16 Women Who Shattered The Glass Ceiling Like Hillary Clinton


If you haven't heard, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. It's not 100 percent official yet, since the Democratic National Convention, where the party formally nominates a president and vice president, won't happen until July 25 in Philadelphia.

But, the math is in her favor. That is, she has earned enough guaranteed votes for herself to ensure she will become the nominee. It's like winning the 100-meter dash in the Olympics and waiting for your gold medal. You're still a gold medalist, but you just haven't gotten your medal yet.

I can't overstate how groundbreaking this is for the United States and consequently the rest of the world. We could all be looking at the first woman president of the United States. There has never been a woman nominee of a major political party, let alone a woman president, so Hillary becoming the Democratic nominee truly shatters the glass ceiling for women in America.

Seeing as women were second-class citizens for the majority of the United States' history, a woman doing what Hillary did is nothing short of astounding, especially considering all the barriers still in place for women in the US and the rest of the world.

Now, little girls can grow up and sincerely believe they have a chance at becoming president. That got me wondering. Are there any other women who did something for the first time and broke the glass ceiling and maybe inspired young women in the US and around the world?

In light of Hillary Clinton's latest accomplishment, here are 16 women who broke barriers by being the first women to accomplish these mind-blowing things.

1. First woman in the US to become a millionaire.

Madam CJ Walker was an entrepreneur who, in the early 1900s, became the first woman to be a self-made millionaire in the US. Not only that, she somehow managed to do this as a black woman at a time when being black hurt your social status.

However, Walker wouldn't let any of that keep her from success. She started a business selling cosmetics for African-American women, and her success incredibly led to her millionaire status.

2. First woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.

This happened in 2010. I just needed to throw that out there to show how far we all still have to go in terms of equal opportunity. Now that that's out of the way, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her outstanding 2008 film about the Iraq War, "The Hurt Locker."

The film also took home the award for Best Picture, in addition to four other Oscars.

As of 2016, Bigelow stands alone as the only woman to win this coveted Academy Award.

3. First woman to fly solo around the world.

On April 17, 1964, Geraldine Mock completed her solo flight around the world, becoming the first woman to do so. After 29 days, 11 hours, 59 minutes and 23,103 miles, the "flying housewife" landed in Port Columbus Airport in Ohio.

Mock first flew when she was 5 years old, and some time before she undertook her solo flight around the world, she was one of the first female aeronautical engineering students at Ohio State University.

4. First woman to be a prime minister.

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka was the first woman to become a prime minister, which essentially made her the modern world's first female elected head of state.

Apparently, after the death of her husband, she became the leader of his political party and eventually prime minister through that capactiy.

5. First woman to run (and be nominated) for US president.

Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president in 1872, long before women could even vote. Not only did she run, she actually received the Equal Rights Party's nomination on a platform of equal rights for women as well as women's suffrage.

The famous former slave turned statesman Frederick Douglass was her running mate.

6. First woman to climb Mount Everest.

A little over 40 years ago on May 16, 1975, a then 35-year-old Japanese woman named Junko Tabei reached the peak of Mount Everest with assistance from a Sherpa guide, Ang Tshering.

It was a truly momentous occasion given Japanese cultural expectations at the time.

Tabei explained to The Japan Times in an interview from 2012,

Back in 1970s Japan, it was still widely considered that men were the ones to work outside and women would stay at home. Even women who had jobs — they were asked just to serve tea. So it was unthinkable for them to be promoted in their workplaces. We were told we should be raising children instead.

A little over 20 years to the day after Tabei reached the summit of Everest, on May 13, 1995, British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves became the first woman to climb Everest unaided. Incredibly, that meant no bottled oxygen and no help from Sherpas.

7. First woman to be a US governor.

Nellie Tayloe Ross served as the 14th governor of Wyoming from January 1925 to January 1927, making her the first woman governor in the history of the United States.

After her husband, William Bradford Ross, died in office, Nellie Taylor Ross was elected to complete his term. Later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also appointed her to be the first woman head of the US Mint.

8. First woman to drive around the world.

I didn't even realize this was possible, but where there's a will, there's a way. Aloha Wanderwell (what a perfect name for a person who would spend a significant amount of time wandering by car around the world) spent years driving a Ford Model T across 43 countries.

According to Atlas Obscura, she also wore men's breeches and had a pet monkey, and was dubbed by newspapers at the time as the “World's Most Widely Traveled Girl,” “The Amelia Earhart of the Automobile” and “The First Woman to Drive Around the World in an Automobile.”

9. First woman on the US Supreme Court.

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court. In 1950, she graduated from Stanford University, where would also attend law school afterward.

According to, limited opportunities for female lawyers at the time led O'Connor to take a job — without pay — working for the county attorney of California's San Mateo region.

