Famous Women in History
March is National Women’s History Month! Use it as a time to teach the young people in your life about the accomplishments of women with examples from history and from your own family.
To help you get started, here are five of whyzz.com’s favorite historical women and some kid-friendly information on each!
Susan B. Anthony
In the United States, people get their voices heard by voting in elections. Anyone over the age of eighteen can vote, but there was a time not too long ago when that wasn’t true! African American men couldn’t vote until 1870. Women weren’t allowed to vote until 1920!
Susan B. Anthony lived from 1820 to 1906. During her life, she fought for equal voting rights for all Americans. She wanted African Americans, women, and everyone else to be able to have their say in government. To her, it did not matter what color skin a person had or if they were a man or woman. She felt everyone should have the same rights.
She organized conventions and made many speeches about equal voting. She was even president of the National American Women Suffrage Association. Suffrage might sound like a bad thing, but it actually means the right to vote!
Susan B. Anthony died fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote, but her efforts during her life played a huge part in making the Nineteenth Amendment happen!
Amelia Earhart was born on July 14, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. She is famous for being a brave and adventurous aviator, an advocate for women in the air-travel industry, and most specifically for being the first woman to ever fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean!
When Earhart first began flying in the 1920s, the aviation industry was still quite new, and it was out of the ordinary for women to fly. Planes did not have the technology that they have today, and flying could involve some risk. But Earhart had fallen in love with aviation and was determined to pursue her passion!
After she’d been flying for a few years, Earhart was invited to fly as a passenger on a transatlantic flight. That might not sound like a big deal, but at the time, no woman had ever been on that trip! Her participation in the flight (which took place June 17–18, 1928) earned her great fame even though she hadn’t piloted the plane, and she became determined to prove she truly deserved the praise!
On May 20–21, 1932, Earhart not only became the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic, but she also did so in record time! About three years later, she flew solo from Hawaii to California, making her not only the first woman to fly that route but also the first person to successfully complete it! It also made her the first person to have flown solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Aside from her record-breaking flights, Earhart also made a name for herself by writing books about her experiences and endorsing luggage and clothes for female fliers. She was a symbol of what could be accomplished by perseverance!
Helen Keller lived from 1880–1968. Although she was born with sight and hearing, Helen lost both as the result of illness when she was just nineteen months old. She is famous for learning to read, write, and communicate in spite of her impairments, and for many other exceptional accomplishments!
Having grown up without sight or hearing from such a young age, Helen had no way of communicating with the world around her until 1887, when Anne Sullivan (later Anne Sullivan Macy) began working as Helen’s teacher. Anne tried to teach Helen the names of things by tracing their spelling into her hand, but it was difficult for Helen to make the connection between the fingerspelling and the objects.
Even though it didn’t work right away, Anne persisted, and Helen eventually came to understand the system for communication! Helen then learned at a rapid pace that exceeded that of most other people of the time who had the same or similar disabilities. In addition to the fingerspelling system, Helen learned to read (raised print and Braille), write (using traditional and Braille typewriters), and to understand others while they spoke by touching their throat and lips.
Helen became the first deaf-blind person to ever enroll in a higher learning institution, and the first to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, too. Helen was able to go through college thanks to the help of Anne, who fingerspelled every single lecture and every single book into Helen’s hand!
Following school, Helen (with Anne still by her side) spent time writing books about her experiences, advocating for other people with seeing and hearing disabilities, and traveling to help fundraise for institutions like the American Foundation for the Blind.
Born on February 4, 1913, Rosa Parks is often known as “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” As a Black woman living in Alabama, she experienced the early parts of her life under what is known as “racial segregation,” where people were treated differently based on the color of their skin, particularly in the South. People with lighter skin had privileges and opportunities that people with darker skin weren’t given. It wasn’t a fair way to treat people, and it wasn’t right. The Civil Rights Movement, which Mrs. Parks played a big part in, was a major effort to end this unfair treatment through peaceful protests and demonstrations.
What Mrs. Parks came to be best known for happened on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, even though the city’s rules of racial segregation said she had to do. She was arrested and fined for violating these rules, which upset many people who knew it wasn’t right to have these rules, and that it wasn’t right to arrest and fine Mrs. Parks for taking a stand against them!
Four days later, on December 5, Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a boycott of the Montgomery municipal buses. The boycott lasted for over a year (382 days), which really showed people that African American citizens were serious about fixing the unfair way they were being treated! The boycott, triggered by Mrs. Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat, is often seen as the first moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
For her courage and bravery, Mrs. Parks not only became a key figure in American history, but also was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1996) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1999). In 2005, Mrs. Parks passed away when she was ninety-two years old. So that people could pay their respects, her casket was displayed in the U.S. Capitol, a distinction usually given only to Presidents. She was the first woman and second African American in history to receive this honor!
Eleanor Roosevelt, who lived from 1884–1962, is often known as “The First Lady of the World.” She was the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is remembered for her work as a humanitarian (someone who helps others) and as a powerful, outspoken First Lady!
Eleanor Roosevelt lived during a time when women were not always considered equal to men. There were also many racial inequalities at this time. Much of the work she did was considered controversial because she supported equal rights for all people (regardless of race or gender) at a time when much of the public had still not accepted that as fair. She also worked for some time as a teacher, wrote a newspaper column daily, held special White House conferences, and spent time speaking out for her various causes at meetings and conferences, bringing those subjects into the spotlight and prompting change! In spite of doing things that were often controversial or unpopular, Eleanor maintained many people’s respect because she conducted herself honorably and with good manners.
In addition to her volunteering and other work, Eleanor also traveled and toured on behalf of her husband during his political career and presidency. Because he had suffered from polio (a disease that left him paralyzed from the waist down), Eleanor often had to step in as his “eyes and ears.” She also led a committee on human rights while serving as a delegate to the United Nations, helping to create a special document that declared equal and fair treatment for all people around the world!
Ideas to Explore
While teaching the young ones in your life about these (and other!) important historical women, talk about some of the common themes that emerge. What are the qualities these women have in common? Some ideas might be persistence, integrity, bravery, and holding strong to beliefs about what is right. Help your children name some people from their own lives who have these same qualities!