With March comes many things: the start of spring, St. Patrick’s Day and, of course, Women’s History Month. Looking for a fun way to celebrate how women have shaped the U.S. and our world? Try the ABCs of Women’s History Month!
From Amelia Earhart to Zenzile Miriam Makeba, these 26 icons are sure to inspire your child — and maybe even introduce you to a few iconic women you’ve never heard of before. (Hint: If you’re looking for even more remarkable women to learn about this March, you can also check out ourBlack History Month andAsian Pacific American Heritage Month posts.)
Inspire your child to dream big like Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The fearless flier saw her first airplane at 10 years old while visiting a state fair and took her first plane ride 13 years later. Amelia would go on to become the 16th U.S. woman to get her pilot’s license. When not flying through the sky, she found time to build her own rollercoaster!
Does your child love animals? Do they have a funny streak? Then they’ll love learning about Betty White. The iconic entertainer had a career spanning 80 years, from the days of black and white TV to modern shows like the Golden Girls. She even did voice work on SpongeBob SquarePants and Toy Story 4! When not breaking barriers in show business, Betty could often be found advocating for animals or enjoying her favorite meal: a hotdog and French fries.
Your child likely learned about Clara Barton in school — and for good reason. This brave nurse founded the American Red Cross after providing medical care for countless soldiers during the American Civil War. But here are some things they might not know about Clara: She was born on Christmas Day and loved pets, including her dog Button. Her love for animals was so well-known that a U.S. Senator sent her a kitten as a “thank you” for all her service as a Civil War nurse.
Another courageous woman, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man and joined the Patriot forces during the Revolutionary War. For two years, she remained in disguise despite many close calls. She famously removed the pistol ball after being shot in the thigh and mended a gash in her forehead herself. Deborah’s true identity was finally discovered when she became ill in Philadelphia, and she received an honorable discharge in 1783. Later in her life, Deborah toured the country giving talks about her experience — making her the nation’s first woman lecturer!
Every March, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is celebrated for her many contributions to the women’s rights movement. Alongside fellow icon Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth helped pave the way for women’s right to vote — all while giving birth to seven children! While raising her kids, Elizabeth wrote many speeches that her friend Susan delivered across the country, saying “I forged the firebolts and she delivered them.” Although Elizabeth is remembered as a fiercely intelligent women’s suffrage leader, she also was an abolitionist who advocated for the end of slavery.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter regarded as one of the 20th century's most influential artists. She blended surrealism and Mexican folk art to create her own unique style, using her art to express her own experiences and struggles. The 500 Mexican peso bill is unique in that it contains two portraits, and Frida’s is one of them! During her career, she created 143 paintings— 55 of which are self-portraits. Frida’s work continues to inspire artists and art lovers around the world today as an exemplar of Mexican art and culture.
Gloria Estefan is a Cuban-American singer, songwriter and actress known as the “Queen of Latin Pop.” She was born in Havana and migrated with her family to Florida during the Cuban Revolution. Estafan began her career in the 1970s as a member of Miami Sound Machine, and helped to popularize Latin music in the United States. During her career, Estefan has sold over 100 million records and won several Grammy Awards. In addition to her prolific musical career, Estefan has also acted in TV shows and films, and has written several books including a children’s book and a cookbook!
Imagine having two very different careers. Actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr did! Born in Austria, she began acting in Europe in the late 1920s. After appearing in films like “Algiers” (1938) and “Samson and Delilah” (1949), she became well-known for her talent. Then, during World War II, she worked to develop a radio technology that could disrupt enemy defenses. This technology would go on to be used in our everyday lives…can you guess how? Here’s a hint: today Hedy is known as the “Mother of WiFi.”
From being born into slavery to becoming a teacher and activist, Ida B. Wells lived a prolific life. After the murder of three of her friends in 1892, she began to investigate and write about lynching in the United States. She traveled the country to speak out and raise awareness of the issue, eventually working alongside other prominent civil rights leaders of the time, like W.E.B. DuBois and Frederick Douglass. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and started the first African-American kindergarten in Chicago. Throughout it all, she was also a vocal advocate for women’s rights.
