Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month and we will be celebrating women from all walks of life throughout the month. We will be highlighting famous female Pennsylvanians who made important contributions to our state and our history, women from PA who are responsible for significant “firsts” for our commonwealth and women who are currently making big impacts in our communities. We will also be featuring the talented and diverse women of the PA Senate Democratic Caucus. Be sure to follow us on social media for daily posts and conversations!
Louisa May Alcott
American AuthorLouisa May Alcott, of Germantown, is best known as the author of the American classic novel Little Women (1868). In total, Louisa has over 30 published works to her name.
SingerMarian Anderson, of Philadelphia, was the first African-American singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera, and the first African American to perform at the White House for President Roosevelt. Anderson also performed the National Anthem at the inauguration of President Kennedy.
Catherine Baker Knoll
Lieutenant GovernorCatherine Baker Knoll, of McKees Rocks, made history as the first female Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Knoll was known for her blunt and honest way of speaking, and for the role she carved out for herself in the male dominated world of politics.
JudgeGenevieve Blatt, of East Brady, was the first woman in Pennsylvania to be elected to statewide office and to serve on the state’s appellate court. She spent more than 50 years in public service, but her longest-held position was judge of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
JournalistBorn Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864 in Cochran’s Mills, Nellie Bly was a pioneer of investigative journalism. She went undercover to gain access to a mental institution in order to investigate patient treatment. Her article about the treatment of patients in these institutions lead to monumental reform in mental health care.
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
WriterSusan Campbell Bartoletti is an acclaimed writer from Harrisburg. Her most popular works are her nonfiction works Kids on Strike!, and Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow,. She has won accolades for her work including the Newbery Medal, given by the American Library Association (ALA).
Writer, Scientist, and EcologistRachel Carson, of Springdale, published Silent Spring in 1962. The book warned readers of the serious environmental and health effects that came from the use of the pesticide DDT, commonly found on fruit and produce. The modern environmentalist movement is forever indebted to Carson and Silent Spring, as the book made so many people aware of the damage that humans can do to the Earth.
Margaret Cochran Corbin
American soldierMargaret Cochran Corbin, of Franklin County, served as a nurse during the Revolutionary War while her husband was serving. After witnessing the death of her husband on the battle field, Corbin decided to take his place and fight on the front lines of the revolution. Corbin is widely regarded, “as the first woman to take a soldier’s part in the War for Liberty.”
Baseball PlayerBorn on Philadelphia, Mo’ne Davis became a nationwide phenomenon for being the first female pitcher to win a game in the Little League World Series 2014. A member of the Taney Dragons, Davis was the first girl to ever pitch a shutout in Little League postseason. Mo’ne is also the first Little Leaguer to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the jersey she wore when she won her historic game is in the Baseball Hall of fame.
SaintBorn in Philadelphia in 1858, Saint Katharine Drexel committed herself to the Catholic religious order, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and became a nun. Drexel dedicated her life to aiding the plight of Native Americans and African Americans. In the Catholic Church, Katharine is known as the patron saint of racial justice and philanthropists. She was made a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.
Writer, Comedian and ActressWriter, comedian and actress Tina Fey was born in Upper Darby. Fey entered the Second City comedy training program before being hired for Saturday Night Live (SNL). Fey became the first ever female head writer on the show. She has written and starred in numerous movies and TV shows.
ChoreographerMartha Graham, of Allegheny, was a world-renowned dancer and trailblazer in the dance community for creating a modern form of dance outside of the classical tradition. Graham collected many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was named “Dancer of the Century” by TIME magazine.
Ruth Kramer Hartman
Baseball PlayerRuth Hartman, of Leesport, is best known for being an original member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The “Queen of Baseballtown” played for the Fort Wayne Daises during the summers of 1946 and 1947, and played with the Grand Rapids Chicks in the 1947 league playoffs. Hartman was also recognized as a member of the Major-League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Scientific ResearcherDr. Barbara Iglewski is a scientific researcher from Pennsylvania born in 1938. Iglewski’s research has served as the foundation for an entire field of study on drugs that can prevent infections, and interrupt the bacterial communication process. She has published a total of 180 papers, in addition to holding seven patents in her name.
