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Our Favorite Facts About Amazing Women

History is filled with the stories of amazing women, from female pirates to tirelesscivil rights advocates. And while many of these stories are important feminist firsts, some feature the quirkier side of women’s history — like the famed mystery writer who helped popularize surfing. From women who authored important legal arguments to those whose inventions made our lives easier, here are 25 facts that will help you celebrate Women’s History Month.

Women Were the First Beer Brewers

On the list of things women don’t get enough credit for, being the first to brew beer might not seem like the most important. But fermented beverages have played a vital role in human culture for almost as long as society has existed, providing nutrients, enjoyment, and often a safer alternative to drinking water before the advent of modern sanitation. Scholars disagree over exactly when beer was first introduced — the earliest hard evidencefor barley beer comes from 5,400-year-old Sumerian vessels that were still sticky with beer when archaeologists found them — but one thing has never been in question: “Women absolutely have, in all societies, throughout world history, been primarily responsible for brewing beer,” says Theresa McCulla, who curates the Smithsonian’s American Brewing History Initiative.

Ada Lovelace Is Often Considered the World’s First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace followed a path many considered impossible for a woman in the early 19th century. Encouraged by her mother, Lady Byron, Lovelace developed a passion for mathematics at a young age. In 1833, a 17-year-old Lovelace met British mathematician Charles Babbage at a party, and he told her about a calculating machine he’d created called the Difference Engine. Fascinated, Lovelace eventually began a regular correspondence with Babbage.

About a decade later, while translating a French text regarding Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine — often considered the first mechanical computer — Lovelace added a few notes of her own. “Note G” detailed a method through which Babbage’s creation could calculate complex numbers called Bernoulli numbers. This is often considered the world’s first computer program, making Lovelace the first computer programmer. And while Babbage was the brains behind the machine, Lovelace was the one who truly grasped its wider importance, foreseeing a future where engines could use the “abstract science of operations” to do things beyond mere computation.

In fact, many early computer programmers were women. In the 1940s and ’50s, engineering computers was perceived as a man’s profession, but programming them was considered secretarial. As a result, many women took jobs as programmers — helping Alan Turing crack the Enigma Machine during World War II, writing instructions for the world’s first general-purpose computer called ENIAC, and creating the world’s first compiler (a program that translates programming languages into machine languages). According to government data, around 27% of programmers in 1960 were women. In 2013, that number was 26% and falling. Today, many leading universities are working hard to reverse that trend.

Lucille Ball Helped Get “Star Trek” on TV

As the first female head of a major Hollywood studio — Desilu Productions, which Lucille Ball formed with then-husband Desi Arnaz but took over by herself after their divorce in 1960 — Ball helped produce some of the most influential television shows of all time. She was particularly instrumental in getting Star Trek on the air.There was apparently some trepidation by Desilu board members when it came to the budget of the ambitious series, leaving Ball to personally finance not one but two pilots of the science fiction mainstay. One studio accountant, Edwin “Ed” Holly, even claimed: “If it were not for Lucy, there would be no Star Trek today.”

Ching Shih Was a Legendary Female Pirate

Not all pirates were men: Ching Shih was a fearless female pirate from China. Following the 1807 death of her husband Cheng I, who was head of the powerful Red Flag Fleet, she unofficially commanded a fleet of 1,800 pirate ships and approximately 80,000 men. She also took control of the Guangdong Pirate Confederation and spent the following years waging battle — and winning — against the Portuguese Empire, the Chinese Navy, and Britain’s East India Company. She’s widely considered one of the most successful piratesof all time.

Before Rosa Park, Claudette Colvin Refused to Give Up Her Seat on the Bus

Nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, the same thing happened to 15-year-old Claudette Colvin. So why was the Parks incident the one that ignited the Montgomery bus boycott and transformed the issue into a national story? As Colvin herself later conceded, the then-42-year-old Parks, a secretary for the NAACP, was considered by some to be a more respectable symbol for the boycott, particularly after it was discovered that the unwed Colvin had become pregnant.

Nevertheless, Colvin wound up playing a crucial role as events unfolded: She was named a plaintiff in the 1956 Browder v. Gayle case that challenged the constitutionality of Alabama's segregated buses and provided the legal backbone for the boycott's triumph. Colvin left Alabama soon after and spent most of the following decades living anonymously in New York City, though her contributions have finally earned some long-overdue recognition in recent years.

