By Shara Krough

Our nation was established by men. Our founding documents were written by men. The battle for our independence was fought by men. So what have women contributed to American politics and history? More than most people realize! This article will give a brief overview of selected women who have influenced our nation, along with inspirational quotes attributed to them. The wisdom imparted by these women still holds significant meaning today, even decades after their deaths. Read along and absorb their empowering messages. Happy 4th of July!

Abigail Adams (1744–1818) was the wife of John Adams (2nd President of the U.S.) and the mother of John Quincy Adams (6th President of U.S.). She fought for property rights for women and publicly repudiated slavery. She encouraged women to perfect their intellect by educating themselves, instead of being satisfied with wife and motherly roles. In March 1776, she wrote a letter to her husband and the Continental Congress, where she stated:
“Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.“

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) was a famous American author who fought to end slavery. In 1850, she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which depicted the harsh realities of slavery and inspired the anti-slavery movement in the north.
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Maria Mitchell (1818–1889) was the first American female astronomer. She received the gold medal prize for her discovery of “Miss Mitchell’s Comet” and was the 1st woman elected to the American Philosophical Society. A crater on the moon was named after her and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
“Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.”

Biddy Mason (1818–1891) was an African American nurse and real estate businesswoman. She was one of the first blacks to purchase land in Los Angeles. She generously gave to charities and founded various programs for the poor. For her philanthropy, she was known as “Grandma Mason.” In her honor, November 16th is deemed Biddy Mason Day.
“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.”

Susan Brownell Anthony (1820–1906) was a civil rights leader who played a primary role in the women’s suffrage movement. She dedicated her life to “the cause” and laid the groundwork for passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote (14 years after her death). She was the co-founder of The Revolution, a women’s rights publication. In 1869, she founded the National Woman Suffrage Association with her life-long friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1872, she was fined and put on trial for voting. Susan B. Anthony traveled across America, giving close to 100 speeches per year on various topics effecting women. Her 50-year crusade paved the way for women’s rights to be integrated into American government.
“Woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself.”
“Independence is happiness.”
“Failure is impossible.”

Clarissa Harlowe Barton (1821–1912) was an activist for black civil rights and the primary organizer for the American Red Cross during the Civil War. She aided soldiers in battle before women were officially allowed near battlefields and eventually became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” After the Civil War, she began a letter-writing campaign to find missing soldiers. She served as President of the American Red Cross for over 20 years and founded the National First Aid Society before she retired at the age of 83. She also fought for women’s suffrage alongside Susan B. Anthony. Her two “rules of action” were “unconcern for what cannot be helped” and “control under pressure.”
“I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.”

Mary Ann Shad Cary (1823–1893) was the first female African American lawyer in the United States. She advocated self-reliance, fought for the right to vote and criticized slavery. Through writing and speaking, she attempted to teach freed slaves how to be independent. She was one of the few women to receive the right to vote in national elections. She published a weekly newspaper called Provincial Freeman, which was dedicated to self-education for blacks.
“Self-reliance is the Fine Road to Independence.”

Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) was an American author, most famous for her novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
“I like to help women help themselves, as that is, in my opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.”
Mary Edwards Walker (1832–1919) was the only female to receive the Medal of Honor. She was a doctor and prisoner of war during the Civil War, a feminist and an abolitionist. She volunteered to be a surgeon for the Union, but was captured by the Confederacy after crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded civilians. She was later released as part of a prisoner exchange program. After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration for gallantry. She vigorously supported the women’s suffrage movement until her death in 1919.
“Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.”

“Mother” Mary Harris Jones (1837–1930) was an American school teacher who co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World and organized principal strikes across America. In 1902, she successfully organized mine workers against mine companies. In 1903, she arranged a Children’s March from Philadelphia to New York to support the enforcement of child labor laws. The magazine Mother Jones is named after her.
“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”
“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927) was a leader in the American women’s suffrage movement and the first female candidate for the Presidency of the United States. She ran in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party. She did not receive any electoral votes.
“I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire “[On prejudice]: Sometimes, it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.”