American Social ReformerFlorence Molthrop Kelley, of Philadelphia, rallied for a standard set time work day, a minimum wage for all workers, and for protection of child workers. Kelley is also credited as a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
ActressBorn in 1929 in Philadelphia, Grace Kelly became world renowned for her acting as well as her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. In 1954, Kelly won an Academy Award for her lead role in the film The Country Girl. After meeting Prince Rainer at the Cannes Film Festival, the pair were married in 1956.
Women's Rights ActivistDue to her own violent childhood, Pennsylvania native Susan Kelly-Dreiss has worked her whole life to protect women and children. Her first act was lobbying for the passage of Pennsylvania’s first domestic violence law in 1976, the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act. Dreiss then co-founded the nation’s first domestic violence coalition, the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV).
Professional GolferBorn in Reading, Betsy King has won six major golf championships and 34 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour victories in all. King was inducted into the World of Golf Hall of Fame in 1995.
Stephanie L. Kwolek
ScientistStephanie Kwolek, of New Kensington, became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. She is best known for developing Kevlar, a material used in ultra-protective clothing, such as bulletproof vests. This material has saved countless lives of those serving in the military, and other emergency first responders.
Figure SkaterTara Lipinski, of Philadelphia, won the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, becoming the youngest individual Gold Medalist ever in Winter Games history. Lipinski also holds the records for the youngest ever World Figure Skating Champion, as well as youngest United States Champion.
AbolitionistLucretia Mott was a prominent activist that assisted in the Underground Railroad, in the abolition movements, in the women’s rights movements, and the Native American rights movements of the day. Mott founded the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society in 1833 and helped launched the American women’s rights movement. Later, she founded Swarthmore College.
ArtistAlthough she was born in New Jersey, Violet Oakley made some of the most beautiful artistic contributions to the state of Pennsylvania. Oakley was the first woman to receive a public mural commission in 1920 for her work in the Pennsylvania State Capital building. Her most famous works can be seen on the walls of the chambers of the PA State Senate, the PA State House, and the PA Supreme Court in Harrisburg.
CartoonistZelda “Jackie” Ormes, of Pittsburg, reached stardom as the first female African American cartoonist. With strips in the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper read nationwide, her comics centered on narratives of politics and race relations of the times. Some of her more well-known cartoons include the Torchy Brown comics, and the Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger cartoons.
Hannah Callowhill Penn
William Penn's WifeBorn in Bristol, England, Hannah Callowhill Penn married Pennsylvania founder William Penn in 1696. After her husband William became ill, Hannah handled all of the Province of Pennsylvania’s official business. No other woman had successfully run a British proprietary colony for as long as Hannah Penn ran the day-to-day operations of the colony of Pennsylvania.
Physician and EducatorAnn Preston, of West Grove, was a member of its first graduating class of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Preston later became the dean of the school in addition to being an activist for women’s education.
Singer and SongwriterSinger, songwriter Taylor Swift was born in Reading in 1989. She has sold millions of records across the world. In 2008 her album Fearless made her the highest selling country artist of the year. Fearless also made Swift the youngest ever recipient of the Grammy Award for Album of the year. She again made history with her Album of the Year win for her album 1989 as the only woman ever to win two Grammy Awards for Album of the Year.
Basketball PlayerThe stellar basketball career of Dawn Staley, of North Philadelphia, two Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000. After a career in the WNBA, Staley became the women’s basketball coach at Temple University in 2000. Desiring to give back to her community in Philadelphia, Staley created the Dawn Staley Foundation to help under-privileged girls develop leadership, teamwork, and social skills.
JournalistIda Minerva Tarbell, of Erie County, became famous after her 19-part series on the Standard Oil Company was published. The series, The History of Standard Oil, outlined the tragedy of the Cleveland Massacre, highlighted people’s fear at the time of John D. Rockefeller’s prosperous oil company becoming a monopoly.
C. Delores Tucker
Politician and Civil Rights ActivistPhiladelphia native C. Delores Tucker was a political and social activist that became in the civil rights movement by registering African-Americans to vote. Tucker was the first African-American woman to be offered the position of Secretary in Pennsylvania State Government. She was appointed by Gov. Milton Shapp as the Secretary of the Commonwealth in 1971.
Lilith M. Wilson
House RepresentativeLilith M. Wilson was a Pennsylvania House Representative from Berks County. She made her first unsuccessful run for public office in 1922, before winning her race in 1931 and joining the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She held office for two consecutive terms before her death in July 1937.