- 1655 The women's literacy rate in
Massachusetts is 50%, 40% in the New Netherlands, and 25% in the Virginia
- 1701 The first sexually integrated jury
hears cases in Albany, New York.
- 1704 The "Cassette Girls" arrive at
Mobile on the gulf coast in search of husbands. These 25 young French
women were sent on a "bride's" ship carrying small trunks (cassettes)
filled with dowry gifts from King Louis XIV. Seeing the primitive
conditions in the Louisiana Colony, they refused to marry any of settlers,
staging a "petticoat rebellion."
- 1704 Boston housewife/shopkeeper Sarah
Campbell Knight, 38, sets out for New York on in December on horseback to
settle a relative's estate. She is the first woman to undertake such a
trip on her own; her journal of the trip is published in 1865.
- 1769 American colonies based their laws
on the English common law, which was summarized in the Blackstone
Commentaries. It said, “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person
in the law? The very being and legal existence of the woman is suspended
during the marriage, or at least is incorporated into that of her husband
under whose wing and protection she performs everything.”
- 1777 All states pass laws which take
away women’s right to vote.
- 1780 Massachusetts adopts a constitution
that deprives women of their voting rights.
- 1780 Three days of horse racing at the
track in Hempstead Plains, Long Island, include an event for women riders.
- 1789 United States Constitution
ratified. The terms “persons,” “people” and “electors” are used, allowing
the interpretation of those beings to include men and women.
1900 - 1949's
- 1900 By now, every state has passed
legislation modeled after New York’s Married Women’s Property Act (1848),
granting married women some control over their property and earnings.
- 1902 Beatrix Potter(1866-1943), children's book illustrator and hill
farmer, publishes her first book Peter Rabbit.
- 1902 Australia gives votes to women.
- 1903 The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) is founded in
Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and her daughters Christabel
- 1903 A secretary, Dorothy Levitt, shocks conventional society when she
becomes the first women to take part in a public motor car race.
- 1903 Marie Curie (1867-1934) is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. This
is for her work on radioactivity and the discovery of radium.
- 1903 Mary Howarth is the launch editor of the Daily Mirror, a paper aimed
specifically at women.
- 1904 Ida Tarbell publishes her History of the Standard Oil Company,
contributing significantly to the breakup of Standard Oil as a monopoly.
- 1904 Mary McLeod Bethune opens her first school for black students in
Daytona Beach, FL
- 1904 Carrie Chapman Catt becomes the president of the International
Women's Suffrage Alliance at a meeting in Berlin.
- 1904 The electrical engineer and suffragette, Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923)
becames the first woman published in Royal Society, the world's oldest
- 1904 The suffragette Dora Montefiore (1851-1933) refuses to pay her taxes
until women are given the vote.
- 1904 Russian-American seamstress Lane Bryant (nee Lena Himmelstein), 24,
opens a New York store to sell maternity clothes, becoming the first
merchant to sell ready-to-wear garments for stout and pregnant women.
- 1904 Helen Kellar, 23, graduates from Radcliffe College magna cum laude,
and beings to write about blindness.
- 1904 The Ladies Home Journal launches an expose of the US patent medicine
- 1904 A New York policeman arrests a woman for smoking cigarettes in
- 1904 Amanda Clement, just 16 years old, becomes the first female umpire
to officiate a men's baseball game in Iowa for pay.
- 1905 Geneticist Nettie Stevens, 44, identifies the X and Y chromosomes,
pinpointing their role in determining the sex of an embryo.
- 1905 Baroness Bertha von Suttner, who initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, is
the first person to win it.
- 1906 The term "suffragette" is used for the first time, by the Daily Mail.
It was intended as a derogatory name for women in the WSPU.
- 1906 Finland is the first country in Europe to give votes to women.
- 1907 Women in Norway are permitted to stand for election.
- 1907 Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is awarded the Order of Merit.
- 1908 Muller v State of Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908): The U.S. Supreme Court
upholds Oregon’s 10-hour workday for women. The win is a two-edged sword:
the protective legislation implies that women are physically weak.
- 1908 The parachute stunt artist Dolly Shepherd (1887-1983) successfully
attempts the first mid-air rescue.
- 1908 Women in Denmark some women granted local voting rights.
- 1908 Victoria, Australia, grants women voting rights.
- 1909 Sweden grants vote in municipal elections to all women.
