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Timeline of Women in Transportation History

Over time, women have made important contributions to the growth and development of the United States, particularly in the field of transportation. This timeline depicts important policies and individuals who have paved the way for enhanced career opportunities for women. Scroll by decade and click on entries to learn more.
  • Abigail Smith Adams - January 1, 1777

    The original 13 states passed laws that prohibited women from voting. Abigail Smith Adams (wife of John Adams, the second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president) wrote that women "will not hold ourselves bound by any laws which we have no voice."

  • Hannah Adams - January 1, 1784

    Hannah Adams was first American woman to support herself by writing.

  • Rebecca Lukens - January 1, 1825

    Rebecca Lukens took charge of the Brandywine Iron Works, a company that produced iron for the boilers and hulls of ships and for railcars and rails.

  • First Public High School for Women - January 1, 1826

    The first public high schools for girls opened in New York and Boston.

  • Maria Mitchell - January 1, 1847

    Maria Mitchell, an American astronomer, discovered a comet. She became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1850. She later worked at the U.S. Nautical Almanac Office, contributing calculations to the Nautical Almanac produced by the U.S. Naval Observatory.

  • Seneca Falls - January 1, 1848

    The first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. After 2 days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men signed a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined grievances and set the agenda for the women's rights movement. 

  • Harriet Tubman - January 1, 1850

    From 1850 to 1858, Harriet Tubman helped more than 300 slaves reach freedom through the Underground Railroad.

  • National Women's Rights Convention - January 1, 1850

    The first National Women's Rights Convention took place in Worcester, Massachusetts, and attracted more than 1,000 participants.

  • Susan Morningstar - January 1, 1855

    Susan Morningstar became one of the first women on record employed by a railroad.

  • Mary Patten - January 1, 1856

    When her husband fell ill, Mary Patten took command of his ship, Neptune’s Car, and his crew en route from Europe to San Francisco, and, for fifty days, successfully navigated the ship around Cape Horn to off the coast of Chile. 

  • Martha J. Coston - January 1, 1859

    Martha J. Coston earned a patent for Telegraphic Night Signals, a pyrotechnic signaling system that revolutionized maritime communication. The U.S. Navy used the system to win battles and rescue shipwrecked sailors.

  • First Women Lawyers - January 1, 1868

    The first women lawyers were licensed in the U.S.

  • American Woman Suffrage Association - January 1, 1869

    In November, Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and others established the American Woman Suffrage Association, an organization that helped to gain voting rights for women through amendments to individual state constitutions.

  • First Women's Suffrage Law - January 1, 1869

    In December, the territory of Wyoming passed the first women's suffrage law. The following year, women began to serve on juries in the territory. 

  • Eliza Murfey - January 1, 1870

    Eliza Murfey patented 16 devices for improving railroad car axles. These devices were used to lubricate the axles with oil, which reduced derailments caused by seized axles and bearings.

  • E. F. Sawyer - January 1, 1872

    The Burlington Railroad in Illinois hired E. F. Sawyer as the first American female telegraph operator. 

  • Elizabeth Bragg Cumming - January 1, 1876

    Elizabeth Bragg Cumming became the first woman in the United States to receive a civil engineering degree when she graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.

  • Emily Gross - January 1, 1877

    Emily Gross was granted a patent for improvements in stone pavements.

  • Mary Walton - January 1, 1879

    Mary Walton received patent #221,880 for a method of deflecting smokestack emissions through water tanks to capture pollutants, which were then carried by the water through the city sewage system. She adapted the system for use on locomotives.

  • Mary Myers - January 1, 1880

    Mary Myers was the first American woman to solo in a dirigible. 

  • Emily Warren Roebling - January 1, 1883

    The Brooklyn Bridge opened. Emily Warren Roebling served as the surrogate chief engineer from 1872 to 1883. She supervised the day-to-day construction, after her husband, Washington Roebling, the chief engineer, became ill. She later earned a law degree and became one of the first female lawyers in the state of New York.

  • Julia Brainerd Hall - January 1, 1886

    Julia Brainerd Hall worked with her brother, Charles Hall, to develop a commercially-viable aluminum.

  • Mary Meyers - January 1, 1886

    Mary Meyers set a new world altitude record of four miles, in a balloon filled with natural gas instead of hydrogen – she ascended to this height without benefit of oxygen equipment.

  • Nellie Bly - January 1, 1889

    Journalist Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, better known as Nellie Bly, began her attempt to beat the record of Phineas Fogg, the imaginary hero of Jules Verne's novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. Nellie Bly completed her journey on January 25, 1890, 3:51 p.m., exactly 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes from the day she began her trip.

  • Thea Foss - January 1, 1889

    Thea Foss began a shipbuilding company in Tacoma, Washington, which became the Foss Maritime Company.

  • National American Woman Suffrage Association - January 1, 1890

    The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). 

