Women Change History: Part Two

Women Change History: Part Two

The second installment of our month-long series on inspiring women continues into week two. This week we bring to you, a “human computer”, a member of Congress, a news publication president, the founder of Planned Parenthood and an equal pay advocate. A group of women who have changed the world by breaking glass ceilings and speaking up for many that go unheard. We celebrate these women for their bravery, accomplishments and fervor.

Annie J. Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician and rocket scientists…and in the early days of her work at NACA she was referred to also as a “human computer”.  Easley overcame many obstacles, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the days before the Civil Rights Movement where here academic opportunities were very limited by segregation. She did not let this deter her from pursuing an education, and was able to attend proper schooling through high school and went on to receive a college degree from Xavier University. During Easley’s 34 year long career at NACA which later became NASA, she worked on alternative power technologies that are still being used today. Some of these innovations are still being used today in the development of hybrid cars.

Katherine Graham was a leader of her family newspaper The Washington Post, for more than two decades. She was famously a part of the press discovery and coverage of  the Watergate scandal which later led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Graham became the first female Fortune 500 CEO, in 1972. In the male dominated publishing world, it was a struggle for Graham to find confidence, something she talks about a great deal in her memoir. She overcame these struggles and her leadership paved the way for many female publishers at the Post and beyond.

Barbara Jordan was an American politician and leader of the Civil Rights movement. Jordan was a member of the House of Representatives for Texas’ 18th district. She was the first southern black female to be elected to the HOR, in addition she was also the first African American woman to deliver a keynote address at the  Democratic National Convention. Jordan was known to be very private person and shared little about her personal relationships. Even when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Jordan kept her condition a secret from the press even when she needed to rely on a cane and later a wheelchair. A strong and independent woman, Barbara Jordan took the issues of discrimination and immigration very seriously and worked diligently towards reform.

Margaret Sanger known as the founder of the modern birth control revolution, created the American Birth Control League which later became the Planned Parenthood organization. Sanger advocated for women’s rights and access to birth control. She is credited with opening the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916. As a nurse, Sanger was concerns about women’s health and wanted to provide women with safe options for contraception and aimed to prevent unsafe “back-alley” abortions.  Her desire to share information with the poor and struggling immigrant population of New York City during the Great Depression inspired her to create newsletters that included information on safe-sex practices as well as suggestions to consider financial stability before trying to conceive. During her time, Sanger’s contributions to the birth control movement were seen as drastic and revolution. In current times, without Sanger starting the conversation about birth control there may not be such a wonderful organization with a legacy of providing healthcare to all women.

Lilly Ledbetter is making strides towards equal pay for women. In 1998 she brought legal action against Goodyear Tire where she was employed as a supervisor. She came to find that she was making significantly less than her male counterparts and felt she needed to be compensated for this discrimination. Her law suit led to the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which loosens timelines to file a discrimination suit so long as any act of discrimination, including receipt of a paycheck that reflects a past act of discrimination, occurs within the 180 day period of limitations. Ledbetter continues to advocate for equal pay beyond this legislation looking to further provide opportunities for women to make every cent that they have been discredited for in the past.

These five women have changed the course of history. They made advances in science, news publications, politics, healthcare and equality in the workplace for women. Paving a bright future for us today and inspiring women and girls everywhere to make a change and fearlessly follow their dreams. Cheers to you, ladies! Thank you for making the world a better place for women!