25 of the Most Influential American Women of Industry

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 made their mark upon an American industry.
 




Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart 1935
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Although Earhart is perhaps best known for her mysterious disappearance after attempting to circumnavigate the globe, she was already an accomplished aviator and author prior to her fatal flight. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and later went on to be the first aviator in history to fly from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California, in 1935. She also worked as an associate editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans
Image via Wikimedia Commons

An American businesswoman and philanthropist, Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans was the first woman to serve on the board of directors for a major American corporation. Lettie served as the head of the Whitehead Holding Company, Whitehead Realty Company, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company after the death of her first husband in 1906. Under her leadership, Coca-Cola’s bottling ventures and her own personal fortunes flourished.

Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham
Image via Wikimedia Commons

The first female publisher of an American newspaper, Katharine Graham was the publisher of The Washington Post from 1963 to 1979. In addition to becoming the first female Fortune 500 CEO in 1972, Graham also oversaw The Post when it became the first reporter of President Nixon’s Watergate scandal after publishing the content of the Pentagon Papers.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Although no images of Eliza Lucas Pinckney have survived, she changed the agricultural landscape of early colonial South Carolina after introducing indigo to the region – the cultivation of the indigo plant (and its subsequent processing into dye) came to account for a third of the colony’s exports prior to the Revolutionary War, and was considered a major cash crop.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madame CJ Walker
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Born Sarah Breedlove, Madam C.J. Walker became the first female self-made millionaire in America after developing a line of hair products for Black women in the late 19th century. Many of these products, like Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, helped catapult Walker to national fame. In addition to her line of hair products, Walker taught other Black women how to manage a business, and encouraged them to follow in the same entrepreneurial path she had.

Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Although she was raised in Canada, Florence Nightingale Graham (better known as Elizabeth Arden) went on to popularize makeup within America, lifting the products - which had previously been associated with lower classes - to a daily necessity for the middle-class woman. Arden traveled the world learning about proper makeup techniques, and built an international makeup empire that flourished even in the heights of the Great Depression.

Brownie Wise

Brownie Wise
Image via Brownie Wise Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

A sales representative, Brownie Wise went on to be the major driving force behind the success of Tupperware products after she developed the “party plan” marketing system. Under her marketing method, Tupperware was sold through customers at home parties, which doubled as sales presentations. Wise went on to be vice president of Tupperware Home Parties in 1951.

Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler
Image via Mattel FaceBook

A businesswoman and inventor, Ruth Handler was a co-founder of Mattel Inc., but is perhaps best known as the creator of the Barbie doll. After observing that her daughter preferred to pretend her paper dolls were adults, Handler developed the Barbie doll, which took off after being advertised by Disney in the late 1950s. Today, over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart
Image via Wikimedia Commons

The founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Stewart is well-known nationwide as a lifestyle guru and media mogul. After beginning as a stock broker and caterer in the 60’s, Stewart went on to develop Martha Stewart Living Magazine and several other profitable ventures to help educate women in home decorating, cooking, and other domestic interests.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
Image by Disney ABC via Flickr

Known as the “Queen of All Media,” Oprah is one of the most well-known names in television and news reporting. Starting as a radio broadcaster in high school, Oprah quickly went on to become a TV personality on local Chicago talk shows, before becoming nationally syndicated with her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. Today, Oprah leads the Oprah Winfrey Network, an American television station.

Rebecca Pennock Lukens

A businesswoman, Rebecca Lukens was the owner and manager of a steel and iron mill in the 19th century which went on to become the Lukens Steel Company, which was in operation until the 1990’s. Lukens is credited with being America’s “first female CEO of an industrial company” by Fortune Magazine, and was elected to the National Business Hall of Fame in 1994.

Kate Gleason

Kate Gleason Gravestone
Image by Daniel Penfield (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The first woman to be admitted to study engineering at Cornell, Catherine “Kate” Gleason was a prominent figure at her family’s machine tool company, Gleason Works. The company, which is still in operation today, owes a good portion of its success to Gleason, who toured Europe in 1893 to help the company open up to an international market.

Juanita Morris Kreps

Juanita Morris Kreps
Image via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to being the first woman director of the New York Stock Exchange, Kreps was also a director at Eastman Kodak, J.C. Penney, and the first female vice-president of Duke University. Her success as an economist and leader led to her later becoming the first economist and female Secretary of Commerce under President Jimmy Carter.

