While every day is the perfect time to celebrate all of the wonderful accomplishments of women, March is officially Women’s History Month. For 31 days, people around the country pay tribute to the important role females have played in American history. Read about women who continue to inspire us in and out of the industry!
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court for almost 30 years, but her fight for equal rights started well before she was named to the top court in the country. She served as head of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, arguing and winning five landmark Supreme Court cases during the 1970s. Her achievements as a litigator led many to call her “the Thurgood Marshall of the women’s rights movement.” Not only did she deliver the landmark opinion in the 1996 Virginia Military Institute sex discrimination case, United States v. Virginia, but she also defended women’s reproductive freedom in several cases and supported gay marriage.
The Illinois senator didn’t let losing both of her legs in a helicopter attack in the Iraq War stop her from making history. She went on to become the first member of Congress born in Thailand, the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress, the first Asian American woman to represent Illinois in Congress, and the first to give birth while in office.
Katharine Graham was one of the first female publishers of a U.S. newspaper (The Washington Post) and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. During her time there, Graham oversaw the paper’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal—and even won a Pulitzer Prize for her autobiography, Personal History.
Mary McLeod Bethune
In 1904, Mary McLeod Bethune became the first woman to start a historical Black college and university when she founded the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls, which is now known as Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.
Known as “the Olivia Pope of events,” Tara Melvin is also the founder and president of The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals, the first and only wedding/event association for Black professionals in the industry. It strives to “create unity within the black community and beyond, elevate business acumen via education, yield financial support to its members via scholarships, and bring awareness to others who are unaware of black-owned businesses who provide exceptional services for its consumers, and our contribution in the wedding and event planning industry.”
In addition, she is the founder and producer of The Signature CEO Conference, as well as the founder and mentor of The Executive Mentor Program.
Most people know her name after watching Taraji P. Henson portray her in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which showed the world how Katherine Johnson’s calculations led to the successful launch of John Glenn into orbit in 1962. In 2019, the Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) in Fairmont, West Virginia was renamed in honor of her, as well as a spacecraft.
The Brazilian fashion designer opened her multi-brand store, Maison M, in 1985, which featured 8,000 pieces by international designers. In 2004, she launched the Martha Medeiros brand, offering gorgeous gowns to brides around the world. In addition to being a fashion influencer, Medeiros also helped rescue the work of the mujeres renderas of northeastern Brazil, whose work in crochet and embroidery was becoming a dying art form.
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history—and the third female justice in U.S. Supreme Court history. She is a fierce supporter of women's issues, criminal justice reform, and legal immigration.
A Polish-born French scientist, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1903—and took home the prize again in chemistry in 1911, becoming the first person to win the award twice. Her work on radioactivity paved the way for future advancements, and she also discovered two radioactive elements: Radium and Polonium.
Renowned for her writing on gender and race, bells hook (she preferred for her name to be spelled in all lowercase letters) wrote 30 books in a variety of genres, including literary criticism, children’s fiction, self-help, memoir, and poetry, covering subjects such as education, capitalism, and American history, as well as love and friendship. She also taught at a number of colleges and universities, and in 2014 Berea College in Kentucky created the bell hooks Institute as a center for her writing and teaching.
After suffering a near-fatal accident when she was 18, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo created self-portraits that explored subjects like death, identity, and the human body. She eschewed gender stereotypes, frequently dressing in men's clothing in her self-portraits, and was deeply involved in politics as a member of the Communist party. After her death at 47, her art became even more popular as her resilience and dedication to equal rights inspired many.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. The company is dedicated to including gender-neutral language, equal representation of all orientations/identities, and a clear commitment to equality. According to the company website, Drye’s efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more.
Of course, no list would be complete without the first female Vice President of the United States! Her presence in the oval office opens up the door for young girls, women, and non-binary people to dream about being in spaces where important decisions are made!
Hero photo courtesy of Sebastian Kim (RBG), The bell hooks Institute (bell hooks), Bettmann/ Getty Images (Frida Kahlo)