American Women in History
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Limited in their legal rights and accepted
customs of society at the time, women mostly honored their husbands
demands and spent their time cooking meals, tending to children, watering
the horses and taking care of the household chores.
But, that was not
always the case. There are hundreds of women who stand out in
American History due to their strong characters, contributions to society, or
plain old interesting personalities.
From the hardy pioneers who crossed the
prairies and mountains heading westward, to nurses,
abolitionists, stagecoach drivers, and even a few doctors and
soldiers, you'll find their stories here.
For those less fortunate, forced by
circumstance, need, and sometimes adventure, you'll also find
outlaws, gamblers, powerful
Madams, their brothels, and a bevy of
the days when the
was ruled by the gun, it took a woman of great character and strong
resolve to survive.
American Progress by John Gast in 1872.
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Heloise Abel (1873-1947) - Historian and professor renowned for her
studies of Native
Jane Addams (1860-1935) A pacifist,
suffragist, an advocate of social reform and, in 1931, the first
American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She turned her prize
winnings over to the Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom,
of which she was president.
Hannah Adams (1755-1831) Historian and the
first professional woman writer in the United States, publishing A
Summary History of New England in 1799.
May Alcott (1832-1888) - A servant, seamstress, teacher and
Nurse, Alcott's fame came as an author.
Susan "Doc Susie" Anderson
(1870-1960) - A female pioneer physician in
Brownell Anthony (1820-1906) Leader in the American AntiSlavery
Society, she later turned her life's devotion to women's suffrage and,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the National Woman Suffrage
Association and the newspaper Revolution.
"Mad" Anne Hennis Trotter Bailey
(1742-1825) - A famous story teller, horsewoman, hunter, and frontier
American Revolution and Northwest Indian War.
B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931) -
A black journalist and militant civil rights leader, she was a cofounder
of the NAACP and the first president of the Negro Fellowship League.
Dona Gertrudis "La Tules" Barcelo
(1800-1852) - A saloon owner and master gambler in the
Territory of New Mexico at the time of the
Mexican-American War .
She amassed a small fortune by capitalizing on the flow of American
and Mexican traders involved with the
Santa Fe Trail .
Clara Barton (1824-1912) Called the "Angel
of the Battlefield" for her first aid heroism during the
she was instrumental in founding the American Red Cross.
Bassett (1878-1956) - The daughter or ranch owners at Brown's
Hole, near the
border, Bassett became a "member"
Martha McFarlane McGee Bell (1735-1829) - Became a
heroine in the
American Revolution after an encounter with General
Cornwallis and the British Army and collected valuable information for
the American cause.
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) - A French
actress, Bernhardt made her way to the United States and was so popular,
she was soon dubbed "The Divine Sarah".
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) The
daughter of former slaves, Mary became a writer, educator, a champion of
humanitarian causes, and an advocate of civil rights and education for
(1817-1901) - An energetic heroine whose sole aim during the
was to more efficiently care for wounded Union soldiers.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) The first
American woman to receive a medical doctor degree in 1849, she opened
the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and co-founded the Women's
Medical College in 1868.
Celia Ann "Mattie" Blaylock (1850-1888) - Involved with
after the death of his first wife, she is often termed as his "common
Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894) Social
reformer, suffragist, and publisher of the temperance paper The Lily,
she was ridiculed by nineteenth century men for the liberated "pants"
outfits she popularized.
Heffernan Borland (1824-1873) - A
Rancher, Borland owned a herd of more than 10,000 cattle in 1873. She
was said to be the only woman known to have led a cattle drive during
the days of the
Anne Bonny -
Lady Pirate (1700?-1782?) - A female pirate, Bonny was born in
County Cork, Ireland. Anne fell in love with a handsome young sailor,
ran away to the West Indies with him. Leaving her husband, Anne sailed
on Captain "Calico Jack" Rackham's ship, where she gained fame as a
bloodthirsty pirate. Captured, she was tried and convicted of piracy, but
there are no records indicating she was ever hanged.
Bourdett, aka: Great Western (1813-1866) - An adventurer and camp
follower cooked for the soldiers during the Mexican War.
Bowers (1827–1903) - Known as the "Queen of the Comstock" and the
"Washoe Seeress," Bowers is remembered as one of the most important
women in the development of Utah.
Mary Elizabeth Bowser (1839?-??) - Born as a slave in Richmond,
Virginia, she was later freed and became a member of Jefferson Davis'
staff during the
There, she acted as a prominent Union spy.
Marie Isabella Boyd
(1844-1900) - Best known as Belle Boyd or Cleopatra of the Secession,
she was a Confederate spy in the American
She operated from her father's hotel in Virginia and provided valuable
information to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in 1862.
Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919) See Madam C.J. Walker
Antoinette Louisa Brown (1825-1921) Social
reformer, abolitionist and suffragist, she was the nation's first
ordained female minister, one of the first American women to attend
college, and an author of books on evolution and social theory.
Tobin Brown (1867-1932) - Better known as "The Unsinkable Molly
Brown," Molly survived the sinking of the Titanic. But before this
disaster she was involved in women's rights, helping to establish the
chapter of the National American Women's Suffrage Association.