If you’ve ever watched a cooking show or tried a French recipe, then you’ve had a taste of Julia Child’s legacy. At 6 ft. 2 in, Julia was too tall to enlist in the Navy. Instead, she joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which is a precursor to the CIA, and helped create shark repellent! While working for the OSS in India, she met her husband Paul. When he was stationed in France, Julia enrolled in the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school — and the rest is history. She published the bestselling cookbook,Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with two other women in 1961, and went on to become the star of a long-running cooking show on PBS.The French Chef was the first show ever captioned for deaf people, and it took Julia nearly 20 hours to prepare for each 30-minute episode. Today, Julia is celebrated in the food and entertainment worlds alike — and the kitchen from her TV show set was donated to the Smithsonian!
Katherine Johnson is a true trailblazer. A gifted mathematician, she skipped numerous grades in school and was already attending high school by age 10. When West Virginia integrated its graduate schools, she was one of the first three black students to attend West Virginia University. After starting a family, Katherine learned that NASA was hiring black women to solve math problems. These women were called “computers,” because at the time there were no computers to solve math equations like there are today. After joining the agency at age 35, Katherine quickly began leaving her mark. She calculated paths for crewed space ships to orbit Earth and land on the Moon for the first time — and when NASA used her math, it worked! During her three decades at NASA, Katherine would continue to play a pivotal role in our nation’s spaceflights. At age 97, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for all her contributions.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Lucy Liu is an award-winning actor best known for playing powerful women. In addition to roles in major movies like Charlie’s Angels, she has also starred on Broadway and is a much-loved voice actor. Lucy was the voice of Master Viper in Kung Fu Panda, and she has lent her voice to Disney films including Mulan II and Strange World. When not gracing the big screen, the Chinese American actor can often be found practicing one of her favorite hobbies: Kali-eskrima-silat, a traditional form of martial arts that originated in the Philippines.
If your child loves Disney movies, then they’ll love learning about Mary Blair — one of the most important animators in Disney history! Walt Disney himself hired Mary after being impressed with her watercolor paintings, and although she was reluctant at first to join the House of Mouse, the artist and designer would soon become a driving creative force behind early films likeSaludos Amigos andThe Three Caballeros. Over the next decade, Mary helped define Disney’s signature style through work on some of their most iconic films, fromAlice in Wonderland andPeter Pan toCinderella. A prolific artist, Mary also illustrated children’s books and designed some of Disney’s most iconic theme park rides.
Born in Israel, actor Natalie Portman has been starring in films since she was a teenager. Kids will undoubtedly recognize her for her roles in theThor andStar Wars franchises. Beyond being an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actor, Natalie is a UN Ambassador and a passionate animal rights advocate. She’s also fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, German, Japanese and Hebrew!
As a child, Octavia E. Butler spent most of her free time at the library, immersing herself in fantasy novels and writing to escape the bullying she experienced at school. At age 10, she begged her mother for a typewriter and would spend hours typing away. Two years later, she watched a popular science fiction film on TV and vowed she could write a better story. That inspired her to write a series of drafts that later became her well-knownPatternist novels! Octavia is considered one of the first women science fiction writers and, in 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work is still celebrated today and has even been adapted for the screen and graphic novels.
Patsy Takemoto Mink won her first election in high school, becoming class president. There were many more elections in this future politician’s future! When her home state of Hawaii officially became a U.S. state in 1959, Patsy immediately ran for Congress. Although she was unsuccessful in that election, she made history in 1964 when she became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress. During her decades in Congress, Patsy was instrumental in bills like Title IX, which protects students from sex-based discrimination. She was also the first Asian American woman to run for U.S. President!
Queen Elizabeth II became the Queen of the United Kingdom when she was just 25 years old. She reigned for 70 years — longer than any other monarch! — and saw many historic moments during that time, including World War II. An animal lover for her entire life, Queen Elizabeth was an avid horseback rider and a passionate dog trainer. Her first horse was a Shetland pony named Peggy, and she owned more than 30 Corgis during her lifetime. Always devoted to service, Queen Elizabeth carried out an astonishing 21,000 official engagements during her reign. Yet somehow, she still found the time to sit for 200 official portraits — the first one when she was just seven years old!
Your child has undoubtedly learned about Rosa Parks in school. And for good reason: When she refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, it ignited the Civil Rights Movement. But here’s something they might not know about Rosa: She was one of few African Americans at the time who earned a high school diploma, which she accomplished after leaving school to take care of her sick mother and returning to finish her education. After her arrest for refusing to give up her seat, Rosa moved to Detroit and worked as an aide for a well-known Congressman. She later co-founded a foundation to support children in Detroit. When she passed away, she was the first woman to be laid to honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol — a reflection of her lasting importance to our nation’s history.
