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April Highlights in U.S. Women’s History

  • April 2, 1931 – 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, the second woman to play baseball in the all-male minor leagues, pitches an exhibition game against the N.Y. Yankees and strikes out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The next day, the Baseball Commissioner voided her contract, claiming baseball was too strenuous for women. The ban was not overturned until 1992
  • April 5, 1911 – 100,000 to 500,000 people march in New York City to attend the funeral of seven unidentified victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in late March
  • April 7, 1805 – Sacagawea begins helping the Lewis and Clark Expedition as an interpreter
  • April 7, 1987 – Opening of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., the first museum devoted to women artists
  • April 9, 1939 – Marian Anderson sings an Easter Sunday concert for more than 75,000 at Lincoln Memorial
  • April 13, 1933 – Ruth Bryan Owen is the first woman to represent the U.S. as a foreign minister when she is appointed as envoy to Denmark
  • April 16, 1912 – Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to fly an airplane across the English Channel
  • April 19, 1977 – Fifteen women in the House of Representatives form the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues
  • April 22 – Earth Day, honor Rachel Carson today, a woman who changed America and greatly influenced the environmental movement with her revolutionary book, Silent Spring
  • April 26, 1777 – American Revolution heroine Sybil Ludington, 16 years old, rides 40 miles on horseback in the middle of the night to warn the American militia that the British were invading
  • April 28, 1993 – First “Take Our Daughters to Work” Day, sponsored by the Ms. Foundation, in 2003 it became “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” Day

April Birthdays

  • April 1, 1895 (1984) – Alberta Hunter, blues and cabaret singer (1911-79), made recordings from 1921 into the 1980s, also starred in “Showboat” with Paul Robeson in London, made stunning musical comeback on TV, sang for President Carter
  • April 1, 1911 (1998) – Augusta Baker, renowned storyteller in New York public libraries, created bibliography in 1939 of suitable children’s books to represent African-American history and culture
  • April 2, 1915 (1984) – Soia Mentschikoff, attorney, one of the first women partners in a large Wall Street law firm (1945), worked on Uniform Commercial Code (1941), University of Chicago Law School professor (1951), candidate for Supreme Court
  • April 3, 1898 (1997) – Katherine Esau, botanist, emigrated from Germany in 1918, settled in California in 1922, studied viruses in celery, pears and carrots with use of electron microscope until 1991, wrote classic 735-page “Plant Anatomy” (1953)
  • April 3, 1899 (1979) – Katherine Ordway, wealthy entrepreneur of St. Paul, Minnesota, established the Goodhill Foundation at age 65, which funneled grants through the Nature Conservancy to save natural land in Minnesota, Kansas, and South Dakota, bequeathed more than $65 million
  • April 3, 1934 – Jane Goodall, primatologist and conservationist, world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees
  • April 4, 1928 (2014) – Maya Angelou, author, poet, civil rights activist, actress, read poem she composed at President Clinton’s inauguration (1993)
  • April 5, 1901 (1968) – Hattie Alexander, pediatrician and microbiologist, identified and studied antibiotic resistance caused by random genetic mutations in DNA, first woman elected president of the American Pediatric Society (1964)
  • April 5, 1908 (1989) – Bette Davis, movie star, began with “Of Human Bondage” (1934) and “Dark Victory” (1939) and ended with “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962), won Academy Awards for “Dangerous” (1935) and “Jezebel” (1938)
  • April 5, 1938 (1981) – Lourdes Casal, poet and critic, born in Cuba, American citizen in 1962, organizer and activist, earned a Ph.D. for social work (1975), tried to build bridges for Cubans and other Americans
  • April 5, 1949 (1986) – Judith Resnik, engineer, astronaut, one of six qualified women chosen as mission specialists in 1984, second American woman in space, perished in the Challenger explosion
  • April 7, 1890 (1998) – Marjory Douglas, writer, suffragist, women’s rights advocate, environmentalist, championed culture of first Americans, created “Friends of the Everglades” with a million acres established in 1978 as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area
  • April 7, 1891 (1978) – Martha Eliot, pediatrician, researched and proved the beneficial effects of cod liver oil and sunbaths to prevent rickets while working with the Children’s Bureau, wrote provisions for dependent and crippled children in the 1935 Social Security Act, only woman to sign the constitution of the new World Health Organization in 1947
  • April 7, 1915 (1959) – Billie Holiday, jazz singer, began her career in Harlem in 1931, toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw, use of heroin and opium led to ten months in Alderson Prison, hailed as “Lady Day,” the most influential female jazz singer in America
  • April 7, 1944 (2002) – Julia Miller Phillips, film producer, first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Picture for “The Sting” (1973) as a producer, also produced “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Taxi Driver”
  • April 8, 1892 (1979) – Mary Pickford, most successful actress in silent films, started in Toronto (1898) then moved to New York (1909), starred in 42 films by D. W. Griffith then 32 in Hollywood (last silent movie in 1927), won Academy Award for “Coquette” (1929), created United Artists production company with five others