- 1909 Frenchwoman, Madame La Baronne de la Roche becomes the first fully
qualified woman pilot.
- 1911 Marie Curie is awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry making her the
first person to receive the Nobel Prize twice.
- 1912 The American pilot Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to fly the
- 1913 In Norway, women win the right to vote.
- 1915 Fifteen hundred women from Northern Europe and the USA meet to discuss peace at
the first International Congress of Women in The Hague. The American
suffrage campaigner, Jane Addams (1860-1935) is its first president.
- 1916 Margaret Sanger tests the validity of New York’s anti-contraception
law by establishing a clinic in Brooklyn.
- 1917 Alexandra Kollantai (1872-1952) is appointed to Lenin's Bolshevik
government as the People's Commissioner for Public Welfare, making her the
first woman minister in the world.
- 1917 Russia gives votes to women.
- 1918 New York v. Sanger, 222 NY 192, 118 N.E. 637 (Court of Appeals 1917),
National Archives, Records of the U.S. Supreme Court, RG 267 (MSDME-CDS C
15:298). Margaret Sanger wins her suit in New York to allow doctors to
advise their married patients about birth control for health purposes.
- 1918 Women in Britain vote in a General Election for the first time on 14
December. Constance Markiewicz (1868-1927) is elected as the first woman
MP for Sinn Fein although she declined to take her seat.
- 1918 Germany gives votes to women.
- 1918 Austria adopts woman suffrage.
- 1919 Elaine Burton is the first woman to race in shorts at the English
Northern Counties Athletic Champions.
- 1919 French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen (1899-1938) wins Wimbledon for
the first time. She shocks the world by insisting on playing in a short
- 1919 Netherlands gives women the vote.
- 1919 Woman suffrage is granted in Belarus, Luxemburg and Ukraine.
- 1919 Women in Belgium granted right to vote.
- 1919 New Zealand allows women to stand for election.
- 1920 The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It
declares: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be
denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of
- 1920 Woman suffrage is granted in Albania, the Czech Republic and
- 1921 Sweden gives women voting rights with some restrictions.
- 1921 The American novelist Edith Wharton (1861-1937) is the first woman to
win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence.
- 1923 National Woman’s Party proposes Constitutional amendment: “Men and
women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every
place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce
this article by appropriate legislation.”
- 1924 Radice v. New York, a New York state case, upholds a law that forbade
waitresses from working the night shift but made an exception for
entertainers and ladies' room attendants.
- 1925 American Indian suffrage granted by act of Congress.
- 1929 Dorothy Wood Eustis, 43, founds the Seeing Eye, and trains guide
dogs for the blind.
- 1929 Tuskegee Institute in Alabama forms one of the first women's college
track teams, offering scholarships to promising women athletes, and adding
women's event to their Tuskegee relays track meets.
- 1929 The Ninety-Nines, a club for women pilots, forms with Amelia Earhart
as the first president. The name comes from the number of pilots who join
out of the 126 licensed women pilots.
- 1930 Amelia Earhart flies her Lockheed Vega at 171 mph, setting a new
women's air speed record.
- 1930 Texan Jesse Daniel Ames organizes the Association of Southern Women
for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL) in order put an end to mob violence
committed in the name of southern women.
- 1930 Miss Ellen Church, 25, becomes the first female steward on an
- 1930 Ruth Nichols sets a transcontinental speed record of 13 hours and
21 minutes, beating the record set by Charles Lindbergh.
- 1930 Anne Morrow Lindbergh is the first woman to earn a glider pilot's
- 1930 On April 20, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh set a
transcontinental speed record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in 14
hours, 45 minutes. Anne was 7 months pregnant at the time.
- 1930 Turkey grants women the vote.
- 1931 Women get full suffrage in Spain and Sri Lanka
- 1931 Jane Addams, 71, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first woman
ever honored by the Nobel Committee, for her work on behalf of world
- 1931 Lillian Gilbreth is awarded the first Gilbreth Medal by the Society
of Industrial Engineers for her work in motion studies.
- 1931 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney becomes the first woman to found a
major art museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
- 1931 Medical researcher Florence Seibert, 34, and her colleagues isolate
the active tuberbulin protein after 8 years of research.
