As a tribute to the women whose leadership, achievements and presence have invaluably shaped society, March is dedicated Women’s History Month.
Here is a small sample of the many inspiring female pioneers who have particularly resonated in our collective minds.
Carol Burnett. When comedy was still considered very much a “Boy’s Club,” Carol Burnett shifted the balance of the male lead comedy scales with her uproariously hilarious variety show The Carol Burnett Show. Carol hosted her namesake program for an impressive 11 years, earning five Golden Globes and six Primetime Emmys along the way. Most recently, Burnett received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in October 2013. Burnett’s longstanding and ongoing presence in entertainment continues to inspire comedy writers like Amy Pohler and Tina Fey who have long considered Burnett an idol.
Katharine Graham. Coming into a high-power position during the 1960s women’s movement, The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham greatly influenced women’s equality in the workplace. Lacking any female mentors personally, Graham faced adversity in the male-dominated workforce which led her to strongly advocate gender equality at The Washington Post’s offices. At the helm of The Washington Post, Graham bolstered the paper’s investigative credibility and championed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to crack open the Watergate Scandal which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and earned The Washington Post a Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Graham later received her own Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her memoir Personal History.
Beverly Johnson. Model Beverly Johnson made history in 1974 when she became the first black model to appear on the cover of the then 82 year old American Vogue. Johnson made history again in 1975 this time gracing the cover of France’s Elle magazine. Johnson’s striking presence on newsstands marked a complete shift in the fashion industry’s beauty ideal and helped to jump start careers of black models everywhere.
Carole King. Beginning with her chart topping song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” (written when she was only 18 years old) songwriter Carole King has since written and co-written well over 100 billboard hits. With her former husband Gerry Goffin writing the lyrics and King providing the music, King’s pop songs have become American standards including Aretha Franklin’s legendary “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” King turned from songwriter to performer in 1970 with her first solo album Writer and earned rave reviews with her follow up album Tapestry which has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. To date, King has produced 18 albums, seven of which have graced the Billboard’s Top 10. In 2013, King became the first woman ever to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
Eleanor Roosevelt. Christened the “First Lady of the World” by President Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt was a crucial force behind women’s and African American’s civil rights throughout the 1940s and 1950s. As First Lady, Roosevelt was a controversial character as she shocked the public with her outspokenness and political stances which occasionally were opposite of her husband President Roosevelt’s. Her unwillingness to remain on the sidelines however forever shaped the role of the First Lady and set the pace for her work as an advocate of women’s roles in the workplace. In 1945, Roosevelt was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and became the first chairperson of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights where she was a key figure in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark document that outlines the inherent rights of humans worldwide. For her work with the UN, Roosevelt was posthumously awarded a Human Rights Prize in 1968.