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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 vast 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 female outlaws, gamblers, powerful Madams, their brothels, and a bevy of soiled doves.


In the days when the West was ruled by the gun, it took a woman of great character and strong resolve to survive.  




American Progress by John Gast in 1872

American Progress by John Gast in 1872.

This image available for photo prints & editorial HERE!



  • Annie Heloise Abel (1873-1947) - Historian and professor renowned for her studies of Native Americans.

  • 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.

  • Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) - A servant, seamstress, teacher and Civil War Nurse, Alcott's fame came as an author.

  • Susan "Doc Susie" Anderson (1870-1960) - A female pioneer physician in Colorado.

  • Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906) ­ Leader in the American Anti­Slavery Society, she later turned her life's devotion to women's suffrage and, with 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.

  • Ida 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 Civil War, she was instrumental in founding the American Red Cross.

  • Anne Bassett (1878-1956) - The daughter or ranch owners at Brown's Hole, near the Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah border, Bassett became a "member" Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch.

  • 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 Blacks.

  • Mary Bickerdyke (1817-1901) - An energetic heroine whose sole aim during the Civil War 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 Wyatt Earp after the death of his first wife, she is often termed as his "common law" wife.

  • 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.

  • Margaret Heffernan Borland (1824-1873) - A Texas 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 Old West.

  • 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.

  • Sara Bourdett, aka: Great Western (1813-1866) - An adventurer and camp follower cooked for the soldiers during the Mexican War.

  • Eilley Orrum 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 Civil War. 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 Civil War. 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.

  • Margaret "Molly" 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 Colorado chapter of the National American Women's Suffrage Association.

  • Julie Bulette - (18??-1867) - A popular Virginia City, Nevada prostitute in the 1860s. She was found murdered in her home on January 20, 1867.

  • Laura Bullion, aka: Della Rose, Rose of the Wild Bunch (1876?-19??) - Bullion was a "member" Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch.

  • S.M. Burche - Appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal by C.H. Thompson of Guthrie, Oklahoma, Burche was one of the few women to be appointed as a deputy during the 19th century.


  • Martha Jane "Calamity Jane" Cannary (1852-1903) - Calamith Jane was renowned for her excellent marksmanship, preference for men's clothing, and bawdy behavior.

  • 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 Tombstone," 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 children.

  • 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, Massachusetts.

  • Phoebe Couzins (1842-1913) - One 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 century.

  • 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 to 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. 


  • Lottie Deno, aka: Carlotta J. Thompkins (her real name), Laura Denbo, Faro Nell, Charlotte Thurmond (1844-1934) - One of the most famous lady gamblers in the Old West, Lottie earned her reputation on the Mississippi Riverboats before moving on to Texas, where she played poker with the likes of Doc Holliday 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.

  • Dora DuFran (18??-1934) - The 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.

  • Eleanore 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 American West.

  • Rose Dunn, aka: The Rose of Cimarron - Dunn was involved with George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, a member of the Doolin Gang.






Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

This image available for photo prints & editorial HERE!








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Calamity Jane

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 Tombstone, Arizona when she met Wyatt Earp. The two immediately got involved and by 1882 she was using the last name of "Earp." She spent her last years in Los Angeles, California and died on December 20, 1944.


  • Mary Fields, aka: Stagecoach Mary (1832-1914) - Born as a slave in Tennessee, Fields was one of the first women entrepreneurs, stagecoach drivers, pioneers of the American West.

  • Lavinia Fisher (1793-1820) - America's first female serial killer, she was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina in 1820. Today, her ghost is said to continue to haunt this historic city.

  • Mary Frances "Mamie" Fossett - Appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal by C.H. Thompson of Guthrie, Oklahoma. Fossett was the daughter of Bill Fossett. and one of the few women to be appointed as a deputy during the 19th century.

  • 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 female correspondent.


  • 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 pension.

  • 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 oppressed.

  • 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 legislative body.


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