St. Lucia Is the Only Country Named After a Woman

While Ireland is named after the mythical goddess Éiru, there’s only one sovereign nationin the world named for a real-life woman. That distinction lies with St. Lucia, a Caribbean island nation christened in honor of St. Lucy of Syracuse, patron saint of the blind, who died around the fourth century CE.

St. Lucia was initially called Louanalao(meaning “Island of the Iguanas”) by the Indigenous Arawak people as early as 200 CE. It was in 1502 that the origins of its current nameformed, when shipwrecked French sailors dubbed the place “Sainte Alousie.” It was a common practice at the time to name islands after saints, and legend has it that the sailors reached the island on December 13 — St. Lucy’s feast day. Given the date’s significance, December 13 is now celebrated in the country as the National Day of St. Lucia. The Spanish who arrived around 1511 named the island “Sancta Lucia”; the current name formed after waves of colonization by the English and French.

While female namesakes are rare on a national level, one woman has lent her name to dozens of smaller locations. The name of Queen Victoria, the U.K.'s reigning monarch from 1837 to 1901, appears in the titles of locations around the globe, such as the provincial capital of British Columbia, Canada, and Zimbabwe’s breathtaking Victoria Falls. You'd be hard-pressed to find an American woman with influence so vast. Even in the U.S., only a handful of places are named for women, including Barton County, Kansas — named after Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross — and Dare County, North Carolina, honoring Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents to be born in the New World.

Cleopatra Was a Victim of Roman Propaganda

Cleopatra’s legacy is so complicated because it tangles with historical biases against strong, female rulers and the propaganda of the early Roman Empire. Today, most people know Cleopatra as a seductress, one who had romances with two of the most powerful Roman leaders in the first century BCE, and who used her sex appeal to manipulate geopolitics in her favor. However, the source of many of these colorful tales is Octavian’s (later Caesar Augustus’) propaganda machine; he launched the equivalent of a fake news campaign to discredit the foreign queen and his rival Mark Antony. When Octavian proved victorious against Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, the victors became the authors of history, and it has taken millennia for scholars to learn more about the real life of this fascinating final pharaoh.

Amelia Earhart Once Took Eleanor Roosevelt on a Nighttime Joyride

Although her aviation career lasted just 17 years, Amelia Earhart remains one of the most famous people ever to take to the sky. In addition to being renowned for her many firsts — including being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person to fly alone from Hawaii to the mainland U.S. — she’s known for her 1937 disappearance and the many theories it spawned. Less well known but considerably more fun to imagine is the time she took Eleanor Roosevelt on a nighttime joyride from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on April 20, 1933. The brief flight took place with both of them in their evening wear following a White House dinner party.

“I’d love to do it myself. I make no bones about it,” the First Lady told the Baltimore Sun after the flight. “It does mark an epoch, doesn't it, when a girl in an evening dress and slippers can pilot a plane at night.” In fact, Roosevelt herself had recently received a student pilot license and briefly took over the controls of the twin-engine Curtiss Condor, borrowed from Eastern Air Transport at nearby Hoover Field. Eleanor's brother Hall also ditched the dinner party in favor of the flight that night, as did Thomas Wardwell Doe, the president of Eastern Air Transport, and Eugene Luther Vidal (head of the Bureau of Air Commerce) and his wife Nina Gore, parents of author Gore Vidal. When the y plane returned after the short journey, the Secret Service guided everyone back to the White House table for dessert. Roosevelt and Earhart remained friends for the rest of Earhart’s life, sharing an interest in women’s causes, world peace, and of course, flying.

A Woman Invented Disposable Coffee Filters

Melitta Bentz’s invention is one coffee drinkers now take for granted, but it was revolutionary in the early 1900s. At the time, other home brewing methods required a lot of time and cleanup — not to mention a tolerance for bitter coffee and sludgy grounds at the bottom of your mug. While pricey cloth coffee filters were available, they were used like tea bags, steeping grounds in hot water that produced a subpar cup and a mess. Many coffee connoisseurs brewed their morning java in percolators, but those could leave a burnt taste and failed to filter out smaller grounds.