Rachel Carson(1907–1964) was an American conservationist, marine biologist and author who won the U.S. National Book Award for The Sea Around Us. Her early writings explored ocean life, while her later writings examined environmental issues related to synthetic pesticides. Her 1962 book, Silent Spring ignited a controversial debate over use of the pesticide DDT and launched environmental concerns regarding pesticides.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Rosetta Wakeman (1843–1864) disguised herself as a man in order to fight for the Union during the Civil War. She served in the 153rd regiment of the New York State Volunteers. She died while still enlisted, so no one knew she was a female until long after her death.
“I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go. I don’t believe there are any Rebel’s bullet[s] made for me yet.”

Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907) was the first Native American and African American woman to become a famous international sculptor. In 1877, she sculpted a portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant.
“Some praise me because I am a colored girl, and I don’t want that kind of praise. I had rather you would point out my defects, for that will teach me something.”

Susie King Taylor (1848–1912) was the first African American U.S. Army nurse and the only black female to publish writings about her experiences during the Civil War.
“There are many people who do not know what some of the colored women did during the war. There were hundreds of them who assisted the Union soldiers by hiding them and helping them to escape.”

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) was elected President of the National Woman Suffrage Association after Susan B. Anthony retired. She campaigned heavily for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in 1920.
“Roll up your sleeves, set your mind to making history, and wage such a fight for liberty that the whole world will respect our sex.”

Annie Oakley (1860–1926) was an American markswoman and famous sharpshooter. She starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, entertaining national audiences with her firearms tricks. With her .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet away, she could repeatedly split a playing card before it could touch the ground.
“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.

Juliette Gordon Low (1860–1927) founded the Girl Scouts of America in 1912.
“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”
Jane Addams (1860–1935) was an advocate for world peace and a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She supported labor reform to improve working conditions for women and children. In 1931, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I am not one of those who believe – broadly speaking – that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.”

Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862–1931) was an African American journalist, an active participant in the women’s suffrage movement and a leader in the civil rights movement. She published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and A Red Record, which documented lynching in America. She was also a member of the “Committee of 40,” the civil rights organization that preceded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”

Annie Sullivan (1866–1936) was an American teacher who is famous for her instruction of Helen Keller. The two traveled across the country together, giving lectures for the American Foundation for the Blind.
“The truth is not wonderful enough to suit the newspapers; so they enlarge upon it, and invent ridiculous embellishments.”

Isadora Duncan (1877–1927) invented modern dance in America, which was a rebellion of sorts against classical ballet.
“People do not live nowadays. They get about ten percent out of life.”

Alice Paul (1885–1977) was a female activist who led a strong campaign preceding the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1923, she wrote the original version of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA was not considered by Senate until 1972, when it was approved, but never ratified by 38 states (as is required by our Constitution). Only 35 states voted in favor of ratification.
“There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.”

Bessie Coleman (1892–1926) was the 1st African American pilot to obtain an international pilot license. She performed as a stunt flier and was nicknamed “Queen Bess.”
“The air is the only place free from prejudices.”

Dorothy Fuldheim (1893–1989) was the first female in America to host her own television show and anchor a news broadcast show. She was designated, “First Lady of Television News.”
“This is a youth-oriented society, and the joke is on them because youth is a disease from which we all recover.”

Marian Anderson (1897–1993) was an African American singer who performed in recitals and concerts with principal orchestras in the United States and Europe during the 20th century.
“[On prejudice]: Sometimes, it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.”

Rachel Carson (1907–1964) was an American conservationist, marine biologist and author who won the U.S. National Book Award for The Sea Around Us. Her early writings explored ocean life, while her later writings examined environmental issues related to synthetic pesticides. Her 1962 book, Silent Spring ignited a controversial debate over use of the pesticide DDT and launched environmental concerns regarding pesticides.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

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