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There’s a first time for everything and as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris famously stated, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”
Amen to that.
Here are a handful of the many historic female firsts in the United States. Take note of how several of these women did not live for more than 50 years.
We’re looking forward to more future female firsts, seconds, thirds, and beyond.
In 2003, Kamala Harris became the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco and started a program that gives first-time drug offenders the chance to earn a high school diploma and find employment.
Harris was elected as the first African-American and first woman to serve as California’s Attorney General and worked tirelessly to hold corporations accountable and protect the state’s most vulnerable people.
Although she was an enslaved person, Phillis Wheatley Peters was one of the best-known poets in pre-19th century America.
In 1776, Margaret Corbin dressed as a man and joined her husband in the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. She helped him load his cannon, and when he was killed, she took over firing the cannon against the British.
She was eventually struck by enemy fire, which nearly severed her left arm and severely wounded her jaw and left breast. Corbin was unable to use her left arm for the rest of her life.
In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first female lawyer in the United States, admitted to the Iowa bar; she made her career as a college educator and administrator.
Victoria Woodhull 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.
In 1872, Woodhull became the first woman candidate for the United States presidency. She ran for the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights.
Maggie Lena Walker was an African-American businesswoman and teacher. Walker was the first African-American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president in the United States.
Alice Allison Dunnigan was the first African American female correspondent at the White House and the first black female member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries.
Joanne Conte was the first openly transgender person to be elected to a city council in the United States. She served on city council from 1991–1995 in Arvada, Colorado.
Courtney Mannion is a social media manager and graphic designer for Careful Feet Digital. She received her BFA in Photography from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010 and served as Social Media Manager and content creator/director for Urban Outfitters’ Richmond, Virginia, store in 2015. Courtney has been doing freelance graphic design for nine years and has been with Careful Feet Digital for two years. She currently lives in Richmond with her cat Skittles and enjoys art, community engagement, music, and plants.
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Adventures in Perimenopause, essays by women in perimenopause and menopause
In My Prime: interviews with women thriving in midlife
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