Timeline

All of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Inductees have achieved great things in their chosen fields of endeavor, but none has acted in a vacuum. Instead, women’s advances and accomplishments have built on the successes of previous generations.

As we seek to fulfill our mission, it is important that we provide context for women’s stories. The Interactive Timeline creates a historical backdrop for exploring our Inductees’ lives. Each woman has been placed into one of five time periods based on when she was most active or when her greatest achievement took place. For each period, an overview highlights relevant cultural, historical and political events, moments and movements. Twenty significant milestones anchor the timeline and provide further context.


 
1640
Connecticut Act for Regulating & Orderly Celebrating of Marriages
1750s
Great Awakening religious revival reaches greatest intensity
1790
Republican motherhood ideal emerges
A New World Colony & its Revolution 1640–1799
A New World Colony & its Revolution

1830s
Women’s anti-slavery petitions
1845
Sarah Bagley’s petition drive forces Massachusetts legislature hearings on factory conditions
1848
Declaration of Sentiments & Resolutions, Seneca Falls, NY
1916
Margaret Sanger opens first American birth control clinic
1920
Equal Suffrage (Nineteenth) Amendment
Industrialization & Reform 1800–1920
Industrialization & Reform

1927
Movie It starring Clara Bow emphasizes sex appeal
1933
Frances Perkins appointed Secretary of Labor, becoming first woman in the Cabinet
1936
Mary McLeod Bethune appointed head of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration
1943
“Rosie the Riveter” illustrated cover of Saturday Evening Post
Prosperity, Depression, & War 1921–1945
Prosperity, Depression, & War

1955
Rosa Parks’ arrest sparks Montgomery bus boycott
1962
Dolores Huerta & Cesar Chavez found United Farm Workers
1963
Betty Friedan writes The Feminine Mystique
1965
Immigration & Nationality Act
Women’s Activism in Conservative Times 1946–1965
Women’s Activism in Conservative Times

1966
National Organization for Women Founded
1972
Title IX of Education Amendment Act
1973
Roe v. Wade
2008
Connecticut Supreme Court guarantees same-sex marriage rights
Struggle for Justice 1966–Present
Struggle for Justice

 
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1640–1799
A New World Colony & its Revolution

Women of this time period:

Hannah Bunce Watson
Publisher of The Hartford Courant, one of the first female newspaper publishers in America

Women in colonial Connecticut lived under English Common Law with its tradition of female subordination. Although single women had property rights, married women were limited by the concept of coverture. A married woman’s property, inheritance, and any wages she earned became her husband’s, and she was legally called a “feme covert.” All the English colonies had such statutes regulating marriage.

Nevertheless, the American environment served to improve the status of women. Their activities at home and on the farm gave them increased power and prestige, and some came to own property, manage businesses, and engage in trade. Hannah Bunce Watson, for example, upon her husband’s death, assumed his position as publisher of the Connecticut Courant and adopted an editorial policy of supporting the Revolution.

The early days of producing food, textiles, and clothing at home prepared Connecticut women for their part in the Revolutionary War. The success of “the Provisions State” in keeping the American troops clothed and fed depended largely on women who worked the looms and gathered the harvests. After the Revolution, grateful leaders created a new ideal of Republican mothers as educators of the next generation of patriots.

Religion also contributed toward the changing concept of womanhood when waves of revivalism swept through the largely Protestant English colonies. The potential egalitarianism of the “Great Awakening,” which considered the moral selves of a man and a woman as equal, gave some women a greater role in religious worship and church affairs. Both evangelical religion and Republican motherhood provided justification for the later expansion of women’s place in benevolent and reform associations.

Prior to the Revolution, the education of a daughter was haphazard at best, but after the Revolution, reformers challenged the old notion of women’s limited intellectual capacity, arguing that mothers would only be able to teach their children the essential principles of citizenship if they were knowledgeable about history and politics. By the 1780s, private academies such as the Litchfield Female Academy, founded by Sarah Pierce, began educating the daughters of the elite, including the Smith sisters of Glastonbury. The curriculum could be quite rigorous, although instruction in fancy needlework continued to prepare women for a traditional domestic role.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.

