Anna Coleman Ladd: Repairing WWI’s Broken Faces

Before the modern age facial reconstruction and plastic surgery, Anna Coleman Ladd was one of a handful of unique artisans in World War I who created highly detailed masks to hide severely mutilated soldiers’ facial wounds.

Philadelphia-born Anna Coleman Ladd is best known for her neoclassical portrait busts and bronze sculptures of sprites frolicking in public fountains. But her greatest work — and her most important legacy — was restoring the self-respect, honor and dignity to World War I veterans known by the French as “the men with the broken faces.”

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Margaret Bourke-White, Trailblazing American Photojournalist

Margaret Bourke-White in the 1930s
As she became one of the 20th century’s most famous photographers, Margaret Bourke-White broke down barriers that previously limited photojournalist opportunities for U.S. females. Above are images of her photo on the cover of the first edition of LIFE magazine in 1936, and a shot of her in her aviation gear at the start of World War II.

Margaret Bourke-White, who entered college in the 1920s with the idea of becoming a Herpetologist,  could have made a name for herself handling snakes. Instead, she picked up a camera and went on to become a groundbreaking female photojournalist, giving us some of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

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Julia Ward Howe: Her Song is Marching On

Inspired by the human horror, anguish, and sense of national purpose she experienced during visits to Union Army encampments and  hospitals, Julia Ward Howe wrote what became one of the most powerful and famous songs of all time.

Little did Julia Ward Howe know that in writing what became the anthem of the American Civil War in 1861, she emancipated herself from the narrow, 19th-century views that kept women in domestic confinement, and realized her long-held ambition to become a thinker, a writer and an individual on her own terms.

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Loretta Walsh, 1917, First Woman to Enlist in the U.S. Navy

First woman to enlist in the U.S. Navy, Loretta Walsh
When Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1917, that service didn’t yet have uniforms for female sailors. She served as a yeoman at the U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia (background photo).

In 1917, twelve words opened the floodgates for women to serve in the military: “It does not say … anywhere that a Yeoman must be a man.” One year after the U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 allowed qualified “persons” to enlist, history was made when 20-year-old Loretta Perfectus Walsh (1896-1925) did just that, earning herself a whole series of “firsts” in the process.

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Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: America’s First Formally Accredited Female Physician

Elizabeth Blackwell was one of America's most important historical female doctors.
Elizabeth Blackwell played a major role in organizing medical relief facilities for soldiers of the Union Army during the Civil War. The Women’s Central Association for Relief (WCAR) she founded led to the creation of the U.S. Sanitary Commission which operated 30 major facilities like this one in Alexandria, Virginia.

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD., was America’s first formally accredited female doctor. Admitted to medical school as a joke, she proved she who laughs last, laughs best. Continue reading “Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: America’s First Formally Accredited Female Physician”

Grace Hopper: The Navy Math Whiz Who Helped Design the First Computer

Grace Hopper, U.S. Navy Engineer and female scientist and inventor.
Grace Hopper was an early pioneer of computer technology and helped develop the COBOL programming system.

This Wednesday’s Woman is “Amazing Grace.” Grace Hopper was determined to join the U.S. Navy in the midst of World War II. But the 37-year-old associate professor  just barely squeaked in under the Navy’s cutoff age By 1943 Hopper had earned a Ph.D. in math from Yale and was teaching at Vassar. Continue reading “Grace Hopper: The Navy Math Whiz Who Helped Design the First Computer”