1929: Nigeria's Women's War wins rights
Through the late 1920s, British colonial rule in Nigeria wildly changed how the country was governed. The native Igbo women, who had an important political role in their communities, found themselves increasingly undermined by new leaders. These women used their powerful communication networks to stage a nonviolent protest against their mistreatment. The British didn't understand the cause of the protests, and the campaign ended after just over one year when the British turned to violence—but not before Nigerian women won important protections for their rights and regained some of their political power.
[Pictured: Community of men, women, and children standing in front of the Akaniobio Church, Old Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria, sometime between 1900–1930.]
1930: Frances Marion writes Oscar-winning ‘The Big House’
As movies transitioned from silent black-and-white affairs into talkies and Technicolor, screenwriter Frances Marion and actress Mary Pickford became some of early Hollywood's biggest names. The two worked together to adapt dozens of novels and stories into films, from classics like “Anne of Green Gables,” to “The Big House,” which won Marion her first Oscar (Adapted Screenplay). By the end of her career, Marion had written over 100 scripts.
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1931: Jackie Mitchell strikes out two of baseball's best
Jackie Mitchell, a 17-year-old pitcher, took the mound against the New York Yankees in an early season exhibition game. One of the first female pitchers in the league with a contract, Mitchell managed to strike out legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. But then a few days later, her contract was revoked amid claims that the occupation was dangerous for women. Some modern historians believe that Mitchell's history-making pitches were staged to get more people in the stands, but many still see her achievement as important, either way.
1932: Amelia Earhart's first solo flight across the Atlantic
Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean when she traveled from Newfoundland to Ireland on May 21, 1932. Earhart had already completed a similar feat a few years earlier as part of a three-person crew, and her fame only grew after flying solo—just like Charles Lindbergh, who had completed the feat five years before. Earhart, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress, infamously disappeared a few years later while attempting to fly around the world.
1933: First female Cabinet member is appointed
Frances Perkins spent the early days of her career working to improve the lives of disadvantaged people living in New York City, making her well suited to the position of U.S. secretary of labor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the post during the height of the Great Depression in 1933. As the first female member of a presidential cabinet, she pushed for the New Deal and spearheaded the creation of the Social Security program, one of Roosevelt's most important legislative achievements.
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1934: First woman serves on board of directors of a major corporation
Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans married a wealthy man who struck a deal with the brand new Coca-Cola company to bottle their syrupy-sweet product. Her husband died young, leaving Evans to take over his share of the bottling empire, where she expanded her own wealth as well as the company's success. When her branch of the company was bought out, she was appointed to the board of directors, a position she would hold for nearly 20 years. Lettie ultimately used her fortune to create a scholarship foundation.
1935: National Council of Negro Women is founded
Disappointed by the lack of communication and cohesiveness between groups advocating for African American women's rights, educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women. In the decades since, the Council has grown to represent more than 25 national organizations, and more than 4 million women have been associated with the organization.
1936: Wallis Simpson is Time's first female Person of the Year
Time's Person of the Year award has been given to an individual woman only five times. Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, was the first. Her relationship with King Edward VIII took the world by storm, and the 1930s press was obsessed with their movements. Edward, who caused a scandal by courting Simpson while she was still married to her second husband, was told he couldn't marry her and keep the throne. He became the only British monarch to voluntarily give up the throne; the two married and lived out the rest of their years together.
1937: First woman climbs the Adirondack High Peaks
Born and raised in New York's Adirondack Mountains, Grace Dolbeck Leach Hudowalski became the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 peaks in the mountain range between 1922 and 1937. She went on to start the Adirondack 46ers club alongside her husband, promoting the high peaks she loved and keeping track of others who managed to climb them. In 2014, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially renamed one of the peaks in her honor.
[Pictured: A view of some of the Adirondack Mountains high peaks.]
1938: First woman wins the Nobel Prize in Literature
Pearl S. Buck used her experience growing up in China with her missionary parents to fuel much of her writing career, which focused on the life of the peasant class in the country. Her most notable work was a family trilogy: “The Good Earth” (1931), “Sons” (1932), and “A House Divided” (1935), which propelled her to become the first female Nobel laureate in Literature.
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