It’s National Women’s History Month—where we get to celebrate the contributions of women to history and society and, well, the world. But while these names may be familiar to you as Beyoncé lyrics (we hope), we bet there’s some stuff you didn’t know about these legendary women.
We all know her as the steadfast, brave woman who wouldn’t give up her seat—but did you know she was also the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol? After her death in 2005 at the age of 92, the activist was brought to the rotunda at the U.S. Capitol, where she received a final tribute reserved for statesmen and military leaders—the first woman to receive such a tribute. More than 30,000 people paid their respects to her.
The first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court, and the third female justice ever—Sotomayor is one accomplished woman, and knew she was going to practice law since the age of ten. (Yes, ten.) First inspired by Nancy Drew books to become a detective, after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight, her doctor suggested trying a different goal. Her love of Perry Mason made her decide to pursue law. And she stuck to it.
Marilyn Monroe is known for her glamorous movie roles and iconic Hollywood status—but Monroe was also a trailblazer for women. After only being offered “dumb blonde” roles, Monroe took things in her own hands—after a film hiatus, she went into business with photographer Milton Greene and established Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1955—she was only the third woman ever to start a production company in the United States. But Monroe didn’t just fight for her own career—she fought for other amazing women in the industry as well. Case in point? When a club owner thought Ella Fitzgerald wasn’t glamorous enough to perform, Marilyn made it happen—by saying she’d sit in the front row and get people in the seats.
The feminist icon had a strong stance on marriage—as in, she would never—but everything changed in 2000, when at the age of 65, she married animal-rights activist David Bale. (Fun fact: He’s Christian Bale’s dad.) When pressed about changing her mind on marriage AKA what she used to term as “the model of slavery,” she said: “I didn’t change. Marriage changed. We spent 30 years in the United States changing the marriage laws. If I had married when I was supposed to get married, I would have lost my name, my legal residence, my credit rating, many of my civil rights. That’s not true anymore. It’s possible to make an equal marriage.”
Oprah Winfrey is obviously accomplished—but you may not have guessed that she started racking up the accomplishments at such a young age. Raised by her maternal grandparents, the Tennessee native attests that she learned how to read at the age of three, and that on the second day of kindergarten, she gave her teacher a note that read: “I don’t think I belong here ’cause I know a lot of big words.” The teacher agreed and she skipped to first grade. Driven is kind of an understatement at this point.
From being the first lady, to becoming the first woman elected to the New York senate, to being the first woman to be made a full partner at Rose Law Firm—Hillary has had a series of amazing firsts. But her ambitions early on always seemed to be met with resistance from organizations, and, well, men. When writing to NASA as a young girl to ask how she could become an astronaut, NASA nicely replied that there was not a program for female astronauts and that they don’t “contemplate any such plan.” Later, after being accepted to both Yale and Harvard law schools, a friend introduced her to a professor at Harvard Law by saying that Hillary was trying to decide between the school and its “competitor.” His reply? “First of all, we have no nearest competitor, and secondly, we don’t need any more women.” She chose Yale.
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