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27 Historic Firsts That Changed The World Forever

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Amelia Earhart — pioneering aviator and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Amelia Earhart steps out of the cabin of her plane at Curtiss Field on July 9, 1928.

Sandra Day O'Connor — former associate justice of the Supreme Court and the first woman to serve on the Court.

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The Supreme Court on Jan. 25, 1982. The justices are (front row, from left) Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr., Chief Justice Warren Burger, Byron R. White, and Harry A. Blackmun, (back row, from left) John Paul Stevens, Lewis F. Powell Jr., William H. Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Marie Curie — pioneering physicist and the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize.

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Marie Curie conducts experiments on radioactivity in her laboratory, 1905.

Joan Benoit — American marathon runner and first woman to win gold in an Olympic marathon.

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Joan Benoit of the United States raises her arms in celebration after winning the women's marathon event at the XXIII Olympic Summer Games on Aug. 5, 1984.


Mae C. Jemison — American astronaut and the first black woman in space.

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Mae C. Jemison poses for her official NASA portrait in July 1992.

Sally Ride — American astronaut and the first American woman in space.

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Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Frances Perkins — sociologist and the first woman appointed to the US Cabinet.

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Frances Perkins addresses the Resolutions Committee after labor leaders spoke against equal rights on Sept. 1, 1944.

Margaret Thatcher — British politician and the first woman to be appointed prime minister in the UK.

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Margaret Thatcher drives a British tank during a visit to British forces in Fallingbostel, Germany, on Sept. 17, 1986.


Edith Wharton — author and the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

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Edith Wharton poses for a portrait with her dogs on Jan. 24, 1862.

Junko Tabei — mountaineer and the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

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Junko Tabei at the summit of Mount Everest on May 16, 1975.

Madeleine Albright — American politician and the first woman to become the US secretary of state.

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Madeleine Albright poses for a portrait as research professor of international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service on June 21, 1988.

Hillary Clinton — American politician and the first woman to be nominated for president by a major US political party.

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Hillary Clinton arrives onstage during a primary night rally in Brooklyn, New York, June 7, 2016.


Benazir Bhutto — Pakistani politician and the first woman to lead a Muslim majority nation.

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Benazir Bhutto campaigns for the Pakistan Peoples Party in the week before the Pakistani general election in October 1990.

Eleanor Roosevelt — activist and first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, circa 1947.

Gwendolyn Brooks — the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

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Gwendolyn Brooks poses for a portrait alongside her Pulitzer Prize–winning book Annie Allen on May 2, 1950.


Nadia Comaneci — Romanian gymnast and the first person to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games.

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Nadia Comaneci performs her balance beam routine at the 1980 Olympic Games on July 1, 1980.

Janet Guthrie — race car driver and the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.

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Janet Guthrie sits behind the wheel of an open-top racer in September 1967.

Margaret Sanger — activist and the person who opened the first birth control clinic in the US.

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In this picture from April 17, 1929, Margaret Sanger's mouth is covered in protest of not being allowed to talk about birth control in Boston. Sanger instead stood silent onstage in front a crowd of 800 as Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger read her prepared speech.

Ann E. Dunwoody — retired general of the US Army and the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star general.

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Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of the Army Materiel Command, smiles during her promotion ceremony to the rank of four-star general on Nov. 14, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.


Shirley Chisholm — American politician and the first black woman to elected to Congress.

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Shirley Chisholm makes a point during a speech in San Francisco on May 16, 1972.

Grace Hopper — rear admiral in the US Navy and pioneer of computer programming.

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Commodore Grace Hopper poses for a portrait in her office on Feb. 1, 1984.

Margaret Bourke-White — photographer and the first female war photojournalist.

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Margaret Bourke-White, dressed in her US Air Force uniform, sits atop the engine of a B-17 bomber in Polebrook, England, in 1942.

Mary Edwards Walker — Civil War surgeon and the first and only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.

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Mary Edwards Walker poses for a portrait in the era's men's attire, between circa 1860s and circa 1890s.


Helen Keller — activist and the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor's degree.

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Famous American writer and lecturer Helen Keller takes time to smell a rose. Keller lost her sight and hearing after an illness when she was 19 months old.

Jeannette Rankin — American politician, activist, and the first woman to hold federal office in the US.


Jeannette Rankin prepares to leave Washington, DC, on June 2, 1932, for a speaking tour calling for peace.

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