1800–1920
Industrialization & Reform

Women of this time period:

Catharine Beecher
Founder and first president of the Hartford Female Seminary

Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt
First woman in America to establish a major art collection; later bequeathed to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Prudence Crandall
Teacher and abolitionist

Fidelia Hoscott Fielding
Revered member of the Mohegan Pequot tribe, responsible for the preservation of her tribe’s language and customs

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Leading intellectual, social reformer and author

Florence Griswold
Fostered the Impressionist Art Movement in America

Mary Hall
First female lawyer in Connecticut

Caroline Maria Hewins
Pioneer in library services for children

Dotha Bushnell Hillyer
Founder and benefactor of the Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall

Isabella Beecher Hooker
Founder of the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association

Emeline Roberts Jones
First female dentist in America

Martha Parsons
First female business executive in Connecticut to earn her position by merit

Sarah Porter
Educator, founder of Miss Porter’s School

Theodate Pope Riddle
Noted female architect who designed the Hill-Stead Museum and the Avon Old Farms and Westover schools

Lydia Huntley Sigourney
One of the first American women to succeed at a literary career

Virginia Thrall Smith
Activist in support of services to women and children

The Smiths of Glastonbury
Revered elder stateswomen of the suffrage movement

Maria Miller Stewart
First American-born woman to publicly address mixed gender and race audiences on abolition

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Mabel Osgood Wright
Founder and first president of Connecticut Audubon Society; established first bird sanctuary in U.S. in Fairfield, CT

When the Declaration of Independence announced that all men are created equal, the path to citizenship for both blacks and women had begun. Despite not having the right to vote, women had long petitioned governors and legislatures to articulate a family grievance. Activist women presented to the U.S. Congress a large-scale innovative petition on behalf of abolition. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is widely credited with stirring public opinion, especially among women, to anti-slavery sentiments. Helped by women’s efforts, abolitionists eventually secured their goal in the three post-Civil War amendments.

Work in activities such as anti-slavery, temperance and moral reform led some middle-class women to the cause of women’s rights. They challenged the ideal of “separate spheres,” insisting on the same rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness as men. Through Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s lobbying, New York gave women control over their property, wages, and children. In 1848, Stanton and others met in Seneca Falls to discuss the “repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.” The resulting Declaration of Sentiments asserted that “woman is man’s equal.”

The early industrial economy had changed women’s lives. Textile production shifted from home to factory towns where farm daughters hoped wage labor would open new opportunities. Arrangements seemed ideal, until declining profits caused owners to slash wages to reduce costs. Lowell women walked out in 1836, and later petitioned the legislature to investigate deteriorating conditions. The labor force also changed as more immigrants arrived, delegated to poorly paid factory and domestic work.

In the Progressive Era, some benevolent women were committed to helping working-class women, and their needs received increased publicity after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911. Others addressed civic concerns, established settlement houses, worked for protective labor legislation, and tried to ban child labor. Clerical work in offices opened up as a desirable field for women, and some gained greater entry into various professions, including medicine, law, social work, nursing, and teaching.

Determined suffragists persisted in their political protests even after World War I broke out in 1914. Finally, seventy-two years after the Seneca Falls convention, employing new tactics and strategies, and a long, hard struggle at the state and national levels, the elusive goal was reached. The 19th amendment, proposed by Congress and ratified by the states in 1920, prohibited restrictions on the right to vote based on sex. It was one of the most successful mass movements in the expansion of political democracy in American history.

An important expression of feminism (calling for change in women’s private lives, not in their public roles) was the campaign in favor of access to birth control. Nurse Margaret Sanger spoke and wrote on its behalf, though her mailings were judged as violating the anti-obscenity Comstock laws. In 1916, after opening the first birth control clinic in the country, she was arrested and sentenced briefly to jail. For forty years she promoted contraception as an alternative to abortion, foreshadowing Planned Parenthood.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.

1921–1945
Prosperity, Depression, & War

Women of this time period:

Mary Jobe Akeley
Geographer, mountaineer, photographer and writer—one of the world's leading explorers

Marian Anderson
Renowned contralto vocalist and first African American singer to perform with the Metropolitan Opera

Beatrice Fox Auerbach
President of G. Fox and Company; business leader and philanthropist

Emily Dunning Barringer
First female ambulance surgeon to secure a surgical residency

Evelyn Longman Batchelder
Prolific sculptor, creator of Bushnell Park's Spirit of Victory

Katharine Seymour Day
Landmark conservationist

Martha Minerva Franklin
Pioneer of the movement for Black nurses

Alice Hamilton
First female Harvard professor, pioneer in industrial medicine

Katharine Houghton Hepburn
Prominent champion of women's rights and Planned Parenthood

Mary Goodrich Jenson
First female pilot in Connecticut and first female reporter for the Hartford Courant with a bylined column

Helen Keller
Inspirational champion of civil liberties for the disabled

Susanne Langer
Leading 20th-Century philosopher

Alice Paul
Leader of women's suffrage movement, founder of National Women's Party

Rosa Ponselle
Legendary Metropolitan Opera diva, honored on a U.S. postage stamp

Mary Townsend Seymour
Pioneering advocate for equal rights for African-Americans, co-founder Hartford chapter NAACP

Sophie Tucker
Celebrated singer and actress

Laura Wheeler Waring
Artist and educator best known for her landscape paintings and portraits of prominent African Americans

Chase Going Woodhouse
First female Democrat elected Secretary of the State of Connecticut & first female Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress

Industrial growth, economic expansion, and plenty of consumer goods gave women more purchasing power and pleasure in the 1920s. Women gained political office, but after achieving the right to vote the Women’s Movement fractured over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The percentage of married women in the workforce doubled, though in menial jobs, while women of color had few opportunities. The media’s message about the home was ambivalent. For daughters, the young flapper was glamorized in movies starring Clara Bow who had It (sex appeal). But the modern mother, equipped with widely-advertised appliances, was expected to keep house and raise children with new efficiency.

