Brief Biographies of a Few Female Leaders We Should Have Learned about in School

Appendix 2 in The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World by Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura E. Cortner, available from amazon.com.

This appendix is intended as just a sampling to get you started. We urge you to look up the full biographies of these women and follow the trails to learn about even more inspirational women like them who are hidden behind the lines of standard history textbooks. Many famous notable women are not included here in this list because we briefly mentioned them earlier in the book itself.

Jane_Addams_-_Bain_News_ServiceJane Addams (1860–1935) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work reforming social conditions for the poor, women, juveniles, and laborers. “Politics is housekeeping on a grand scale” is her famous quote, expressing the sentiment of many reformers who believed liberating women, with their particular domestic skills, and allowing them power outside of the home would improve the community at large. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Addams
Bethune42hMary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955) pioneered education for Black children, established schools, and advocated for civil rights. She also became an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, promoting what education could do for Black Americans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_McLeod_Bethune
Elizabeth_BlackwellElizabeth Blackwell, M.D. (1821–1910) was one of the first women to get a degree in medicine in the United States. Afterward, however, she could not find employment, so she founded a social welfare organization in order to be able to practice in her chosen field. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Blackwell
Lydia_Maria_Child_engravingLydia Maria Child (1802–1880) wrote many books, including an influential cookbook that was in almost every kitchen. Her first novel, about a Native American and a white woman, was also one of the first anti-slavery tracts in the country. In it she documented that the first enslaved people in this land were Native Americans, not Blacks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydia_Maria_Child
Christine_de_Pisan_-_cathedraChristine de Pizan (1364–1429), born in Venice, was the first professional female writer in Europe, serving as a court writer for French royalty. She wrote about women’s rights in the late medieval ages and asserted the common humanity of woman. One of her most famous works, Book of the City of Ladies, described famous women who influenced history and used an allegorical female named Reason to argue that stereotypes about the weaknesses of women persist only because women were prevented from participating in society. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_de_Pizan
Tennie_Claflin_-_NARA_-_526776Tennessee Claflin (1845–1923) and her sister Victoria Woodhull created a sensation in the suffrage movement by advocating sexual liberation and dress reform. She was a founding member of the Wall Street investment firm Woodhull, Claflin & Company, one of the first Wall Street brokerage firms opened by women. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Celeste_Claflin

Cockacoeske (circa 1640–1686) was one of the female leaders of the Pamunkey, part of the Powhatan confederacy in the Virginia area. These are the people of the Pocahontas legend who kept the Jamestown settlers alive during their first winter of 1607. Cockacoeske herself was recorded in the Virginia colony history as a female diplomat who tried to negotiate terms with the British after the border disputes that led up to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1675 when frontiersmen were pushing to expand into Indian lands. As leader of her people, she tried to work within the British legal system to maintain peace and protect and strengthen their intertribal confederacy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockacoeske

Saint_TheclaFemale Leaders of the Early Christian Church (first four centuries, CE). As scholars like Elaine Pagels open up the field of biblical history, the names of the women who followed Jesus in leadership roles in his church are being revealed. They include Junia (first century, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junia), an apostle whom Paul described as superior to himself; Thecla (30 CE, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thecla), a follower of Paul; Melania (325–410), who traveled freely as a holy pilgrim; and Prisca (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisca_(Prophet)) and Maximilla (late second century, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilla), who were leaders and may have been the founders of the Montanist Movement.
DeborahSampsonDeborah Sampson Gannett (1760–1827) was the first-ever woman to go on a public lecture tour in the new United States. In 1802 she thrilled audiences by recounting how she had disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War. Inspiring though she was as a living example of the competence and aptitude of women, she worked hard not to upset the socially accepted gender role restrictions too much. She always began her lectures by praising the proper role of women as that of a wife and mother, insisting their chief responsibility was to shape the moral character of their men. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Sampson
Sarah_Moore_Grimke Angelina_Emily_GrimkeThe Grimké Sisters (Angelina 1805–1879 and Sarah 1792–1873) were early abolitionists, despite being raised in wealthy, slaveholding privilege in South Carolina. In the 1830s they lectured against slavery and advocated for women’s rights. They were sanctioned by their ministers especially for reporting on female slaves being raped by their masters, because it was believed that women should not speak about such things. They were the first women to defy the taboo against women speaking publicly against slavery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelina_Grimké; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Moore_Grimké
FewharperFrancis Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911) was a Black woman who had been born free in Baltimore. She supported herself from the age of thirteen, and in the 1850s she became involved in the abolition and woman suffrage movements, helping found the National Association of Colored Women. She published the first novel by a Black woman and reported on the status of free Blacks and particularly the role of women rebuilding the South after the Civil War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Harper
Clara_Lemlich_1910Clara Lemlich (1886–1982) was an organizer of working women and an early leader of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. In 1909 she spearheaded a strike of twenty thousand New York garment workers, which was the impetus behind the unionization of many factories and the improvement of deplorable conditions for the workers, the majority of whom were women. Unfortunately for the women working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the reforms did not reach everywhere, and it was only a year later that that notorious building went up in flames, trapping and killing almost 150 women. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Lemlich

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Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907) was a remarkable artist and a contemporary of Thomas Crawford and Auguste Bartholdi. An African American/Native American woman, she studied sculpting in Rome and gained recognition and large commissions for her neoclassical statues. Many of her most famous works feature the broken chains of slavery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmonia_Lewis

The_Death_of_Jane_McCrea_John_Vanderlyn_1804_cropJane McCrae (1752–1777) was a propaganda instrument cleverly manipulated to raise interest in the American cause, thereby helping to turn the tide of the Revolution. Her death scene was portrayed in paintings and written about by propagandists such as Joel Barlow, Philip Freneau, Mercy Otis Warren, and later James Fenimore Cooper. McCrae was a young Tory who was mistakenly killed and scalped by Native Americans allied with the British, and the colonial patriots seized on her violent death as a demonstration of the cruelty of the Native Americans. Many new converts to the patriot cause were created as a result of the death of Jane McCrae. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_McCrea

Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) was a preacher of the Quaker faith who sermonized against slavery and was one of the first woman suffrage activists. Together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she organized and coauthored the Declaration of Sentiments for the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucretia_Mott

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722–1793) ran her father’s vast South Carolina estate from the time she was a teenager. Given unusual freedom and education by her family, she experimented with the crops until perfecting an innovation in the cultivation of indigo, which led to indigo becoming one of the most lucrative exports of the colonies. Eliza Pinckney also raised her children to be active patriots. Two of her sons became influential leaders in the new federal government: Thomas Pinckney was ambassador to Great Britain and envoy to Spain and nominated for vice president in 1796; Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was a signer of the Constitution and nominated as vice president in 1800, and for president in 1804 and 1808. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Lucas

Susie_King_TaylorSusie King Taylor (1848–1912) was a slave who learned to read in secret, escaped slavery, became a nurse in the Union Army during the Civil War, and continued teaching other Black people to read. After the war, she established several schools and taught many freed slaves to read. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susie_Taylor
mary walker top hat largerMary Walker, M.D. (1832–1919) wore men’s clothing to serve as a surgeon during the Civil War and advocated her whole career against the unhygienic and restrictive requirements of women’s fashions. For her bravery in venturing into enemy territory to treat the wounded, she was awarded the congressional Medal of Honor. She is the only woman to ever receive this, the nation’s highest military honor, which was later revoked, only to be restored again in 1977. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Edwards_Walker

Wetamo, or Wetamoo (circa 1635–1676) was a female leader of the Wampanoag warriors in Metacomet’s campaign. She fought against the colonists in Rhode Island in what is known as King Philip’s War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weetamoo

Frances_WrightFrances Wright (1795–1852) was a Scottish-born reformer who founded utopian communities to educate slaves and work toward abolition in the United States. She wrote about sexual freedom, birth control, interracial relationships, woman suffrage, and in defense of Native Americans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Wright