  • Annie H. Chilton - January 1, 1891

    Annie H. Chilton invented and patented a combined horse-detacher and vehicle brake. The device allowed for the simultaneous application of the brake and release of the horse, which reduced the chance of injuries to drivers.

  • Mary Walton - January 1, 1891

    Mary Walton earned a patent for her railroad sound-dampening apparatus for elevated railways, which laid the tracks in a wood box lined with cotton and filled with sand. 

  • First States Grant Women Right to Vote - January 1, 1893

    Colorado became the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote. Utah and Idaho follow suit in 1896, Washington State in 1910, California in 1911, Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona in 1912, Alaska and Illinois in 1913, Montana and Nevada in 1914, New York in 1917; Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma in 1918.

  • Clara K. Bragdon - January 1, 1895

    Two years after the first federal road agency, the Office of Road Inquiry, was established, Clara K. Bragdon was hired as an assistant messenger at $840 a year.

  • Mary Church Terrell - January 1, 1896

    Mary Church Terrell founded the National Association of Colored Women.

  • Anne Rainsford French Bush - January 1, 1900

    Anne Rainsford French Bush, apparently the first woman to receive a license to drive a car, obtained a “steam engineer’s license,” which entitled her to operate a “four-wheeled vehicle powered by steam or gas.”

  • Sarah Clark Kidder - January 1, 1901

    Sarah Clark Kidder became the president of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad in California.

  • Mary Anderson - January 1, 1903

    Mary Anderson patented a window cleaning device, the predecessor of today's windshield wipers.

  • National Women's Trade Union League - January 1, 1903

    The National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) was established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.

  • E. Lillian Todd - January 1, 1906

    E. Lillian Todd was the first woman who designed and built an aircraft – it never flew.

  • Alice Huyler Ramsey - January 1, 1909

    Alice Huyler Ramsey was the first woman to drive coast-to-coast, from New York to California. She also founded the Women’s Motoring Club. 

  • Mrs. Ralph Van Deman - January 1, 1909

    Mrs. Ralph Van Deman was the first women to fly as an airplane passenger in the United States – Wilbur Wright took her for a short flight.

  • Bessica Raiche - January 1, 1910

    Bessica Raiche became the first woman pilot in America to make a planned flight.

  • Blanche Stuart Scott - January 1, 1910

    Blanche Stuart Scott, without permission or knowledge of Glenn Curtiss, the airplane's owner and builder, got one of his airplanes airborne – without any flying lessons – thus becoming the first American woman to pilot an airplane.

  • Helene Mallard - January 1, 1910

    Helene Mallard became the first women to ascend by means of a kite, which was designed by Samuel F. Perkins.

  • Harriet Quimby - January 1, 1911

    Harriet Quimby was the first U.S. woman to earn a pilot certificate from the France-based Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI). She was also the first women to fly at night, and in 1912, the first women to pilot her own aircraft across the English Channel.

  • Bernetta Miller - January 1, 1912

    Bernetta Miller became the first person to demonstrate a monoplane for the U.S. government.

  • Georgia Broadwick - January 1, 1913

    Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick was first woman in the world to make a parachute jump from an airplane.

  • National Women's Party - January 1, 1913

    Alice Paul and Lucy Burns established the Congressional Union to work toward the passage of a federal amendment to give women the vote. The group was later renamed the National Women's Party. 

  • Katherine Stinson - January 1, 1915

    Katherine Stinson was the first female aerobatic pilot. 

  • Wilma Russey - January 1, 1915

    Wilma Russey became the first woman to work as a taxi driver in New York and was an expert garage mechanic.

  • Girl Scouts - January 1, 1916

    The Girl Scouts initiated an “Automobling Badge” for which girls had to demonstrate driving skill, auto mechanics, and first aid skills.

  • Jeannette Rankin - January 1, 1916

    Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first women to serve in either branch of Congress. She was elected at a time when women in most states were not allowed to vote.

  • Ruth Law - January 1, 1916

    Ruth Law was the first person to fly air mail in the Philippines.

  • Charlotte Bridgwood - January 1, 1917

    Charlotte Bridgwood patented the first automatic windshield wiper.

  • Katherine Blodgett - January 1, 1917

    Katherine Blodgett became the first female scientist hired at General Electric’s research lab in Schenectady, New York.

  • Women in the Workforce - WWI - January 1, 1917

    A large number of women entered the workforce during World War I. They worked in many male dominated jobs, such as building and maintaining vehicles and machinery.

  • Luella Bates - January 1, 1918

    Luella Bates began working for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. During World War I, she worked as a test driver traveling throughout the state of Wisconsin in a Model B truck. After the war, when the company let the majority of the women go, Luella remained as a demonstrator and driver. In January 1920, Luella traveled to New York City where she attended the New York Auto Show. During her stay she became the first woman truck driver to receive a drivers license in New York. In 1920, Four Wheel Drive sent Bates on three transcontinental tours throughout the United States to introduce the idea that the truck was so easy to steer a women could drive it.