The prosperity of the twenties contrasted with the hardships of the 1930s following the 1929 stock market crash. Farm families in the Dust Bowl, suffering from drought and crop failures, fled to California where they worked as migratory laborers. As impoverished families across America struggled, desertion rose (but not divorce, which was expensive), and family size grew smaller. Women’s jobs were largely confined to low-paying domestic labor, garment factories, and food-processing plants, all further segregated by race and ethnicity.

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt, helped by wife Eleanor, brought strong leadership toward recovery with the New Deal. Professional women were included in federal projects, and work relief programs gave help to poor women. The Social Security Act of 1935 owed much to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in the Cabinet. African-American Mary McLeod Bethune, using her executive position in the National Youth Administration, pressured the administration to provide equal pay for blacks in all programs.

World War II deeply influenced women’s lives. Sex-segregated labor diminished, as symbolized in the poster of “Rosie the Riveter.” Women were accepted into the military, though the public was concerned about the loss of femininity. Defense industries were reluctant to admit women, but as men were drafted, the resistance eroded. Older, married women provided the largest number of new workers. Black, Mexican, and Chinese women had new opportunities, but Japanese women suffered internment in camps. With demobilization, women were laid off, but many were soon back on the job. Their role still was defined in the home, but the war had increased women’s activities in the workplace.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.

1946–1965
Women’s Activism in Conservative Times

Women of this time period:

Anni Albers
First weaver to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art

Emma Fielding Baker
Mohegan medicine woman, responsible for regulating tribal land divisions and maintaining Mohegan historical records and oral traditions

Jewel Plummer Cobb
Leading cell biologist and educator

Helen M. Feeney
First woman in New England and one of the first nationwide to serve as chancellor of an archdiocese

Helen M. Frankenthaler
Revolutionary abstract expressionist painter

Edythe J. Gaines
First African American and first female superintendant of public schools in Connecticut

Dorothy Goodwin
Five-term Democratic state representative

Estelle Griswold
Leader of the battle for elimination of Connecticut's anti-birth control statute

Katharine Hepburn
One of America's most accomplished actresses; winner of four Academy Awards

Dorrit Hoffleit
Astronomer, author of Bright Star Catalogue, Annenberg Award winner

Isabelle M. Kelley
Principal author of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and first director of the U.S. Food Stamp Program; first woman to direct a national action program for the USDA

Madeleine L'Engle
Award-winning children’s author

Clare Boothe Luce
Playwright, novelist; first U.S. Congresswoman from Connecticut; ambassador to Italy

Barbara McClintock
Famed geneticist and Nobel Prize winner

Rachel Taylor Milton
Founder of the Urban League of Greater Harford

Constance Baker Motley
First African American federal court judge; successfully argued nine U.S. Supreme Court civil rights cases

Ann Petry
First African American woman to sell one million copies of a novel, The Street

Catherine Roraback
Attorney, foremost advocate for civil liberties

Margo Rose
Artist, teacher, performer and “grande dame” of the American Puppet Theater

Margaret Fogarty Rudkin
Founder of Pepperidge Farm

Rosalind Russell
Legendary award-winning actress of stage and screen

Hilda Crosby Standish
First medical director of Connecticut's first birth control clinic

Gladys Tantaquidgeon
Anthropologist, Mohegan medicine woman

Antonina Uccello
First woman to be elected mayor of a Connecticut municipality

Glenna Collett Vare
Golf champion who dominated American women’s golf in the 1920s

Lillian Vernon
Founded the first corporation by a woman to be publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange

Florence Wald
Founder of hospice care in the United States and former Dean of the Yale School of Nursing

Full Timeline

The Cold War in the 1950s between the Soviet Union and the United States produced fear of domestic subversion. The McCarthy Era purged suspected Communists from government, the entertainment industry, and universities, and labeled gays and lesbians as un-American security risks. General anxiety contributed to a popular conception of the family as a source of social stability, and reinforced traditional notions of women’s place at home. In 1963, Betty Friedan called this promise of fulfillment through the domestic arts the “feminine mystique,” and advocated instead that women seek personal careers.

