Women have made great strides in history, overcoming societal and cultural obstacles to achieve success.
From breaking barriers in the sciences to achieving groundbreaking firsts in politics, women are a powerful example of strength and tenacity.
This article will explore some of the most notable women firsts across the globe over the past century, highlighting their achievements and inspiring future generations of women to reach for greatness.
The accomplishments of women throughout history have been invaluable, yet often overlooked or minimized. In order to recognize the progress that has been made in gender equality, it is important to honor and celebrate the achievements of female pioneers who have broken down barriers in various fields.
Women have been making history for centuries by accomplishing firsts in a variety of fields. From the political arena to the sciences, women have broken down barriers and made their mark on history.
Women Firsts in Science and Technology
First woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics (Marie Curie)
In 1903, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics for her pioneering research in radioactivity. This achievement made Curie the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes and was widely seen as a major milestone for women in science.
First woman to become a computer programmer (Ada Lovelace)
In 1843, Ada Lovelace became the first woman to become a computer programmer after she wrote an algorithm for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. Lovelace was an English mathematician who recognized the potential of computers and their ability to process information beyond mathematical calculations.
First woman to win a Fields Medal in Mathematics (Maryam Mirzakhani)
This achievement made Mirzakhani the first woman to ever win the Fields Medal, an award given out every four years to recognize outstanding mathematicians under the age of 40. Her work was praised for its elegant solutions and remarkable insights into complex geometry problems, and her legacy will continue to inspire future generations of mathematicians.
Women Firsts in Politics and Leadership
First woman to be elected as a head of state (Sirimavo Bandaranaike)
In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first woman to be elected as a head of state when she was chosen as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
First woman to serve as a Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher)
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the first woman to serve as a Prime Minister when she was elected in the United Kingdom. During her tenure in office, Thatcher presided over an era of sweeping economic reforms and conservative policies that transformed the country’s political landscape.
First woman to be elected as a President (Golda Meir)
In 1969, Golda Meir became the first woman to be elected as a president when she was chosen as the Prime Minister of Israel. During her time in office, Meir focused on improving relations between Israel and its neighbors, while also advocating for social reforms within the country.
Women Firsts in Sports
First woman to win an Olympic gold medal (Charlotte Cooper)
In 1900, Charlotte Cooper became the first woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal when she won the tennis singles event at the Paris Games. A British athlete, Cooper had previously won five Wimbledon titles and was instrumental in pushing for the inclusion of female athletes at the Olympic Games.
First woman to run the Boston Marathon (Bobbi Gibb)
In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon after she defied the race committee’s ban on female runners.
First woman to climb Mount Everest (Junko Tabei)
In 1975, Junko Tabei made history when she became the first woman to climb Mount Everest. A Japanese mountaineer and explorer, Tabei took on the daunting task of scaling the world’s highest peak in an effort to inspire women around the globe.
Women Firsts in Arts and Literature
First woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction (Edith Wharton)
In 1921, Edith Wharton became the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her novel The Age of Innocence. A renowned author, Wharton’s writing often focused on the ironies of life in upper-class New York society during the 19th century.
First woman to win the Man Booker Prize (Kiran Desai)
In 2006, Kiran Desai became the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss. An Indian-born writer, Desai’s work often focuses on themes such as immigration, identity, and cultural alienation.
First woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow)
In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director when she was honored for her work on the film The Hurt Locker.
Women Firsts in Business and Entrepreneurship
First woman to start a Fortune 500 company (Katharine Graham)
In 1979, Katharine Graham became the first woman to start a Fortune 500 company when she took over as head of The Washington Post. A pioneering businesswoman, Graham was instrumental in transforming the paper into one of the most influential media outlets in the world.
First woman to become a self-made billionaire (Oprah Winfrey)
In 2003, Oprah Winfrey became the first woman to become a self-made billionaire when she achieved this milestone with her cable show, the Oprah Winfrey Show. An iconic figure in media, Winfrey has since become one of the most influential and powerful women in the world.
First woman to lead a major global corporation (Indra Nooyi)
In 2006, Indra Nooyi became the first woman to lead a major global corporation when she was appointed as CEO of PepsiCo. An Indian-born businesswoman, Nooyi has since become one of the most influential female executives in the world.
The accomplishments of women throughout history are remarkable and inspiring, from Bobbi Gibb becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon to Indra Nooyi becoming the first female CEO of a major global corporation. These groundbreaking achievements have blazed a path for women everywhere to follow in their footsteps and continue to break down barriers for generations to come.