Margaret Knight

M.E. Knight Paper-Bag Machien
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed the “most famous 19th-century woman inventor,” Margaret Knight was an American inventor who received over 20 patents during her lifetime. She was one of the first women to be awarded a U.S. patent, which she was granted for a paper feeding machine. Knight is also to thank for the invention of the flat-bottomed paper bag, and a compound rotary engine.

Sarah Josepha Hale

Sarah Hale
Image via Wikimedia Commons

An influential writer and editor, Sarah Hale was raised in a family that believed in equal education for both genders, a rare ideology for the 19th century. Hale’s education led to her becoming the first female editor of a major woman’s magazine, Ladies’ Magazine. This magazine was later merged with the famous Godey’s Lady Book, where Hale served as editor for forty years.

Caresse Crosby

Caresse Crosby
Image via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to being the first person to receive a patent for the modern bra in 1914, Crosby was an active patron of the arts, and founded the Black Sun Press with her husband Harry. The publishing house was the first to publish early works of many famous American authors, such as Ernest Hemingway, or Charles Bukowski.

Katharine Burr Blodgett

Katharine Burr Blodgett
Image via Wikimedia Commons

The first woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge in 1926, Katharine Burr Blodgett is credited with the invention of Langmuir-Blodgett film, a nonreflective coating which created “invisible,” or nonreflective glass. This film is still widely used today, and enabled the development of modern eyeglasses, movie projectors, cameras, and military technology.

Debbi Fields

The founder and spokesperson of Mrs. Fields Bakeries, Debra “Debbi” Fields worked as an Oakland Athletics “ball girl” to save money for her cookie ingredients. After beginning her cookie empire in Palo Alto, California, in the 1970s, it has since grown to over 600 US retail stores, and over 80 international locations.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington
Image by David Shankbone (Own work) [CC by 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally born in Athens, Arianna Huffington became a popular conservative political commentator in the 1990s, before going on to co-found and lead the liberal Huffington Post in 2005. Huffington led The Huffington Post until 2011, when the news site was acquired by AOL. At that time, Huffington became the President and Editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which includes the Huffington Post, and other AOL ventures.

Hedy Lamar

Hedy Lamar
Image via Wikimedia Commons

A successful actress of Hollywood’s Golden Era, Lamar is also credited with inventing a radio guidance system for torpedoes during World War II, which worked to circumvent Axis radio jamming attempts. Although the US military did not adopt Hedy’s technology until the 1960s, tenets of her work are included today in Bluetooth technology and modern Wi-Fi.

Mary Katherine Goddard

Mary Katherine Goddard
Image via Wikimedia Commons

An early postmaster for Baltimore, Mary Katherine Goddard was also the first female American printer and publisher – in addition to publishing the revolutionary-era Maryland Journal, Goddard was the first to print a copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the typeset names of the signatories.

Olive Ann Beech

Olive Ann Beech
Image via Wikimedia Commons

A businesswoman, Olive Ann Beech was the co-founder, president, and chairwoman of the Beech Aircraft Company. Referred to as the “First Lady of Aviation,” Beech led the aircraft company with her husband until his later illness and death in the 1940s, after which she took control of the company, and produced many of the more popular military planes of the era.

Estée Lauder

Estee Lauder
Image via Wikimedia Commons

A modern household beauty name, Josephine Esther Mentzer (better known as Estée Lauder) began her career in cosmetics by selling her uncle’s beauty products to local friends and businesses. After achieving success with his products, Lauder went onto develop a perfume called “Youth-Dew” in 1953. Youth-Dew became one of her most popular fragrances, and is still in production today.

Biddy Mason

Biddy Mason
Image via Wikimedia Commons

After suing her former masters for her freedom in 1860, Bridget “Biddy” Mason worked for ten years to save enough money to buy two lots on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California, becoming the first African American woman to own property in the area. She rented out half of this property to various tenants, and engaged in various other real estate pursuits to accumulate a fortune of nearly $300,000 (approximately $6 million today).

Clara Barton

Clara Barton
Image via Wikimedia Commons

An American nurse prior to the development of any centralized nursing school, Clara Barton was a self-taught pioneer of her time, and served as a prominent medical professional during the Civil War. Barton also achieved recognition for founding the American branch of the Red Cross, which provided aid during several natural disasters under Barton’s leadership.


Find books from Arcadia Publishing about Women in American History.


Is there an influential American woman of industry you think we missed? Comment below!





 
Posted: 3/14/2018 12:00:00 AM| with 0 comments


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