- 1931 Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis bans women from
professional baseball (the bans lasts until 1992), after 17-year-old
pitcher Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell strikes out Babe Ruth and Lou
Gehrig in an exhibition game for the Chattanooga Lookouts. Landis voids
Mitchell's contract, saying baseball is "too strenuous" for women.
- 1932 The National Recovery Act forbids more than one family member from
holding a government job, resulting in many women losing their jobs.
- 1932 On 20 May Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly the Atlantic
Ocean solo in a 15 hour flight.
- 1933 Sheila Borrett becomes the first woman radio announcer.
- 1934 Cuba and Brazil adopt woman suffrage.
- 1936 United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, 13 F. Supp.334 (E.D.N.Y
1936) aff’d 86 F 2d 737 (2nd Cir. 1936), won judicial approval of
medicinal use of birth control.
- 1936 Elizabeth Cowell becomes the first woman television announcer.
- 1937 The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Washington state’s minimum wage laws
- 1937 The Philippines grants women full suffrage.
- 1938 The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum wage without regard
- 1939 El Salvador grants voting rights to women.
- 1941 Panama grants limited voting rights to women.
- 1942 Women gain full suffrage in the Dominican Republic.
- 1944 Bulgaria, France and Jamaica grant suffrage to women.
- 1947 Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261 (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court says
women are equally qualified with men to serve on juries but are granted an
exemption and may serve or not as women choose.
- 1947 The Diary of Anne Frank is first published in the Netherlands.
- 1947 Japan extends suffrage, but still retains some restrictions.
- 1947 Mexico grants the vote to women at the municipal level.
- 1948 Israel, Iraq, Korea, Niger and Surinam adopt woman suffrage.
- 1948 Belgium, which previously granted the vote to women, establishes
suffrage with a few restrictions for women.
- 1948 Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) plays a key role in the drafting of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- 1949 Bosnia and Herzegovina grant woman suffrage.
- 1949 China and Costa Rica give women the vote.
- 1949 Women gain full suffrage in Chile but most vote separately from men.
- 1949 Syrian Arab Republic gives the vote to women.
- 1950 India gives votes to women.
- 1950 Canada grants full suffrage, extending the vote to some
women (and men) previously not included.
- 1951 The American photographer Eve Arnold is the first woman to work for
the celebrated Magnum photographic agency.
- 1952 Molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) takes up her post
at King's College and becomes key in the discovery of DNA.
- 1953 American aviator Jacqueline Cochrane (1910 - 1980) is the first woman
to break the sound barrier.
- 1953 Mexico grants women the right to stand for election. and to vote in
- 1954 Aviator Jacqueline Cochran becomes the first woman to break the
sound barrier piloting a Sabre jet.
- 1955 Marian Anderson is the first African American woman to sing at the
- 1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger on a
Montgomery, AL, bus. She was arrested and within three days a massive
boycott was in place by blacks against the bus company.
- 1955 Mrs. Sheila Robbins becomes the first woman cantor at the
Massapequa, LI, Reformed Jewish temple.
- 1955 "Ann Landers Says" is introduced in the Chicago Sun Times.
- 1955 Thirteen women form the Whirly Girls, the first female association of
- 1955 Explorer Louise Boyd, 67, becomes the first woman to fly over the
- 1955 The first LPGA championship is held.
- 1956 Josephine Perfect Bay becomes the first woman to head a member firm
of the New York Stock Exchange. She was the president of the A. M. Kidder
- 1956 The La Leche League is formed, devoted to promoting breastfeeding.
- 1956 Reverend Margaret Towner is the first woman ordained a minister in
the Presbyterian Church.
- 1956 Prof. Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin becomes the first woman tenured
professor at Harvard.
- 1960 Canadian women win full rights to stand for election.
- 1961 In Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961): The U.S. Supreme Court
upholds rules adopted by the state of Florida that made it far less likely
for women than men to be called for jury service on the grounds that a
“woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life.”
- 1963 The Equal Pay Act is passed by Congress, promising equitable wages
for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national
origin or sex of the worker.
- 1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act passes including a prohibition
against employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, or sex.
- 1965 Weeks v. Southern Bell, 408 F. 2d. 228 (5th Cir. 1969), marks a major
triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company
regulations on the hours and conditions of women's work, opening many
previously male-only jobs to women.
- 1965 In Griswold v Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), the Supreme Court
overturns one of the last state laws prohibiting the prescription or use
of contraceptives by married couples.
- 1966 In the USA, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by
Betty Friedan and other feminists to campaign for equal rights. This is
still the most powerful women's lobbying group in the USA.
- 1966 Indira Ghandi becomes the first woman Prime Minister of India.
- 1968 Executive Order 11246 prohibits sex discrimination by government
contractors and requires affirmative action plans for hiring women.
- 1969 In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 416 F. 2d 711 (7th Cir.1969),
the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that women meeting the physical
requirements can work in many jobs that had been for men only.
- 1969 California adopts the nation’s first “no fault” divorce law, allowing
divorce by mutual consent.
- 1969 Golda Meir (1898-1978) becomes Israel 's first woman Prime Minister.
- 1971 Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation, 400 U.S. 542 (1971): The
U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the practice of private employers refusing to
hire women with pre-school children.
- 1971 Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971): The U.S. Supreme Court holds
unconstitutional a state law (Idaho) establishing automatic preference for
males as administrators of wills. This is the first time the court strikes
down a law treating men and women differently. The Court finally declares
women as “persons,” but uses a “reasonableness” test rather than making
sex a “suspect classification,” analogous to race, under the Fourteenth
- 1971 The USA passes a law banning sex discrimination in employment.
- 1971 Switzerland adopts woman suffrage.
- 1971 The United States lowers the voting age for both men and women to
- 1972 Title IX (Public Law 92-318) of the Education Amendments prohibits
sex discrimination in all aspects of education programs that receive
- 1972 In Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), the Supreme Court rules
that the right to privacy encompasses an unmarried person's right to use
- 1972 American feminist Gloria Steinem (born 1934) launches Ms Magazine.
- 1973 Pittsburgh Press v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413
U.S. 376 (1973): The U.S. Supreme Court bans sex-segregated “help wanted”
advertising as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as
- 1973 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179
(1973): The U.S. Supreme Court declares that the Constitution protects
women’s right to terminate an early pregnancy, thus making abortion legal
in the U.S.
- 1973 American tennis star Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs, a former
Wimbledon Men's Champion, in a much-publicised match in Houston.
- 1974 Housing discrimination on the basis of sex and credit discrimination
against women are outlawed by Congress.
- 1974 Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974),
determines it is illegal to force pregnant women to take maternity leave
on the assumption they are incapable of working in their physical
- 1974 The Women’s Educational Equity Act, drafted by Arlene Horowitz and
introduced by Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), funds the development of
nonsexist teaching materials and model programs that encourage full
educational opportunities for girls and women.
- 1974 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Justice and Labor
Departments, and AT&T sign a consent decree banning AT&T’s discriminatory
practices against women and minorities.
- 1975 Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975), denies states the right to
exclude women from juries.
- 1976 General Elec. Co v. Gilbert, 429 U. S. 125 (1976), the Supreme Court
upholds women’s right to unemployment benefits during the last three
months of pregnancy.
- 1976 Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976): The U.S. Supreme Court declares
unconstitutional a state law permitting 18 to 20-year-old females to drink
beer while denying the rights to men of the same age. The Court
establishes new set of standards for reviewing laws that treat men and
women differently—an “intermediate” test stricter than the
“reasonableness” test for constitutionality in sex discrimination cases.
- 1978 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination
against pregnant women.
- 1979 The Susan B. Anthony dollar starts circulating.
- 1979 Chicago elects its first woman mayor, Jane Byrne, with 82% of the
- 1979 A federal law takes effect prohibiting employers from discriminating
against pregnant workers.
- 1979 Patricia Harris, 55, is sworn in as the US Secretary of Health and
- 1979 Jimmy Carter names federal judge Shirley Hufstedler as the nation's
first Secretary of Education.
- 1979 Bethune Museum and Archives is established in Washington DC as
center for African American women's history in honro of educator Mary
- 1979 Dr. Sylvia Earle becomes the first person in the world to dive to a
depth of 1,250 feet.
- 1980 Linda Eaton, 27, Iowa City's first woman firefighter, is awarded
$28,400 in damages after a legal battle over her right to breastfeed her
baby at the firehouse.
- 1980 In June, Vigdis Finnbogadottir is the first woman to be
democratically elected as head-of-state when she becomes President of
- 1980 The AFL-CIO votes to reserve two seats on its 35 member executive
team for a woman and a member of a minority group.
