25 of the Most Influential Women in American History
Chrissy Clark /
Women’s History Month, established in 1987, is a celebration of women’s efforts across the nation to make the world a better place for females.
Before the month is out, let’s not forget our female forefathers, um, that is foremothers. These are the ladies who paved the way for women to have a place not only in the house, but the Senate.
Here are 25 influential American women who continue to inspire us here at The Daily Signal, along with some recommended reading.
Except for a certain former Supreme Court justice, none of our choices are still alive. With one exception, we also have omitted the nation’s first ladies.
- Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888). Alcott worked to support her family through financial difficulties at an early age, and managed to write “Little Women,” one of the most famous novels in American history. Her other famous writings include “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys.” (Recommended biography here.)
- Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). Anthony played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1878, she and co-workers presented an amendment to Congress that would give women the right to vote. In 1920, Sen. Aaron A. Sargent, R-Calif., introduced the bill and it was ratified as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. (Recommended biography here.)
- Clara Barton (1821-1912). Barton founded the American Red Cross and served as its first president. She was a nurse during the Civil War for the Union Army. (Recommended biography here.)
- Nellie Bly (1864-1904). A journalist, she launched a new kind of investigative reporting. She is best known for her record-breaking trip around the world by ship in 72 days. (Recommended biography here.)
- Amelia Earhart (1897-1939). Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for her accomplishments. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared in 1937 over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting to fly around the globe. (Recommended biography here.)
- Jessie Benton Fremont (1824-1902). Fremont was a writer and political activist. She was considered the brains behind her husband, John C. Fremont, and his famous exploration westward. She turned his notes into readable books and made connections in Washington, D.C., that eventually made him famous. (Recommended biography here.)
- Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966). Higgins was a reporter and war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She advanced the cause of equal opportunity for female war correspondents and was the first woman awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Correspondence in 1951. (Recommended biography here.)
- Grace Hopper (1906-1992). A computer scientist and Navy rear admiral, Hopper played an integral role in creating programs for some of the world’s first computers. (Recommended biography here.)
- Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910). Howe was a poet and author, her most famous work being “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She was also a social activist for women’s suffrage. (Recommended biography here.)
- Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897). Jacobs, a writer, escaped slavery and later was freed. She published a novel, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” credited as the first to highlight the struggles of rape and sexual abuse within slavery. (Recommended biography here.)
- Barbara Jordan (1936-1996). Jordan was a lawyer, educator, politician, and civil rights movement leader. She was the first southern African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first African-American woman to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. (Recommended biography here.)
- Coretta Scott King (1927-2006). The wife, and later widow, of Martin Luther King Jr. played an important role in preserving the legacy of the civil rights leader. Following his assassination in 1968, she founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She later lobbied for her late husband’s birthday to be recognized as a federal holiday. (Recommended biography here.)
- Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987). Luce was an author, conservative politician, and U.S. ambassador to Italy and Brazil. She was the first woman appointed to an ambassadorial role abroad. Luce served in the House of Representatives from 1943-1974. (Recommended biography here.)
- Dolley Madison (1768-1849). Madison was the nation’s first lady during James Madison’s presidency from 1809-1817. She helped to furnish the newly reconstructed White House in 1814, after the invading British burned it to the ground, and is credited with saving the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington from the flames. (Recommended biography here.)
- Sandra Day O’Connor (1930-Present). A lawyer, O’Connor became a celebrated judge and eventually the first female justice on the Supreme Court, serving from 1981-2006. President Ronald Reagan appointed her. (Recommended biography here.)
- Rosa Parks (1913-2005). Parks was the most prominent female face of the civil rights movement. In December 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” of a bus to a white man and was charged with civil disobedience. She is known as “the mother of the freedom movement.” (Recommended biography here.)
- Sally Ride (1951-2012). A physicist and astronaut, Ride joined NASA in 1978. Five years later, in 1983, she became the first American woman to go to outer space. (Recommended biography here.)
- Sacagawea (1788-1812). Sacagawea was a Lemhi Shoshone woman best known for her expedition with Lewis and Clark through the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. The Native American traveled from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean with the explorers. (Recommended biography here.)
- Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016). Schlafly was a constitutional lawyer and conservative political activist. She is best known for her critiques of radical feminism and her successful campaign against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. (Recommended biography here.)
- Muriel F. Siebert (1928-2013). Known as “the first woman of finance,” Siebert was the first woman to head a firm traded on the New York Stock Exchange. (Recommended biography here.)
- Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995). A Republican politician, Smith served in the House of Representatives from 1940-1949 and the Senate from 1949-1973. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. (Recommended biography here.)
- Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896). The abolitionist and author’s most well-known work is the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which portrayed the impact of slavery on families and children. Its impact led to Stowe’s meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. (Recommended biography here.)
- Sojourner Truth (1797-1883). An abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Truth was born into slavery and escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. She became best known for her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech on racial inequalities in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. (Recommended biography here.)
- Harriet Tubman (1820-1913). Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849 and became a famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom using that secret network of safe houses. (Recommended biography here.)
- Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814). Warren was a writer and propagandist of the American Revolution. She published poems and plays that attacked the British empire and urged colonists to resist Britain’s infringement on their rights. (Recommended biography here.)