woman ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Despite the controversy surrounding her career and her politics, Dr. Mary Walker was proud of her accomplishments as a physician and an advocate for women’s rights. As she concluded in 1897, “I am the original new woman…Why, before Lucy Stone, Mrs. Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were—before they were, I am. In the early ’40’s, when they began their work in dress reform, I was already wearing pants…I have made it possible for the bicycle girl to wear the abbreviated skirt, and I have prepared the way for the girl in knickerbockers.”

Maggie Lena Walker


Maggie Lena Walker was an African-American teacher and businesswoman. Walker was the first African American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president in the United States. As a leader, she achieved successes with the vision to make tangible improvements in the way of life for African Americans and women. Disabled by paralysis and limited to a wheelchair later in life, Walker also became an example for people with disabilities.

The Wellesley Codebreakers

STUDENTS, CLASS OF ’42, ’43, ’44

The Wellesley Codebreakers were female students recruited by the U.S. military to break Japanese and German military codes during World War II, whose work for the Army and Navy laid the foundation for the NSA.

Ida B. Wells


Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, abolitionist and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. She went on to found and become integral in groups striving for African American justice.

Maggie Wilderotter


For over ten years Maggie Wilderotter served as CEO of Frontier Communications, a Fortune 500 company. She is frequently identified as one of the Fifty Most Powerful Women in Business.

Carolyn Hall Young


Carolyn Hall Young was a painter/printmaker/graphic designer who lived and worked with cancer for decades, creating hauntingly beautiful work. When she became too weak to paint, Carolyn turned to digital arts, opening a door from her sickbed that would engage her with the world as never before. With an iPad Carolyn Hall Young created 1600 mobile art portraits of people all over the world, given freely over the internet, winning awards and the esteem of the art world, as well as the devotion of those she portrayed. Carolyn said, “You never know what you’re going to get to be grateful for.”