Trailblazing Women

May 5, 2020
By Phyllis ‘Kiki’ Sembos

There have been many trailblazing women. It appears that in Europe, women became more recognized for certain achievements. Here, in America, women had to fight hard for rights like voting, becoming authors, getting elected to office, or heading a company.

In England, a female author had to assume a male’s name if she wanted her book accepted and published like Jane Austen who in 1780, sent in her first manuscript to Crosby and Son, signed, ‘A lady’, but was ignored until her brother intervened and insisted that her book be either read or returned. Finally, all six of her beautiful and timeless novels were published, posthumously in 1818.  She died in 1817. Mary Shelley, who wrote ‘Frankenstein’, published in 1818, would never know that her famous novel, written because she had nothing to do during a prolonged period of bad English weather, would become so famous a movie in the twentieth century.

In 1608, Spain’s Juliana Morell was the first woman to earn a university degree.

In the United States in 1837, Oberlin College admitted female students only if they agreed to do laundry and cook for male students. In 1869, Wyoming, the equality state, was the first state to grant women the right to vote, the first state to appoint a female court bailiff, and Nellie Tayloe Ross became its first governor. Amanda Jones, in 1872, invented a vacuum canning method.  She founded the Women's Canning and Preserving Company in Chicago in 1890 and said, “no man will vote our stock, transact our business, keep our books, pronounce on women’s wages, or supervise our factories.”

In 1910, Lillian Bland was the first woman in the world to design, build, and fly an aircraft. 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license. No U.S. school in America accepted her due to gender and race. She learned French and moved to France where she succeeded in getting her license seven months later.

In 1928 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly an airplane solo across the Atlantic Ocean.1963, Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to travel in space. 1975, Japan’s Junko Tabei, with a group of women, was the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and later, successfully climbed the highest peak in every continent.

In 1976, Polish citizen Krystyna Chojnowska Lisakiewicz became the first woman to sail solo around the world in a 32-foot sloop. Women in ancient Greece were recognized for their various talents. It was Plato who said, “women must be allowed to be taught music, gymnastics, and military exercises, equally with men. In the animal kingdom, female and males have more equal rights. There is no distinguishing among them. Why not, then, in humans?” Why, indeed! In ancient Greece, the Gods were ‘equal opportunity employers,’ recruiting many women.

 After the chaos in the heavens and on Earth was settled, the first woman, Pandora was created of earthen clay and given life. Venus gave her beauty, Apollo donated love of music, and Mercury gave her the art of persuasion.

The Goddess of innocence, Astraea, whose name means, ‘Crown of Stars’, prayed that man start being less warlike and more humane. Of course, that didn’t happen. So, she became a star in the heavens, Virgo.

Greek poetess, Sappho, 628-568, born in Mitilini, was highly praised for her talent.

Then, there was Greek Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. She reigned well until the Romans came along. So, women have made an indelible mark whether in fable or fact, from the time Earth began. ‘And, we ain’t done yet!’ In fact, if I were to list all the women who have made a mark in history, the list would look like a telephone directory. My article is late in being written because I didn’t realize it was recently International Women’s Day. My husband never mentioned it!


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