Women's College Alumnae - Notable Firsts

Women Make a Difference

first n (13th century) : something that is first: as a : preceding all others in time, order, or importance or space or degree b: the first occurrence or item of a kind (Merriam-Webster.com/dictionary)

To understand the import of the extraordinary achievements of women’s college alumnae, it is important to understand the historical, social, political and economic context within which they occurred. Just as the doors of many previously all men’s colleges were closed to women until the late 1960s and early 1970s – giving rise to the founding of women’s colleges and opportunities for advanced education for women – so too were many other opportunities closed to women. These notable firsts paved the way for the next generations of women. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century, there will be many more firsts!

"As we gather here today in this historic magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House. Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time. That has always been the history of progress in America."
- Hillary Clinton, June 2008


FIRST woman to be named Secretary of State in the U.S. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT,
Wellesley College
FIRST woman editor, The New York Post. JANE AMSTERDAM, Cedar Crest College
FIRST woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. EMILY GREEN BALCH, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman to receive a college bachelor's degree. CATHERINE BREWER BENSON, Wesleyan College
FIRST scientist to identify the Hong Kong flu virus. EARLA BIEKERT, Wesleyan College
FIRST woman leader of the American Newspaper Publisher Association. CATHLEEN BLACK, Trinity Washington University
FIRST woman to be Executive Vice President of the American Stock Exchange SARAH PORTER BOEHMLER, Sweet Briar College
FIRST African American woman judge in the U.S. JANE MATILDA BOLIN, Wellesley College
FIRST African American woman surgeon in the South. DOROTHY L. BROWN, Bennett College for Women
FIRST to win Nobel Prize in Literature PEARL S. BUCK,
Randolph-Macon Woman's College
FIRST female Rhodes Scholar, Georgia ILA BURDETT, Agnes Scott College
FIRST woman secretary of the Democratic National Party DOROTHY VREDENBURGH BUSH, Mississippi University for Women
FIRST woman founder of a PBS station. ELIZABETH PFOHL CAMPBELL, Salem College
FIRST Hispanic woman judge Circuit Court for Baltimore City. HON. AUDREY J.S. CARRION, College of Notre Dame of Maryland
FIRST environmentalist who awakened public consciousness through her book, Silent Spring. RACHEL CARSON, Chatham University
FIRST female CEO of a commercial airline. BARBARA CASSANI, Mount Holyoke College
FIRST Asian American woman appointed to a president's cabinet in U.S. history, Secretary of Labor. ELAINE L. CHAO, Mount Holyoke College
FIRST woman president of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, racehorse breeder and owner of Secretariat. PENNY CHENERY, Smith College
FIRST woman manager in nuclear engineering, Philadelphia Electric Company. MARTHA CHRISTINZIANO, Georgian Court University
FIRST First-Lady to be elected to the Senate or Congress. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Wellesley College
FIRST woman to serve in a leadership role in the North Carolina legislature; two terms as house minority leader, one term as senate majority leader, one term as senate minority whip. BETSY LANE COCHRANE, Meredith College
FIRST woman to become a tenured full professor of neurosurgery in the U.S. FRANCES K. CONLEY, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST Republican woman to serve as Majority Whip in the Florida House of Representatives. FAYE BERRY CULP, Mississippi University for Women
FIRST woman to be ordained in a Southern Baptist Church. ADDIE E. DAVIS, Meredith College
FIRST woman announcer for a major league baseball team. SHERRY DAVIS, College of Notre Dame of Maryland
FIRST woman president of the American Academy of T.V. Arts & Sciences. DIANA MULDAUR DOZIER, Sweet Briar College College
FIRST female commanding officer of New York Port Authority Police Department. LT. SUSAN DURETT, Georgian Court University
FIRST African American woman to pass the bar in the state of Mississippi. MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, Spelman College
FIRST woman to manage a presidential campaign. SUSAN ESTRICH, Wellesley College
FIRST woman editor of the Christian Science Monitor. KATHARINE FANNING, Smith College
FIRST woman Vice-Presidential candidate. GERALDINE FERRARO, Marymount Manhattan College
Georgia's FIRST and only Miss America. NEVA LANGLEY FICKLING, Wesleyan College
FIRST African American woman District Attorney in North Carolina. BELINDA FOSTER, Bennett College for Women
FIRST American woman to climb three of the world's tallest peaks. CHARLOTTE FOX, Hollins University
FIRST woman elected to the Tennessee legislature. SARA RUTH FRASIER, Wesleyan College
FIRST woman and only the third person to complete a 2,700 mile run around Australia. SARAH FULCHER, Salem College
FIRST civilian woman scientist on a space shuttle mission (Space Lab Sciences I). DR. MILLIE HUGHES-FULFORD, Texas Woman's University
