Harriet Qumiby (1875 – 1912) was a woman who wasn’t afraid to try new things. She pioneered many paths for women. She was a writer, a critic, listed herself as an actress, and worked as a photojournalist.
These activities kept her on the forefront of the news of the times. She was able to follow and join in many exciting opportunities that presented themselves.
In 1910, she interviewed a pilot, and discovered that she wanted to fly. She was the first licensed female pilot in the US. Only one other woman in the world had received her license at that time.
Flying was a rather new opportunity for anyone. In fact, to increase awareness of flying, many pilots put on fancy shows to demonstrate their skills. She was no exception. At least there, on dancing on the tip of a plane wing, she was allowed to wear pants rather than a dress, which would have ended up wrapped around her face, and possibly caught in the wings, causing a crash.
Her biggest glory was eclipsed by the sinking of the Titanic. The was the first solo flight by a woman across the English Channel.
Less than three months later, on June 1, 1902, she and her passenger were killed during an air show. Her work was considered an inspiration for other female pilots of the time including Amelia Earhart whose plane was lost during a flight around the world in 1937.
Anna Howard Shaw (1847 – 1919) spent her life fighting for women’s rights. She came to this country when she was four years old. She witnessed the Civil War and World War 1 in the US.
She decided to go to college, at time that women often did not. She also decided to be a preacher, at a time that women simply didn’t. Or, didn’t become licensed to do so. She was the first female Methodist Protestant minister.
She didn’t end her education. In 1886 she earned her medical doctor degree as well. Although online reports don’t show how she used this degree, it fit in well with her other accomplishments, and helped break down doors for future female doctors.
She used her position to preach politics, and women’s wrights. Susan B. Anthony was among her friends. She chaired many committees over the years for women’s rights, temperance, and national defense group for women.
Her death from pneumonia occurred a year before women gained the right to vote in 1920.
Sacagawea (1788 – 1812) is well known to most school children as the woman who smoothed the way for the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition across the frontier of America before paved roads, cars, planes, TVs, or phones existed.
Many facts about Sacagawea are lost in the mists of myth. Her early years are partially documented. She was born to a Shoshone tribe. And kidnapped as a child by a Hidatsa tribe. This tribe traded, or sold her to a French trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau, as a “wife.” He was asked to join the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacagawea joined them, even though they would walk much of the way, and she was pregnant. The Journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806.
After her son was born, she continued the trek, and carried him along. She was able to met with her long lost brother at a critical moment in the journey. If she hadn’t met him, the team would have been killed. In many other ways, she saved them, through languages they did now speak, medical care, cooking, and reminding them of why they took the journey.
After the trek was over, her history starts to get murky with mists.
According to most sources, she gave birth to a daughter in 1812 and died. William Clark then adopted her two children, although the man who is supposed to be her husband, is still alive for nearly 30 more years.
There is also another documented story, that claims she survived and left to marry a Comanche and lived to be over 100 years old.
She was a true pioneer for women’s right’s to make their own decisions, and did what she could to teach others to treat women with respect.
Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson (1912 – 2007) lived a very full life, and cannot be summed up easily in 250 words. She believed in, and fought for equal rights and opportunities for all, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
She went to college to be a journalist, and then married the political Lyndon B. Johnson. She pushed him to continue his political career.
Perhaps, she saw this as the best way to help women and ethnic groups. Within politics, a whisper and whisper there could lead to change.
While her husband was president, he signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act outlawed discrimination based on race. She encouraged him to face those who were angry at him for passing this law. He traveled the country, and spoke to those who would spit on him for daring to think people of various ethnicities had the same rights as he did.
She also created and helped run the Head Start program. While the program isn’t perfect, none can be, it does help many disadvantaged students who would be dumped into a daycare while both parents work to provide food, clothing, and housing. These students get a chance to learn the beginning of life skills their parents do not have time to teach them. It has changed focus over the years to more of a disability equalizer program.
Besides helping others, she lived up to her name by helping the environment through the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. Her work encouraged preserving the California Redwoods, rather than cutting them all down and turning them into furniture. She served on the National Park board, wrote about the parks. She also founded the National Wildlife Research Center in Austin, Texas.
Let us hope all the work she did will continue to advance and equalize the country. May it never be undone.
Ellen Swallow Richards (1842 – 1911) Was a female trailblazer. She fought for the right for women to obtain degrees in their desired fields. She wanted to be a chemist. However, women were not allowed to at this time.
Perhaps, this a protective endeavor, to prevent women from being poisoned by chemicals. For young adults, recommending returning after parenting would be understandable. However, the outright refusal is not a good idea. It will prevent many breakthroughs. It is an issue of understanding the consequences of working in such and environment.
Well before the EPA was introduced, she encouraged and worked on stream water analysis. At the time, some pollutants were not tested for, or the tests were not as accurate as they might be today.
What would she think of today’s streams full of pesticides, herbicides, and processed medications?
Without the degree, Ellen Swallow Richards continued her studies on her own. She developed sewage treatment options, which have saved millions of lives over the years.
She fought for healthy nutrition, at a time when the industrial revolution was taking off and filling the skies with pollutants. She recognized the dangers of arsenic in wallpaper and clothing, at time when other scientists assured the public it was safe.
Her work in the scientific community helped women reach for a future that had been denied them for so long. Without her work, we’d have reddish grey skies, and toxic, garbage filled waterways.
Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722 – 1793) was an innovative whose mother died while she young, and her father encouraged her to to study whatever interested her. She studied arts and music, and although they made a relaxing pastime, her favorite subject was botany.
As a teen, she raised her siblings at time when most young women her age were getting married and starting their own families. She took care of the plantations, and all the workers, most of whom were slaves. She practiced teaching them to read and write so they could help care for the plantation.
When her father suggested she look at more crops the plantations could grow, her botany knowledge gave her ideas. Her foresight knew that color would matter, and would improve their lives. With the help of her slaves and work crews, she developed ways to grow indigo and other plants that would be beneficial financially wise. She also tried to grow other crops like flax and hemp.
Eventually, during the American Revolution, the plantations were destroyed. However, by that time, she had married and raised three sons of her own.
When she died, she was poor. Something she had never been before.
Margaret Knight (1838 – 1914) was one of the first recognized American women inventors. Almost all women have to invent something during some point in their lives. Most of those inventions are forgotten, or if they continue to be used are placed in the name of male who oversees them, and takes the credit for them. Young women who want to be inventors and innovators are often discouraged from joining these “traditionally” male clubs.
Margaret didn’t let that stop her. Nor, did she let poverty stop her. As a child, she worked in a mill. She saw the accidents first hand. In order to save lives, she developed a shuttle that would stop the machine is something, or someone, became caught in it.
Throughout her life, she developed many new inventions. Many revolved around the mills and sewing industry. There were machines to improve shoe making, skirt making, and other clothing designs.
She didn’t let men get in her way. When one man tried to steal her paper bag design, she fought him in the courts and won. That meant the patent for the machine was in her name, not his. At that time, a woman rarely stood a chance in court.
Although she patented many items, she was never well off. While this is true of many inventors, it is especially true for females who did not live the status quo for the time. However, she may have used her money to help others reach their goals in innovations.