  • Susan B. Anthony - January 1, 1919

    The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate and then sent to the states for ratification.

  • Bainbridge Colby - January 1, 1920

    On August 26, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

  • Mary Anderson - January 1, 1920

    The Department of Labor created the Women's Bureau to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women. Mary Anderson served as the first director of the new organization.

  • Olive Dennis - January 1, 1920

    Olive Dennis became the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s engineer of service. She also held several patents, such as one for the Dennis ventilator, which was inserted in the window sashes of passenger cars and controlled by passengers. She also contributed to the development of air conditioned coaches, dimmers on overhead lights, individual reclining seats, and stain-resistant upholstery. In addition, she was the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association.

  • Bessie Coleman - January 1, 1921

    Bessie Coleman was the first African-American, male or female to earn a pilot’s license from the FAI.

  • Lillian Boyer - January 1, 1921

    Lillian Boyer, one of the first female aviation acrobats and wing walkers, began her career.

  • Helen Schultz - January 1, 1922

    Helen Schultz, the "Iowa Bus Queen," established the Red Ball Transportation Company, providing city-to-city transportation by bus.

  • Elinor Smith - January 1, 1927

    Elinor Smith became the youngest licensed pilot to date in the U.S. at the age of 16. In 1930, she became the youngest pilot, male or female, granted a transport license by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

  • Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie - January 1, 1927

    Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie was the first woman to obtain a pilot’s license and an aircraft mechanics license from the U.S. federal government.

  • Kathrine Gerhardt Beckert - January 1, 1928

    Kathrine Gerhardt Beckert was one of the first women hired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as part of its clerical and platform force. 

  • Louise Thaden - January 1, 1928

    Louise Thaden was the first pilot to hold the women's altitude, endurance, and speed records in light planes simultaneously. In 1929 she won the first All Women's Air Race, which became known as the Power Puff Derby. 

  • Amelia Earhart - January 1, 1929

    Amelia Earhart became the first president of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots.

  • Elizabeth Drennan - January 1, 1929

    Elizabeth Drennan received her commercial truck driver’s license and went on to run a trucking company.

  • Evelyn Trout - January 1, 1929

    Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout was the first woman to perform in-flight aerial refueling. 

  • F. Barnes - January 1, 1929

    Florence "Pancho" Barnes was the first female stunt pilot in motion pictures. 

  • Fay Wells - January 1, 1929

    Fay Gillis Wells became the first woman pilot to parachute from a disabled airplane to save her life. This qualified her to be the first woman member of the Caterpillar Club, an informal association of people who successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.

  • Ellen Church - January 1, 1930

    Ellen Church, a registered nurse, served as the first airline stewardess in the U.S.

  • Helen Blair Bartlett - January 1, 1930

    Helen Blair Bartlett developed new insulations for spark plugs.

  • Amelia Earhart - January 1, 1931

    Amelia Earhart set the woman’s autogiro altitude record of 18,415 feet. The following year, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

  • Katherine Cheung - January 1, 1931

    Katherine Cheung became the first woman of Chinese ancestry to earn a pilot's license.

  • Ruth Nichols - January 1, 1931

    Ruth Nichols failed in her attempt to fly solo across the Atlantic, but broke the world distance record flying from California to Kentucky.

  • Hattie W. Caraway - January 1, 1932

    Hattie W. Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Rebecca Felton of Georgia had previously been appointed to the Senate, but served just one day.

  • Olive Ann Beech - January 1, 1932

    Olive Ann Beech, along with her husband Walter, co-founded Beech Aircraft Company.

  • Frances Perkins - January 1, 1933

    Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins became the first woman cabinet officer.

  • Helen Richey - January 1, 1934

    Helen Richey was the first woman hired as a pilot for a U.S. commercial airline (Central Airlines).

  • Amelia Earhart - January 1, 1935

    Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the American mainland.

  • Mary McLeod Bethune - January 1, 1935

    Mary McLeod Bethune organized the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of black women's groups that lobbied against job discrimination, racism, and sexism.

  • Blanche Noyes - January 1, 1936

    Blanche Noyes joined the Air Marking Group of the Bureau of Air Commerce becoming the first female pilot hired by a federal agency.

  • Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes - January 1, 1936

    Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes beat male pilots in the Bendix Trophy Race, the first victory of women over men in a race which both men and women could enter.

  • Nadine Jeppesen - January 1, 1936

    Nadine Jeppesen and her husband Captain Elry Jeppesen established a flight chart business, producing the Jeppesen Airway Manual.

  • Fair Labor Standards Act - January 1, 1938

    The Fair Labor Standards Act codified the 40-hour workweek, paid overtime, minimum wages, and child labor laws.

  • Jacqueline Cochran - January 1, 1939

    Jacqueline Cochran set an international speed record; the same year, she became the first woman to make a blind landing.

  • Willa Brown - January 1, 1939

    Willa Brown was first African-American commercial pilot and first African-American woman officer in the Civil Air Patrol. She also helped establish the National Airmen's Association of America which worked to open the U.S. Armed Forces to African-American men.

