List of women's firsts

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This is a list of women's firsts noting the first time that a woman or women achieved a given historical feat. A shorthand phrase for this development is "breaking the gender barrier" or "breaking the glass ceiling."[1][2] Other terms related to the glass ceiling can be used for specific fields related to those terms, such as "breaking the brass ceiling" for women in the military and "breaking the stained glass ceiling" for women clergy.[3][4] Inclusion on the list is reserved for achievements by women that have significant historical impact.

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Emmy Awards[edit]

Film (aside from the Academy Awards)[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]


  • 2018: Taleedah Tamer, first Saudi woman to be featured in an international fashion campaign and walk a couture runway[26]

Literature (aside from the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes)[edit]

Pulitzer Prizes[edit]

Television (aside from the Emmy Awards)[edit]

Theater (aside from the Tony Awards)[edit]

Tony Awards[edit]

  • 1998: Julie Taymor, first woman to win a Tony Award for best director of a musical.[42][43]
  • 2004: Phylicia Rashad, first African-American woman to win a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play.
  • 2013: Cyndi Lauper, first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Original Score solo.
  • 2014: Audra McDonald, won a Tony Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play this year, making her the first woman to ever earn six Tony Award wins (not counting honorary awards) and the first woman to win a Tony Award in all four acting categories.[44][44]
  • 2015: Tony Award for Best Original Score was won by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, making them the first female writing team to win that award.[45]



Aviation and Aerospace[edit]

Date Name Milestone
June 4, 1784 Élisabeth Thible First known woman to ride in a hot air balloon.[64][65][66]
1805 Sophie Blanchard First woman to pilot a hot air balloon.[67]
March 8, 1910 Raymonde de Laroche First woman to receive a pilot's license.[68]
1910–1911 Lilian Bland First woman in the world to design, build, and fly an aircraft.[69][70]
1912 Harriet Quimby First woman to fly across the English Channel.[71]
1912 Rayna Kasabova First woman to participate in a military flight during the Siege of Odrin.
1914 Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskaya First woman commissioned as a military pilot; she flew reconnaissance missions for the Czar in 1914.[72][73]
1915 Marie Marvingt First woman to fly a fighter plane in combat.[74][75]
1930 Amy Johnson First woman to fly from Britain to Australia.[76]
1932 Amelia Earhart First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.[77]
1933 Lotfia ElNadi First African woman and first Arab woman to earn a pilot's license.
1937 Sabiha Gökçen The first military woman to fly combat missions.
May 18, 1953 Jacqueline Cochran First woman to break the sound barrier.</ref>[78]
1957 Jackie Moggridge First woman to become a British airline captain.[79]
June 16, 1963 Valentina Tereshkova First woman in space.[80]
1963 Betty Miller First female pilot to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean.[81]
1964 Jerrie Mock First woman to fly solo around the world.[82]
1973 Rosella Bjornson First female pilot for a commercial airline in North America
1976 Emily Howell Warner First woman to become an American airline captain.[83][84]
1978 Judy Cameron First female pilot hired to fly for a major Canadian carrier (Air Canada).[85]
1984 Svetlana Savitskaya First woman to space walk.[86]
February 1995 Eileen Collins First woman space shuttle pilot.[87]
2004 Irene Koki Mutungi, from Kenya First African woman to qualify to captain a commercial aircraft; she qualified to command the Boeing 737.[88]
2005 Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi First Saudi woman to become a commercial airline pilot.[89]
September 18, 2006 Anousheh Ansari First female space tourist.[90]
2009 Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi Ghana's first female civilian pilot, and the first woman in West Africa certified to build and maintain Rotax engines.[91]
2014 Nicola Scaife, from Australia Winner of the first women's hot air balloon world championship, which was held in Poland.[92]
2015 Dalia Iraq's first female commercial airline pilot.[93]
2015 Ouma Laouali Niger's first female pilot.[94]



1866: Lucy Hobbs Taylor, first American woman to earn a doctorate in dentistry.[95]

Born Lucy Hobbs on March 14, 1833 in Constable, New York. She was initially denied admission to dental school, then began private study with a professor from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. In November 1865, she entered the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, where in 1866 she earned her doctorate in dentistry, becoming the first woman in the United States to do so. She married James Taylor and he followed her into the practice of dentistry. The two moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where they practiced together until her husband's death in 1886. She retired and became active in women's rights, and died in 1910.


