Women's History Timeline - Topic Search

Women's History Timeline - Topic Search

International Women  • Women and Slavery - The Civil Rights Movement  
Women's Suffrage • Women in Politics  • Women and Education

International Women’s History

1791: French activist Olympia de Gouges publishes Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne (“Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the [Female] Citizen”), in which she argues that women are citizens as much as are men. She goes to the guillotine in 1793.

1804: The Napoleonic Code of France considers women—like criminals, children, and the insane—to be legal minors. A woman's husband controls her property and, in the case of divorce, gets the children.

1817: The South African warrior queen Mmanthatisi becomes the leader of the Tlokwa (a southern Sotho group). She plans military strategy and leads the nation to a new homeland in Lesotho.

1862: In Sweden, single women who pay taxes win the right to vote in municipal elections.

1865: The University of Zürich becomes the first European university to admit women.

1868: In Thailand, Amdang Munan refuses to marry the man her parents picked for her. She prevails upon the king to rule that women may choose their own husbands.

1869: Married women in Britain gain the right to own property.

1872: In Japan, primary education for girls as well as boys is required by law.

1893: Largely through the efforts of suffragist Kate Sheppard, New Zealand becomes the first country to grant women the right to vote.

1905: Mohtaram Eskandari starts the Union of Patriotic Women, Iran's first organization for women. Religious leaders break up the first meeting and burn some of the women alive.

1906: Women in Finland win the right to vote.

1908: The government of Iran institutes a plan to improve women's literacy.

1913: Norwegian women win the right to vote.

1918: Canadian and British women are granted the right to vote, although in Great Britain a woman must be over age 30.

1930: White South African women get the right to vote.

1932: Women of Brazil and Thailand are granted the right to vote.

1933: Portugal's new constitution specifically denies women's equal rights.

1937: Women in the Philippines get the right to vote.

1946: Sudan's first modern women's organization, the Sudanese Women's League, is founded.

1947: The new Japanese constitution guarantees women's equality.

1948: In the newly created countries of Israel and South Korea, women win the right to vote.

1949: Argentinian Eva Perón founds the Peronista Feminist Party.

1958: The British House of Lords admits its first female members.

1964: Patsy Takemoto Mink, of Hawaii, is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years.

1971: Women in Switzerland win the right to vote.

1977: Nigerian women are granted the right to vote.

1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of Great Britain.

1983: Iranian women are required to wear the chador; the penalty for appearing unveiled is a prison sentence of 1 to 12 months.

1988: Benazir Bhutto becomes prime minister of Pakistan. She is the first woman leader of a Muslim country in modern history.

1990: Violeta Barrios de Chamorro is elected president of Nicaragua. She is Central America's first female president.

1996: A report on female genital mutilation urges international action to end the ancient rite of passage that has already been performed on roughly 100 million girls worldwide.

2004: Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai is awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, becoming the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize.

2007: Pratibha Patil becomes the first woman president of India

Women and Slavery/The Civil Rights Movement

1828: Former slave Isabella van Wagener obtains her freedom and later takes the name Sojourner Truth. She begins to preach against slavery throughout New York and New England. In 1850, she encounters the women’s rights movement and incorporates its cause to hers. In 1851 she delivers her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention to an enthralled audience, cementing her reputation as a dynamic speaker. During the Civil War she supports black volunteer regiments and is received by President Abraham Lincoln at the White House.

1849: Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland to Philadelphia. By the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Tubman will have returned to the South some 19 times and rescued upward of 300 other slaves.

1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most important antislavery novels in America; it sells 300,000 copies in the first year.

1896: The Supreme Court case of Plessey v. Ferguson allows segregation to exist as long as the facilities are “separate but equal.”

1955: The Montgomery, Alabama transportation system employs a segregated system on city buses where African-Americans are required to sit in the back rows of the bus. If all seats are full and a white person comes on the bus, African-Americans are required to give up their seat. Rosa Parks boards the bus on December 1, 1955 after a long day of work. After a few stops all seats are full and when the next white person gets on the bus, she is asked to give up her seat. She refuses, is arrested, and placed in jail. African-American community leaders come and pay her bail and soon organize a boycott to challenge the Montgomery transportation segregation laws.

1964: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time the Act establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties on sex discrimination.

Women’s Suffrage

1776: Abigail Adams is the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president. John and Abigail enjoy a long and spirited relationship with extended periods of written correspondence while John is away on government business. In reference to his work on the Declaration of Independence, she writes to remind him that women “will not hold ourselves bound by laws which we have no voice.”

1700s-early 1800s: Under common law, an unmarried woman can own property, make a contract and sue or be sued. A married woman gives up her name and all her property to her husband.

1848: The first woman's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Attended by 300 people including 40 men. Discussions range from the reforming marriage and property laws to a woman’s right to vote. In the end, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments calling for equal treatment of women and men under law and voting rights for women. The catalyst for this convention is the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840 and attended by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The women are forced to sit in the gallery as observers because they were women.

1850: Women are granted the right to own land in a state (Oregon)

1862: In Sweden, single women who pay taxes win the right to vote in municipal elections.

1868: The 14th Amendment is ratified but does not mention women; thus, they are continually denied the status of legal citizenship. However, also in 1868, women lawyers are licensed in the U.S.

1869: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association in order to win the constitutional right to vote.

1869: Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association, the objective of which is to gain voting rights for women through state constitutional amendments. The two associations will merge in 1890.

1869: Married women in Britain gain the right to own property.

1870: The 15th Amendment is passed enfranchising black men, but not women, with the right to vote.

1893: Colorado becomes the first state to grant women the right to vote and Utah and Idaho follow in 1896.

