25 of the Most Influential American Women in Public Service

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll be putting together weekly lists of some of America’s most influential women. This week, we honor twenty-five women who have contributed in some way to American public service.


Hattie Wyatt Caraway

Hattie Caraway
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The first woman to serve a term as US senator, Hattie Wyatt Caraway represented the state of Arkansas in the US Senate from 1931–1945. During her time in office, Caraway was a strong proponent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and took special interest in farmer relief and veterans’ affairs. Caraway was also the first woman to preside over the Senate, at the invitation of Vice-President Charles Curtis.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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While serving as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. As the senior member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, Justice Ginsburg is well-known for her strongly worded dissents, and is a strong supporter of gender equality and women’s reproductive rights. Between the time of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement and the appointment of Justice Sandra Sotomayor, Ginsberg was the only female Supreme Court Justice.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm
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The first African-American woman to run for President, Shirley Chisholm was also the first Black woman elected to the US Congress in 1968. Chisholm represented the state of New York in the US House of Representatives, where she was assigned to the House Agricultural Committee. Chisholm used her unique appointment to expand the food stamp program, and was integral to the founding of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. She was later posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer
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A leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Hamer was the co-founder of the Freedom Democratic Party, and helped to organize Mississippi’s Freedom Summer. Hamer suffered from multiple white supremacist attacks during her time as an activist, but persevered through the state of Mississippi’s voter restriction policies to register to vote. Hamer also suffered from severe police brutality while traveling in Mississippi, leading to permanent physical damage. However, she continued her activism, and later became a national party delegate for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).

Bella Abzug

Bella Savitsky Abzug
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Known for her campaign slogan “this woman’s place is in the House – the House of Representatives,” “Battling Bella” Abzug was a US Representative for New York state from 1971–1977. Abzug was known for her liberal politics, and was one of the first members of Congress to support gay rights. She was also a strong proponent of women’s rights, and helped to form the National Women’s Political Caucus with other leading feminists, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Nellie Tayloe Ross
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The first woman to be elected governor of a state, Nellie Tayloe Ross was sworn in as the 14th Governor of Wyoming. She served in office from 1925-1927 after the death of her husband, and was a staunch supporter of Prohibition. She also supported federal motions to prohibit child labor. After her term as governor, Ross was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first female director to the US Mint in 1933. Under her leadership, the mint began producing the Franklin half dollar. She ultimately served five terms before her retirement in 1953.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor
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The third woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009. In addition to being one of only four women to hold a justice position in the Supreme Court, Sotomayor is the Court’s first justice of Latin descent. Justice Sotomayor is known for her views on reforming the criminal justice system, particularly in relation to police brutality, the death penalty, and abuse within the prison system.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi
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The current minority leader in the US House of Representatives, Nany Pelosi became the first woman to serve as the Speaker of the House, making her the highest-ranking female politician in Congressional history. During her time as Speaker of the House, Pelosi blocked proposed impeachment proceedings of President George W. Bush, and also opposed his measures for the 2007 troop surge during the Iraq War. Pelosi is also a known supporter of women’s reproductive rights and environmental politics.

Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson
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Considered the creator of the modern-day office of First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson was the first to employ her own press secretary and chief of staff during her time as First Lady. She was also the first presidential wife to interact directly with Congress, though she utilized an outside liaison. Johnson was also an author, and wrote A White House Diary to detail her behind-the-scenes experience through the major events of her husband’s presidency.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor
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Now retired, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice after her nomination to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. A moderate Republican, O’Connor typically sided with the conservative side of the court, but in many cases cast the “swing vote” for a divided bench. O’Connor also served as Chancellor for The College of William & Mary, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins
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The US Secretary of Labor from 1933–1945, Frances Perkins was a workers-rights advocate, and the first woman appointed to the US Cabinet. A firm supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Perkins used many of the deal’s various acts to help aid the poor and elderly, including establishing unemployment benefits, pensions for elderly Americans, and welfare for the poor. She also helped to establish the first minimum wage laws, and worked to outline the modern forty-hour work week.

Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan
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An Associate Justice for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan is the fourth woman to be named to the Supreme Court. Kagan has served in many public service roles, including Associate White House Counsel, the first female dean of Harvard Law School, and as a policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. Kagan was also the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, representing the United States government before the Supreme Court.