For two decades, a burgeoning economy and a growing consumer culture had expanded the availability of jobs for women. Notable was the increase in the workforce of married women, especially middle-class white women and educated women, though they were viewed in the media as working less for a career than to assist their families with needed income or desirable amenities for the home.

Some working-class women in labor unions challenged traditional cultural norms, such as the United Electric, Radio and Machine Workers who achieved non-discrimination clauses in local contracts. Middle-class women moderated their interest in women’s issues, promoting instead advancement through the League of Women Voters, YWCA, and the American Association of University Women. More radical women in Women Strike for Peace demonstrated against the nuclear arms race and were summoned to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1962. Many activists would join the Civil Rights Movement.

The movement against segregation following World War II dates from the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregated schools are inherently unequal and thus a violation of the 14th amendment. African-Americans were given new hope, and in 1955 Rosa Parks, a black seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, triggered a bus boycott of critical importance. Black women and white women took part in boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, and marches. A culminating achievement in 1965 was the Voting Rights Act pushed through by President Johnson.

Mexican-Americans in the southwest also fought to improve their life and work conditions. In 1962, Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, played a leading role in organizing a national boycott of grapes that forced growers to sign a contract with the union.

Other ethnic groups were soon to come to America, enriching its diversity. The Immigrant and Nationality Act of 1965 established an immigration system based on family preference. Half of the new immigrants came from Mexico and Central and South America, while a quarter were from Asia. Two-thirds of the immigrants were women and children. While poverty and acculturation were issues, for many the time-honored American process of upward social mobility had begun.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.

1966–Present
Struggle for Justice

Women of this time period:

Adrianne Baughns-Wallace
First female television anchor in Connecticut and first African American television newscaster in New England

Jody Cohen
First woman rabbi in Connecticut to have an extended tenure of her own congregation

Martha Coolidge
Filmmaker and first woman president of the Director’s Guild of America

Annie Dillard
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Anne Garrels
Ground-breaking journalist and 23-year NPR Senior Foreign Correspondent best known for her coverage of conflicts around the world.

Patricia Goldman-Rakic
World renowned neuroscientist

Ella Tambussi Grasso
First woman in the nation to be elected governor in her own right

Dorothy Hamill
Olympic gold medalist and World Championship figure skating winner

Jane Hamilton-Merritt
Photo journalist, educator, activist, and author; nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of the Hmong people of Laos

Joan Joyce
Inspirational athlete achieving greatness in softball, basketball, volleyball and golf

Barbara Kennelly
First Connecticut woman to be elected to eight terms in Congress

Eileen Kraus
First woman to head a major regional financial institution

Annie Leibovitz
Internationally renowned photographer whose large and distinguished body of work includes some of the most well-known portraits of our time

Donna Lopiano
Gifted athlete; instrumental in ensuring gender equity in sports

Carolyn M. Mazure
Visionary founder of Women's Health Research at Yale

Dollie McLean
Founding executive director of the Artists Collective, Hartford

Faith Middleton
Thought-provoking Connecticut radio broadcaster and host of The Faith Middleton Show on WNPR

Anne M. Mulcahy
Former Chairman and visionary leader of Xerox Corporation

Denise Lynn Nappier
First woman elected State Treasurer in Connecticut history, first African American woman elected State Treasurer in the nation, and first African American woman elected to statewide office in Connecticut

Laura Nyro
Notable songwriter and singer

Ellen Ash Peters
First woman to be named Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court

Edna Negron Rosario
Educator; established the first Family Resource Center and school-based health clinic in the nation

Susan Saint James
Award-winning television and film star and philanthropist

Maria C. Sanchez
First Hispanic woman elected to the Connecticut legislature

Helen L. Smits
Public Health Policy Shaper, International Healthcare Advocate

Anne Stanback
Courageous activist for social justice for the lesbian and gay community; founding president of Love Makes a Family

Joan Steitz
Distinguished professor of molecular biophysics

Betty Tianti
The nation's first woman president of a state AFL-CIO

Patricia M. Wald
First woman to sit on the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, subsequently serving as its Chief Judge

Maggie Wilderotter
Telecommunications innovator and Chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications

Miriam Therese Winter
Medical Mission Sister, composer, author, and musician; founder of the Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary

Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”

A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.

Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.

Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.

A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.

Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent.  Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.

The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.

Bibliography

  • Banner, Lois W. Women in Modern America: A Brief History. Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth, 2005.
  • DuBois, Ellen Carol and Lynn Dumenil. Through Women's Eyes: An American History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005.
  • Kerber, Linda, Jane Sherron De Hart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton. Women's America: Refocusing the Past. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. www.wikipedia.org