  • April 9, 1917 (2007) – Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, defied bus driver in 1944 who ordered her to give up her seat and move to the segregated back, kicked the sheriff when arrested, Thurgood Marshall won her case (6-1) on grounds of promoting and protecting national travel, awarded Freedom Medal by President Clinton who said she “took the first step on a journey that would change America forever”
  • April 9, 1887 (1953) – Florence Price, first African-American woman symphony composer
  • April 9, 1936 (1988) – Valerie Solanas, feminist provocateur, wrote ” SCUM Manifesto” seeking to eliminate all men except those who “do good,” shot artist Andy Warhol in 1968, revised the Manifesto after prison term
  • April 10, 1838 (1915) – Lucy Higgs Nichols, escaped slave who served as a nurse for the Union Army during the American Civil War
  • April 10, 1880 (1965) – Frances Perkins, first woman cabinet member, Secretary of Labor (1933), key contributor to the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • April 10, 1926 (1995) – Johnnie Tillmon, director of the National Welfare Rights Organization (1963-72), worked with Gloria Steinem and Aileen Hernandez on “Women, Welfare and Poverty” at the National Women’s Conference in Houston (1977)
  • April 10, 1930 – Dolores Huerta, Chicana activist, labor organizer, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union
  • April 11, 1908 (2007) – Jane Bolin, the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School (1931), first to join the New York City Bar Association (1932), the first to join the New York City Law Department, and the first to serve as a judge in the United States when she was sworn into the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court (1939)
  • April 11, 1910 (1997) – Annie Dodge Wauneka, elected to Navajo Tribal Council (1951-78), worked on tuberculosis epidemic using Navajo and the Bureau of Indian Affairs ideas, demanded funding for child health programs, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963)
  • April 12, 1883 (1976) – Imogen Cunningham, photographer specializing in portraits, worked primarily at Mills College after studying in Germany, also taught at California School of Fine Arts
  • April 12, 1903 (1987) – Justine Polier, daughter of rabbi Stephen Wise, first woman in New York Workmen’s Compensation Division, Domestic Relations Court Judge (1935-73), fought against inferior education for black students
  • April 12, 1916 – Beverly Cleary, prolific author of beloved children’s and young adult fiction
  • April 12, 1917 (1991) – Marietta Tree, born Mary Endicott Peabody, militant for civil rights issues, famous for hosting dinners and calling for reforms in the Democratic Party
  • April 13, 1909 (2001) – Eudora Welty, writer, photographer, won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1973), awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Literature, and the French Legion d’Honneur
  • April 13, 1892 (1990) – Clara Beyer, labor lawyer, worked with Frances Perkins and Molly Dewson on the Social Security Act of 1935, campaigned to abolish child labor and to secure minimum wage and maximum hour scales
  • April 13, 1919 (1995) – Madalyn Murray O’Hair, outspoken atheist behind the 1962 Supreme Court’s 8-1 ruling that organized Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional, in 1995 kidnapped and later murdered by a former employee
  • April 14, 1866 (1936) – Anne Sullivan Macy, famous teacher of Helen Keller who was blind, deaf, and mute, the two worked and traveled together
  • April 15, 1894 (1937) – Bessie Smith, began career about 1902, learned country blues from Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, made 160 recordings, billed as the “Empress of the Blues,” career declined by 1931 amidst economic depression and the advent of radio
  • April 15, 1896 (1980) – May Edward Chinn, first black woman doctor in Harlem (1936-80), worked with George Papanicolaon on the Pap smear to identify cervical cancer, Kuwana Haulsey wrote Angel of Harlem, a novel based on her life (2004)
  • April 15, 1915 (2012) – Elizabeth Catlett, was an artist best known for her depictions of the female African-American experience in the 20th century
  • April 16, 1921 (2003) – Marie Maynard Daly, biochemist and the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry (1947)
  • April 16, 1971 (1995) – Selena Quintanilla Perez, singer who popularized the Tejano sound of Mexico in the 1990s, turned to original fashion boutique design, Gov. Bush (TX) declared April 16 Selena Day
  • April 17, 1913 (1997) – Dorothy Fosdick, worked as federal official from 1942 to 1953 developing the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, advised on national security and wrote speeches for Henry “Scoop” Jackson (1955-83)
  • April 18, 1897 (1989) – Angna (Anita) Enters, modern concert dancer, painter, sculptor, began arranging music for her solo performances of characters in 1923, created more that 250 dance mimes, performed in the White House (1940)
  • April 18, 1898 (1990) – Ruth Bunzel, anthropologist, with Ruth Benedict studied the art and culture of southwest Indian women starting in 1924, learned Zuni language, pottery and sewing to understand and preserve the culture
  • April 18, 1947 (1997) – Kathy Acker, self-published novelist, dealt with sex as the making of power and identity, won the Pushcart Prize (1981), rewrote classics Don Quixote and Great Expectations