Year Name Milestone
1608 Juliana Morell First woman to earn a doctorate degree.[96]
1678 Elena Cornaro Piscopia First woman to earn a Philosophy doctorate degree.[97][98]
1732 Laura Bassi First woman to officially teach at a European university.[99][100][101]
1875 Stefania Wolicka-Arnd First woman to receive a PhD in the modern era.[102][103]


  • 1148: Anna Komnene, the first woman historian[104], completes her work "Alexiad", which consists of 15 volumes written in Greek.

International bodies[edit]


Library science[edit]



Nobel Prizes[edit]




Historic firsts for women as heads of state or government:




  • August 6, 1926: Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim across the English Channel.[131]
  • 1937: Grace Hudowalski was the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks.[132][133][134]
  • 1940s: Lois Fegan Farrell became the first female reporter to cover a professional hockey team in America.[135]
  • 1960: Mary McGee becomes the first official female motorcycle racer in the United States by earning a license from the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme. She is also the first woman to compete in the Baja 500 off-road race.
  • 1960: Wilma Rudolph, track and field champion, became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the Rome Olympics.[136] She elevated women's track to a major presence in the United States. As a member of the black community, she is also regarded as a civil rights and women's rights pioneer. Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay (who later became Muhammad Ali), Rudolph became an international star due to the first international television coverage of the Olympics that year.
  • November 27, 1968: Penny Ann Early, first woman to play major professional basketball, in an ABA game (Kentucky Colonels vs. Los Angeles Stars).[137][138]
  • August 15, 1970: Patricia Palinkas, first woman to play professionally in an American football game.[139]
  • January 1, 1972 - Women were officially welcomed into the United States Polo Association with Sue Sally Hale becoming the first woman member.
  • May 16, 1975: Junko Tabei, first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.[140]
  • 1993: Halli Reid became the first woman to swim across Lake Erie, swimming from Long Point, Ontario, to North East, Pennsylvania, in 17 hours.[141][142][143]
  • October 18, 1997: Liz Heaston, first female to play and score in a college football game, kicking two extra points in the 1997 Linfield vs. Willamette football game.[144]
  • December 26, 2008: Sarah Thomas, first woman to officiate an NCAA football bowl game.[145]
  • 2009: Kei Taniguchi becomes the first woman to win the Piolet d'Or (Golden Ice Axe), the "Oscar" of Mountaineering.
  • September 4, 2009: Carolynn Sells became the first woman to win a solo motorcycle race on the Snaefell Mountain Course in the Isle of Man when she won the Ultra Lightweight race at the 2009 Manx Grand Prix.
  • May 4, 2012: Rosie Napravnik became the first woman jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, riding Believe You Can.[146]
  • August 9, 2012: Shannon Eastin becomes the first woman to officiate a National Football League game in a pre-season matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers.[147]
  • 2012: Anna Wardley, from England, became the first person to complete a solo swim around Portsea Island recognized by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.[148]
  • May 31, 2013: Lydia Nsekera became the first female FIFA Executive Committee member.[149]
  • May 18, 2013: Rosie Napravnik places third in the Preakness Stakes on Mylute, making her the first woman to have ridden in all three Triple Crown races.[150] On June 8, 2013 she rode the filly Unlimited Budget to a 6th-place finish in the 2013 Belmont, becoming the first woman to ride all three Triple Crown races in the same year.[151]
  • June 2013: Ashley Freiberg became the first woman to claim an overall GT3 Cup Challenge victory in North America, winning the Porsche IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge.[152]
  • September 23, 2013: Sarah Outen arrived in a small harbor on the Aleutian island of Adak, and thus became the first person to row solo from Japan to Alaska, as well as the first woman to complete a mid-Pacific row from West to East.[153]
  • 2013: Davie Jane Gilmour became the first woman to lead the Board of Directors for Little League.[154]
  • 2013: UFC 157, which took place in February, featured not only the first women's fight in UFC history but also the first UFC event to be headlined by two female fighters (Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche).[155]
  • 2013: On her fifth attempt and at age 64, Diana Nyad became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West.[156]
  • 2013: Scotland's solicitor general, Lesley Thomson, became the first woman to be appointed to Scottish Rugby's board.[157]
  • 2013: Anna Wardley, from England, became the first woman to swim non-stop around the Isle of Wight.[158]
  • 2013: Peggy O'Neal, an American-born lawyer, became the first woman in the Australian Football League to hold the position of club president, being chosen as the president of the Richmond Football Club.[159]
