11 Watershed Moments for Women's Equality

On March 7, 2017, a crowd gathered about the 'Fearless Girl' statue in New York City.
On March 7, 2017, a crowd gathered about the 'Fearless Girl' statue in New York City.
iStock

From Mary Walker, the first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, to Katharine Graham, the first woman to run a Fortune 500 company, these pioneering women—and their winning moments—helped set the stage for the generations that followed.

1. The first women's rights convention is held in New York

Elizabeth Stanton sits as Susan B Anthony stands nearby.Library of Congress

Informed that they wouldn't be able to vote or speak at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott grew frustrated at their lack of voice in American society. As they stewed in the women’s section, they decided something needed to be done about it. By 1848, Stanton, Mott, and friends had organized a two-day women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The pair, alongside 66 other women and 32 men, crafted the Declaration of Sentiments. Modeled off the Declaration of Independence, the convention wrote out their list of demands, including for women’s right to vote.

Although this pioneering convention was largely mocked by the country, what was accomplished in those two days eventually kicked off Suffrage and the women’s rights movement. Unfortunately, only one of the signers would see one of the convention’s main goals come to fruition when women could finally vote for the first time in 1920.

2. MARIA MITCHELL IS ELECTED TO THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES.

On a clear night in October 1847, Maria Mitchell was sitting on the roof of her father’s business and consulting her star charts with a telescope. All of a sudden, she saw a blurry light streak across the sky—a comet. She had discovered what was later nicknamed “Miss Mitchell’s Comet,” and the accolades came rolling in. Mitchell was the first female professional astronomer, and in 1848, she became the first woman to receive entry to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mitchell would remain the only woman in that honored group until 1943.

This accomplishment opened the world up to Mitchell, who believed that women could achieve anything men could, and she traveled to Europe, meeting with famed astronomers along the way. In her later years, she went on to work at Vassar College—becoming the first female astronomy professor. That didn't mean she settled for getting paid less than a man, according to the college. She received equal pay in the 1870s for her work while inspiring young women to reach for the stars.

3. VICTORIA CLAFLIN WOODHULL RUNS FOR PRESIDENT UNDER THE EQUAL RIGHTS PARTY.

Although no woman has been elected to the highest office in the land yet, Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first to make the attempt. In 1869, with help from Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ohio-born Woodhull and her sister opened the first female-run stock brokerage on Wall Street in New York City, though they were never allowed a place on the floor. This move gave Woodhull the leverage and money she needed to run for president in 1872.

"Notorious Victoria" ran on women’s suffrage, welfare for the poor, 8-hour workdays and regulation of monopolies, among other things. Unfortunately, her radical views on religion and marriage, among other things, made her a tough sell. It didn't help when her unconventional campaign style landed her in trouble with the law. Days before the election, Woodhull was jailed for sending out "obscene" publications that took shots at her opponents. She eventually agreed to a plea deal that involved dropping out of the presidential race.

4. MARY WALKER RECEIVES THE MEDAL OF HONOR.

Dr. Mary WalkerLibrary of Congress

After graduating from Syracuse Medical College, Dr. Walker set her sights on volunteering for the Union. Her parents were abolitionists and she wanted to devote her skills to the North by signing up as a surgeon. Because women were not allowed to do that kind of advanced medical work, she settled for volunteering for the Union Army.

A few years into the war, Walker had worked her way up in the ranks and was sent to Virginia in 1863 as a field surgeon. While aiding a Confederate surgeon on a particularly bloody day of battle in 1864, Walker was captured by the Confederacy. She was held there for four months until she was swapped for another prisoner of war. For her efforts, in 1865, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson, becoming the first woman to be given the honor. Favoring men’s clothing and her freedom, Walker remained a staunch advocate for the rest of her days. She was even permitted to wear male clothing by an act of Congress. Walker’s medal was taken away from her in 1917 (some argued that she was ineligible because the award was meant only for soldiers), but President Carter restored it to her posthumously in 1977.

5. MARGARET SANGER OPENS THE FIRST BIRTH CONTROL CLINIC IN AMERICA.

Margaret Sanger in 1925General Photographic Agency / Stringer / Getty Images

The future activist started as a nurse in 1912 in New York City. After watching women die by the dozens of self-induced abortions, she renounced nursing and decided to find a solution. She founded a magazine called Woman Rebel to start her "birth control" (a phrase that she coined) movement. The issues were promptly banned by the New York Post Office, and the threat of imprisonment caused her to flee the country. “Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty,” Sanger wrote in 1914. When the charges had been dropped, she returned in 1916 to open the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. Her organization later became Planned Parenthood and she fought for the rest of her life to provide safe contraception for women.

6. SEPTIMA CLARK FIGHTS FOR THE RIGHT TO TEACH.

Septima Clark (left) sits with Rosa Parks in 1955Library of Congress

Septima Clark, a Civil Rights activist, put the issue of education at the front of the movement. Due to sacrifices from her parents, a former slave and a laundress, Clark was able to earn two degrees and train to be a teacher. Unfortunately, in Charleston, South Carolina, where she lived, black teachers weren’t allowed to teach in 1918. That didn’t deter Clark. That year, she went door-to-door gathering about 20,000 signatures of fellow African Americans who wanted black teachers in the black schools. The ban was struck down, and Clark spent many of her years teaching elementary school children.