Bentz, a German woman with an affinity for coffee, was determined to find a better brewing process that didn’t require extensive cleanup. During one experiment, she reached for notebook paper as a potential liner, filling the makeshift filter with coffee grounds. She placed the filter inside a pot she had punched holes in and poured hot water over the grounds, allowing brewed coffee to cleanly drip through to a cup below. With the creation of drip coffee brewing, Bentz began producing the paper filters at home, and was granted a patent for her drip-cup apparatus in 1908. With help from her family, she launched a line of drip-coffee makers and filters in 1909, branding the items with her own first name. Bentz died in 1950, but her company — now run by her grandchildren — produces nearly 50 million coffee filters each day.

The Origin Story of the “Bra-Burning Feminist” Is a Myth

Think of the Swinging ’60s and you might imagine one of the most popular stereotypes: women burning their brassieres to protest society’s rigid rules. The stunt has been referenced in discussions about gender equity for decades — but it turns out it never actually happened at the event most often mentioned in connection with it. Here’s what did: On September 7, 1968, members of the group New York Radical Women gathered outside the Miss America Pageant on New Jersey’s Atlantic City boardwalk to protest the event. Their argument? The pageant degraded women by promoting unrealistic beauty standards and strict social expectations. The protest was also meant to highlight larger issues American women faced, such as being denied their own credit cards or the right to continue working during pregnancy. Protest organizers originally planned to burn items related to their discontent, such as bras and makeup, but local police shut down the stunt, citing safety concerns around a fire on the boardwalk. Instead, the group hauled out a metal “freedom trash can,” which became a disposal site for undergarments, cookware, wigs, and issues of Playboy magazine — all items participants deemed “instruments of female torture.” The gathering also crowned a live sheep in a mockery that compared beauty pageant participants to fairground show animals.

Even without a blaze, bra burning became synonymous with the women’s liberation movement. A New York Post article linking the pageant protest with draft card burning misconstrued events, an error some historians say popularized the belief that feminists were setting fire to their undergarments. And while it’s possible that later demonstrations inspired by the fictitious fire actually torched a bra or two, large-scale bra burnings weren’t recorded events. Some activists believe the lingerie legend overshadowed the event’s larger message, but that it wasn’t all bad — the famed protest helped catapult the women’s equality movement into mainstream conversations.

Nellie Bly’s Reporting Improved Mental Illness Treatment

In 1887, Nellie Bly launched her first undercover story for The New York World, becoming a “girl stunt reporter,” part of a then-popular movement of female reporters who embedded themselves in investigations to expose dangerous working conditions, corrupt public figures, and social atrocities. Bly’s initial investigation involved a 10-day stay at the infamous Blackwell’s Island Asylum in New York City, where women experiencing mental health crises (as well as others sent there for a variety of reasons, including not speaking English) were subjected to cruel “treatments,” rotten food, and abuse. After her release, Bly penned a story that exposed the institution’s horrors and led to public calls for improved conditions, including a grand jury investigationand budget increases to properly house and help patients. It also became one of her most famous books, titled Ten Days in a Mad-House.

Idaho Has the Only State Seal Designed by a Woman

State seals are often crimped or stamped on legal documents, lending them authenticity. Yet these small symbols have another role, as miniature visual histories specific to each state, often simultaneously representing hopes for the future. At least that’s how artist Emma Edwards Green viewed the seal she created for Idaho in 1891 — which just so happens to be the only state seal designed by a woman.

Idaho became the 43rd state on July 3, 1890, formed from a territory that had once included land in present-day Montana and Wyoming. Upon statehood, Idaho legislators looked to commission the state seal’s design by way of a competition, with a generous $100 prize (about $3,300 today) for the winning artist. Green, an art teacher who had relocated to Boise after attending school in New York, was in part inspired by the fact that it seemed Idaho would soon give women the right to vote. In March 1891, Green’s work was selected as the winner, beating out submissions from around the country.

The final design, which is also featured on Idaho’s flag, is packed with symbolism. Worked into the design are cornucopias and wheat to represent Idaho’s agriculture, a tree meant to be reminiscent of the state’s vast timberlands, and a pick and shovel held by a miner. Green’s most forward-thinking detail, however, is a man and woman standing at equal heights in the seal’s center, a symbol of gender equality that would eventually come with voting rights for all. True to their word, Idaho legislators passed women’s suffrage in 1896 — five years after Green’s seal became the state’s official symbol — making Idaho the fourth state to enfranchise women, more than 20 years before the 19th Amendment gave the same right to women nationwide.