Jeanette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin
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The first female ever elected to Congress, and the only woman elected to Congress from Montana, Jeanette Rankin served two terms in the US House of Representatives, first from 1917–1919, and again from 1941–1943. Rankin was a member of the Republican Party, and helped to establish the 19th Amendment, which provided unrestricted voting rights to women. Rankin was an outspoken advocate of gender equality and civil rights, and was a staunch supporter of pacifist foreign policy.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams
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The closest advisor of her husband, President John Adams, Abigail was the second First Lady of the United States. She was so politically active during her husband’s presidency that many of her detractors came to refer to her as “Mrs. President.” She and her husband were also the first Presidential couple to live in the (only semi-completed) White House after the national capital was moved to Washington D.C.

Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith
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First serving within the US House of Representatives for the state of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to ever serve in both houses of the US Congress. After winning a special election following the death of her husband, Smith was elected in her own right to the House in 1940. She was one of the first detractors of McCarthyism during the 1950s, and took special interest regarding issues of national security and the military. She was also known as a moderate Republican, as she often broke from her party to support efforts like President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Edith Wilson

Edith Wilson
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The First Lady from 1915 to 1921, Edith Wilson was the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, following the death of his first wife in 1914. Edith served as First Lady during World War I, during which she took many measures to support her husband’s policies, including instituting “meatless Mondays” and “wheatless Wednesdays” to support rationing efforts. In addition to her work during World War I, Wilson worked as a surrogate for the President following a stroke that left him paralyzed. This included screening papers before bringing them before her husband, and completing many of the President’s routine duties until he left office in 1921.

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull
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The first woman to run for President, Victoria Woodhull was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, and an advocate of women’s rights and labor reform. Woodhull made a fortune as a traveling healer before joining the spiritualist movement in the 1870s, and later developed firm beliefs in the free love movement, which aimed to separate the state from issues such as marriage, birth control, and divorce. Woodhull was also the first female stockbroker, and spent time working as a medium.

Madeleine Albright

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
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The first woman to be appointed as the US Secretary of State, Albright served from 1997 to 2001 with President Bill Clinton.  Previous to her appointment as Secretary of State, Albright had served on both the National Security Council, and as a US Ambassador to the United Nations. After emigrating to the United States in 1948, Albright quickly showed educational promise, and later became a professor at Georgetown University. In addition to her public service roles, Albright holds several honorary degrees, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Stanton
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One of the leaders of the first women’s rights movement, Stanton delivered the historic Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, which outlined the various rights women should have as US citizens. These rights included women’s suffrage, property rights in marriage, and equality in educational and employment opportunities. Stanton was also an avid abolitionist prior to her work in gender equality, and supported the temperance movement.

Barbara Mikulski

Barbara Mikulski
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The longest serving woman in the US Congress, Mikulski served as a senator to the state of Maryland for five terms, which recently ended in 2017. During her time in Congress, Mikulski was an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, and also helped to pass legislation to fund low-income families. Mikulski was re-elected by large majorities in each of her term reelections, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts in 2015.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt
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The longest-serving First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt was well-known during her lifetime for her work towards human rights causes and civil rights activism. In addition to serving as First lady for over ten years, Roosevelt was the first presidential wife to speak at a national party convention and hold regular press conferences. Roosevelt served as the first US delegate to the United Nations, and was widely regarded as one of the most respected women in the world at the time of her death in 1962.

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein
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A current senator for the state of California, Feinstein was the first woman to serve as mayor to the city of San Francisco, and one of the first female senators for the state. In addition to her accomplishments in office, Feinstein holds the distinction of having received the most popular votes in any US Senate election after receiving 7.75 million votes in the 2012 election. Feinstein is an avid supporter of both gun control and health care, and has served as a powerful superdelegate in previous presidential primary elections.

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice
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The first female African-American Secretary of State (and the second female Secretary of State overall), Condoleezza Rice served with President George W. Bush’s administration. Rice is known for championing Transformational Diplomacy, which aimed to expand democratic governments worldwide, and is the most traveled Secretary of State to date. Following her time in the US Cabinet, Rice returned to a professorship at Stanford University.

Susanna Madora Salter

Susanna Madora Salter
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Mayor of Argonia, Kansas from 1887–1888, Susanna Madora Salter was the first woman elected to an American public office. Although Salter’s term was largely uneventful, it received considerable national attention from the media, which began a debate over whether other towns might follow Argonia’s example. Salter was only paid one dollar for her year of service as mayor, and later moved to Oklahoma after declining to seek reelection.

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan
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A leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Jordan was one of the first African-American women elected to the US House of Representatives, and the first woman to represent the state of Texas in the House. Jordan was a supporter of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and sponsored over 300 bills within Congress during her tenure. Jordan was also the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic national Convention in 1976, and received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1994.










 
Posted: 3/29/2018 12:00:00 AM| with 0 comments


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