Julie Bulette - (18??-1867) - A popular
Nevada prostitute in the 1860s. She was found murdered in her home on January
Bullion, aka: Della Rose, Rose of the Wild Bunch
(1876?-19??) - Bullion was a "member"
S.M. Burche - Appointed as a U.S.
Deputy Marshal by C.H. Thompson of Guthrie, Oklahoma, Burche
was one of the few
to be appointed as a deputy during the 19th century.
Jane "Calamity Jane" Cannary (1852-1903)
- Calamith Jane was renowned
for her excellent marksmanship, preference for men's clothing, and
Martha Thomas Carey (1857-1935)
Suffragist and educator Martha was first female college faculty
member in the country to hold the title "dean." Working at
Bryn Mawr College, she also started the first graduate program at
any women's school.
Nellie Cashman (1845-1925)
- Known as "The Angel of
Cashman wandered the frontier mining camps of the 1800s seeking
gold, silver and a way to help others.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) World
renowned artist, she introduced Impressionism to America and is
famous especially for her paintings and prints depicting mothers and
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) Editor
of the National Suffrage Bulletin and a leader in the women's
suffrage movement, she was instrumental in achieving voting rights
for women in America's West and was president of the National
American Woman Suffrage Association at the time the 19th Amendment
was finally passed.
Mary Chilton (1607-1679?) - At the age
of 13, Mary was the first European woman to step ashore at Plymouth,
Phoebe Couzins (1842-1913) -
of the first female lawyers in the United States, the first female
appointed as a
U.S. Marshal, and a well known suffragist, Phoebe Couzins was a trailblazer for women's rights and equality.
Charlotte Mignon "Lotta” Crabtree
(1847-1924) - An American actress and comedian, Crabtree was one of
the wealthiest and most popular entertainers of the late 19th
Natawista Culbertson (1825?-1895) - The daughter of Two Suns,
the chief of the Blood (Kainah) tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy
worked tirelessly with her husband, Alexander Culbertson, a Mountain
Man, for nearly thirty years to bridge the gap between the white
adventurers on the Upper Missouri River frontier and the native
inhabitants of that region.
Ada Curnutt - A District Clerk and U.S. Deputy
Marshal in the Norman, Oklahoma area. In March, 1893, when the
office received a telegraph that there were two wanted men who had fled
Oklahoma City, she could not find a male deputy marshal to go after
them. She then donned her bonnet and caught the first train to Oklahoma City.
aka: Carlotta J. Thompkins (her real name), Laura Denbo, Faro Nell,
Charlotte Thurmond (1844-1934) - One of the most
famous lady gamblers in the
Lottie earned her reputation on the Mississippi Riverboats before
moving on to
she played poker with the likes of
at Fort Griffin.
Emily Dickinson (1839-1886) Reclusive
poet of hundreds of inventive, original poems, she was the most
famous woman poet in nineteenth century America.
Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) Crusader of
rights for the mentally ill in North America and Europe, she founded
or improved over thirty hospitals for the mentally ill and
influenced government legislation with her research. In 1861, she
was appointed first Superintendent of U.S. Army Nurses.
Isadora Duncan (1878-1927) Pioneer of
modern dance in America and Europe, she elevated dance to an art
form practiced by serious artists and gained huge popularity for her
innovative, expressive style.
Black Hills' Leading Madam and
a friend to Calamity Jane, DuFran ran a number of baudy houses in
and around Deadwood, South Dakota for decades.
Dumont (1829?-1879) - Better known as
Madame Mustache, Eleanore was one of the first known professional blackjack players in
American history and, for over three decades, made her name famous across
the mining camps of the
Rose Dunn, aka: The
Rose of Cimarron - Dunn was involved with
George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, a member of the
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Calamity Jane, 1895
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Amelia Earhart (1898-1937) Pioneering
female aviator and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic
Ocean, she achieved many aviation firsts and set numerous
transcontinental records before disappearing in the South Pacific
while attempting to fly around the world.
Mattie Earp - See
Celia Ann "Mattie" Blaylock
Josephine "Josie" Marcus Earp, aka:
Sadie (1861-1944) - Josephine was a professional dancer and actress
involved with Johnny Behan in
The two immediately got involved and by 1882
she was using the last name of "Earp."
She spent her last years in Los Angeles,
and died on December 20, 1944.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) Leading
female intellectual and author of the pioneering feminist work
Women in the Nineteenth Century in 1845. She edited for Ralph
Waldo Emerson, and while writing literary and social criticism in
Europe for the New York Tribune, became America's first
Deborah Sampson Gannett (1760-1827)
She signed up for the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under an assumed
male name, becoming the first woman to enlist as a soldier in the
American army. After being wounded nineteen months later, she
received an honorable medical discharge and, later, a military
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)
Writer and lecturer on women's role in society, she was a leading
feminist theorist and instrument of change.
Emma Goldman (1869-1940} An outspoken
feminist, pacifist, and lecturer, Goldman founded Mother Earth
newspaper and was noted for her radicalism in aiding the world's
Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873) and
Angelina Emily Grimke (1805-1879) Sisters from a wealthy slave
owning family in South Carolina, they were the only white
southerners to be leaders in the American Anti-Slavery Society. In
an 1838 abolitionist speech before the Massachusetts State
Legislature, Angelina became the first American woman to address a
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