Significant Moments

1769 – The British colonies adopt the English system decreeing women cannot own property in their own name or keep their own earnings.

1777  All states of the newly founded United States pass laws which take away women’s right to vote.

1809 – The first woman, Mary Kies becomes to receive a patent, for a method of weaving straw with silk.

1839 – Mississippi becomes the first state to grant women the right to hold property in their own names with permission from their husbands.

1848 – Three hundred women and men sign the Declaration of Sentiments, a plea for the end of discrimination against women at Seneca Falls, New York.

1866 – The 14th Amendment is passed by U.S. Congress, with “citizens” and “voters” defined as “male” in the Constitution.

1869  Arabella Mansfield is granted admission to practice law in Iowa, making her the first woman lawyer.

1872  The first woman presidential candidate in the United States, Victoria Claflin Woodhull is nominated by the National Radical Reformers.

Female federal employees guaranteed equal pay for equal work under the law excluding private sector workers.

Susan B. Anthony is convicted of “unlawful voting”, when she casts her first vote to test whether the 14th Amendment would be interpreted broadly to guarantee women the right to vote.

1873 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a state has the right to exclude a married woman from practicing law.

1887  Susanna Medora Salter becomes the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.

1890 – Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women the right to vote in all elections.

1900 – By the turn of the Twentieth Century every state had passed legislation granting married women the right to keep their own wages and to own property in their own name.

1916 – Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, is the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives

1918 – Two years after opening a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, Margaret Sanger wins her suit in New York to allow doctors to advise their married patients about birth control for health purposes. The clinic, along with others, becomes Planned Parenthood in 1942.

1920 – The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, ensuring the right of women to vote.

1923 – The Lucretia Mott Amendment calling for equal rights is introduced. It says, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

1932  Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas, becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

The National Recovery Act forbids more than one family member from holding a government job, resulting in many women losing their jobs.

1933  The first female cabinet member Frances Perkins is appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1934 – Jeanette Ridon Piccard was the first licensed female balloon pilot in the U.S., and the first woman to fly to the stratosphere.  Accompanied by her husband, Jean —a member of the Piccard family of balloonists —she reached a height of 10.9 miles (17.5 km) during a record-breaking flight over Lake Erie on October 23, retaining control of the balloon for the entire flight. 

1963 – The Equal Pay Act is passed by U.S. Congress, promising equitable wages for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national origin or sex of the worker.

1964 – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act passes, prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is created.

1965 – The U.S. Supreme Court establishes the right of married couples to use contraception.

1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs an executive order prohibiting sex discrimination by government contractors and requiring affirmative action plans for hiring women.

1969 – California adopts the nation’s first “no fault” divorce law, allowing divorce by mutual consent.

1972 – Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of education programs that receive federal support.

The Supreme Court upholds the right to use birth control by unmarried couples.

Juanita Kreps becomes the first woman director of the New York Stock Exchange.

1973 – Landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade makes abortion legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court bans sex-segregated “help wanted” advertising.

1974 – Housing discrimination on the basis of sex and credit discrimination against women are outlawed by Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules it is illegal to force pregnant women to take maternity leave on the assumption they are incapable of working in their physical condition.

Eleven women are ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church on July 29, 1974, two years before General Convention affirmed and explicitly authorized the ordination to the priesthood.  The women who became known as the “Philadelphia Eleven” (or “Philadelphia 11”) were Merrill Bittner, Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Alison Cheek, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne Hiatt, Marie Moorefield, Jeannette Piccard, Betty Bone Schiess, Katrina Swanson, and Nancy Wittig.

1975 – The U.S. Supreme Court denies states the right to exclude women from juries.

1978 – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.

1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor becomes first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that excluding women from the draft is constitutional. In a separate decision, the high court overturns state laws designating a husband “head and master” with unilateral control of property owned jointly with his wife.

Breaking with tradition, Lady Diana Spencer deletes the vow to “obey” her husband as she marries Prince Charles.

1982 – The Equal Rights Amendment falls three state short of ratification.

1984 – U.S. Supreme Court bans sex discrimination in membership for onetime all-male groups like the Jaycees, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.

The state of Mississippi belatedly ratifies the 19th Amendment, granting women the vote.

1989 – The Supreme Court affirms the right of states to deny public funding for abortions and to prohibit public hospitals from performing abortions.

1992 – In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Roe v Wade but allows states to impose restrictions such as a waiting period and parental consent for minors seeking abortions.

1994 – The Violence Against Women Act funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence and allows women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes. Six years later, the Supreme Court invalidates those portions of the law permitting victims of rape, domestic violence, etc. to sue their attackers in federal court.

1997 – Madeleine Albright become the first female U.S. Secretary of State.

2005 – U.S. Congress passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the first law to ban a specific abortion procedure. The Supreme Court upholds the ban the following year.

2007 – Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female speaker of the House.

2009 – The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act allows victims, usually women, of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck.

2012 – U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin introduces legislation in the U.S. Congress calling for the removal of the deadline imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment known as the “Three State Strategy”.

2012 – The Paycheck Fairness Act, meant to fight gender discrimination in the workplace, fails in the U.S. Senate on a party-line vote. Two years later, Republicans filibuster the bill.

2013 – The ban against women in military combat positions is removed, reversing a 1994 Pentagon decision, restricting women from combat roles.

2015  – Helene de Boissiere-Swanson completes her 7,000 mile pilgrimage covering the remaining 15 states that have yet to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment arriving in Washington DC on Women’s Equality Day. 

2017 – Nevada becomes the first state in over 45 years to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Illinois ratifies the following year leaving only one more state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution.

2018 – The Violence Against Women Act expires on December 21st, during the U.S. Congressional government shutdown.

2019 – U.S. Representative Jackie Speier and U.S. Senator Benjamin Carden introduce joint resolutions calling for the removal of deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment. U.S Representative Jerrold Nadler Chair of the Committee of Judiciary of the House of Representatives pledges to hold hearings.