Celebrating December Moments For and By Strong Women

Collage of 2 rows of photo portraits of from left to right: top: Rosa Parks, Banazir Bhutto, Helen Reddy, Bottom: Marie Curie, and WIlma Mankiller

This is not only a month of a variety of religious and secular holidays, it’s my birth month. But December isn’t only a month of gift giving and receiving, or a month enjoying sweats and specialty foods, it’s a month where many women marked their moment in history. A moment that not only affects all of us today, but shows us that there is a path for women but sometimes we have to make it for ourselves. 

These aren’t the only women who made a mark in history. These are the women who made a big enough mark to be noticed in the news or historical documents. There are scores of women who made quieter moments, who left no mark except upon us as individuals. These events are listed by year so that we may appreciate the distance of women’s struggle. 


December 8 –  Margaret Hughes (1630-1719),possibly Anne Marshall (1660-1682), performs the first recorded British professional performance of a woman’s role by a woman instead of a man in drag, in the role of Desdemona in a production of Shakespeare’s play Othello.

Black and white image of Frederick William and Louisa of Prussia romance scene on engraving from the 1800s.


December 15 – Emma by Jane Austin (1775-1817) is published.


December 4  –  British Governor-General Lord William Bentinck issues a regulation that anyone who abets suttee (widow burning herself to death on her husband’s funeral pyre) in Bengal is guilty of culpable homicide — the rest of British India soon follows.


December 27 – Ether anesthetic is used for childbirthfor the first time by Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia


December 26 – The USS Red Rover is commissioned by the U.S. Navy as a hospital ship and takes aboard Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first women to serve as nurses aboard a navy ship


December 10 – Wyoming became the first territory to grant women the right to vote. A victory for gender equality, but Wyoming legislators knew Wyomian men outnumbered women by 6:1.


December 9 – Marguerite Durand (1864-1936) founds the feminist daily newspaper, La Fronde, in Paris.


December 26  – Marie Curie (1867-1934) (and her husband Pierre,) announced to the French Academy of Sciences that she had isolated radium. 

1935 photo of mother and children by the sea with sailboats moored bhind them. Woman is wearing a skirt, cloche hat, and trench coat, son also in a trench coat with shorts with knee socks and daughter is in a white short sleeve outfit with a loose belt around her hips.


December 16 – The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), is published


December 10 – Women are given the right to vote in Tasmania


December– Filene’s in Boston hired a Mrs. Claus to help its male Santa entertain young visitors as early as, a time when the notion that he even had a spouse was relatively new.


December 26-  Pauline Newman (1890-1986) organizes influential New York rent strike.


December 6 – Gertrud “Trudy” Späth-Schweizer (1908-1990) is the first woman to hold elective office in Switzerland.


December 10– Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gösta Berling’s Saga.


December 3– Freda du Faur (1882-1935) is the first woman to scale Aoraki (Mount Cook) in New Zealand.


December 8— Immigrant Mary Anton (1881-1949), author of The Promised Land, packs the house at the Waldorf Astoria for lecture where she advocated for greater opportunities for immigrants, more liberal immigration policies, and for the Zionist movement.


December 2 a group of suffragists met on Staten Island to engage in a publicity stunt; Leda Richberg-Hornsby (1886-1939) and Ida Blair(1874-1930)attempted to fly a biplane over President Woodrow Wilson’s yacht, and drop hundreds of pro-suffrage pamphlets on his deck.


December 28– Constance Markievicz (1868-1927), while detained in Holloway prison, became the first woman to be elected MP to the British House of Commons. 


December 1– Lady Astor (1879-1964) becomes the first female Member of Parliament to take her seat in the U.K. House of Commons.


December 4 – Lucile Atcherson (1894-1986) is the first woman US Diplomatic Consular Officer at Bern legation in Switzerland.


December 10– Jane Addams (1860-1935) is the second woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


December 5Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) creates the National Council of Negro Women

December 27– Regina Jonas (1902-1944) receives her semicha and is the first woman officially ordained and to serve as a rabbi.


