Agnes Macphail (1890-1954) was the first female Member of Parliament in Canada. She was elected to the House of Commons in 1921, as a member of the Progressive Party.
She was the first Canadian female delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva. In 1939, she founded the Elizabeth Fry society, which worked on issues affecting women and girls in the criminal justice system.
Bette Nesmith Graham (1924-1980) was the inventor of Liquid Paper, a correction fluid which revolutionised typewriting.
Educated only to high-school level, she found a job as a secretary with Texas Bank and Trust, and eventually became executive secretary – the highest position available to women at the time. She invented a white correction paint which made it easy to cover mistakes made by typewriters, and started marketing it in 1956. This grew into a company with over 200 employees, selling millions of bottles every year.
Caroline Norton (1808-1877) was an English author and social reformer. Her campaigning led to the passing of several laws in favour of women’s rights.
After she left her abusive husband, and had her children taken away, she used her high social influence to campaign for the rights of married and divorced women. This led to the passing of the Custody of Infants Act in 1839, Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857, and Married Women’s Property Act in 1870.
Above: Sketch by Emma Ferguson, 1860
Antonia Maury (1866-1952) was an American astronomer. She is best known for publishing an early catalog of stellar spectra.
She graduated from Vassar College in 1887 with honors in physics, astronomy, and philosophy. She then went on to work for the Harvard College Observatory as a human computer. She was awarded the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy in 1943.
Romana Acuesta Bañuelos (1925-2018) was the first Hispanic treasurer of the United States. She served in this position from 1971 to 1974.
Even though she was born in the USA, she was deported to Mexico at a young age, and made a living at first as a dishwasher and tortilla maker. Eventually, she started her own tortilla business, Ramona’s Mexican Food Products, which grew to a multi-million-dollar corporation. She was a co-founder of the Pan-American National Bank, aiming to help struggling Latinos in Los Angeles.
Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960) was one of the first women to serve in the United States Congress, and the first in the state of Massachusetts. She supported numerous legislation bills in support of veterans.
She was a social volunteer during WWI, after which she was appointed inspector of the new hospitals for veterans. Additionally, she was the Chair of the Comittee on Veteran’s Affairs, and the first woman to preside as speaker over the House of Representatives.
Emilie Kempin-Spyri (1853-1901) was the first woman to obtain a law degree in Switzerland. Since she was not allowed to practice in her native country afterwards, she emigrated to the United States and established a law school for women.
She graduated from the University of Zurich in 1887 as the first female Doctor of Law in Europe. She applied to become a lecturer at the university, but was rejected twice, on account of her not being an active citizen – Swiss women were denied citizenship at the time.
Lya Imber (1914-1981) was a
Venezuelan physician of Ukrainian origin. She was the first woman in Venezuela
to earn a Doctorate in medical sciences.
She emigrated to Venezuela at the
age of 16, and earned her Doctorate in 1936. She was the Head of Service at the
Municipal Children’s Hospital in Caracas, and President of the Venezuelan
League of Mental Hygiene.
Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was the
first person in the world to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. She
is also said to be the first woman to ever create a photograph.
She studied botany, and later
became interested in photography. She used the cyanotype photographic process
to create photograms of algae, that she published in the form of a book in 1843.
The book is of considerable historical importance and rarity; only 17 copies
are known to exist, held in institutions such as The British Library and the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Taylor (1833-1910) was the first woman to graduate from dental school in the
United States. She finished her studies at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery
She tried to pursue a medical career early on, but was denied entry to
the Ohio Eclectic Medical College on account of her gender. She studied
dentistry privately and opened a practice, joining the Iowa State Dental
Society without any formal qualifications. Eventually, women were allowed to
study medicine, and she managed to obtain her doctorate in dentistry.