  • 2013: Tracey Gaudry became the first woman appointed as vice president of the Union Cycliste Internationale.[160]
  • 2013: Adel Weir, former world number 53 from South Africa, became the first ever female squash coach hire at the Qatar Squash Federation.[161]
  • 2013: Maria Toor, a squash player from South Waziristan, became the winner of the first ever women's event in the Nash Cup in Canada by beating Milou van der Heijden of the Netherlands 13–11, 11–3, 11–9.[162]
  • 2013: Tatyana McFadden became the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championships during the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon. She claimed gold in every event from the 100 meters through to the 5,000 meters.[163][164]
  • 2013: Tatyana McFadden won the Boston, Chicago, London, and New York marathons in 2013.[165][166][167][168] This makes her the first person – able-bodied or otherwise – to win the four major marathons in the same year.[167][168][169] She also set a new course record for the Chicago Marathon (1 hour, 42 minutes, 35 seconds).[167]
  • 2013: Denise Fejtek became the first woman to complete the "Peak to Heat Double" – the combination of summiting Mount Everest and finishing the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.[170] She reached the Everest Summit on May 23, 2010 and finished the Hawaii Ironman in October 2013.[171]
  • 2013: Sonya Baumstein became the first person to stand-up paddleboard across the Bering Strait.[172][173]
  • 2013: Meredith Novack became the fastest person, and first woman, to pull a double crossing of the Auau Channel in Hawaii.[174][175] Her time was 11 hours and one minute.[175]
  • 2013: Rosie Napravnik won 17 races to become the first woman to capture the leading rider title at Keeneland.[176]
  • 2013: Olivia Prokopova became the first woman to win the World Crazy Golf Championship.[177]
  • 2013: Mia Hamm became the first woman inducted into the World Football Hall of Fame in Pachuca, Mexico.[178]
  • 2013: Emily Bell became the first woman to kayak the length of Britain.[179]
  • 2013: Casey Stoney became the first female member of the Professional Footballers' Association's management committee.[180]
  • 2013: Jodi Eller became the first woman to complete the 1,515 mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.[181]
  • 2013: On March 1, 2013, Privateers owner and president Nicole Kirnan served as the team's coach for the first time, making her the first woman to coach a professional hockey team in the United States.[182][183]
  • 2014: Torah Bright became the first woman to qualify for three snowboard disciplines at a Winter Olympics, specifically snowboard cross, halfpipe and slopestyle.[184]
  • 2014: Ashley Freiberg became the first woman to win an overall race in Continental Tire Challenge History when she won the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Her co-driver was Shelby Blackstock.[185]
  • 2014: The first women competed in ski jumping at the Olympics.[186]
  • 2014: Jennifer Welter became the first woman non-kicker or placekick-holder to play in a men's pro football game; she played running back for the Texas Revolution.[187]
  • 2014: Abbey Holmes became the first woman to kick 100 goals in one regular season of Australian Rules football.[188][189]
  • 2014: Annabel Anderson, from New Zealand, became the first woman to cross Cook Strait standing on a paddleboard.[190]
  • 2014: Peta Searle became the first woman appointed as a development coach in the Australian Football League when she was chosen by St Kilda as a development coach.[191]
  • 2014: 16-year-old Katie Ormerod, from Britain, became the first female snowboarder to land a backside double cork 1080.[192]
  • 2014: Shelby Osborne became the first female defensive back in American football when she was drafted by Campbellsville University in Kentucky.[193]
  • 2014: Amélie Mauresmo became the first woman to coach a top male tennis player (specifically, Andy Murray).[194]
  • 2014: Corinne Diacre became the first woman to coach a men's professional soccer team (Clermont Foot) in a competitive match in France on August 4, 2014, her 40th birthday.[195]
  • 2014: Cecilia Brækhus, from Norway, became the first Norwegian and the first woman to hold all major world championship titles in her weight division (welterweight) in boxing.[196]
  • 2014: On August 15, 2014, Mo'ne Davis was the first girl in Little League World Series history to pitch a winning game for the Taney Dragons and earned the win,[197] and she was also the first girl to pitch a shutout in Little League postseason history.[198][199]
  • 2014: Amy Hughes, from England, ran 53 marathons in 53 days, thus setting the record for the most marathons run on consecutive days by any person, male or female.[200]
  • 2015: Jennifer Welter became the first woman hired to coach in men's pro football when the Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football league announced that Welter was hired to coach linebackers and special teams.[201]
  • 2019: GS Lakshmi, former Indian cricketer becomes the first female ICC match referee


Women's rights[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


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