  • Dorothy Layne McIntyre - January 1, 1940

    Dorothy Layne McIntyre was one of the first African-American women accepted into a pilot training program run by the Civil Aeronautics Authority. During World War II, she taught aircraft mechanics at the War Production Training School in Baltimore, Maryland. She applied for admission to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a program staffed by civilian women pilots who ferried military aircraft from manufacturing plants to Air Force bases, but was denied admission because of her race.

  • Frances Prothero - January 1, 1940

    Frances Prothero became the first female manager for UPS.

  • Mary Converse - January 1, 1940

    Mary Converse became the first woman to earn captain’s papers (for yachts of any tonnage) in the U.S. Merchant Marine. During World War II, she taught navigation to Naval Reserve officers.

  • Civil Aeronautics Administration - January 1, 1941

    The Civil Aeronautics Administration began hiring and training women to be air traffic controllers.

  • Jacqueline Cochrane - January 1, 1941

    Jacqueline Cochrane was the first woman to ferry a bomber across the Atlantic.

  • Rose Rolls Cousins - January 1, 1941

    Rose Rolls Cousins was the first African-American woman in West Virginia licensed as a solo pilot under the government sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). She earned her wings at West Virginia State College, Institute. A member of West Virginia State University's first graduating Civilian Pilot Training Program class in 1941, Cousins traveled to Tuskegee in hopes of becoming a military pilot like her male counterparts. She was refused admission because she was a woman. Cousins stayed at West Virginia State University and became an instructor in the CPTP program. Tuskegee Airmen Inc. made her an honorary member before her death in 2006.

  • Beatrice Alice Hicks - January 1, 1942

    Beatrice Alice Hicks became the first female engineer employed by Western Electric. She developed a crystal oscillator, which generated radio frequencies, a technology used in aircraft communications. Later, while working as vice president and chief engineer at her family’s Newark Controls Company, she developed environmental sensors for heating and cooling systems – NASA later used much of this technology in its space program.

  • Nancy Love and Jackie Cochran - January 1, 1942

    Nancy Harkness Love and Jackie Cochran organized women flying units and training detachments. 

  • Helene Rother - January 1, 1943

    Helene Rother became the first woman to work as an automotive designer when she joined the interior styling staff of General Motors in Detroit.

  • Janet Waterford Bragg - January 1, 1943

    Janet Waterford Bragg became the first African-American woman to earn a federal commercial pilot's license. 

  • Mazie Lanham - January 1, 1943

    Mazie Lanham became the first female drive for UPS.

  • Arcola Philpott - January 1, 1944

    Arcola Philpott broke the color line at Los Angeles Railways when she became the first African-American “motormanette.”

  • Ivey Parker - January 1, 1944

    Ivey Parker, Ph.D., a chemist and research engineer for the petroleum industry, became the first editor of Corrosion, the official publication of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers.

  • Rosie the Riveter - January 1, 1945

    By 1945, 18 million women were in the U.S. labor force, an increase of 50 percent from 1940. "Rosie the Riveter" became a symbol for women's role in the defense industry.

  • Ann Shaw Carter - January 1, 1947

    Ann Shaw Carter was the first woman to receive a helicopter rating. 

  • Marilyn Jorgenson Reece - January 1, 1948

    Marilyn Jorgenson Reece became the first female engineer for California’s Division of Highways (now Caltrans). In 1965 she designed the I-10/405 interchange (now named after her), and later worked on construction of the I-605 Freeway, the I-210 extension, and the I-105 Century Freeway.

  • Grace Hopper - January 1, 1949

    Grace Hopper, a U.S. Navy officer, was the first programmer of the Harvard Mark I, known as the "Mother of COBOL." She developed the first ever compiler for an electronic computer, known as A-0.

  • Ann Davison - January 1, 1952

    From 1952 to 1953, Ann Davison became the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo in a sailboat.

  • M. Gertrude Rand - January 1, 1952

    M. Gertrude Rand, Ph.D., became the first female fellow of the Illuminating Society of North America. During her career, she worked on the design for lighting the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River between New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey. She also developed vision standards for airplane pilots and ship lookouts during World War II. In 1959, Gertrude was the first woman to receive the Optical Society of America's Edgar D. Tillyer Medal in recognition of distinguished work in the field of vision.

  • Jacqueline Cochran - January 1, 1953

    Jacqueline Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier. 

  • Jean Ross Howard - January 1, 1955

    A group of women helicopter pilots, led by Jean Ross Howard, formed Whirly Girls International, a support network for women pilots and to exchange information on rotary wing aircraft.

  • Rosa Parks - January 1, 1955

    Rosa Parks refused to obey bus driver James Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger sparking the Montgomery County Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King. Parks became an icon of resistance and an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

  • Edith M. Flanigen - January 1, 1956

    Edith M. Flanigen began work on crystalline zeolytes, or "molecular sieves," which could be used to filter and separate complex mixtures. Zeolyte technology improved the conversion of crude oil to gasoline, water purification, and environmental clean-up processes.