  • April 19, 1806 (1889) – Sarah Bagley, prominent labor leader in New England during the 1840s, she was an advocate of shorter workdays for factory workers and mechanics, and campaigned to make ten hours of labor per day the maximum in Massachusetts
  • April 20, 1890 (1983) – Carmelita Hinton, secretary to Jane Addams for two years, committed to John Dewey’s education philosophy, environmentalism, internationalism and arts and crafts, founded Putney co-ed boarding school in Vermont (1935)
  • April 20, 1895 (1986) – Mary Pukul, descendant of native Hawaiian high priestesses, researched and collected stories and oral histories, became translator at the Bishop Museum, wrote songs and gave hula demonstrations in schools in the 1950s
  • April 22, 1857 (1936) – Sarah B. Cochran was an American coal magnate, philanthropist and women’s suffrage supporter in southwestern Pennsylvania
  • April 22, 1891 (1979) – Laura Gilpin, photographer, won acclaim for mastery of platinum printing process in early 1920s, her early work with autochromes of still-life and portraits allowed her to record 35 years of vanishing rural America, elected an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (1930), wrote The Enduring Navaho (1968)
  • April 22, 1901 (1995) – Vera Maxwell, sportswear clothing designer whose popular and practical styles starting in 1947 permitted greater freedom of motion, favored by Lillian Gish, Martha Graham and Pat Nixon, subject of two retrospective exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution (1970)
  • April 23, 1928 – Shirley Temple Black, cheerful and curly-haired child actor, singer and dancer whose career as a movie star spanned the Depression and World War II eras (1932-50), appointed U.S. Ambassador to Ghana (1974) and Czechoslovakia (1988)
  • April 23, 1933 (2011) – Annie Easley, African American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist, one of the first African-Americans to work as a computer scientist at NASA, a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage
  • April 24, 1902 (1989) – Jane Lee, Chinese activist in revolution of 1911, came to San Francisco on student visa in 1922 to Mills College, became a translator and journalist, worked in 1930s with the YWCA to find jobs for Chinese women
  • April 24, 1934 – Shirley MacLaine, veteran film and theater actress, dancer, author and spiritual seeker – latest appearance in British television on Downton Abbey
  • April 24, 1940 (2017) – Sue Taylor Grafton, author of the alphabetic detective novel series featuring Kinsey Millhone, from A is for Alibi to Y is for Yesterday
  • April 24, 1942 – Barbra Streisand, singer, actress, director and producer, won two Academy Awards for Funny Girl (1968) and one for lyrics (to “Evergreen”) in A Star is Born, produced 51 gold albums, 30 platinum records, and 13 multi-platinum albums
  • April 25, 1917 (1996) – Ella Fitzgerald, “First Lady of Song,” internationally renowned jazz singer, winner of 13 Grammy Awards
  • April 26, 1888 (1981) – Anita Loos, novelist, screenwriter, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925), wrote screenplays for Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, wrote memoirs and Twice Over Lightly with Helen Hayes (1972)
  • April 26, 1889 (1982) – Margaret H’Doubler, dance educator, founder of dance in the American university, started college dance class using John Dewey’s principles at the University of Wisconsin (1917), wrote Dance: A Creative Art Experience (1940), the most widely used text in American dance education
  • April 26, 1907 (1991) – Julia Godman Ruuttila, union recruiter, activist and journalist, worked for the CIO’s International Woodworkers of America during the eight-and-a-half-month lock-out in 1937, raised community support, protested the Vietnam War, still walked in picket lines at 80 despite asthma, ulcers, arthritis and angina
  • April 26, 1933 – Carol Burnett, popular actress, comedian, singer, writer with a 50-year career in television, presented many classic sketches and legendary guests
  • April 27, 1906 (1993) – Alice Dunnigan, first African-American journalist accredited to cover Congress (1947) and the White House, Supreme Court and State Department, documented Klan actions when no “white” newspaper covered them, first journalist of color to travel with President Truman on his train (1948) but had to pay her own way, appointed to the staff of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (1961)
  • April 27, 1927 (2006) – Coretta Scott King, civil rights, human rights, and peace activist
  • April 29, 1913 (1999) – Margaret Owings, California artist, writer, environmental activist, founder of Friends of the Sea Otter (1968), assisted the Environmental Defense Fund
  • April 29, 1880 (1965): Lillian Bertha Jones Horace, pioneering educator and writer, Texas’s earliest known African American woman novelist, one of only two known black southern women novelists of the early to mid twentieth century (Zora Neale Hurston is the other); one of only two black women nationally to own a publishing company before 1920, and the only black woman nationally to author a utopian novel before 1950
  • April 30, 1909 (1990) – Eve Arden, actress, began with roles in stock theater (her first love) in the 1920s then movies in the 1930s, Academy Award nomination for playing Joan Crawford’s best friend in Mildred Pierce (1945), best remembered as “Our Miss Brooks” in radio (1948) and television (1952-56)
  • April 30, 1939 – Ellen Zwilich, first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music (1983)
    Reproduce freely. Compiled by the National Women’s History Project. Visit us on Facebook or at
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Past Women’s History Months

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