You Might Not Know These Remarkable Women, but You Should

March 17, 2016

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some remarkable women you might not know about but should. From the halls of Congress to the U.N. to movie theaters, these women are blazing trails and empowering women and girls everywhere.

If you’re interested in Eleanor Roosevelt,

you should learn more about Dali Tan.

Dali Tan presents the findings of her report in a borrowed tent at the 1995 U.N. world conference held in Beijing.

Dali Tan presents the findings of her report in a borrowed tent at the 1995 U.N. world conference held in Beijing.

Dali Tan grew up hearing her father talk about how an American Catholic priest saved his life when he was gravely ill as a child in rural China. This story sparked her interest in learning about other countries and set her on an academic path to becoming a cultural bridge between two vastly different places. Tan attended college in China, where she studied Chinese and American literature, and then continued her studies in the United States. In 1991, she received an AAUW International Fellowship. After her fellowship year Tan and her sister, who is also a researcher, began investigating why Chinese girls drop out of school and published their findings in a report, Keeping Chinese Girls in School: Effective Strategies from Hubei Province. Soon after, Tan returned to China to present her findings — along with AAUW — at the 1995 U.N. world conference held in Beijing.


If you’re interested in Grace Murray Hopper,
you should learn more about Dorothy Stratton.

Black and white photo of women standing in their Marine Corps uniforms.

Left to right: Mildred Mc Afee, Lt. Commander, WAVES; Oveta Culp Hobby, Director, Women’s Army Corps; and Dorothy Stratton , Lt. Commander, SPARS in front of their wartime home, the AAUW headquarters at 1634 I St. NW. Image via AAUW Archives

Did you know that an AAUW member laid the groundwork for thousands of military women’s careers? Dorothy Stratton joined the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) in 1942 as a lieutenant. Later that year, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Public Law 773, creating the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve. During the search for a leader of the new group, AAUW General Director Kathryn McHale submitted names of qualified members to the president, including Stratton’s. Her endorsement succeeded; Roosevelt asked Stratton to head the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, and she accepted. Stratton named the group “SPAR” — after the first letters of the words semper paratus and its English translation, “always ready” — and recruited nearly 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 officers during her tenure.


If you’re interested in Alice Paul,
you should learn more about Martha Griffiths.

Martha Griffiths should be known for many things: She was the first woman elected to Congress from Michigan as a member of the Democratic Party, the first woman to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, and the first woman elected to serve as lieutenant governor of Michigan. But this former AAUW member should be best known as the “mother of the Equal Rights Amendment” for her strong support of the ERA, which was written by Alice Paul and sponsored by Griffiths as House Joint Resolution No. 208. Thanks to her efforts, the House adopted the resolution with a vote of 354-24 on October 12, 1971, and the Senate followed suit with a vote of 84-8 on March 22, 1972.

AAUW Research: Why Do Men Still Outnumber Women in Leadership?



If you’re interested in Patsy Mink,
you should learn more about Edith Green.

1968 Oregon Primary "Whistle stop train" Robert Kennedy, Edith Green and High School band members.

Edith Green and Robert F. Kennedy during the Oregon Primary in 1968.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Patsy Mink’s contributions to Title IX are so well-known that in 2002 Congress renamed it the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. But this famous AAUW member had help from another AAUW member: Edith Green. Known as the “mother of Title IX,” Green represented Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District for nearly 20 years. While in the House, she held the Subcommittee on Higher Education hearings in which the idea for Title IX was first proposed and assisted Mink in authoring early drafts of the legislation. She later worked closely with both Mink and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), the primary Senate sponsor of Title IX, to achieve the law’s passage in 1972.


If you’re interested in Lilly Ledbetter,
you should learn more about Aileen Rizo.


In 2009, AAUW member Aileen Rizo landed her dream job of working as a math consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) in Fresno, California, training instructors in new ways of teaching math. But just three years later, Rizo says that dream turned into a nightmare when she learned that a recently hired male colleague was being paid $12,000 more per year than she was, even though he was doing the same work and Rizo had more experience and seniority. After filing an internal complaint, Rizo alleges that the FCOE told her it based new employees’ salaries on just one factor: the employee’s prior salary history. She filed suit under the Equal Pay Act and California’s sex status discrimination statutes. Her case, Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, is still moving through the judicial system after an unfavorable ruling on April 27, 2017. With help from AAUW, Rizo also testified and advocated for California’s Fair Pay Act. The bill — which is one of  in the country — passed the California legislature in August 2015, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, and went into effect in January 2016. AAUW is proud to continue supporting Rizo through the Legal Advocacy Fund.


If you’re interested in Hillary Clinton,
you should learn more about Shirley Chisholm.

Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 campaigns owe a major debt of gratitude to Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, this former AAUW member became not only the first major-party black candidate for president of the United States but also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Despite the problems her campaign faced (including organizational and funding issues), Chisholm placed fourth in the roll-call tally at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.


If you’re interested in Kathryn Bigelow,
you should learn more about Afia Nathaniel.

An image of Afia Nathaniel on a black background
Much like Kathryn Bigelow rose to prominence for directing The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Pakistani filmmaker Afia Nathaniel is receiving attention for her poignant film, Dukhtar, about a mother fleeing Pakistan to protect her daughter from a child marriage. A computer scientist by training, Nathaniel turned to filmmaking after hearing a mother’s story of running away from the tribal areas of Pakistan with her two daughters, which became the inspiration for Dukhtar. She left Pakistan to pursue a master’s in film directing at Columbia University, with help from a 2003–04 AAUW International Fellowship. It took Nathaniel more than 10 years to bring the story to life on the big screen, but it was worth the wait. Dukhtar was Pakistan’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards. It has broken the silence about child marriage in Pakistan and helped spawn an awareness campaign, I Support Dukhtar.


Michelle Obama standing next to a quotation "As women, we must stand up for ourselves ... for each other ... for justice for all."

Women’s Words to Lead By

Women have been leaders throughout history, yet they still struggle when it comes to being represented and recognized equally to men.

AAUW's new research report looks at stereotypes about women leaders and how to beat them.

Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership

Why do men still vastly outnumber women in leadership positions? AAUW’s research report Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership explores this question.

Dorothy Height

7 Women of Color Who Fought for Gender Equality

Women of color routinely faced racism within the women’s suffrage movement. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, state laws and racial discrimination continued to keep women of color from voting.

By:   |   March 17, 2016


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  26. Karen Manelis says:

    Have always loved AAUW for it’s stance on lifelong learning. And today I learned something new (probably do that everyday, but ….). I have had the honor/pleasure of working in the Edith Green/Wendall Wyatt federal building in Portland, OR. Learned today that Cong. Green was a real Title IX champion …. and AAUW member/supporter. What a small world.

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