Celebrating Women Who Achieved First in the World

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In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate achievements of women that were firsts in our world’s history in a variety of life roles.

A famous proverb that has spread across the world and also often proved to true is:

“Behind every successful man, there is a Woman”.

Modern Women are breaking the gender barrier and achieving a historical feat; and historically, women have lead the way often from behind the scenes; either with men taking credit for their work or agreeably setting the stage in the name of progress.

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A fun, eclectic list of 10 Women Leaders, first is their personal achievements:

1. First Woman in Space – Valentina Tereshkova

On June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly in space. She spent nearly three days in orbit before returning to Earth a hero. For her accomplishment, she received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards — the former Soviet Union’s two highest possible decorations.

Just over 20 years after Tereshkova’s fateful trip, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. According to NASA, Ride crucially helped deploy communications satellites and conduct experiments.

2. First Woman to Drive Around the World – Aloha Wanderwell

Aloha Wanderwell (what a perfect name for a person who would spend a significant amount of time wandering by car around the world) spent years driving a Ford Model T across 43 countries.

According to Atlas Obscura, she also wore men’s breeches and had a pet monkey, and was dubbed by newspapers at the time as the “World’s Most Widely Traveled Girl,” “The Amelia Earhart of the Automobile” and “The First Woman to Drive Around the World in an Automobile.”

3. First Women Olympic Champion – Charlotte Cooper

It’s so easy to forget women just weren’t allowed to actively participate in society. For the longest time, women couldn’t even compete in one of the world’s most well-known athletic competitions: the Olympics until Charlotte Cooper attended the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, the first Olympics where women were allowed to participate.

In Paris, she won in tennis singles and mixed doubles, making her the first individual woman Olympic champion.

4. First Woman to be a Prime Minister – Sirimavo Bandaranaike

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka was the first woman to become a prime minister, which essentially made her the modern world’s first female elected head of state.

Apparently, after the death of her husband, she became the leader of his political party and eventually prime minister through that capacity.

5. First Woman to run for President of the USA – Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president in 1872 for the Equal Rights Party, long before women could even vote. Not only did she run, she actually received the Equal Rights Party’s nomination on a platform of equal rights for women; as well as women’s suffrage. The famous former slave turned statesman Frederick Douglass was her running mate.

She also was the first woman to own a brokerage firm on Wall Street, the first woman to start a weekly newspaper; and an activist for women’s rights and labor reform.

6. First Woman to Win the Academy Award for Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow

This happened in 2010. I just needed to throw that out there to show how far we all still have to go in terms of equal opportunity. Now that that’s out of the way, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her outstanding 2008 film about the Iraq War, “The Hurt Locker.”

The film also took home the award for Best Picture, in addition to four other Oscars. As of 2016, Bigelow stands alone as the only woman to win this coveted Academy Award.

7. First Woman to win a Nobel Prize – Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a badass and hero. She won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband and colleague, Pierre Curie, for their work with radioactivity, becoming the first woman Nobel laureate.

Eight years later, though her husband had died, Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery and production of radium and polonium — work connected with her research on radioactivity.

When she won the second prize, she became the first (and still only) woman to win two prizes as well as the first (and only) woman to win prizes in two different fields.

She later died from an illness caused by prolonged exposure to radioactive elements.

8. First Female Millionaire Self-made Annie Malone

Annie Malone established and built the first international industry inventing, manufacturing, and selling cosmetic and hair care products for black women under her brand name Poro.

NOTE: Annie Malone served as a formative mentor to Madam C. J. Walker, as well as her employer. (Walker decided to break from Malone, becoming her primary competitor after she moved to Denver to open that market for Malone’s Poro line.) Contrary to most reports, Walker was not the first African-American millionaire. Madam Walker got her agent sales idea from Malone.

By 1914, Annie Malone reached multimillionaire status while Walker was working hard to get her business off the ground in Indianapolis. In 1916, Malone broke ground on a mammoth four-story corporate headquarters in St. Louis, occupying a full city block.

That title of first female millionaire belongs to the humble but supremely confident Annie Malone.

9. First Female Historian – Anna Komnene

The first female historian, Anna Komnene. Her work, the Alexiad, is one of the most important primary sources of 11th and 12th century Byzantine history.

Anna was born in 1083 in Constantinople to Alexios I Konmenos and Irene Doukaina. She was the emperor’s eldest child and thus became his heir along with her betrothed, Constantine Doukas. Unfortunately for Anna, her brother was born in 1087, removing her from the line of succession.

Anna was also highly involved in politics at the time and was implicated in several attempts to depose her brother, John, and take the throne for herself. Noting her intellectual capabilities, her father appointed her head of a 10,000-bed hospital and orphanage which he had built in Constantinople.

The Alexiad is not an unbiased account and it pushed the boundaries for what history was defined as which has brought criticism upon Anna – yet perhaps it is this that makes her and her work so important. It is the only historical work of Anna’s time which which offers an unparalleled view of the Byzantine world in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and was written by a woman.

10. First Female Leader of a National Government – Yevgenia Bosch

Yevgenia Bosch is sometimes considered the first modern woman leader of a national government, having been Minister of Interior and the Acting Leader of the provisional Soviet government of Ukraine in 1917.

For that reason she is also sometimes considered the first Prime Minister of Independent Ukraine.

RELATED: Women’s History: Female Firsts

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