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Jane Addams (1860-1935)
This social reformer devoted her life to helping the urban poor. In 1889, she founded the Hull House in a Chicago slum, with programs such as day care and adult education. One of the first settlement houses in America, Hull House inspired many others across the nation. Although she was widely criticized for her opposition to World War I, Addams later became one of the most admired activists of the time, winning the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931.

Suggested Site:
Women in American History: Jane Addams


Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
The daughter of former slaves, this teacher and social reformer founded a school for young African-American women in 1904. She helped develop this school into Bethune-Cookman College, which is still active today in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bethune was also an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, working with the National Youth Administration. Throughout her life, she worked to improve race relations and opportunities for young African Americans. One important step in this effort was her founding of the National Council of Negro Women “to advance opportunities and the quality of life for African American women, their families, and communities. ”

Suggested Site:
Women in American History: Mary McLeod Bethune


Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)
Catt was a teacher, journalist, lecturer, and fundraiser , but she’s best remembered as a suffrage organizer and leader. She succeeded Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and developed the “Winning Plan” that worked from state to state to gain suffrage and eventually the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She worked with national and international organizations, lobbied President Woodrow Wilson, led numerous campaigns, and founded the League of Women Voters. Catt was also a pacifist who worked for world peace.

Suggested Site:
American Memory: Carrie Chapman Catt


Betty Friedan (1921- )
This writer and activist helped shape the modern feminist movement. In 1963, her best-selling book The Feminine Mystique revealed the emptiness and frustration of many American women in their traditional roles. In 1966, she co-founded and served as president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), an organization dedicated to equal opportunities for women. A tireless supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Friedan has continued to teach, speak, and campaign on behalf of women’s rights.

Suggested Site:
National Women’s Hall of Fame: Betty Friedan



Dolores Huerta (1930- )
As a teacher, Huerta saw first-hand the effects of the working conditions on migrant farm workers’ families when their children would come to school barefoot and hungry. She left teaching to work on their behalf and in 1962 co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) union in California with Cesar Chavez. Her work led to the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (1975), the first “bill of rights” for farm workers in the United States. One of the most respected leaders of the labor movement, she embraces nonviolent actions to fight for change.

Suggested Site:
National Women’s Hall of Fame: Dolores Huerta


Helen Keller (1880-1968)
When she was less than two years old, an illness left her deaf, blind, and mute. When she was six, the inventor Alexander Graham Bell examined her and sent her to a young teacher named Anne Sullivan. Through the help of this teacher, Keller overcame her disabilities, learning to read, speak, and write. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 and became known worldwide as an author and lecturer. One of the first advocates for people with disabilities, she was also a champion for women, minorities, and the underprivileged.

Suggested Site:
Time 100: Helen Keller


Rosa Parks (1913- )
Known as “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” this seamstress changed history with a simple, courageous act. In 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1956, the Supreme Court ruled segregation on buses illegal. Throughout her life, Parks has continued to work for civil rights and provide opportunities to young African Americans.

Suggested Site:
Rosa Parks: How I Fought for Civil Rights


Alice Paul (1885-1977)
An ardent fighter for women’s suffrage, Paul organized one of the first major marches in Washington, D.C. in 1917 on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. She chose more radical means for her crusades, such as staging hunger strikes and picketing the White House, and was arrested several times. After women won suffrage, she turned her attention to other rights for women. She founded the National Woman’s Party and drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923. She worked for its passage into the 1970s, although it did not become law.

Suggested Site:
Alice Paul’s Fight for Suffrage



Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
This activist was a birth control advocate at a time when it was illegal simply to send mail with information on the topic. In 1914, she published The Women Rebel, a newspaper advocating birth control. Sanger opened the nation’s first birth control clinic in 1916 and was arrested, spending a month in jail. But she continued her fight, founding the American Birth Control League (later known as the Planned Parenthood Federation). She did live to see a birth control pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), amidst great controversy.

Suggested Site:
Time 100: Margaret Sanger


Muriel Siebert (1932- )
This financial expert was one of the first big players on Wall Street. In 1967, she became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1975, her firm, Muriel Siebert and Company, became the nation’s first discount broker. She served as New York’s superintendent of banks and founded the Women’s Forum, a group for businesswomen. She donates half of her firm’s profits to charities.

Suggested Site:
National Women’s Hall of Fame: Muriel Siebert


Gloria Steinem (1934- )
A feminist leader, writer, and social activist, Steinem has helped define the feminist movement since the ’60s. In 1972, she created Ms. magazine, the first national women’s magazine run by women. She edited the magazine for many years, as she continued to fight for civil rights, gay rights, and women’s rights. She also helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus, dedicated to supporting women candidates. Her best-selling books still inspire women today.

Suggested Site:
Celebrating Women’s History Month: Gloria Steinem

Pictures: Associated Press | Library of Congress (2) | Associated Press (3) | Corbis | Library of Congress | Associated Press (3) |

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