Do You Know These 3 Figures in Women’s History?
In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in an effort to honor the extraordinary achievements of American women. This month, let’s take a look at three women in American history.
- Rose Marie McCoy—America’s Secret Songwriter (1922-2015)
Born in Arkansas, Rose moved to New York City when she was 19, hoping to make it big as a singer. Although she was a talented performer, her real talent was her ability to write songs. In the late ‘40s, Rose started writing music for some of the biggest stars in the business. Several large record companies tried to sign her to their labels, but Rose turned them down. She liked being her own boss. In entirety, Rose wrote about 850 songs. In fact, she kept writing music until she died in 2015.
- Mary Edwards Walker—The Only Woman to Win the Medal of Honor (1832-1919)
After the Civil War started in 1861, Mary Edwards Walker tried to join the Union as a doctor, but the military wasn’t willing to promote her to the position of medical officer. Infuriated and eager to help the war effort, she volunteered at the Indiana Hospital where she treated Union soldiers, all free of charge. In addition to treating gunshot wounds and diseases, Mary acted as a Yankee spy. The Confederates imprisoned her for several months before finally exchanging her for one of their own doctors.
After the war was over, Mary Walker made history when President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor, making her the first and only woman to win the award. In 1917, when Congress asked her to return the medal because they decided the Medal of Honor could only be awarded to soldiers who’d seen combat, she refused. Mary Walker allegedly wore the medal until the day she died. Although she wasn’t alive to witness it, former President Jimmy Carter reinstated Mary’s Medal of Honor when he was elected president in the 1970s, acknowledging her service to her country.
- Grace Hopper “Amazing Grace” (1906-1992)
In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, The Navy assigned Grace Hopper to a project at Harvard, where she helped program the first computer in the country—the Mark I. When a moth shorted out the Mark II, Hopper joked that the computer had to be “debugged,” and the term stuck.
In 1952, she and her team created the first compiler—something essential to computer programmers—which helped translate source code written in one computer language into another. Hopper helped develop the COBOL programming language and was promoted to rear admiral in 1983. At age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy. Her invaluable work helped expand the scope of modern computing.