The second set of my twenty-five are included here. All links are for full biographies of the women listed here. I’d invite you to explore their tales more deeply.
Nebraska: Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915)
Picotte was the first woman of the American First Nations to receive a medical degree in the United States (1889). Dr. Picotte’s work was inspired by death of a native woman after a local white doctor refused to treat her. Picotte therefore spent her career providing medical care for members of the Omaha Reservation as well as the native men and women in Bancroft, Nebraska.
Nevada: Sarah Winnemucca (orig. Tocmectone) (1844-1891)
Winnemucca was a First Nations’ educator, author, and vibrant lecturer. She served as a translator between U.S. government agents and her tribe, traveling throughout Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho with her people, the Northern Paiute. The outbreak of violent conflict between her tribe and the U.S. government served as the impetus for a lecture tour in California and the Washington Territory. Winnemucca worked tirelessly to raise support for the plight of her tribe members and First Nations peoples more generally throughout the western United States.
New Jersey: Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Lange was a photographer, deeply concerned with men and women who found themselves displaced and discriminated against. She is most famous for her heart-rending picture of the migrant mother and her children in California during the Great Depression. Additionally, Lange produced important documentation of the Japanese-Americans relocated to internment camps by then-President Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her photographs are a testament to her compassion and to the dignity and courage of her subjects.
New Mexico: Delores Huerta (1930- )
Huerta a labor activist and grassroots organizer. She began as an organizer in California, working to remove the citizenship requirements then in effect for pension and public assistance programs. In 1961, she met Cesar Chavez and, in conversation with him, formulated a plan for organizing U.S. farm workers. By 1965, Chavez and Huerta coordinated a strike by migrant grape pickers that would last for five years, ending only after Huerta and other labor leaders negotiated for increased wages and the addition of benefits for agricultural workers. Over the last forty-plus years, Huerta has worked persistently to maintain the rights she and Chavez fought for in their youth, constantly renegotiating contracts, organizing underpaid workers, and finding new injustices to resist.
New York: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
This was hands down the most difficult state to choose only one woman from. Margaret Sanger (whose record is ultimately too mixed to make the final cut), Harriet Tubman, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony…heck, the entirety of the 1848 Women’s Rights’ Convention (!) were contenders. So I went back to the source. Cady Stanton was a suffragist, abolitionist, speaker, and author. Perhaps most famously, Stanton co-penned the Declaration of the Rights of Women of the United States, which Anthony presented at the centennial celebration in the Capital in 1876 (uninvited, of course). Her legacy lives on at the National Women’s Rights Museum in Seneca Falls, NY.
Oklahoma: Belle Starr (1848-1889)
I’m including Starr because this list needs at least one notorious, rough and tumble woman. (Those I suppose every woman on the list was or is notorious in her own way…) Starr was a horse thief, gambler, and sharp shooter in Oklahoma. She eluded arrest multiple times, was arrested on nearly as many occasions, and ultimately died a violent death – shot in the death by an enemy or lover. (No one is quite sure.) Someone to admire? Perhaps not. But a colorful character worthy of a legacy.
Oregon: Laura Stockton Starcher and the women of the “Petticoat Revolution”
On December 5, 1916 in Umatilla, Oregon, Starcher was elected mayor and four other women gained seats in the city council. Only four years after Oregon women won the vote, the ladies staged a coup, which was quickly dubbed “The Petticoat Revolution” by the New York Herald. Stockton even beat out her own husband in the mayoral race, 26-8. (He didn’t know she was running!) I wouldn’t advocate that sort of intramarital rivalry, but I do love that the women took their new-found political liberties so seriously.
Pennsylvania: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
Though Alcott grew up in Massachusetts, her birthplace is Germantown, PA. Alcott’s Little Women (and the sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys) have become standard reading for adolescent girls (or they were when I was such a one…) Her characters – the tomboyish Jo, feminine Meg, compassionate Beth, and sophisticated Amy – speak to the diversity of womanhood and her stories remains a lovely tale of familial love and friendship.
Tennessee: Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)
Rudolph’s is a story of the resiliance of the human body. She was born prematurely and all-but crippled for the first seven years of her life, but went on to play basketball in high school, ultimately earning the attention of the track and field coach at Tennessee State. Rudolph competed in her first Olympics in 1956 (at 16) and four years later, became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track during the games in Rome.
Vermont: Caroline Ardelia Yale (1848-1933)
Yale spent her life as an educator for the deaf and principal of the Clarke School for the Deaf. She revolutionized education for the hearing-impaired through her development, with a fellow teacher, of an immensely detailed phonetic system used to communicate, orally, with her students. Yale’s “Northampton Vowel and Consonant Charts” remained a tool of educators of the deaf for many years.
Virginia: Clara Barton (1821-1912)
Known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Clara Barton first earned her stripes as a dedicated civil war nurse. Barton independently collected and distributed medical supplies during a time when there was little strategy in post-battle treatment of wounds and injuries. She also requested permission to travel with those soldiers evacuated from the battlefield and continued her nursing behind (and sometimes quite near) the line. Following the Civil War, she founded the American Red Cross. Based on the original Swiss Red Cross, Barton’s organization continued to organize treatment and care in disaster situations across the United States. Today, the Red Cross continues to serve as a disaster relief organization, supplying everything from bandages to blood during and after natural and human disasters. (P.S.–The Red Cross is looking for apheresis and whole blood donor. No, really. They’ve been calling me all summer to donate. Give it a thought… I’ll even go with you if you live in NJ.)
Wisconsin: Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
O’Keeffe is an American modernist artist, most famous perhaps for her magnified paintings of flowers and quasi-surreal cattle skulls. And since you’ve read quite enough, allow me to let this last woman’s art speak for itself: