Women’s History Events and Birthdays

January Highlights in US Women’s History

  • January 3, 1949 – Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) starts her tenure in the Senate, where she stays in office until 1973, became the first woman to serve in both the House and Senate as she previously served in the House (R-Maine, 1940-49)
  • January 5, 1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross is inaugurated as the first woman Governor in U.S. history (Governor of Wyoming)
  • January 7, 1896 – Fanny Farmer’s first cookbook is published in which she standardized cooking measurements
  • January 7, 1955 – Marian Anderson is the first African American woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera
  • January 8, 1977 – Pauli Murray is ordained as the first female African American Episcopal priest
  • January 11, 1935 – Amelia Earhart makes the first solo flight from Hawaii to North America
  • January 12, 1932 – Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-Arkansas) is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, becomes the first woman to chair a Senate Committee and the first to serve as the Senate’s presiding officer
  • January 25, 1980 – Mary Decker became the first woman to run a mile under 4 1/2 minutes, running it at 4:17.55
  • January 29, 1926 – Violette Neatly Anderson is the first black woman to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court

 January Birthdays

  • January 1, 1909 (1993) – Peggy Dennis, Communist activist, first editor of women’s pages of the Communist Paper USA, became critic and resigned from the Party in 1976
  • January 1 , 1921 (1999) – Jeanne Chall, her research into reading stressed the importance of phonics in beginning reading, worked with Sesame Street teaching ABCs, wrote Stages of Reading Development (1983)
  • January 2, 1895 (1989) – Sadie Alexander, first black woman to edit the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, helped craft state civil rights act, desegregated Washington National Airport in late 1940s, worked with the Urban League and ACLU
  • January 2, 1895 (1977) – Edith Jackson, pediatrician and psychoanalyst at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital beginning in 1929, worked on prevention and treatment of child abuse
  • January 2, 1919 (1979) – Beatrice Hicks, engineer, worked on design, production and testing of quartz crystal oscillators during World War II, chaired the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists in New York (1964)
  • January 3, 1793 (1880 ) – Lucretia Mott, women’s rights pioneer, Quaker minister, pacifist  (NWHP co-founder Molly Murphy MacGregor is honored to share her birthday)
  • January 3, 1897 (1979) – Dorothy Arzner, the sole woman film director between 1927 and 1943, made “The Wild Party” starring Clara Bow (1929), “Christopher Strong” with Katherine Hepburn (1933), and “Craig’s Wife” with Rosalind Russell (1936)
  • January 3, 1916 (1994) – Betty Furness, television reporter for Westinghouse during the 1950s and 60s, consumer affairs advocate in the Johnson administration, helped to enact regulations on flameproof fabrics and credit card billing
  • January 3, 1926 (1989) – Maria Sanchez, activist for bilingual education for Puerto Ricans, elected to school board then the Connecticut General Assembly (1988)
  • January 4, 1892 (1982) – Helen Hull, director of Henry Street Settlement House, appointed by FDR to Committee on Economic Security which created Social Security Act of 1935 and Unemployment Compensation
  • January 4, 1943 – Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Lincoln, also wrote The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson
  • January 5, 1893 (1987) – Elizabeth (Libba) Cotton, singer/songwriter, wrote “Freight Train” at age 11, worked as cook for Ruth Crawford and shared Southern songs, still sang in festivals at 67, named one of 75 influential African Americans in I Dream a World (1989)
  • January 5, 1893 (1980) – Sigrid Schultz, war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, interviewed Hitler, reported on German-Russian non-aggression pact, wrote articles on German concentration camps
  • January 5, 1895 (1981) – Rebecca Lancefield, pioneer microbiologist, overcame sexism, published effects of streptococcal infections in army in Texas (1919), president of Society of American Bacteriologist (1943), elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1970)
  • January 5, 1895 (1981) – Jeannette Piccard, first female Episcopal priest, first woman licensed balloon pilot, attained almost 58,000 feet – the record altitude for women until 1963
  • January 5, 1901 (1991) – Aryness Wickens, statistician, worked with Federal Reserve Board to refine index of industrial production, president of the American Statistical Association (1952)
  • January 7, 1891 (1960) – Zora Neale Hurston, author, pioneering scholar of African-American folklore
  • January 7, 1905 (1987) – Nella Morton, feminist educator, pushed for full integration for black students at the Biblical Seminary of New York, worked with retarded children and developed curricular theories from 1956 to 1971
  • January 8, 1867 (1961) – Emily Greene Balch, economist and sociologist, co-founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom with Jane Addams and others (1919), awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, shared with John Mott
  • January 8, 1911 (1995) – Thelma (Butterfly) McQueen, danced with Katherine Dunham as Butterfly in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” played Prissy in “Gone With the Wind”
  • January 9, 1859 (1947) – Carrie Chapman Catt, nationally recognized woman suffrage leader, led suffragists to victory in 1920 as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association 
  • January 9, 1897 (1994) – Felisa Rincon De Gautier, appointed Mayor of San Juan in 1946 and re-elected until 1969, created elder-care centers, distributed clothes and food, encouraged women to participate in the economy
  • January 9, 1941 – Joan Baez, folk singer and songwriter, supported human and civil rights, peace activist, founded the Humanitas International Human Rights Committee (1979)
  • January 10, 1863 (1934) – Katharine Gibbs, founded the Katharine Gibbs Schools, which became the most famous and prestigious secretarial institution in the country, insisted that even though few women worked in business, “Young women have to be trained beyond the technical to act as a personal representative, to display initiative, and to assume larger responsibilities.”
  • January 10, 1898 (1979) – Katharine Blodgett, physicist and inventor, first woman research scientist for General Electric’s Schenectady, NY laboratory (1920), first woman awarded a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge (1926), received eight U.S. patents, most famously for inventing low-reflectance “invisible” glass
  • January 11, 1885 (1977) – Alice Paul, suffrage leader and attorney, founded the National Woman’s Party (1916), her innovative nonviolent strategies and political sophistication helped win passage of the 19th Amendment (1920), initiated the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment (1923)
  • January 11, 1899 (1991) – Eva LeGallienne, actress, toured with Ethel Barrymore, starred with Basil Rathbone in 1923, first Peter Pan to fly out over the audience, produced and founded the Civic Repertory Theatre (1926-33), last performance was a 1984 episode of TV’s “St. Elsewhere”
  • January 12, 1820 (1914) – Caroline Severance, early suffragist and social reformer, women’s clubs pioneer, co-founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (1869), first woman to register to vote in California (1911)
  • January 13, 1850 (1911) – Charlotte Ray, first  female African-American lawyer and first woman admitted to the bar in Washington D.C.
  • January 13, 1917 – Edna Hibel, artist and colorist, first woman to win the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts     
  • January 13, 1926 (1999) – Melba Liston, self-taught jazz trombonist, member of Dizzy Gillespie’s tour of the Middle East in 1956, recorded, taught, and performed in Women’s Jazz Festivals
  • January 14, 1900 (1987) – Marion Martin, elected to Maine House of Representatives, (1930-34), Maine Senate (1934-38), first woman to head Department of Labor and Industry (1947-62), worked for minimum living wage, industrial safety and child labor laws
  • January 15, 1892 (1968) – Jane Hoey, director of the Bureau of Public Assistance, Social Security Board (1936-53), helped states develop programs of assistance, especially mothers’ aid programs, bequeathed millions to Trinity College and Columbia University School of Social Work
  • January 15, 1898 (1995) – Irene Kuhn, journalist, scooped the world when a tidal wave hit Honolulu in 1923, worked on Thomas Dewey’s campaign, penned conservative nationally syndicated column for nearly 25 years
  • January 16, 1906 (1984) – Ethel Merman, actress, singer, performed “I Got Rhythm” in “Girl Crazy” in 1930, continued with “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1946 and “Gypsy” and “Hello Dolly “ in the 1970s
  • January 16, 1927 (1998) – Estela Trambley, teacher, writer, playwright, pioneer in Chicano literature, addressed challenges of life in the Southwest and explored the cultural demands of gender roles and marriage
  • January 16, 1932 (1985) – Dian Fossey, primatologist and naturalist who studied, lived amongst, and befriended the gorillas of Rwanda for 18 years, wrote Gorillas in the Mist (1983) emphasizing the need to protect them from the constant threat of poachers and neglect
  • January 16, 1933 (2004) – Susan Sontag, intellectual, critic, filmmaker, and writer, first influential essay “Notes on ‘Camp'” (1964), wrote On Photography, Against Interpretation, and recently released journals and diaries     
  • January 17, 1910 (1987) – Edith Green, elected to Congress in 1954 and served 9 terms, worked on women’s rights, education, and equal pay
  • January 17, 1920 (1987) – Nora Kaye, ballerina, choreographer, and film producer, joined George Balanchine’s American Ballet (1936), collaborated on films with husband Herbert Ross including “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1969) and “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (1976), produced “The Turning Point” (1977) and “Pennies from Heaven” (1981)
  • January 17, 1922 – Betty White, veteran actress, her latter TV roles included “Mama’s Family,” “The Golden Girls,” and “Hot in Cleveland,” advocate of animal welfare                              
  • January 17, 1939 – Martha Cotera, pioneering Chicana feminist, author of two seminal texts Diosa y Hembra and Chicana Feminist, founding member Raza Unida Party in Texas (1969), one of the mothers of Chicana Feminism
