What could be a greater gift to bestow on your daughter than a name with a heroic namesake, someone with an inspiring story to add a layer of pride to your little girl’s feelings about her name–and give her great material for a school report?
The following is a list of mostly American women of great courage, perseverence and accomplishment—many of whom broke barriers for women– that could fill this bill. And of course, this being nameberry, the name’s the thing, so apologies to all the equally distinguished Marys, Elizabeths, Sarahs and Anns who haven’t been included: the following ladies were picked (almost) as much for their interesting names as for their achievements.
ABIGAIL Adams – The first First Lady to occupy the White House and an ntellectually equal partner of her husband, President John Adams.
ADA LOVELACE – daughter of the poet Byron whose work in mathematics was (probably) a precursor of the modern computer.
AMELIA Earhart — the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.
APHRA Behn—the first published woman writer in English.
ARABELLA Mansfield—the first woman to be admitted to the bar in the United States.
BELVA Lockwood – the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.
CLARA Barton – the founder of the American Red Cross.
CLEMENTINA Rind—Colonial printer who published the works of Thomas Jefferson.
DINAH Nuthead –America’s first licensed woman printer.
ELEANOR Roosevelt –20th century First Lady who championed human rights.
EMELINE Cleveland—believed to be the first woman to perform major surgery.
EVANGELINE Booth—Salvation Army leader.
FLORA MacDonald—renowned for her daring rescue of Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE – pioneering nurse during the Crimean War, who laid the foundations for modern nursing.
GEORGIA Neese Clarke – first woman Secretary of the Treasury.
GOLDA Meir –Israel’s first woman Prime Minister.
HATTIE CARAWAY—first woman elected to a full term in the US Senate.
HYPATIA — Hypatia of Alexandria was the first woman to make a substantial contribution to mathematics.
INDIRA Gandhi — the first female Prime Minister of India.
JOSEPHINE Bay –the first woman to head a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange.
JULIETTE Low –the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.
LOVE Rosa Gantt –an influential early woman doctor.
LUCRETIA Mott—important leader in the women’s rights and suffrage and anti-slavery movements.
LYDIA Darragh— Revolutionary War heroine; credited with saving George Washington’s army.
MARIETTA Holly – a popularizor of woman’s rights doctrines.
MERCY Warren — ardent early American patriot known as “the Conscience of the American Revolution.”
OLYMPIA Brown – effective campaigner for the women’s right to vote.
PAULINA Davis –another proto-feminist who led the first Women’s Rights Congress.
PRUDENCE Crandall — an active abolitionist who fought to establish schools for black children.
ROSA Parks — known as “the mother of the Civil Rights movement” and a symbol of the power of nonviolence.
SOJOURNER (born Isabella) Truth—one-time slave, ardent speaker on abolitionist and women’s rights causes.
SOPHIA Smith—founder of Smith College–which opened in 1871 with 14 students.
Part 2 will feature Cultural Heroines, including some especially great writers’ names.