- 1980 Shirley Hufstedler, a former federal judge, becomes the first U.S.
Secretary of Education.
- 1980 The Women's Sports Foundation establishes the International Women's
Sports Hall of Fame.
- 1980 The Reverend Marjorie S. Matthew is elected as a bishop of the United
Methodist Church, becoming the nation's first woman to sit on the
governing body of a major religious denomination.
- 1981 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that excluding women from the draft is
- 1981 Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S. 455, 459-60 (1981), overturns state
laws designating a husband “head and master” with unilateral control of
property owned jointly with his wife.
- 1981 Sandra Day O'Connor is appointed to the US Supreme Court as the
first woman Associate Justice by Ronald Reagan.
- 1981 President Reagan names Jeane Duane Kirkpatrick, 54, as permanent US
representative to the United Nations.
- 1981 Wyoming elects Harriet Elizabeth Byrd, 55, to the state House fo
Representatives, where she becomes the first black legislator elected
since statehood in 1890.
- 1981 Betty Ellis becomes the first woman to officiate at a professional
- 1981 At the request of women's organizations, President Carter proclaims
the first "National Women's History Week," incorporating March 8,
International Women's Day.
- 1982 Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass a law that
prohibited discrimination against homosexuals in all areas regulated by
- 1983 Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel in space.
- 1984 In Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984), sex discrimination
in membership policies of organizations, such as the Jaycees, is forbidden
by the Supreme Court, opening many previously all-male organizations
(Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions) to women.
- 1984 The state of Mississippi belatedly ratifies the 19th Amendment,
granting women the vote.
- 1984 Hishon v. King and Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984): The U.S. Supreme
Court rules that law firms may not discriminate on the basis of sex in
promoting lawyers to partnership positions.
- 1984 Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman in American history to be
chosen as the nominee for Vice President on a major party ticket.
- 1986 In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S.
Supreme Court held that a hostile or abusive work environment can prove
discrimination based on sex.
- 1987 Johnson v. Santa Clara County, 480 U.S. 616 (1987): The U.S. Supreme
Court rules that it is permissible to take sex and race into account in
employment decisions even where there is no proven history of
discrimination but when evidence of a manifest imbalance exists in the
number of women or minorities holding the position in question.
- 1989 In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989), the
Supreme Court affirms the right of states to deny public funding for
abortions and to prohibit public hospitals from performing abortions.
- 1989 Over 600,000 marchers demonstrated for women's reproductive rights in
- 1992 Congress passed a Family Medical Leave bill which would grant workers
up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave to obtain medical treatment for
themselves or to care for a newborn, sick children, ill spouses or elderly
- 1993 Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993) The U.S. Supreme
Court rules that the victim did not need to show that she suffered
physical or serious psychological injury as a result of sexual harassment.
- 1993 The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect.
- 1994 Congress adopts the Gender Equity in Education Act to train teachers
in gender equity, promote math and science learning by girls, counsel
pregnant teens, and prevent sexual harassment.
- 1994 The Violence Against Women Act funds services for victims of rape and
domestic violence, allows women to seek civil rights remedies for
gender-related crimes, provides training to increase police and court
officials’ sensitivity and a national 24-hour hotline for battered women.
- 1994: Black women gain full suffrage in South Africa.
- 1996 United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996), affirms that the
male-only admissions policy of the state-supported Virginia Military
Institute violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
- 1997 Elaborating on Title IX, the Supreme Court rules that college
athletics programs must actively involve roughly equal numbers of men and
women to qualify for federal support.
- 1998 Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America agrees to pay $34 million
to settle an E.E.O.C. lawsuit contending that hundreds of women were
- 1998 Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998) and
Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 742 (1998): The Supreme Court
balances employee and employer rights. It rules that employers are liable
for sexual harassment even in instances when a supervisor’s threats are
not carried out. But the employer can defend itself by showing that it
took steps to prevent or promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior
and the employee did not take advantage of available opportunities to stop
the behavior or complain of the behavior.
- 2000 CBS Broadcasting agrees to pay $8 million to settle a sex
discrimination lawsuit by the E.E.O.C. on behalf of 200 women.
- 2000 United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000). The U.S. Supreme
Court invalidates those portions of the Violence Against Women Act
permitting victims of rape, domestic violence, etc. to sue their attackers
in federal court.