The rest is history. O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006 after a 24-year career and number of important votes in cases like Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore.

By that time, she had already cleared the way for the Supreme Court's second female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, there are currently three women sitting on the highest court in the US.

10. First woman to serve in a US Cabinet.

Being appointed as the US Secretary of Labor during the Great Depression, Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a US Cabinet.

In her role, she helped push New Deal programs like Social Security, the primary program to fund elderly and retired people, and she reportedly pushed for minimum wage laws, pensions, unemployment insurance as well as restrictions on child labor practices.

She reportedly spent years working in public service before joining Franklin Delano Roosevelt's cabinet from 1933-1945, which also made her the (still) longest serving US Secretary of Labor in US history.

11. First woman in space.

On June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She spent nearly three days in orbit before returning to Earth a hero. For her accomplishment, she received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards — the former Soviet Union's two highest possible decorations.

Here she can be seen meeting Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon.

Just over 20 years after Tereshkova's fateful trip, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

According to NASA, Ride crucially helped deploy communications satellites and conduct experiments.

12. The first movie star.

The woman popularly known as The First Movie Star, Florence Lawrence, was truly the first movie star at all. When she was acting in the early 1900s in silent films, crediting the creators and stars of the movies was extremely uncommon.

But because she was one of the most recognized faces in cinema, some studio owner broke that strange habit and started using her name to promote her, thus turning her from a just a well-known face into the world's first true movie star.

13. First woman in the US to become a CEO.

Have you ever heard of Bissell vacuum cleaners? Well, the company has more to be proud of than simply creating a great product. Anna Bissell took over her husband's company as the first woman CEO in the United States after his death.

Though Bissell's husband invented the carpet sweeper in 1876, it was Anna Bissell who basically marketed and sold it, laying the groundwork for the privately owned company that still exists today. Bissell even reportedly had a fan in Britain's then monarch, Queen Victoria.

But, it wasn't until much more recently that a woman ran one of the world's largest companies. You've probably heard of this woman because she ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Yes, in 1999, Carly Fiorina became the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the first woman to do so at a Fortune 100 company.

14. First woman Olympic champion.

It's so easy to forget women just weren't allowed to actively participate in society. For the longest time, women couldn't even compete in one of the world's most well-known athletic competitions: the Olympics.

At least, that was until Charlotte Cooper attended the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, the first Olympics where women were allowed to participate. In Paris, she won in tennis singles and mixed doubles, making her the first individual woman Olympic champion.

15. First woman to be elected to Congress.

Jeannette Rankin, inspired by the woman's suffrage movement, sought to help it from the inside. After years of trying to amend state constitutions to permit women to vote, in 1916, Rankin decided to run for one of Montana's seats in the US House of Representatives.

Miraculously, even though women still couldn't vote, she won. It was reportedly a close race, though I doubt that made the man she was running against feel better about losing to the first woman to be elected to Congress.

In her position, Rankin helped pass the 19th Amendment, which prohibits denying the right to vote on the basis of a person's sex.

16. First woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first woman to win two Nobel Prizes (and in two different fields).

Yeah, I wanted to end with Marie Curie because Marie Curie was a badass and hero. She won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband and colleague, Pierre Curie, for their work with radioactivity, becoming the first woman Nobel laureate.

Eight years later, though her husband had died, Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery and production of radium and polonium — work connected with her research on radioactivity.

When she won the second prize, she became the first (and still only) woman to win two prizes as well as the first (and only) woman to win prizes in two different fields.

She later died from an illness caused by prolonged exposure to radioactive elements.

Citations: Madam C.J. Walker (, Kathryn Bigelow makes history as first woman to win best director Oscar (The Guardian), women in aviation and space history: GERALDINE MOCK (Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum), Here's When The Rest Of The World Elected Their First Female Leaders (Huffington Post), Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike (, The Strange Tale of the First Woman to Run for President (Politico), Junko Tabei : The first woman atop the world (The Japan Times), Alison Hargreaves: The first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest unaided (International Business Times), Nellie Tayloe Ross: The First Woman Governor (University of Wyoming), Aloha Wanderwell Was The First Woman To Drive Around The World (Road & Track), The First Woman to Drive Around the World Wore Men's Breeches and Had a Pet Monkey (Atlas Obscura), Sandra Day O'Connor (, Frances Perkins (, First woman in space (, First American Woman in Space (NASA), Florence Lawrence: The First Movie Star (, Celebrating America's First Women CEOs (, Carly Fiorina (, Charlotte Cooper: The world's first female Olympic champion (Left Foot Forward), CHARLOTTE COOPER, THE FIRST FEMALE OLYMPIC CHAMPION (, Jeannette Rankin (, Marie Curie (, Marie Curie - Facts (