Featured Women

Jane Addams

SOCIAL WORKER / REFORMER

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

MENTOR

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

JoAnne Akalaitis

DIRECTOR / WRITER

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

AVIATOR / ENTREPRENEUR

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

JOURNALIST

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

BIOPHYSICAL CHEMIST, AUTHOR, MOUNTAINEER

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

ACTIVIST / AUTHOR

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

ACTIVIST

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

PROFESSOR / AUTHOR

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

ARTIST / ENTREPRENEUR

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

PHOTOGRAPHER

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

Milena Canonero

COSTUME DESIGNER

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

PILOT

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

Hannah Crafts

WRITER

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

PLAYWRIGHT / DIRECTOR

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

WRITER / SCHOLAR

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

MATHEMATICIAN / AEROSPACE ENGINEER

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.

Phoolan Devi

BANDIT / POLITICIAN

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

LAWYER

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

POET/SUFFRAGIST

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

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

ACTIVIST

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

Alice Guy-Blaché

FILMMAKER

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

LEGAL PIONEER

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

PLAYWRIGHT / DIRECTOR

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

JUNGIAN ANALYST

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

CHOREOGRAPHER / DANCER / INVENTOR

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

Lil Hardin

JAZZ COMPOSER / ARTIST / BANDLEADER

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

PHARAOH

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.

Ono no Komachi

POET

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

PROFESSOR OR ANTHROPOLOGY AND PRIMATOLOGY

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.

Adrienne Kennedy

PLAYWRIGHT

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.

Sister Mary Corita Kent

NUN / ARTIST / EDUCATOR

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

ANTHROPOLOGIST / AUTHOR

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

ACTRESS / INVENTOR

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

ADVOCATE

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

MATHEMATICIAN / COMPUTER PROGRAMMER

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

DRAMATIST, “MOTHER UGANDA”

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

NATURAL HISTORIAN

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

HEALER / WRITER

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

FILMMAKER

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

INVENTORS / AUTHORS

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

BIOLOGIST / INVESTOR

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.

Manuelita Saenz

COLOMBIAN COLONEL

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

POET / ACTIVIST

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

FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR / SOCIAL ADVOCATE

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.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong

INVENTOR / CONSERVATIONIST

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

ENTREPRENEUR / ACTIVIST

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.

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.

Maggie Wilderotter

CEO

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.