The Inventor of the Home Security System Was a Nurse

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that can certainly be said of Marie Van Brittan Brown and her home security system. In the mid-1960s, Brown lived in a rough neighborhood in Queens, New York, while working as a nurse. She was often alone at night, so she decided to design her own peace of mind. Her invention featured four peepholes on the front door and a motorized camera that could look through the holes at varying heights. The camera was connected to a television inside the home, and a microphone both inside and outside the door allowed her to interrogate uninvited visitors. For added security, Brown also devised a way to alert police via radio. This ingenious use of cameras and closed-circuit television helped Brown score a patent for her security system in 1969. Today, Brown’s invention is widely regarded as the cornerstone of modern home security systems.

Pauli Murray’s Legal Arguments Were Used in Brown v. Board of Education

Pauli Murray was enormously influential as a lawyer, writer, and teacher. She became California's first Black deputy attorney general in 1945, as well as the first African American to earn a Doctor of Juridical Science from Yale Law School two decades later. Additionally, the acclaimed scholar saw her legal arguments used in the groundbreaking cases of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which struck down segregation in public schools, and Reed v. Reed (1971), which extended the rights under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to women.

Publicly critical of the sexism rife within the ranks of the Civil Rights Movement, Murray helped launch the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Eventually, she found herself out of step with its leadership and stepped away. On her own once again, Murray resigned from her teaching post and entered New York's General Theological Seminary, en route to one final historic achievement in 1977 as the first African American woman to be vested as an Episcopal priest.

Agatha Christie Helped Popularize Surfing

Agatha Christie’s characters have done it all — survived attempted murder, traveled to far-off lands, and solved mystery after mystery. But the bestselling author didn’t just write about adventure; she also sought it out, sometimes on a surfboard. Two years after publishing her first novel, Christie embarked on an international trip with her first husband, Archibald. Their 1922 stop in South Africa included an attempt at surfing, where it’s possible she may have become the first Western woman to stand up on a surfboard. The globetrotting couple quickly fell in love with the sport, and went on to catch swelling waves off the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Christie, in letters to her mother, recounted the tricky experience of learning to surf, describing the sport as “occasionally painful” thanks to a “nosedive down into the sand.” But the writer eventually became more skilled, detailing in her 1977 autobiography that nothing could compete with the rush of approaching shore at high speeds. She also wrote about surfing in her novel The Man in the Brown Suit, in which her protagonist, nicknamed “Anna the Adventuress,” goes surfing in Cape Town.

Christie’s pursuit of the perfect wave was unusual for an Englishwoman of her time. The Museum of British Surfing suggests she and her husband may have been two of the earliest Brits to attempt the activity. However, they did have regal company: Prince Edward, the British royal who would eventually abdicate the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, was photographed surfing in Hawaii two years before Christie rented her first surfboard.

A Busy Socialite Invented the Modern Dishwasher

Clearing away dinner dishes is easier (and faster) today than it was in 1886, when Josephine Cochrane patented the first mechanical dishwasher. As a frequent host of dinner parties at her Shelbyville, Illinois, mansion, Cochrane was concerned about maintaining her fine dishware’s pristine condition. But as a busy socialite, she didn’t want to do the tedious work of scrubbing each piece herself to ensure it stayed that way; she relegated the task to servants, whose work occasionally caused chips and cracks. Cochrane’s solution was to create a dishwashing unit that kept her costly tableware out of the slippery sink and instead stationary while being sprayed with jets of water.

Cochrane, the daughter of an engineer and granddaughter of a steamboat innovator, was likely familiar with inventive tinkering despite lacking formal education in science or math. But after her husband’s death in 1883 left her with looming debt and few resources to pay it off, her dishwashing contraption transformed from a time-saving idea into a path for financial security. Cochrane was awarded a patent for her dishwasher design three years after being widowed and displayed her innovation at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, where visitors marveled at the event’s only machine created by a woman. With exposure from the fair, Cochrane began marketing her contraptions to hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. (The cost was often too much for homemakers.) After her death in 1913, Cochrane’s company was purchased by Hobart Manufacturing Company, the original producer of KitchenAid-brand products.

