Women in History – October

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In many states in October, the leaves begin to turn beautiful colors of red, orange and yellow before turning brown and falling to the ground.  And…at the end of the month, we celebrate Halloween when we carve pumpkins and call them “jack-o-lanterns” and  children dress up in costumes and go trick or treating for sweet treats.

But did you know that October also marked some significant events for women?

Here are some of the highlights:

  • October 3, 1904 – Mary McLeod Bethune opens her first school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida
  • October 23, 1910 – Blanche Stuart Scott is the first American woman pilot to make a public flight
  • October 16, 1916 – Margaret Sanger opens the U.S.’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York
  • October 15, 1948 – Dr. Frances L. Willoughby is the first woman doctor in the regular U.S. Navy
  • October 24, 1956 – Reverend Margaret Towner is the first woman ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church
  • October 28, 1958 – Mary Roebling is the first woman director of a stock exchange (American Stock Exchange)
  • October 4, 1976 – Barbara Walters becomes the first woman co-anchor of the evening news (at ABC)
  • October 10, 1983 – Dr. Barbara McClintock receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for her discovery in genetics about mobile genetic elements
  • October 11, 1984 – Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan is the first U.S. woman astronaut to “walk” in space during Challenger flight
  • October 4, 1993 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins the U.S. Supreme Court as its second woman Justice
  • October 8, 1993 – Toni Morrison becomes the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

And, in case you are curious, many notable women were born in the month of October, many you many not have heard of and some you have but all who have made a contribution to improving the lives and status of women and girls.

  • October 11, 1884 (1962) – Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights advocate, feminist, author, world diplomat, former First Lady (1933-45)
  • October 10, 1888 (1980) – Dorothy Ferebee, finally gained medical internship at Freedman’s Hospital despite rampant sexism, then built a 47-year association with Howard University hospital and the District of Columbia
  • October 10, 1900 (1993) – Helen Hayes, actress and “First Lady of the Stage,” began in stock companies, at 17 starred as Pollyanna, in 1930s starred as Mary Queen of Scotland and Queen Victoria, won first Tony award in 1947
  • October 9, 1892 (1992) – Abigail Eliot, founding member of the National Association for Nursery Education (1933), helped monitor quality and establish standards
  • October 9, 1884 (1982) – Helene Deutsch, psychoanalyst, wrote 2-volume The Psychology of Women (1944-45) with emphasis on motherhood
  • October 2, 1895 (1990) – Ruth Streeter, when Marines recruited women she became a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (1943), recruited men and women for active service
  • October 3, 1897 (1982) – Ruth Bronson, Bureau of Indian Affairs official who got loans for Indian students, National Congress of American Indians forced authorities to honor treaties (1944), wrote Indians are People, Too
  • October 2, 1919 (1997) – Shirley Clarke, filmmaker, produced avant-garde films in 1950s and 60s including “Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World,” which won an academy award for best feature documentary
  • October 6, 1914 (1997) – Mary Louise Smith, Republican Party committeewoman and chair (1974-77), supporter of ERA and pro-choice
  • October 6, 1917 (1977) – Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights leader and voting rights crusader, helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964)
  • October 7, 1913 (2005) – Elizabeth Janeway, social analyst of 20th century women’s equality drive, wrote Man’s World, Women’s Place (1971) and Powers of the Weak (1980)
  • October 7, 1920 (1994) – Kathryn Clarenback, founding member of the National Organization for Women, executive director of the National Committee on the Observance of International Women’s Year (1977)
  • October 1, 1935 – Dame Julie Andrews, versatile film and stage actress, won an academy award for “Mary Poppins” (1964)
  • October 5, 1959 – Maya Lin, artist and architect of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. (1980-82) and other public sculptures, author of Boundaries (2000)
  • and more…

For more information, go to the National Women’s History Project.

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