Tuesday 31 Mar, 2015

8 American Heroines You Haven’t Heard Of

Lady Justice statue with blue sky background

Who was Sybil Ludington? How about Agent 355? History books don’t always tell the whole story, and many influential women are often left out. So to cap off Women’s History Month, we’re shining the spotlight on some of America’s impressive female leaders who don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

Dr. Antonia Novello
Dr. Antonia Novello was both the first woman and the first Hispanic person to serve as Surgeon General. She fought for better medical care for women and minorities, while also spearheading the government’s memorable campaign against Joe Camel and other tobacco advertising aimed at kids.

Amelia Boynton
Amelia Boynton was a matriarch of the civil rights movement, credited with convincing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to work in Alabama in 1965. She was also the first African American, and the first woman, to run for congress in Alabama. She even won 11% of the vote—an amazing achievement for the time.

Jean Jennings Bartik
Though Silicon Valley is male-dominated these days, women were most of the world’s first computer programmers. Women like Jean Jennings Bartik. This ace mathematician landed a job working on one of the world’s first commercial computers around 1945.

Alice Coachman
A track and field star, Alice Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She finally got the chance to win in 1948, after the previous two Olympics had been canceled due to World War II.

Agent 355
Agent 355 was one of George Washington’s most important spies during the Revolutionary War. Posing as a socialite, she’d get close to British officers in order to acquire information. It’s said she played a major role in bringing down traitorous American general Benedict Arnold. Her true identity is unknown to this day.

Sybil Ludington
Imagine Paul Revere rode for twice as long, at half his age. That’s Sybil. One rainy night in April 1777, she set out to warn American troops that the British were coming. Her midnight ride through New York stretched 40 miles, and she took it when she was just 16. George Washington later honored her as a hero.

Jessie Redmon Fauset
The Harlem Renaissance, a 1920s artistic and intellectual movement, wouldn’t have had the vision and influence it did without her. Jessie Redmon Fauset was the editor of The Crisis, this period’s seminal magazine, during its most prolific period of publishing. She worked closely with famed writers like Langston Hughes and Claude McKay.

Emily Warren Roebling
Over the course of the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction, Emily Warren Roebling grew into the role of Chief Engineer—though most workers assumed she was simply relaying messages from her husband. The bridge was completed in 1883 and continues to be a signature icon of New York City.

These women made a difference in communities throughout the U.S. Bring history to life and discover the places they impacted most on an EF Explore America educational tour.

Want more women’s history? Check out our creative lesson plan.