FIRST woman manager of a major metropolitan radio station. SUSAN BREAKEFIELD FULTON, Wilson College
FIRST woman elected president of physicians at the Mayo Clinic and of the Minnesota Medical Society. GAIL GAMBLE, Hood College
FIRST woman sportswriter in the Atlantic Coast Conference. MARY GARBER, Hollins University
One of the FIRST woman lawyers to argue a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. SUSAN BRANDEIS GILBERT, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman to hold a key diplomatic reporting post with the U.S. Foreign Service in the Middle East. APRIL GLASPIE, Mills College
FIRST Hispanic woman named president of a comprehensive state college. ELSA GOMEZ, College of Saint Elizabeth
FIRST woman and first African American to be named director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines. RHEA GRAHAM, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman to be elected governor of a state (Connecticut) in her own right. ELLA GRASSO, Mount Holyoke College
FIRST woman president of a major university (University of Chicago). HANNA HOLBORN GRAY, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman awarded the American Geological Institute's Ian Campbell Medal; FIRST woman to teach science at Boston College; FIRST to head the California Department of Conservation; FIRST woman on the California Mining and Geology Board; FIRST woman named state geologist in Minnesota. PRISCILLA PERKINS GREW, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman and African American and youngest person nominated as associate minister general in the Disciples of Christ Church. CYNTHIA HALE, Hollins University
FIRST female judge in the South. MARY KERR MOREHEAD HARRIS, Peace College
FIRST woman to become Director of the National Institute of Health. BERNADINE HEALY, Vassar College
FIRST woman ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA. RACHELLE HENDERLITE, Agnes Scott College
FIRST and only person to have won four Academy Awards for acting. The American Film Institute voted her the nation's leading screen legend of the 20th Century. KATHARINE HEPBURN, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman general of the U.S. Army. BRIGADIER GENERAL ELIZABETH P. HOISINGTON, USA retired, College of Notre Dame of Maryland
FIRST African American woman to serve as moderator and managing editor of PBS's Washington Week in Review. GWEN IFILL, Simmons College
FIRST woman president of the Florida senate. ANTOINETTE JENNINGS, Wesleyan College
FIRST woman judge, U.S. Fourth Circuit. KAREN JOHNSON WILLIAMS, Columbia College
FIRST woman to be appointed as the state's chief judge. FIRST woman to serve on the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. JUDITH S. KAYE, Barnard College
FIRST woman to be ordained Bishop of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Conference. CHARLENE PAYNE KAMMERER, Wesleyan College
FIRST woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. JEANE KIRKPATRICK, Barnard College
FIRST woman neurosurgeon in the U.S. DOROTHY KLENKE, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman president of the State Bar of California. MARGARET MORROW, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress from S.C. ELIZABETH J. PATTERSON, Columbia College
FIRST woman elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives - member of the 110th Congress for the state of California. NANCY PELOSI, Trinity Washington University
FIRST woman appointed to a Presidential Cabinet post. FRANCES PERKINS, Mount Holyoke College
FIRST African American woman appointed Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission. AULANA PHARIS PETERS, The College of New Rochelle
FIRST woman commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. SHIRLEY DANIEL PETERSON, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman to chair a Financial Regulatory Agency. SUSAN PHILLIPS, Agnes Scott College
FIRST woman Chancellor in the State of Mississippi. LENORE LOVING PRATHER, Mississippi University for Women
FIRST woman elected president of an NAACP chapter. GLENDA COPES REED, Smith College
FIRST director of the the Congressional Budget Office; recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant"; served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve System's Board of Governors and directed the White House Office of Management and Budget. ALICE MITCHELL RIVLIN, Bryn Mawr College
Founder of the FIRST missionary order of Catholic women in the U.S., Maryknoll Sisters. SR. MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, Smith College
FIRST person to observe that the X and Y chromosomes determine sex. NETTIE STEPHENS, Bryn Mawr College
FIRST woman General Manager for the Associated Press. KELLY SMITH TUNNEY, Cottey College
FIRST woman to head White House Council of Economic Advisors, appointed. LAURA D'ANDREA TYSON, Smith College
FIRST woman mayor of a capitol American city (Hartford). ANN UCCELLO, Saint Joseph College
FIRST woman publisher of TIME-LIFE. LISA VALK, Hollins University
FIRST woman to receive Scientific Achievement Award for cancer research. ROSLYN WALLACE, Brenau University
FIRST woman to command a naval base and highest ranking woman in the U.S. Navy. REAR ADMIRAL LOUISE WILMOT, College of Saint Elizabeth