December 4— Tehilla Lichtenstein (1893-1973) becomes leader of Society of Jewish Science 

December 10 – Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) wins Nobel Prize for Literature, The Good Earth


December 7— Captain Annie Fox (1893-1987), head nurse of the Station hospital at Pearl Harbor, displayed notable courage and bravery as she tended to victims during the intense military bombing. For her actions on this day, Fox became the first women to receive a Purple Heart for her military service. At that time, no requirement for Purple Heart recipient to be injured, but requirements changed after Pearl Harbor and her Purple Heart was later replaced by a Bronze Star because she wasn’t wounded in the attack


December— the Brooklyn Eagle reported that, “Unable to find a man suitable for the job,” an F.W. Woolworth store in Union, New Jersey, had also hired a female Santa, Mrs. Anna Michaelson, who wore a skirt  and a white wig and beard.  


December 10— Dr. Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori (1896-1957) wins Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

December 17—  Dorothy Fuldheim (1893-1989) becomes television’s first female news anchor.


December 10— Brisbane’s Courier-Mail reported on a “Mother Christmas” (Mrs. E. J. Lewis) who visited children at a childcare centre.


December 12— Paula Ackerman (1893-1989)becomes “spiritual leader” of Temple Beth Israel of Meridian, Mississippi.


December 14—  Dramatization of Anne Frank’s (1929-1945) diary broadcast on the radio.


December 1— Rosa Parks (1913-2005) refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger.


December 4 – The female contraceptive ‘pill’ becomes available on the National Health Service in Britain.


December 14, 1961 – President’sCommission on the Status of Women is established to examine and eliminate discrimination against women.


December 28– Muriel Siebert (1928-2013) becomes the first woman to own a seat on the N.Y. Stock Exchange.

December 9– Helen Reddy’s (1941-2020) “I Am Woman” tops the charts.


December 8— Dr. Rosalyn S. Yalow (1921-2011) becomes first American-born woman to receive Nobel Prize in science.

December 11– Mairead Corrigan (1944- ) and Betty Williams (1943- ), leaders of ‘Peace People’ (pro-peaceful resolution of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland) receive Nobel Peace Prize.


December 4– Dianne Feinstein (1933-2023)becomes San Francisco’s 1st female and first Jewish mayor, appointed after the assassinations of Mayor Moscone and Councilman Milk


December 18— Amy Sheridan is the first American Jewish woman to gain aviator status in any branch of the Armed Services.


December 14– Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010) becomes the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s principle chief – 1st woman leader in modern history of a major Native American tribe


December 2– Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) is sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan


December 13– Susan A. Maxman (1938- ) becomes first woman president of American Institute of Architects in its 135 year history.

December 17–Judith Rodin (1944- ) becomes the first woman president of an Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania.


December 15— Janet Jagan (1920-2009) elected president of Guyana

A young attractive black woman reclines on a red sofa with her black cat in her arms.


December 9– Award-winning ABC News journalist, Michele Norris (1961- ), becomes the first African American female regular co-host of National Public Radio’s news magazine, All Things Considered.


December 31— Amanda Simpson  (1961- ), the first transgender, appointed by any administration and the first transgender individual to hold an executive branch position, is named by President Barack Obama  to the position of Senior Technical Adviser in the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce. 


December 10—Disability Rights Activist, Shelly Christensen, publishes A Book on Inclusive Environments in Faith-Based Communities.


December 8— Tory Burch (1966– ) appears on Forbes’ “World’s Most Powerful Women” List Founder of fashion label Tory Burch LLC.

Happy Celebrations

Whatever holiday you do or do not observe, also remember these women and events. Perhaps even take a moment of reflection and gratitude for the folks who had the courage and determination to follow their passions. 

Your passion matters too.

Share the story of your passion or a bit of the story of someone you know.


Image Credits

Top image is collage including:

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