1906: Women in Finland win the right to vote.

1913: Norwegian women win the right to vote.

1918: Canadian and British women are granted the right to vote; although in Great Britain a woman must be over age 30.

1920: After over seventy years of struggle, women are finally granted the right to vote as the 19th Amendment is ratified. With most southern states against the Amendment, the vote comes down to the state of Tennessee where it passes by one vote in the Tennessee house. The deciding vote is cast by Representative Harry Burn who carried in his pocket a letter from his mother encouraging him to vote for women’s suffrage.

1930: White South African women get the right to vote.

1932: Women of Brazil and Thailand are granted the right to vote.

1933: Portugal's new constitution specifically denies women's equal rights.

1937: Women in the Philippines get the right to vote.

1947: The new Japanese constitution guarantees women's equality.

1948: In the newly created countries of Israel and South Korea, women win the right to vote.

1971: Women in Switzerland win the right to vote.

1977: Nigerian women are granted the right to vote.

Women in Politics

1776: Abigail Adams is the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president. John and Abigail enjoy a long and spirited relationship with extended periods of written correspondence while John is away on government business. In reference to his work on the Declaration of Independence, she writes to remind him that women “will not hold ourselves bound by laws which we have no voice.”

1817: The South African warrior queen Mmanthatisi becomes the leader of the Tlokwa (a southern Sotho group). She plans military strategy and leads the nation to a new homeland in Lesotho.

1916: Jeanette Rankin becomes the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, when most states don’t grant women the right to vote. She runs for Congress as a progressive Republican and wins serving one term, then unsuccessfully ran for the Senate. After a twenty year hiatus, working for anti-war organizations, Rankin successfully runs again for the House in 1940. She follows her conscience and votes against U.S. entry into World War II, as she had done in the previous war. She does not run for reelection, instead choosing to devote the rest of her life to promoting peace in the United States and abroad.

1933: Franklin D. Roosevelt appoints Frances Perkins secretary of labor, and she becomes the first American female cabinet member.

1934: Florence Ellinwood Allen becomes first woman on US Court of Appeals.

1940: Margaret Chase Smith is elected to fill her late husband's seat in the U.S. Congress; she becomes the first woman to serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

1949: Argentinian Eva Perón founds the Peronista Feminist Party.

1958: The British House of Lords admits its first female members.

1961: Eleanor Roosevelt is appointed to chair the Commission on the Status of Women by John F. Kennedy.

1964: Patsy Takemoto Mink, of Hawaii, is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years.

1975: Ella Grasso, from Connecticut, becomes the first woman governor to be re-elected.

1977: President Carter names Graciela Olivarez, a Hispanic lawyer, the Director of Community Services Administrations. Olivarez is the former chair of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of Great Britain.

1981: President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O'Connor to become the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. As an associate justice, O’Connor becomes the crucial swing vote for many cases where the Court is split along ideological lines.

1981: President Reagan nominates Jeane Kirkpatrick as the first woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

1988: Benazir Bhutto becomes prime minister of Pakistan. She is the first woman leader of a Muslim country in modern history.

1990: Violeta Barrios de Chamorro is elected president of Nicaragua. She is Central America's first female president.

1993: President Bill Clinton appoints Janet Reno to serve as the first woman U.S. Attorney General.

1997: Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright becomes first woman U.S. Secretary of State. Before that, she served as U.N. Ambassador.

2000: Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the only First Lady ever elected to the United States Senate.

2001: President Bush nominates Linda Chavez to Secretary of Labor, making her the first Hispanic woman to be nominated to a United States Cabinet position.

2005: Condoleezza Rice becomes the first African-American woman appointed Secretary of State.

2007: Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

2007: Pratibha Patil becomes the first woman president of India

2009: Sonia Sotomayor becomes the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

Women and Education

1784: Hanna Adams is the first American woman to support herself by writing.

1791: French activist Olympia de Gouges publishes Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne (“Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the [Female] Citizen”), in which she argues that women are citizens as much as are men. She goes to the guillotine in 1793.

1819: Emma Hart Willard writes her "Plan for Improving Female Education," which calls for a publicly funded educational institution for women. In 1821, she opens a school in Troy, NY with the tax funds from the city.

1826: The first public high schools for girls open in New York City and Boston.

1833: Oberlin College in Ohio opens as the first co-educational college in the U.S.

1838: Mount Holyoke College is established in Massachusetts as first college for women.

1849: Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Women doctors are permitted to legally practice medicine for the first time.

1850: The Female (later Women's) Medical College is founded in Pennsylvania.

1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most important antislavery novels in America; it sells 300,000 copies in the first year.

1863: Mary Edwards Walker becomes a surgeon for the Union army in the American Civil War. In 1865 she receives a Congressional Medal of Honor. It is revoked shortly before her death and then reawarded posthumously.

1865: The University of Zürich becomes the first European university to admit women.

1908: The government of Iran institutes a plan to improve women's literacy.

1919: Architect Julia Morgan designs several buildings for the University of California, Berkley, and later becomes William Randolph Hearst’s chief architect. She designs the Los Angeles Examiner Building and the Hearst Castle.

1921: American novelist Edith Wharton becomes the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel Age of Innocence.

1931: Jane Addams receives the Nobel Prize for Peace.

1972: Title IX of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in public schools resulting in the substantial increased enrollment of women in athletic programs and professional schools

1974: The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy becomes the first U.S. service academy to enroll women.

1981: Chinese American Maya Lin wins a public design competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while still an undergraduate architecture student at Yale University.

1993: France Anne Córdova becomes the first woman – and the youngest person – to hold the position of Chief Scientist for NASA.