  • Mabel MacFerran Rockwell - January 1, 1958

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower named Mabel MacFerran Rockwell Woman Engineer of the Year for her contributions to national defense. She was one of the first woman aeronautical engineers in the United States and is known for demonstrating the greater effectiveness and efficiency of spot welding as opposed to riveting. She designed the guidance systems for the Polaris missile and the Atlas guided missile launcher, and helped design the electrical installations at the Boulder and Hoover Dams. She also designed underwater propulsion systems and submarine guidance mechanisms.

  • Irmgard Flugge-Lotz - January 1, 1960

    Irmgard Flugge-Lotz, an aerodynamics researcher, became Stanford University's first female professor in engineering. In 1970, she was awarded the Achievement Award by the Society of Women Engineers. She was the first woman elected to be a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1970, and in 1971 she was the first woman to be selected to give the prestigious von Karman Lecture.

  • Dana Ulery - January 1, 1961

    Dana Ulery was the first female engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing real-time tracking systems using a North American Aviation Recomp II, a 40-bit word size computer.

  • Jane Jacobs - January 1, 1961

    Jane Jacobs published a book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, one of the most influential books in the history of city planning. Her concepts of bringing life to city streets still influence pedestrian and transit planning efforts today.

  • Mercury 13 - January 1, 1961

    A group of women aviators, known as the Mercury 13, underwent and passed the same physical and psychological exams that were given to the Mercury 7 male astronauts. None of the women were ever selected for a space mission.

  • President's Commission on the Status of Women - January 1, 1961

    President John Kennedy established the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appointed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documented substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and made specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

  • Beverly Cover - January 1, 1962

    Beverly Cover became the first woman highway engineer to join the Bureau of Public Roads, the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration.

  • Equal Pay Act - January 1, 1963

    Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which made it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.

  • Geraldine Mock - January 1, 1964

    Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock was the first woman to fly around the world. 

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - January 1, 1964

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs - January 1, 1965

    The Labor Department created the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to hold federal contractors to a higher obligation for affirmative action in response to Executive Order 11246. The Executive Order prohibited federal contractors and subcontractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors from employment decisions that discriminate based on race, sex, color, religion or national origin.

  • Stephanie Louise Kwolek - January 1, 1965

    Stephanie Louise Kwolek discovered liquid crystalline polymers, which eventually led to the development of Kevlar. Originally intended to reinforce the rubber in radial tires, Kevlar is now used for mooring cables, aircraft and space vehicle parts, sails, and bullet-proof vests.

  • Gale Ann Gordon - January 1, 1966

    Ensign Gale Ann Gordon became the first woman to solo in a Navy training plane.

  • National Organization for Women - January 1, 1966

    A group of feminists, including Betty Friedan, established the National Organization for Women (NOW). 

  • Affirmative Action Policy of 1965 - January 1, 1967

    Executive Order 11375 expanded President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors had to take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoyed the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

  • Ida Van Smith - January 1, 1967

    Ida Van Smith founded a number of flight training clubs for minority children to encourage their involvement in aviation and aerospace sciences.

  • Elinor Williams - January 1, 1968

    Elinor Williams became the first African-American air traffic controller. 

  • Gender Segregated Job Ads Ruled Illegal - January 1, 1968

    The EEOC ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers were illegal. The ruling was upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

  • Leah Rosenfeld - January 1, 1968

    Southern Pacific employee Leah “Rosie” Rosenfeld filled and settled a sex-discrimination suit against her employer that resulted in a change to California’s women’s protective laws and opened senior positions at the railroad for women. 

  • Virginia Allan - January 1, 1969

    President Richard Nixon chartered the Presidential Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. This task force, chaired by Virginia Allan, Chairwoman, led to the appointment of more than 100 women into executive positions in government – four times more than in any previous administration.

  • Equal Pay Act - January 1, 1970

    In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that jobs held by men and women had to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. 

  • Mary Anderson - January 1, 1970

    Mary Anderson was the first woman to successfully complete the Federal Highway Administration’s 27-month highway engineer training program

  • Wally Funk - January 1, 1971

    Wally Funk became the first female FAA inspector and, in 1973, the first female in the FAA's System Airworthiness Analysis Program. Funk moved on to the NTSB in 1974, where she became one of the Board's first female air safety investigators.

  • Equal Rights Amendment - January 1, 1972

    Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and sent it to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment read: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states.

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments - January 1, 1972

    Title IX of the Education Amendments banned sex discrimination in schools. It states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools increased dramatically.

