Women Studies Program

MSC03 2155
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

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December in Women's History

December 1, 2013

US Women's Highlights

  • December 1, 1955 - Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white person; her arrest sparks the modern civil rights movement in the US
  • December 5, 1935 - Mary McLeod Bethune creates the National Council of Negro Women
  • December 7, 1941 - Capt. Annie Fox receives the first Purple Heart awarded to a woman for her service while under attack at Pearl Harbor
  • December 10, 1869 - Wyoming is the first territory to give women the right to vote
  • December 10, 1938 - Pearl S. Buck receives the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Good Earth
  • December 13, 1993 - Susan A. Maxman becomes first woman president of the American Institute of Architects in its 135 year history
  • December 14, 1961 - President's Commission on the Status of Women is established to examine discrimination against women and ways to eliminate it
  • December 14, 1985 - Wilma Mankiller is sworn in as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma - the first woman in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe
  • December 17, 1993 - Judith Rodin is named president of Univ. of Pennsylvania, the first woman to head an Ivy League institution  
  • December 28, 1967 - Muriel Siebert becomes the first woman to own a seat on the N.Y. Stock Exchange    


  • December 1, 1893 (1981) - Dorothy Detzer, worked at Hull House where she investigated child labor infringements for several years, national secretary of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (1924-46) where she became known as the "Lady Lobbyist" in Congress, respected for her research and integrity - no personal favors, private dinners or backroom deals 
  • December 1, 1913 (1990) - Mary Martin, actress, her Broadway break came in 1938 with singing of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," continued in New York and Hollywood with "Annie Get Your Gun," "South Pacific," "The Sound of Music," and "Hello, Dolly" 
  • December 2, 1886 (1976) - Josephine Roche, after gaining control of her late father's Colorado coal mine operation in 1927, invited the United Mine Workers to organize workers and get contracts, supervised the Public Health Service as part of FDR's administration, made recommendations for 1935 Social Security and tried to encourage universal health coverage, named one of 10 outstanding women in the U.S. in 1936
  • December 2, 1911 (1991) - Harriet Pilpel, lawyer, worked with the Guttmacher Institute from 1962 to support family planning for all and universal contraceptive use
  • December 2, 1923 (1977) - Maria Callas, operatic soprano, perfected bel canto voice and won acclaim in 1949 in Wagnerian role of Brunnhilde as well as high-flying Bellini traditional roles, but her extreme self-motivation and fierce ambition played out by 1965 
  • December 3, 1842 (1911) - Ellen Swallow Richards, first woman to graduate from MIT (1873), recognized as the creator of the fields of ecology and home economics, co-founder of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which became the American Association of University Women
  • December 3, 1895 (1995) - Te Ate, interpreter of Cherokee, Chickasawa, Creek, Choctaw and other tribes in theater performances of these original cultures, entertained, educated, enlightened and inspired Americans like Eleanor Roosevelt and visitors like English royalty
  • December 5, 1890 (1990) - Mildred Olmsted, activist, advocate of Gandhian concept of nonviolent direct action, organization secretary of the Pennsylvania branch of WILPF, held leadership roles in SANE and ACLU
  • December 6, 1815 (1884) - Jane Swisshelm, suffragist, wrote articles for local papers against slavery, for women's rights, and against legal inequities, led to close friendship with Mary Todd Lincoln
  • December 6, 1887 (1983) - Lynn Fontanne, actress, met Alfred Lunt in 1919 and both became popular stars by 1931, played 160 parts, many created by playwrights especially for them
  • December 6, 1927 (2002) - Patsy Mink, first Japanese-American Congresswoman (D-HI), wrote the Women's Educational Equity Act, played a key role in the enactment of Title IX, which was renamed posthumously as the "Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act"
  • December 6, 1967  Helen Greiner a co-founder of iRobot and currently CEO of CyPhyWorks and is a Trustee of the Museum of Science (Boston); on the Computer Science Advisory Board of Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and a Director of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). 
  • December 8, 1919 (1985) - Julia Robinson, her logic and number theory resulted in theorems she discovered solving Hilbert's Tenth Problem about 1970, assumed the presidency of the American Mathematical Society, awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • December 9, 1906 (1997) - Esther Peterson, as head of the Commission on the Status of Women was the most powerful woman in the Kennedy administration, fought for women's rights, especially improvements in working women's conditions, awarded the Medal of Freedom from President Carter in 1981
  • December 9, 1906 (1992) - Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, pioneering computer scientist who invented the compiler and co-invented COBOL, computer programming languages
  • December 10, 1830 (1886) - Emily Dickinson, one of America's most famous and prolific poets
  • December 11, 1892 (1982) - Harriet Adams, after the 1930 death of her father, who had syndicated the publishing of juvenile books, she and her sister continued his practice with many titles in the Nancy Drew series which were plotted and then written by ghost writers 
  • December 13, 1903 (1986) - Ella Baker, organizer, tried to develop local leaders for civil rights campaigns but found male leaders in the NAACP quite unwilling to delegate power, helped lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference until Dr. King took over, worked with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party 
  • December 14, 1897 (1995) - Margaret Chase Smith, first woman elected to both houses of Congress (R-ME), serving 8 years in the House of Representatives and 24 in the Senate, first in Senate to challenge Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade  
  • December 14, 1955.  Jill Pipher,  president of the Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM, 2011-), and first director of the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM, 2011-), an NSF-funded mathematics institute. 
  • December 15, 1913 (1980) - Muriel Rukeyser, poet, won Yale Younger Poets award in 1935 for her first book, Theory of Flight, wrote 13 other poetry books, some with anti-war themes, took inspiration from travels to Hanoi and South Vietnam, The Book of the Dead dealt with silicone miners 
  • December 16, 1844 (1928) - Fanny Garrison Villard, suffragist and philanthropist, provided financial support for certified milk and wholesome food in Diet Kitchen, provided funds for Barnard College, Radcliffe College and Hampton Institute, supported peace and woman suffrage with street speeches and parades, worked with the Women's Peace Party 
  • December 16, 1901 (1978) - Margaret Mead, renowned cultural anthropologist, author, lecturer  
  • December 17, 1853 (1945) - Harriet Taylor Upton, joined suffrage movement in 1890 when converted by Susan Anthony, became treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, testified in Congress, managed suffrage campaigns and ratification drive in Ohio, held positions in the Republican Party, defeated for Congress at age 70  
  • December 19, 1919 (2007) - Sally Ann Lilienthal, founder of Ploughshares in 1981 which gave fifty million dollars in grants to promote peace, reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons 
  • December 21, 1959 (1998) - Florence Griffith Joyner ("Flo-Jo"), Olympic track and field champion, won 3 gold medals and 1 silver at 1988 Summer games, called "World's Fastest Woman"  
  • December 22, 1912 (2007) - Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson, First Lady (1963-69), advocate for civil rights, National Chair of Head Start, led "Beautification" efforts across the country involving environmentalism, conservation, and anti-pollution  
  • December 23, 1867 (1919) - Sarah "Madam C. J." Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, first woman and first African American woman self-made millionaire, revolutionized hair care and cosmetics industry in early 20th century  
  • December 23, 1912 (1998) - Anna Jane Harrison, chemistry professor at Mount Holyoke College (1945-89), continued research on ultraviolet spectroscopy and increased public understanding of the impact of science and technology, first president of the American Chemical Society (1987) 
  • December 24, 1904 (1995) - Mary Bingham, led progressive philanthropy in civil rights with husband Barry Bingham's Louisville newspapers from 1942 to 1985, funded bookmobiles, opera, symphony, and the Bingham Theatre 
  • December 24, 1951 (1998) - Marsha Gomez, activist, used pottery and sculpture from her Choctaw ancestry to teach and further demand rights for indigenous women of many cultures, achieved NGO status for indigenous women in the United Nations, began the Foundation for a Compassionate Society with a group of about 20 artists
  • December 25, 1806 (1875) - Martha Wright, called the first Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1948 with her sister Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton and others, president of women's conventions in 1855 in Cincinnati, Saratoga, and Albany, a founder of the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, continued working for equal suffrage during Civil War  
  • December 25, 1821 (1912) - Clara Barton, founder and president of American Red Cross, 1881-1904  
  • December 26, 1954 (2006) - Susan Butcher, sled dog racer, 4-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race  
  • December 27, 1901 (1992) - Marlene Dietrick, actress, fled Germany and became an American citizen in 1937, gained great success in "Destry Rides Again" with James Stewart (1939) and wider popularity with World War II efforts 
  • December 27, 1930 (1999) - Mary Ellen (Meg) Greenfield, named editorial editor at "Washington Post" in 1979 after winning a Pulitzer Prize, penned commentaries on civil rights, integration, nuclear arms and the military establishment 
  • December 28, 1894 (1988) - Burnita Matthews, suffragist, as a young law student in the District of Columbia learned that she could carry a banner outside the White House but would be arrested for not having a permit if she spoke, stayed silent and avoided arrest, gained admission to the bar in 1920, worked for the National Woman's Party, chosen as Federal District Court Judge by President Truman in 1949 
  • December 29, 1937 (1990) - Thea Bowman, first black Catholic nun to join white Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in the 1960's, worked with issues of racial inequality 
  • December 30, 1912 (1995) - Margaret Wade, won state and regional championships as semi-professional basketball player, became high school coach in 1935 and set a lifetime record of 453 wins, 89 losses and 6 ties, inspired the Wade Trophy (1978) awarded annually to the best collegiate women's team 
  • December 31, 1900 (1995) - Selma Burke, sculptor, part of the Black Renaissance under Augusta Savage, created the artwork for the "Roosevelt dime," established the Selma Burke Art Center in the early 1970's.  

National Women's Project LogoInformation retrieved from The National Women's History Project at

National Women's History Project
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