Mary Katharine Goddard Was the First Known Female Postmaster in Colonial America

Mary Katharine Goddard was among the first female publishers in the U.S., a socially precarious venture for a colonial woman during the country’s fight for independence. Working with her mother, Sarah, and brother, William, Mary Katharine founded multiple publications starting in the 1760s. William frequently traveled between cities to establish new papers, leaving the bulk of news collecting and printing to his sister. In 1774, he appointed Mary Katharine to run The Maryland Journal while he focused on other pursuits (such as lobbying for a national postal service) and served time in debtor's prison. During the height of the Revolutionary War, Mary Katharine made a name for herself with fiery anti-British editorials. In 1775, she was appointed Baltimore’s first postmaster — likely the first woman to hold such a position in colonial America — and in 1777, Congress commissioned her to print copies of the Declaration of Independence. (Surviving copies feature her printer’s mark at the bottom.) Despite her success, however, Mary Katharine was pushed out of both roles at the war’s end. In 1784, William rescinded her title as publisher, creating a lifelong rift between the siblings. Not long after, she was also removed from her postmaster job on the basis of sex. She wrote to George Washington asking to be reinstated, but the President passed her complaint to the postmaster general, who left her plea unanswered.

Jennifer Lopez Inspired the Creation of Google Images

Jennifer Lopez has worn a lot of memorable dresses on a lot of red carpets over the years, but only one broke the internet to such an extent that it inspired the creation of Google Images. The multi-hyphenate entertainer first wore the plunging leaf-print silk chiffon Versace gown to the 2000 Grammy Awards in L.A., which former Google CEO Eric Schmidt later revealed led to “the most popular search query we had ever seen.” The problem was that the then-two-year-old search engine “had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: J.Lo wearing that dress.” Thus, in July 2001, “Google Image Search was born.”

Two decades later, to the delight of everyone in attendance, Lopez also closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in Milan by wearing a reimagined version of the dress, after other models walked the catwalk to the tune of her hit 2000 single “Love Don't Cost a Thing.” After a projected montage of Google Image searches for the original dress and a voice saying, “OK, Google. Now show me the real jungle dress,” J.Lo herself appeared in an even more provocative and bedazzled rendition of the gown.

Lyda Conley Was the First Native American Woman to Argue a Supreme Court Case

Lyda Conley’s legacy was preserving that of her ancestors — specifically their final resting place. Conley acted as a staunch (and armed) defender of the Wyandot National Burying Ground, a Kansas cemetery at risk of sale and destruction some 60 years after its creation. The cemetery was established in 1843 following typhoid and measles outbreaks that took hundreds of Wyandot lives; the loss was a particular blow to an Indigenous community that was forcibly relocated thanks to broken treaties with the U.S. government and the cruel Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1890, Kansas senators introduced legislation to sell the burial ground. Although it failed, the effort encouraged Lyda Conley to attend law schoolto defend the cemetery in which her own parents, siblings, and grandparents were interred. Conley was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1902, and within four years put her legal skills to work as the federal government moved to sell the cemetery. Conley and her sister Lena began a legal and physical siege for its protection, building an armed watch station called Fort Conley on the grounds and warning, “Woe be to the man that first attempts to steal a body.” In 1910, her legal fight made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she became the first Native American woman (and third woman ever) to argue a case before the judges. While the court ruled against her, years of media coverage about the cemetery worked in her favor. In 1913, the Kansas Senate passed legislation protecting the cemetery, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

Jackie Kennedy Helped Save Grand Central Terminal From Being Demolished

Much like she did in preserving the history of the White House, Jackie Kennedy played a key role in maintaining one of New York City’s most prominent landmarks. In the mid-1970s, developers hatched a plan to demolish part of Grand Central Terminal to build an office tower. The former First Lady was among a group of notable New Yorkers who objected to the plan, and in 1975, she spoke at a press conference at Grand Central’s famed Oyster Bar restaurant to protest the destruction of the beaux arts-style structure. She and other preservationists worked to ensure the building’s protection, which was ultimately assured by the U.S. Supreme Court decision Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City. A plaque dedicated in 2014 at the entrance on 42nd Street and Park Avenue honors Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for her role in saving the indelible Manhattan icon.

And Grand Central Terminal isn’t the only NYC landmark to commemorate her legacy. Located at the northern end of Central Park, where Jackie was known to jog, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir pays homage to the former First Lady’s contributions to the city. The artificial body of water, constructed between 1858 and 1862, spans 106 acres and was the largest human-made body of water in the world at the time of its creation.