  • Airline Pilot Firsts - January 1, 1973

    Emily Howell Warner and Bonnie Tiburzi

    • Emily Howell Warner was the first woman hired as an air transport pilot for a modern, jet-equipped scheduled airline (Frontier Airlines).
    • Bonnie Tiburzi became the first women pilot for a major U.S. commercial airline (American Airlines).
  • Christene Gonzales - January 1, 1973

    Santa Fe Railway hired its first female locomotive engineer, Christene Gonzales.

  • U.S. Navy Trains Women Pilots - January 1, 1973

    U.S. Navy announced it would begin training women to be pilots.

  • Corning Glass Works v. Brennan - January 1, 1974

    In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers could not justify paying women lower wages because that was what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid to women" was unacceptable.

  • Mary Barr - January 1, 1974

    Mary Barr became the first woman pilot with the Forest Service.

  • Military Aviation Firsts - January 1, 1974

    Sally Murphy and Barbara Allen Rainey

    • Sally Murphy became the first woman to qualify as a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Army.
    • Barbara Allen Rainey became the first female pilot in U.S. Navy.
  • USMMA Accepts Women - January 1, 1974

    U.S. Merchant Marine Academy accepted its first group of women.

  • Janet Guthrie - January 1, 1977

    Janet Guthrie qualified for and competed in the Indianapolis 500. Before becoming a race car driver, Guthrie worked as a pilot, flight instructor, aerospace engineer, technical editor, and public representative for major corporations.

  • Joan Claybrook - January 1, 1977

    Joan Claybrook became the first female administrator of NHTSA.

  • Women’s Transportation Seminar - January 1, 1977

    The Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) was founded to improve professional and personal advancement and develop industry and government recognition for women in transportation.

  • WWII WASP Pilots Recognized - January 1, 1977

    Congress passed a bill recognizing the WASP pilots of World War II as military personnel, and President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into law.

  • Gary Gayton - January 1, 1978

    Gary Gayton, former Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams and Department of Transportation’s White House Liaison, drafted the DOT Minority Business and Women Business Enterprise program later adopted by President Jimmy Carter for all Executive level departments. His work led to his appointment to the Interagency Committee on Women Business Enterprise. 

  • Barbara Wilson - January 1, 1979

    Barbara Wilson became the first African-American woman automobile dealer in her role as President and Dealer Operator of the Honda dealership in Ferndale, Michigan.

  • Lynn Spruill - January 1, 1979

    Lynn Spruill became the first woman U.S. Navy aviator to obtain carrier qualification.

  • Alinda Burke - January 1, 1980

    Alinda Burke became the first woman deputy administrator of FHWA.

  • Candy Lightner - January 1, 1980

    Candy Lightner, founded Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), which has grown into one of the most influential safety advocacy groups in the country.

  • Lynn Rippelmeyer - January 1, 1980

    Lynn Rippelmeyer was the first woman to pilot a Boeing 747.

  • Arlene Feldman - January 1, 1982

    Arlene Feldman became the first woman to head a state division of aeronautics. In 1984 she began her career with the FAA as the first female deputy director of the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1986 she became the first female deputy director of the FAA's Western Pacific Region in Los Angeles, California. She became the FAA's highest ranking, non-politically appointed woman in 1988 when she became the New England Regional Administrator. In 1994, she became the director of FAA’s Eastern Region.

  • Rose Albert - January 1, 1982

    Rose Albert was the first Native woman to compete in the Iditarod sled dog race.

  • Carmen Turner - January 1, 1983

    Carmen Turner became the General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). She was the first African-American woman to lead a major transit agency.

  • Elizabeth Hanford Dole - January 1, 1983

    Elizabeth Hanford Dole was sworn in as the first woman Secretary of the Department of Transportation. 

  • Ellen Evak Paneok - January 1, 1983

    Ellen Evak Paneok became the first Alaska Native woman bush pilot. After flying for air taxi operations throughout Alaska, she worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as an operations inspector, and then for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation as the statewide aviation safety coordinator.

  • Sally Ride - January 1, 1983

    Sally Ride, Ph.D., became the first U.S. woman in space. 

  • Beverly Burns - January 1, 1984

    Beverly Burns was the first woman to captain a Boeing 747 cross country.

  • Geraldine Ferraro - January 1, 1984

    Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as the first female vice presidential candidate by the Democratic presidential candidate, Walter Mondale.

  • Kathryn Sullivan - January 1, 1984

    Kathryn Sullivan was the first U.S. woman to walk in space.

  • Retirement Equity Act - January 1, 1984

    The Retirement Equity Act amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by addressing women’s rights not included in the original 1974 version of ERISA—including survivorship benefits, vesting, and domestic relations.

  • Jeana Yeager - January 1, 1986

    Jeana Yeager served as copilot of first around-the-world, non-stop, non-refueled flight. 

  • Jo Ann Tidwell - January 1, 1987

    Jo Ann Tidwell graduated from the Spartan School of Aeronautics and became the first woman to work for a major airline as a mechanic and the first Native American woman to work for Continental Airlines.

  • Arlene Westermeyer - January 1, 1988

    Arlene Westermeyer became UPS's first female pilot.