7. EDITH WHARTON WINS A PULITZER FOR THE AGE OF INNOCENCE.

Edith WhartonLibrary of Congress

At age 11, Edith Wharton attempted to write her first novel. Like many of New York City’s elite who were raised in what was considered the Golden Age of New York, she traveled to Europe extensively and got to experience the best of what life had to offer. She would eventually write more than 85 short stories and a dozen novels. But her life experiences would go on to heavily influence one book in particular, The Age of Innocence, which examined and even skewered the New York society. In 1921, toward the end of her life, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but it was contentious. Many members of the board wanted to take her prize back, but she retained it—making her the first woman to win a Pulitzer. She would go on to also be nominated for the Nobel Prize three times.

8. GRACE HOPPER INVENTS A COMPUTER LANGUAGE.

In 1934, Grace Hopper was on a path all of her own. She graduated with a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. When World War II arrived, she flew from her academic post at Vassar to join the Navy’s war effort in 1943. There, she put her vast intelligence to use by working on the Harvard Mark I computer, which would help an atomic bomb engineer determine that the bomb would implode rather than explode. After the war, she started working on UNIVAC, the latest computer, and argued that a computer language should be written in English. Although her idea was laughed off, Hopper was determined, publishing papers outlining her reasoning. She finally implemented her own English-based coding language, called COBOL, in the Navy and eventually in the wider world. She's also responsible for the term "computer bug." Throughout her life, Hopper would go back into active duty Navy service and served a total of 42 years, earning her the nickname “Amazing Grace.”

9. KATHARINE GRAHAM LEADS A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY.

Katharine Graham in 2001Vince Bucci / Stringer / Getty Images

Journalism was always in the cards for Katharine Graham, who grew up with a father who worked as the publisher of The Washington Post. Graham became interested in media at an early age and after a stint at a few papers, got a job on The Washington Post’s editorial staff. Eventually, she convinced her husband to buy the paper from her father. The couple worked together to create a media empire by acquiring the competition. In her 1997 memoir, she described her relationship with her husband as "that of a chief executive officer Phil and a chief operating officer me."

In 1963, that changed when her husband committed suicide. Unexpectedly, Graham found herself at the helm of a media empire. She raised the Post to the fifth most profitable media company in the country, landing her a spot as the first woman CEO of a company on the Fortune 500 list. Under Graham, the Post published the Pentagon Papers and broke the news of the Watergate scandal. Before her death, Graham received the Freedom Medal and a Pulitzer Prize for her memoir.

10. ARETHA FRANKLIN IS INDUCTED INTO THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME.

Aretha Franklin performing in April 2017.Noam Galai / Stringer / Getty Images

Considered the “definitive soul singer of the Sixties” by Rolling Stone, Aretha Franklin grew up in Detroit where her father was a pastor and known for his voice. She toured with her gospel group in her teenage years and later transitioned into R&B tunes with the help of several record companies. By 1960, her voice was all over the radio and she was a force, collaborating with the Beatles and receiving awards from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Still, it wasn’t until 1987 that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Franklin as one of the greats—and she became the first woman to join the ranks.

11. KATHRYN BIGELOW WINS AN OSCAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR.

Kathryn Bigelow accepts her Oscar in 2010.Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images

Before becoming one of the most well-known film directors in Hollywood, Kathryn Bigelow wanted to be a painter. After making her first short film called The Set-Up in 1978, Bigelow decided that her passion lay elsewhere. More than three decades later, in 2010, that passion helped her make history. She took home the Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker, a film that examined the work of bomb disposal by teams in Iraq and Afghanistan up-close. Only four other women had been nominated for best director before her victory.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness

A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
yrjö jyske, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When people started building up the area around Idaho’s Payette Lake after World War II, its original residents began interfering with irrigation and agricultural endeavors. They weren’t exactly staging an organized protest—they were just beavers doing what beavers do.

Nevertheless, officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided their best bet was to find a new home for the long-toothed locals. The surrounding wilderness provided plenty of options, but transportation was another issue entirely. Traversing the undeveloped, mountainous terrain would require both trucks and pack animals, and experts knew from past relocation efforts that beavers weren’t fond of either.

“Beavers cannot stand the direct heat of the sun unless they are in water,” department employee Elmo W. Heter explained in a 1950 report [PDF]. “Sometimes they refuse to eat. Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent ... Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, malodorous pair of live beavers.”

To keep Payette Lake’s beavers healthy and happy during the journey, their human handlers would need to find another method of travel. As Boise State Public Radio reports, that’s when Heter suggested making use of their leftover WWII parachutes.

Two beavers would sit inside a wooden box attached to a parachute, which could be dropped from an airplane between 500 and 800 feet above their new home in the Chamberlain Basin. The cables that fastened the box to the parachute would keep it shut during the flight, but they’d slacken enough for the beavers to open the box upon landing. After testing the operation with weights, Heter and his colleagues enlisted an older beaver named Geronimo for a few live trials.

“Poor fellow!” Heter wrote. “You may be sure that ‘Geronimo’ had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and that three young females went with him.”

Once Geronimo had certified the safety of the mission, the team began migrating the whole beaver population. During the fall of 1948, a total of 76 beavers touched down in their new territory. It wasn’t without tragedy, though; one beaver fell to his death after a cable broke on his box. Overall, however, the venture was deemed much safer (and less expensive) than any trip on foot would have been. And when department officials checked in on the beavers a year later, they had already started improving their ecosystem.

“Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote. As Idaho Fish and Game’s Steve Liebenthal told Boise State Public Radio, the area is now part of “the largest protected roadless forest” in the continental U.S.

You can watch the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s full 14-minute documentary about the process below.

[h/t Boise State Public Radio]