Hedy Lamarr Invented a Frequency-Hopping System

During World War II, movie star Hedy Lamarr and modernist composer George Antheil came up with a "secret communication system" that used "frequency hopping" between radio signals to direct torpedoes without enemy interference. She and Antheil received a patent in August 1942 and offered their invention to the U.S. military. But the government wasn't interested in the invention or Lamarr's intelligence — instead, the actress was informed that her beauty was the best way to help the war effort. Instead of rejecting this sexist suggestion, Lamarr went on to sell millions in war bonds.

The frequency-hopping system that Lamarr and Antheil invented during World War II wasadapted by the U.S. Navy and used during 1962's Cuban missile Crisis. Later it contributed to technological innovations such as Bluetooth and GPS. Yet Lamarr's contribution was ignored. She expressed her feelings about this in a 1990 interview: "I can't understand why there's no acknowledgment when it's used all over the world." Lamarr was slightly mollifiedwhen she was recognized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a Pioneer Award in 1997.

The Legend of Zelda Video Game Was Named for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Wife

Video games aren’t often associated with literary figures, but The Legend of Zelda has always been unique. Take, for instance, the fact that its title character was named after writer, artist, and Jazz Age icon Zelda Fitzgerald, whose marriage to The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald generated nearly as many headlines as his professional output. Zelda, who’s been described as the first flapper of the Roaring '20s (and the inspiration for Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan), was chosen because a Nintendo PR rep suggested that the eponymous princess should be “a timeless beauty with classic appeal” and that Zelda Fitzgerald was one such “eternal beauty.”

Shigeru Miyamoto, the game’s creator, agreed: “She was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name,” he has said. The name chain didn’t end there; actor Robin Williams was such a fan of the series that he named his daughter after the Princess of Hyrule. As for Zelda F. herself, she was — rather fittingly — named for the fictional heroine of a 19th-century novel.

Only One U.S. First Lady Has Ever Been Featured on Paper Currency

Five Presidents are featured prominently on U.S. bills currently in circulation — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant. Yet only one First Lady has been given the same honor: Martha Washington. She also happens to be the only real-life woman (as opposed to mythical figures representing abstract concepts such as liberty) to have her portrait printed on U.S. paper currency. In 1896, Martha appeared alongside her husband on the back of the $1 note in a design commemorating 120 years of American history, but a decade prior she had her own bill — the U.S. Treasury’s $1 silver certificate. First released in 1886 — 84 years after her death and 17 years after $1 bills began featuring George Washington — the silver certificate could be exchanged for precisely one dollar’s worth of silver. The bills were eventually discontinued in 1957, yet the design featuring Martha remains the second-longest-issued paper money in U.S. history.

Eleanor Roosevelt Wrote a Newspaper Column for Nearly 30 Years

Starting at the very end of 1935 and continuing until her death in 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt kept a regular, nationally syndicated newspaper column called “My Day.” Eventually, it appeared in 90 different U.S. newspapers, detailing both her actions of the day and causes she supported — including ones that perhaps diverged a little from FDR’s views. After her husband’s death, she spoke even more freelyabout her viewpoints, and chose to keep advocating through her writing instead of running for office herself. Some newspapers dropped her column after she advocated for the election of Adlai Stevenson II in his run against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, leading United Features Syndicate to instruct her to limit her support for candidates, which she did not do. For the majority of the run, Eleanor published six columns a week; only after her health began to decline in the last couple of years of her life did she cut that down to three.

Mother’s Day Was Originally an Anti-War Protest

Following four bloody years of the U.S. Civil War,two women called for a “mother’s day” to push for peace. In the summer of 1865, Ann Jarvis created Mothers’ Friendship Days in West Virginia that aimed to bring together Americans from all political backgrounds, and she continued the annual tradition for years. Inspired by Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe — who famously penned the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” — also wrote an “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World” in 1870, highlighting men’s role in war and calling on women to resist being “made a party to proceedings which fill the world with grief and horror.” She also tried to establish June 2 as “Mother’s Day for Peace.” However, it wasn’t until 1908 that Anna Jarvis (the daughter of the West Virginia peace activist) celebrated a “Mother’s Day” in May in honor of her deceased mother. Within a decade, the observance became a nationally recognized holiday.

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