  • Barbara McConnell Barrett - January 1, 1988

    Barbara McConnell Barrett became FAA’s first female deputy administrator.

  • Captain Jacquelyn Parker - January 1, 1988

    Captain Jacquelyn “Jackie” Parker was the first woman Air Force pilot to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

  • Christine Owens - January 1, 1988

    Christine Owens became the first woman district manager for UPS.

  • Courtney Caldwell - January 1, 1989

    Courtney Caldwell started the first automotive publication aimed at women, American Woman Road & Travel.

  • Elaine Chao - January 1, 1989

    Elaine Chao was confirmed as the first woman deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation.

  • Glass Ceiling Commission - January 1, 1991

    The Glass Ceiling Commission was established to investigate the “artificial barriers” that prevent qualified women and minorities from moving into more senior positions.

  • Patty Wagstaff - January 1, 1991

    Patty Wagstaff became the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion. 

  • Kathy Thornton - January 1, 1992

    Kathy Thornton, Ph.D., made the longest walk in space by a woman. 

  • Mae Jemison - January 1, 1992

    Mae Jemison, MD, was the first African-American woman in space. 

  • Dr. Sheila Widnall - January 1, 1993

    Dr. Sheila Widnall served as the first female Secretary of the Air Force from 1993 to 1997. She held three patents on airflow technology and is recognized for her contributions to fluid mechanics, specifically in the areas of aircraft turbulence and spiraling airflows called vortices.

  • Ellen Ocho - January 1, 1993

    Ellen Ochoa, Ph.D., became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery.

  • Jolene Molitoris - January 1, 1993

    Jolene Molitoris became the first female to head the Federal Railroad Administration.

  • Ginger Evan - January 1, 1994

    Engineering News-Record selected Ginger Evan, a civil engineer, as the first female to receive its “Man of the Year Award.” She received the award for her work overseeing the construction of the Denver International Airport. The award is now called the “Award of Excellence and Woman of the Year.”

  • Jackie Parker - January 1, 1994

    Jackie Parker became the first woman to qualify to fly an F-16 combat plane.

  • Patti Grace Smith - January 1, 1994

    Patti Grace Smith joined the Department of Transportation Office of Commercial Space as associate managing director. She became the office’s chief of staff in 1995. That year, the office moved from the Department into the Federal Aviation Administration. In 1998, she became the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation.

  • Susan J. Binder - January 1, 1994

    Susan J. Binder, formerly Chief of the Industry and Economic Analysis Branch, Office of Policy Development, reported for duty as Maryland Division Administrator, the first woman to become an FHWA Division Administrator.

  • Vicki Van Meter - January 1, 1994

    Vicki Van Meter became the youngest pilot (12 years old) to date to fly across the Atlantic.

  • Julie Anna Cirillo - January 1, 1995

    Julie Anna Cirillo became the first woman to become an FHWA regional administrator when she took over management of FHWA’s Region 9 (San Francisco, CA). 

  • Lea Soupata - January 1, 1995

    Lea Soupata became the first women to serve on UPS's Management Committee.

  • Gail C. McDonald - January 1, 1996

    Gail C. McDonald became the first woman to serve as the administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. 

  • Shannon Lucid - January 1, 1996

    Shannon Lucid became the first American to walk in space for the longest period of time and the first American woman with most missions in space. 

  • Ann Livermore - January 1, 1997

    Ann Livermore became the first female to serve on the UPS board of directors.

  • Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance - January 1, 1997

    The Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance was established to support women in the field of aviation maintenance. Members include avionics technicians, engineers, scientists, and educators.

  • Christine Owens - January 1, 1997

    Christine Owens became UPS's first female regional director.

  • Jane Garvey - January 1, 1997

    Jane Garvey became the first woman administrator of the FAA and the first administrator to serve a five-year term.

  • Kalpana Chawla - January 1, 1997

    Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-American woman and the second Indian to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. She was an aerospace engineer and one of seven crew members killed in the Columbia disaster.

  • League of Railway Industry Women - January 1, 1997

    The League of Railway Industry Women formed to provide leadership and support for the personal and professional growth of women at every level in railroading and railway-related business. 

  • Karen Thorndike - January 1, 1998

    Karen Thorndike became the first American woman to sail around the world when she completed her two year and two week adventure.

  • Kolstad v. American Dental Association - January 1, 1999

    The Supreme Court ruled in Kolstad v. American Dental Association that a woman can sue for punitive damages for sex discrimination if the anti-discrimination law was violated with malice or indifference to the law, even if that conduct was not especially severe.

  • Lt. Col. Eileen Collins - January 1, 1999

    Lt. Col. Eileen Collins served as NASA’s first female space shuttle commander. 

  • Rodica Baranescu - January 1, 2000

    Rodica Baranescu, Ph.D., became the first woman president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. As an engineer at the International Truck and Engine Corporation she worked on developing environmentally-friendly fuel, lubricants, and coolants for diesel engines.

