A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primaries in California, New Jersey and New Mexico and became the first woman in U.S. history to claim the presidential nomination of a major party. Putting political ideology aside, few could argue that Clinton lacks the experience to hold the highest office in the land. The seasoned politician and lawyer has been smashing gender barriers since 1977, when President Carter appointed Clinton to Chair of the Legal Services Corporation, making her the first woman to hold the esteemed position. Clinton was quick to pay tribute to the women of Seneca Falls, without whom the 19th Amendment, and most likely her ability to clinch the nomination, would not be possible. Her victory, and her tribute to the women who fought before her, serve as a good reminder that while she may be the most obvious icon of female power today, she comes from a long line of American women who have been breaking glass ceilings since the birth of our nation. In honor of Clinton's historical moment: 50 female trailblazers from 50 states who have had their own historical moments.
1. Alabama - Rosa Parks. "The mother of the civil rights movement," Alabama-born Parks was a prominent activist known by many for her refusal to give up her seat at the front of a bus to a white passenger, which ultimately sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. Active in both the NAACP and the Black Power movement, Parks fought racial discrimination for years and eventually turned her focus to housing discrimination and the treatment of prisoners when she moved to Detroit. But as Danielle McGuire notes in her book Dark End of the Street, "Rosa Parks was a militant race woman, a sharp detective, and an anti-rape activist long before she became the patron saint of the bus boycott." Beginning with the investigation of the kidnapping and rape of Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks committed much of her life to fighting for the protection of black women against sexual violence.
2. Alaska - Thelma Buchholdt. Filipina Thelma Buchholdt was a politician, author, historian, lawyer, and community activist. After running George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign in Alaska, Buchholdt ran for the Alaska House of Representatives. Upon her election, she became the first female Filipino-American legislator in the United States. Buchhold helped found the Boys and Girls Club of Alaska, the Asian Alaskan Cultural Center, and the Alaska chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society. In 1994, she was appointed Director of the Alaska Office of Equal Opportunity and in 2008, the Alaska Democratic Party awarded her the James Doogan Lifetime Achievement Award.
3. Arizona - Romana Acosta Bañuelos. Romana Acosta Bañuelos was one of the first female trailblazers in banking. She was born in Miami, Arizona and lived there for eight years before the government deported her family. Acosta returned to the U.S. from Mexico a decade later and found work at a tortilla factory in Los Angeles. With her savings, Acosta started her own business in 1947, a tortilla factory called Ramona's, which eventually expanded to selling a wide variety of Mexican food products and is still in operation today. Sixteen years later, Acosta helped found the Pan-American National Bank. The bank appointed her chairperson in 1969 and that seem year, Los Angeles presented her with Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year Award. Observing the immense success of both her company and the bank, President Nixon appointed Acosta as Treasurer of the United States, making her the first Latino to hold that office.
4. Arkansas - Betty Ann Lowe, MD. Pediatric doctor Betty Ann Lowe was the first Arkansan to hold the title of President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. This month, the Arkansas Women's Hall of fame named her as a historical inductee, detailing her long list of personal and professional achievements, which included not only numerous awards for medical leadership, but also for community service and academic excellence. In addition to President of the AAP, Dr. Lowe also served as Medical Director of for Arkansas Children's Hospital and Associate Dean of Pediatrics at University of Arkansas Medical Sciences. Among the many who attended Dr. Lowe's retirement was fellow-Arkansan, President Bill Clinton.
5. California - Dolores Huerta. Raised by a farm worker and New Mexico legislator father and a fiercely independent mother-turned entrepreneur following their divorce, Dolores Huerta was born a feminist and an activist. After graduating from college in Stockton, California, Huerta began participating in community organizing with the Stockton Community Service Organization. Realizing that organizing farmworkers was not a part of the CSO's mission, she and CSO Executive Director Cesar Chavez left to form the National Farm Workers Association. Huerta helped the State of California initiate Aid for Dependent Families (AFDC) and pass the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. In the 1990s, Huerta travelled the country encouraging Latinas to run for office, with the Feminist Majority's Feminization of Power: 50/50 by 2000. President Obama awarded Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
6. Colorado - Reynelda Muse. Reynelda Muse was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1997 for her achievements in journalism and television. Muse was Colorado's first woman and first African-American news anchor, as well as a co-founder of CNN. Muse was also the first woman to win the Rex Howell Memorial Broadcaster of the Year Award. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Muse an Emmy for her work on a documentary and in 1997 inducted her into the Academy's Silver Circle. That same year, Muse announced that she was ending her career as a news anchor to pursue independent projects and "stories that have been left out of the history books."
7. Connecticut - Margaret Bourke-White. As noted by the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, photographer Margaret Bourke-White was a "woman of many firsts: first female photographer for Life magazine, first female war correspondent, first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union." Bourke-White was also the very first photographer for Fortune magazine. Bourke-White covered a wide range of global events and experiences, from the Dust Bowl in America to concentration camps in Germany, and used her photography to bring light to social issues and humanitarian causes.
8. Delaware - Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Early abolitionist and equal rights activist, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was also a writer educator, lawyer and the first black publisher in North America. During the mid-1830s, Shadd Cary began educating black children who were not permitted to go to school under Delaware law. After emigrating to Canada following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, she founded the country's first antislavery newspaper, entitled Provincial Freeman. During the Civil War, Shadd Cary returned to the United States, where she recruited soldiers for the Union army, lectured on women's rights, graduated from Howard University with a law degree and continued her lifetime dedication to teaching.
9. Florida - Betty Castor. Florida native Betty Castor is a politician and educator with an extensive catalogue of achievements, the most recent being her 2015 appointment as Chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, to which she was originally appointed as a member by President Obama in 2011. Castor has served three terms in the Florida Senate and was the first woman elected to the Florida Cabinet. Prior to heading the Fulbright board, Castor served as President of the University of South Florida. Sun Sentinel reporter Rosemary O'Hara recalled in her profile of Castor that one of the first bills Castor introduced to the Florida Senate prohibited public meetings in places of discrimination because Castor was once asked to leave Tampa's University Club, where women were not allowed.
10. Georgia - Margaret Mitchell. More than three million copies sold in the first six months after publication; 250,000 copies sold each year and more than 30 million copies sold total; published in 38 countries and translated into 27 languages; movie rights sold for $50,000, more than other manuscript at the time; awarded the Pulitzer Prize: those are the numbers associated with Margaret Mitchell's lifetime achievement, Gone With the Wind. In addition to writing for the Atlantic Journal and publishing one of the most well-known novels in the world, Mitchell also worked for the American Red Cross and set up scholarships for African-American medical students during World War II.
Next week: Ten more trailblazing women, from Hawaii through Maryland.