Women’s Firsts in the Past 100 Years

Zoe Fred, Staff Writer

In the month of March, we celebrate the history of women across the country. Over the past 100 years, women have continued to make serious contributions to politics, economics, science, and society itself.

One of the biggest dates in the history of American women is, of course, August 20th, 1920. On this date, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowed for women across the nation to vote as legal United States citizens. The suffrage movement, however, is not the only recognizable action of women in the past 100 years.

Amelia Earhart in her flight gear.
Amelia Earhart in her flight gear.

In May of 1932, American pilot Amelia Earhart became the first woman to independently fly an aircraft across the Atlantic ocean. She achieved many more great feats, such as flying solo from coast to coast, set and then broke her own transcontinental speed record, became the first person to fly from LA to Mexico City, Mexico City to Newark, Honolulu to Oakland, California, and the Red Sea to India. The end of Earhart’s story, the infamous disappearance of her craft, is often what comes to mind when she is referenced, but her legacy carries incomparable weight for women around the world.

In 1955, a young woman sat quietly on a bus. Someone came forward and demanded that she move and ride in the rear of the bus. When she refused, she was arrested. Why? Her skin was darker than the man who demanded her seat. Rosa Parks’ arrest was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Her courage was the catalyst for revolution, as people of color quickly organized boycotts across the city to protest the segregation laws that led to her arrest. The boycott spanned a long year before the United States Supreme court finally ruled that segregating people based on their skin color was unconstitutional. Even today, Parks is recognized as the “mother of the civil rights movement”.

In 1963, aboard the Russian vessel Vostok 6 cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to leave planet Earth. After being selected from over 400 applicants, Tereshkova endured intensive training until the launch of the craft, which orbited the Earth 41 times before returning to Earth. She earned the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards for her accomplishments.

UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Ensuring Judicial Independence Through Civics Education" on Wednesday, July 25, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Ensuring Judicial Independence Through Civics Education” on Wednesday, July 25, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In 1981, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan with unanimous approval from Senate. O’Connor is the first woman to serve in the US Supreme Court, but is certainly not the last. Women who have served on the court now includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed in 1993, Sonia Sotomayor, appointed in 2009, and Elena Kagan, appointed in 2010. O’Connor served the court for 25 years before recently retiring. She, however, set a precedent for women’s role in the judicial system that will remain for the court’s existence.
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is important to remember why it exists in the first place. The past 100 years are full of firsts for women around the world and here in the United States. It is everyone’s job to keep this trend going. Striving for greatness does not only impact yourself, but people around the world. One big step for you may be the turning point of the century, even if you don’t know it yet. All you have to do is take the first step.