  • Mary E. Peters - January 1, 2001

    Mary E. Peters was appointed as the first female Federal Highway Administrator.

  • Col. Martha McSally - January 1, 2004

    Col. Martha McSally was the first woman to command an U.S. Air Force fighter squadron (354th Fighter Squadron).

  • Dr. Patricia Galloway - January 1, 2004

    Dr. Patricia Galloway became the first woman president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

  • Anousheh Ansari - January 1, 2006

    Anousheh Ansari became the first female private space explorer. Launched on September 18, 2006, Iranian-born U.S. Citizen Ansari spent eight days at the International Space Station and carried out human physiology experiments for the European Space Agency.

  • Major Nicole Malachowski - January 1, 2006

    Major Nicole Malachowski was the first U.S. Air Force woman Thunderbird pilot.

  • Peggy Whitson - January 1, 2007

    NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson became the first women to command the International Space Station.

  • Dr. Wanda Austin - January 1, 2008

    Dr. Wanda Austin became the aerospace and defense industry’s first African-American female president and chief executive officer of The Aerospace Corporation.

  • Major Jennifer Grieves - January 1, 2008

    Major Jennifer Grieves became the first female helicopter aircraft commander in the history of Marine One, the HMX-1 helicopter the president of the United States flies on.

  • First African-American, all female flight crew - January 1, 2009

    Captain Rachelle Jones, first officer Stephanie Grant and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers became the first African-American, all female flight crew for Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) Flight 5202.

  • Jennifer Smith - January 1, 2009

    Jennifer Smith created the nonprofit organization FocusDriven: Advocates for Cell-Free Driving to support victims and families of cell phone-related crashes. Smith became one of the leading advocates against distracted driving after her mother was killed by a driver talking on a cell phone. 

  • Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act - January 1, 2009

    President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allowed victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. Previously, victims (most often women) were only allowed 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. The legislation was named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15–40% less than her male counterparts, which was later found to be accurate. 

  • Deborah Ale Flint - January 1, 2010

    Deborah Ale Flint became the first African-American woman airport director in California’s bay area when she became the Director of Aviation for the Port of Oakland, the owner and operator of Oakland International Airport.

  • First Female Superintendents of the SFMTA - January 1, 2010

    The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency selected its first female superintendents: Sarita Britt, Potrero Division; Cindia Chambers, Presidio Division; and Debra Franks, Kirkland Division. Cheryl Turner became the assistant superintendent of the Woods Division. During this year, Paulette Davis served as acting superintendent of the Presidio Division and Elizabeth Valdelon as acting superintendent of the Cable Car Division. Two additional women became superintendents in 2012: Leda Rozier, Woods Division, and Elizabeth Valdelon, Flynn Division.

  • Lisa Stabler - January 1, 2011

    Lisa Stabler was elected president of The Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) Board of Directors. Stabler had been TTCI’s Vice President of Operations and Training since arriving from BNSF Railway, where she was Assistant Vice President of Quality and Reliability Engineering.

  • Carol Fenton - January 1, 2012

    Carol Fenton became the first woman at the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) to attain the SES rank as associate administrator, after a 34-year career at the SLSDC beginning in 1978 as a switchboard operator/receptionist. 

  • Dr. Katie Turnbull - January 1, 2012

    The American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Development Foundation awarded the Ethel S. Birchland Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Katie Turnbull for her 35 years of work in transportation, research, service, and education. Turnbull is a recognized expert on high-occupancy vehicle facilities, toll facilities, managed lanes, public transportation, transportation planning, travel demand management, and intelligent transportation systems.

  • Sue Cischke - January 1, 2012

    Sue Cischke retired after 35 years of service in the automobile industry. She left the industry after serving as Ford's vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering since 2008. Before joining Ford in 2001, she was senior vice president of Regulatory Affairs and Passenger Car Operations for DaimlerChrysler. She began her career at Chrysler Corporation in 1976.

  • Danica Patrick - January 1, 2013

    Danica Patrick made history as the first woman to take a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole position for the Daytona 500.

  • Major General Michelle Johnson - January 1, 2013

    President Obama nominated Major General Michelle Johnson for the appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment to serve as the Air Force Academy’s first female superintendent. As an air force cadet at the Academy, she was the first woman to serve as Cadet Wing Commander – the senior ranking cadet.

  • Sarah Canclini - January 1, 2013

    Sarah Canclini became the first person and the first woman in the maritime and transportation industry to earn the new A.A.S. in Maritime Technologies from Tidewater Community College. As a registered apprentice with BAE Systems Ship Repair, Sarah took her required apprentice-related instruction at the college. The Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center, helped the college create the A.A.S. degree to provide apprentices and other technician-level maritime industry workers with academic credential. 

  • Secretary Elaine L. Chao - January 31, 2017

    Secretary Elaine L. Chao is currently the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. This is her second cabinet position.  

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