An explorer and interpreter from the Shoshone tribe, Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark as they explored the land that the U.S. acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Along with her husband, Sacagawea joined Lewis and Clark on their journey, and she gave birth to her first child along the way. Using her knowledge of Native languages, she communicated with other tribes and interpreted for the two explorers. She helped the group find edible plants to sustain them when food supplies ran low, and establish peace with the Indigenous Peoples that the expedition encountered on their way to the Pacific Coast.
Malaria might not be common in the U.S., but this disease is devastating in many parts of the world. That’s why Tu Youyou’s work is so important. Tu scoured traditional Chinese medical texts for a malaria cure. Then, she extracted a compound that she believed would work — and volunteered to be the first human subject! Tu’s breakthrough compound, artemisinin, has saved millions of lives, and she discovered it without ever having earned a medical degree abroad. Tu won the Nobel Prize in 2015, becoming the first mainland Chinese scientist to be awarded the honor in a scientific category.
Uma Thurman is an award-winning actor whose name is Sanskrit for “splendor” and “fame.” She appeared in her first film in 1987 and starred in three movies the following year before being nominated for her first Academy Award in 1995. In addition to her film work, Uma is a passionate supporter of organizations that aid impoverished people, including the Children’s Defense Fund, USAID and Room to Grow. She has also met the Dalai Lama many times with her father, who was the first person from the West to become a Tibetan Buddhist Monk.
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Venus Williams was already clocking 160 km/h serves by age 10! Like her sister Serena, Venus went professional at age 14 and quickly dominated the tennis world. She was a world #1 in doubles with her sister and as a singles player, and she has won seven Grand Slam singles titles — five at Wimbledon. A four-time Olympic medalist, she took home gold in the 2000, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics, plus silver in 2016.
Known as “the Woman of Trees,” Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A passionate activist, Wangari devoted her life to safeguarding the environment and promoting democracy. She’s best known for founding the Green Belt Movement, in which she mobilized Kenyan women to plant more than 30 million trees and raise funds by selling seedlings. Wangari was such a lover of trees that when she passed away, fellow activists said they could hear the trees clapping in her honor.
A Mexican-American actor, Xochitil Gomez is best known for playing America Chavez in Marvel’s Doctor Strange film and Dawn in The Baby-Sitters Club series. As a young girl in Los Angeles’ Hispanic community, Xochitil said “I grew up rarely seeing girls on-screen that looked like me or shared my culture.” Yet she caught the acting bug early, starting at age 5 when her mother enrolled her in musical theater. By age 12, she had performed in 22 full-length musicals. When she landed her breakthrough role in The Baby-Sitters Club, her character’s ethnicity was changed to make the show more diverse. “Latina girls tell me that they finally see someone who looks like them on TV and that it means so much," she said in a recent interview.
Yolanda Griffith is considered one of the greatest rebounders and defensive players in women’s basketball history. When Yolanda was 13 years old, her mother died, and she channeled all her grief into playing sports. After having her daughter, Yolanda went on to play in the Women’s NBA and the American Basketball League. During her time in the WNBA, she was a fan favorite — especially in Indiana, where she finished out her career. Often called by her nicknames “Yo” and “Yo-Yo,” Yolanda took home gold at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. National Women’s Basketball team. Since retiring, she has gone on to coach at numerous universities.
Nicknamed “Mama Africa,” Zenzile was a South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist who used her music and her voice to advocate for equality in South Africa. For decades, she traveled the world, bringing her message and the music of Africa to all corners of the globe. During her time in the U.S., Zenzile published several albums, one of which won a Grammy in 1965. Her mix of Afropop, jazz and world music was as powerful as her activism, with fellow South African Nelson Mandela saying it “inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.”
Looking for more ways to celebrate Women’s History Month with Miko? We’ve got a whole set of commands devoted to this heritage month as well as International Women’s Day. Just say “Hello Miko,” and when your robot goes into listening mode, try these commands:
No matter which women inspire you and your little one, Miko wishes you a Happy Women’s History Month and an International Women’s Day filled with gratitude for all the women who contribute to our world.