Women’s History Month Heroes
Observed annually in the month of March since 1987, Women’s History Month is a celebration of the contributions of women to United States history. Celebrate the accomplishments of this collection of amazing women responsible for important milestones in history.
Tegla Loroupe was the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon and holds several world records in long distance running.
- Loroupe grew up with 24 siblings.
- She is such a cheerful person that an early age, she was given the nickname “Chametia” which means “the one who never gets annoyed.”
- At seven-years-old, she started to go to school, which meant a barefoot 10 km run to start each day.
- At one point, her father banned her from running as it was not considered ladylike.
- In 2003, Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, and she has been a huge advocate for peace initiatives.
Ada Lovelace is known as the first computer programmer for writing an algorithm for a computing machine in the mid-1800s when she was 27-years-old.
- It was extremely uncommon and typically discouraged for a woman to study mathematics and science so in depth during Lovelace’s time.
- Lovelace was known as the “Enchantress of Numbers.”
- Lovelace’s contributions to the field of computer science were not discovered until the 1950s.
- In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense named a newly developed computer language, “Ada,” after Lovelace.
- Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated on October 14 as a way to celebrate and encourage women in STEM fields.
Poet, singer, movie writer, producer, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou is one of the most influential women in American history and the civil rights movement.
- Angelou’s award-winning memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.
- She turned down a lead role in a Broadway production to tour Europe with a group in 1954.
- After an extremely traumatic event in her childhood, Angelou did not speak for five years. Literacy helped her find her voice again.
- Angelou was only the second poet in history to recite work at a presidential inauguration. (The first was Robert Frost in 1961.)
In 1969, Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician, helped to successfully send the first man to the moon.
- Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
- Her father, Joshua Coleman, drove her 120 miles to attend high school when her town didn't offer further schooling for black students.
- She graduated summa cum laude at age 18 from now West Virginia University with degrees in mathematics and French.
- Her story became more widely known through the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
Hedy Lamarr is credited with co-inventing an early technique for spread spectrum communications, the key to how we communicate wirelessly today.
- Hedy Lamarr is primarily known as being one of the most beautiful and exotic actresses in Hollywood during MGM's Golden Age.
- Lamarr’s "Secret Communications System" helped to change radio frequencies to confuse enemies during World War II.
- In 1997, Lamarr was one of two honored with the Electric Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award.
- That same year, she was also recognized with the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, considered the "Oscars" of inventing.
Marie Curie founded the science of radioactivity, which led to effective treatments for cancer.
- In 1903, Marie Curie was the first female to win a Nobel Prize. She was also the first person ever to win a second Nobel Prize.
- Marie and her husband discovered the elements of radium and polonium, which was named after her native country of Poland.
- During the first World War, she helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment and often drove them to the front line herself.
- She died at the age of 66 of aplastic anemia from exposure to radiation throughout the course of her life’s research.
In 1975, Junko Tabei became the first woman to successfully climb Mount Everest.
- In 1992, she also was the first woman to reach each of the Seven Peaks, the highest points of Earth’s seven continents.
- After facing discrimination from male climbers who refused to climb with her, Tabei formed a group called the Ladies Climbing Club.
- During her Everest climb, Tabei and her team were hit with an avalanche. She was buried and knocked unconscious. Miraculously, no one was fatally injured.
- Her injuries left her unable to walk for two days, but she was determined to keep going. Twelve days after the avalanche, Tabei summited Mt. Everest.