  • January 19, 1905 (1995) – Oveta Culp Hobby, second women in the U.S. Cabinet (20 years after Frances Perkins), first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1953), awarded the Distinguished Medal of Service for her work as Director of the Women’s Army Corps (1945)
  • January 19, 1905 (1996) – Anne Hummert, producer of popular radio soap operas “Just Plain Bill” (1933-55), “Ma Perkins,” and “Stella Dallas” (1937-55)
  • January 19, 1946 – Dolly Parton, singer and songwriter best known for country music, her most famous movie, “Nine to Five,” dealt with sexism in the workplace
  • January 21, 1905 (1996) – Agnes Mongan, published material on French artists despite restrictions on her movements because she was a woman, director at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum (1969-71), mentored many female scholars
  • January 22, 1877 (1981) – Rosa Ponselle, soprano, debuted with Enrico Caruso in 1918, sang with Baltimore Civic Opera after 1950, mentored Beverly Sill
  • January 23, 1902 (1999) – Lucile Leone, upgraded programs of the U.S. Nurse Corps, which grew to 180,000 by 1948, chief nurse officer of U.S. Public Health, Assistant Surgeon General (1949-66)
  • January 23, 1909 (1985) – Tatiana Proskouriakoff, artist for life possibilities, inspired by Mayan hieroglyphs on first visit in 1936, also traveled to Mexico and Guatemala
  • January 23, 1910 (1993) – Irene Sharaff, costume designer for 40 movies and 60 Broadway shows, created costumes for “An American in Paris” (1951) and “West Side Story” (1961), nominated for fifteen Academy Awards
  • January 23, 1918 (1999) – Gertrude Elion, biochemist, one of only 10 women to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1988)
  • January 23, 1921 (1994) – Merija Gimbutas, author, emigrated to Boston, began with Lithuanian beliefs and rituals, folklore, and ancient practices, wrote The Prehistory of Modern Europe (1956) and The Civilization of the Goddess (1994)
  • January 24, 1968 – Mary Lou Retton, first and only American woman to win a gold medal in the All-Around in gymnastics at the Olympics (1984) and first American woman to win a gold medal in gymnastics, first woman featured on a Wheaties cereal box
  • January 25, 1896 (1987) – Helen Heffernan, strong supporter of United Nations’ education of bilingual education, recognized that children who were interned in World War II needed health and family services
  • January 26, 1872 (1957) – Julia Morgan, first licensed female architect in California, innovative architect of Hearst Castle and over 700 other buildings
  • January 26, 1892 (1926) – Bessie Coleman, first African-American woman in the world to fly a plane and earn an international pilot’s license
  • January 27, 1898 (1995) – Georgia Clark, first female U.S. Treasurer (1949-53), appointed by President Truman
  • January 27, 1937 (1997) – Nancy Dickerson, producer of “Face the Nation” (1960), first woman on NBC to go on assignment worldwide (1986-91)
  • January 27, 1941 (1981) – Beatrice Tinsley, astronomer, studied how light changes as stars age, found that young galaxies are brighter and bluer
  • January 28, 1913 (1988) – Hazel Garland, editor-in-chief of The Pittsburgh Courier (1974-77), a pioneer in communicating with people of diverse backgrounds
  • January 29, 1941 – Robin Morgan, poet, political theorist, activist, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, author of over 20 books, edited trailblazing anthology Sisterhood is Powerful in the 1970s
  • January 30, 1890 – Angie Debo, spent lifetime examining historical implications of settlements of Native Americans Indians, wrote And Still the Waters Run in 1940 describing the “criminal conspiracy” that defrauded Oklahoma’s Five Civilized Tribes of their lands
  • January 30, 1912 (1989) – Barbara Tuchman, author, historian, awarded the  Pulitzer Prize in 1958 for The Guns of August and in 1971 for Stillwell and the American Experience in China
  • January 31, 1960 (1982) – Betty Parsons, gallery owner and artist, exhibited watercolors in 1935, created the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1946, showed the work of many avant garde expressionists
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