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thirteen.org’s ‘Unsung Heroines’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
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Margaret Knight's paper bag folding machine patent

We consider an ‘unsung heroine’ a woman whose work/life has been under-recognized. Unfortunately, that still means most women! But here are our picks for groundbreaking inventors, artists, scientists, and more, who go beyond the “first woman to…” role. (picture at right: Margaret Knight’s paper bag folding machine patent.)

Who is your Unsung Heroine? Here are some of ours:

  • Joanne Bland is an activist who marched in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March when she was just 11, and she’s the co-founder and director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama. She’s been working for justice her whole life. - Wayne Taylor
  • Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, one of the first computer programmers, and a military officer. Among her many accomplishments, the COBOL computer language is based on her programming ideas, and the term ‘computer bug’ is attributed to her. – David Hirmes
  • Cristeta Comerford: The first female (and as a Filipina, the first minority) executive chef at the White House, appointed in 2005 during the GW Bush administration. - David Chiu
  • Margaret Knight, the ‘mother of the grocery bag’–an inventor during the mid-1800s who was the first woman to receive a U.S. patent…she ‘bagged’ about 89 patents during her lifetime. – Nick Miller
  • Dori Seda, underground cartoonist. Seda threw herself at life so hard it eventually kicked back, and she died very young. But not before she’d produced a small but impressive body of work that combines the overactive id of R. Crumb with the sensitivity and self-awareness of, well, Seda herself. – Robin Edgerton
  • Nellie Bly, Investigative journalism pioneer who, in 1887, faked insanity to report on a mental asylum from within, and then the following year traveled around the world in 72 days. – Jeremy Chernikoff

Other resources for lists of under-recognized women: