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Bella Abzug (1920-1998)
This New York City civil rights and labor attorney was a tireless crusader for the poor, minorities, and women. In 1970, she was elected to the House of Representatives and on her first day introduced a bill calling for an end to the Vietnam War. During her two terms in office, she would continue to fight for women’s rights, gay rights, and other issues. In 1971, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus, dedicated to supporting women candidates.

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National Women’s Hall of Fame: Bella Abzug

Madeleine Albright (1937- )
An expert on international affairs, Albright became the nation’s first woman secretary of state in 1997 - and the highest-ranking woman in U.S. government - when her nomination was unanimously confirmed by Congress. She has been a national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, a teacher at Georgetown University, and an ambassador to the United Nations.

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U.S. State Department: Madeleine Albright

Shirley Chisholm (1924- )
In 1968, this New York City teacher and child care worker changed the face of Congress when she became the first African-American woman elected. Chisholm has worked to reform government to meet the needs of all citizens, especially minorities, women, and children. In 1972, she campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, which ultimately went to George McGovern.

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National Women’s Hall of Fame: Shirley Chisholm

Geraldine Ferraro (1935- )
In 1984, presidential candidate Walter Mondale selected Ferraro as his running mate. Although Mondale lost the election to President Ronald Reagan, history had been made - it was the first time a major party nominated a woman for its presidential ticket. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Ferraro served three terms in the House of Representatives, representing a New York City district. In Congress, she worked for women’s rights, leading efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Earlier in her career, Ferraro was a district attorney, working to protect women, children, and the elderly.

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Women in American History: Geraldine Ferraro


U.S. Army General Claudia Kennedy (1947- )
In 1997, Kennedy became a three-star general in the U.S. Army, the first and only woman to ever achieve this rank. She joined the army in 1969 during the Vietnam War. Although men, not women, were being drafted, she felt a responsibility to serve. She spent 31 years in the Army, becoming deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

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Women’s International Center: Claudia Kennedy

Sandra Day O’Connor (1930- )
In 1981, she became the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Early in her career, Arizona law firms wouldn’t hire her because she was a woman - so she started her own law firm. She went on to serve as assistant attorney general, an Arizona State Senator, and a judge on both the district and state levels.

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National Women’s Hall of Fame: Sandra Day O’Connor


Frances Perkins (1880-1965)
Perkins served as secretary of labor throughout President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration (1933-1945), making her the first woman Cabinet member in the United States. Perkins was a crusader for social reform, seeking to improve working conditions through legislation.

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National Women’s Hall of Fame: Frances Perkins

Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)
In 1916, Rankin became the first woman to serve in Congress. This teacher and social worker had worked for women’s suffrage, which passed in her home state of Montana in 1914. Rankin was also a committed pacifist and was one of the few in Congress to oppose war with Germany in 1917. This unpopular vote cost her her office. In 1940, she was elected to the House of Representatives, where she was the only member to vote against the nation’s entry into World War II.

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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Jeannette Rankin

Janet Reno (1938- )
When she graduated from law school, some law firms would not hire Reno because she was a woman. She went to work for the State of Florida and became a state attorney. In 1993, she was appointed to head the U.S. Department of Justice, becoming the first woman attorney general of the United States. As the chief law enforcement officer, she made several difficult, sometimes unpopular, decisions, but she was widely admired for her integrity and candor.

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Women in American History: Janet Reno

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, the country gained another great leader - his wife, Eleanor. This trailblazing first lady worked tirelessly for human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights, as well as the poor and unemployed. She also changed the perception of what a first lady could do, holding her own press conferences, giving radio addresses, and writing newspaper columns. In 1945, she was named U.S. Delegate to the United Nations, where she helped pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Women in American History: Eleanor Roosevelt

Pictures: Associated Press (2) | Corbis | Associated Press | Corbis | Associated Press (2) |

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