Women’s History

In honor of Women’s History Month, NUHW is highlighting important women, past and present, who have made great contributions in women’s rights, labor, and health care. From Dolores Huerta, who has led generations of workers in struggle, to Phyllis Willett, who helped found NUHW and led our union through its first decade; from Sarah and Harriot Hunt, who defied the mores of their time to become America’s first woman doctors, to Dr. Marci Bowers, an innovator in gender affirmation surgery — women have played a leading role in establishing the rights we enjoy today and fighting for the rights we will win tomorrow.

We honor the lives and the legacies of these women and welcome you to support and get to know their work. We’ll post a new bio every day in March.

Jackie Speier Jackie Speier served in Congress from 2008 to 2023, but her career in politics began in the 1970s when she worked as a legislative assistant to Congressman Leo Ryan.
Kissmekia Corbett-Helaire Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett-Helairea is a viral immunologist who led the team that created the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in just 66 days.
Naomi Osaka Tennis champion Naomi Osaka is working to destigmatize mental illness and reframe the conversation around mental health.
Haunani-Kay Trask Haunani-Kay Trask, a scholar, poet and champion of sovereignty for the Hawaiian people.
Helen Thomas Helen Thomas was the first woman to serve as White House bureau chief and to be elected president of the White House Correspondents Association.
Jane Goodall Primatologist Jane Goodall lived among chimpanzees in Tanzania, making observations about primate behavior that continue to shape scientific discourse.
Senator Dianne Feinstein Elected in 1992, Dianne Feinstein is the longest-serving woman in the Senate, with a long history of legislative achievements.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi For more than 35 years, Nancy Pelosi has served in Congress making history in 2007 when she was elected as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House.
Greta Thunberg Greta Thunberg’s impact on the climate movement is irrefutable. Thunberg, through her actions, has garnered international attention for the severity of the climate crisis.
Sonia Sotomayor Sonia Sotomayor is the first woman of color, the first Hispanic, and first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court.
Gloria Allred Since the 1970s, Gloria Allred has dedicated her life and legal career to fighting for civil rights. Allred’s work has focused on supporting cases about racial justice, women’s rights, gay rights, AIDS discrimination, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and more. 
Dolores Huerta Labor icon and activist Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers Association alongside Cesar Chavez at a time where farmworkers had little to no protections. Her advocacy continues to empower workers and change lives to this day.
Dorothy Christiansen Dorothy Christiansen worked for several decades as a commissioner for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and helped resolve some of the biggest labor disputes in California. 
Betty Friedan Betty Friedan’s work is credited with helping usher in the second wave feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s.
Bella Abzug Co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bella Abzug was a leading figure in the women’s movement.
Susan Faludi Susan Faludi’s writings on feminist, LGBTQ, and social justice issues and her keen observances on the backlash against feminism in the 1980s made her an integral voice in the feminist movement.
Emma Tenayuca Emma Tenayuca was a Mexican American labor organizer who was part of several women workers’ strikes in Texas in the 1930s before leading pecan shellers in one the largest work stoppages in the state’s history.
Angela Davis Angela Davis has been a prominent activist in the Black liberation and prison abolition movement since the 1960s and continues to guide movement work today. 
Shirley Chisholm A champion for minority education and employment opportunities, pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first to run for president of the United States.
Sue Ko Lee San Francisco garment worker Sue Ko Lee broke new ground when she led a 15-week strike for Chinese workers, pushing back against racial barriers and unfair workplace treatment. 
Billie Jean King Regarded as the number one tennis player in the world in her time, Billie Jean King’s advocacy for gender equality and social justice were fundamental to her survival in the sport. Her work revolutionized women’s tennis for generations to follow.
Frances Perkins Frances Perkins became the first woman member of the president’s Cabinet when she was appointed secretary of labor in 1933. She believed in the power of organized labor to create change and was a catalyst in establishing protections for workers throughout her career.
Judy Chicago The sexism that Judy Chicago experienced as an undergraduate at an art college prompted her to launch her own personal rebellion by shirking gender norms in her work and founding the first feminist art program in the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt greatly expanded the role of the First Lady and the influence of women in politics, working alongside the president during two major national emergencies and claiming her own public role as activist and diplomat.
Elizabeth Blackwell British-born Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, encouraging other women to follow in her footsteps by opening her own hospital and medical college.
Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska Dr. Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska was an early female medical doctor who challenged the gendering of science and the medical profession, and who opened the women-run New England Hospital for Women and Children, which trained women doctors and nurses.
bell hooks The words of bell hooks changed lives. Known for the depth of her theory and keen observations, hooks pushed people to dig deeper into their own belief systems and thought patterns.
Harriot and Sarah Hunt Harriot and Sarah Hunt opened the door to the medical profession for women in America and helped popularize a holistic approach to treatment, especially for female patients, that encompassed education, diet, hygiene, and mental health.
Shirley Ware Shirley Ware knew how to organize. As the first Black organizer at local 250, the nations second largest healthcare union, Shirley was a beloved leader and fierce advocate for worker’s rights.
Dr. Marci Bowers Dr. Marci Bowers is a gynecologist and surgeon who has spent more than 30 years helping people recover from trauma and become their true selves and the first woman with a personal transgender history to perform the procedure.
Waris Dirie Somali activist Waris Dirie began learning about the different forms of commodification of girls’ and women’s bodies at a very young age. Her fierce advocacy for women’s right to bodily autonomy stems from her own harrowing experience in childhood ,today, she is devoted to helping eradicate the practice of FGM worldwide.
Harriet Tubman Known as the “Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman is the most well-known “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, escorting over 300 enslaved people to freedom during a ten-year span after she escaped slavery herself.
Dorothy Day Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and anarchist who spearheaded the Catholic Worker Movement, which tackled issues of social justice, and founded “houses of hospitality” to help those in need.
Dorothea Dix Dorothea Dix was a fierce advocate for the rights of people with mental illness, her work paved the way for some of the modern-day changes in how mental illness is treated.
Simone de Beauvoir Simone de Beauvoir, writer, teacher, & activist is a prominent figure in feminist theory & feminist existentialism, having penned a groundbreaking treatise on gender that ushered in a new wave of feminist thought.
Caroline Severance Los Angeles’ most famous suffragette, Caroline Severance was an active social reformer and abolitionist for nearly 70 years who founded the city’s first women’s clubs and Los Angeles County Woman Suffrage League.
Claudette Colvin Nearly a year before Rosa Park’s historic act of civil disobedience, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman. 
Victoria Woodhull Suffragette Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, knew all too well the hardships of women in America.
Phyllis Willett Phyllis Willett dedicated her life to social justice work and the labor movement. NUHW would not exist if it weren’t for Phyllis, who volunteered as a one-woman Operations Department after helping to found the union in 2009.  
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton When Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in 1851 they began a friendship and collaboration that lasted more than 50 years as leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.