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Women have achieved so much throughout history, as a collective but also individually. Whilst there is an endless list of so many impressive accomplishments made by women, here we have listed 10 female firsts.

  1. Valentina Tereshkova

The first female to enter space.

Tereshkova was the first woman to enter space, she orbited the Earth a total of 48 times in 71 hours. She is also the only woman to ever embark on a solo mission in space. Whilst she had no pilot training she did have experience as a parachuter and a cosmonaut and at age 26 she was launched into space in spacecraft Vostok 6.

2. Gertrude Ederle

The first female to swim the English Channel.

Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel. She was an Olympic Swimming Champion, who held a record for 5 Olympic swimming events at the time. She swam across the Channel on the 6th of August in 1926. Ederle swam approximately 34 kilometres (Calais to Dover) in 14 hours and 31 minutes, beating the record at the time by 1 hour and 59 minutes.


3. Juliana Morell

The first female to earn a doctoral degree.

Morel was the first woman to earn a doctoral degree at university in 1608. She was home schooled for most of her life, as she was recognised as extremely intellectually and academically gifted at a young age. She obtained a doctorate in canon law in Avignon.


4. Libby Riddles

The first female to win the Iditarod trail.

In 1985, after 18 days of trekking Riddles was the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail. The Iditarod Trail is a 1150-mile dog sled race across Alaska where a ‘musher’ and a team of 14 dogs race from Anchorage to Nome. Riddles battled through a year of incredible storms to take out the victory and international recognition for courage and spirit.

5. Sirimavo Bandaranaike

The first female to be head of state.

Bandaranaike was the world’s first woman head of state. Her party won the 1960 general election in Ceylon (which later became Sri Lanka). She left the office in 1965 however returned for two more terms later in life, Bandaranaike broke down barriers and helped to refocus gender expectations and capabilities of women all around the world.

6. Jumko Tabei

The first female to summit Mount Everest.

Tabei was the first woman to summit Mount Everest (in 1975) and the Seven Summits. She, however, prefers to be referred to as the 36th person to summit Everest. Tabei struggled against extreme sexism in not only a male dominated sport, but also from expectations in her conservative Japanese culture. She continued to pursue her dreams of climbing whilst men refused to climb with her, and others accused her of being there with the intention of finding a husband.


7. Edith Wharton

The first female to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1921, Wharton was the first women to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, ‘The Age of Innocence’. Her book was a critique of the hypocrisy of the upper classes in New York, she herself was a socialite, born into high society however always questioned the social standards for women and pushed for higher education. She wrote her first book at 11 years of age, however it was not published under her name as this was unacceptable to the upper class who maintained that a woman’s name should only be printed for births, marriage and death.


8. Aretha Franklin

The first female to be inaugurated in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1987, Franklin was the first woman to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Known as the ‘Queen of Soul’ she is well known for her feminist song, ‘Respect’. She was an important symbol in women’s empowerment and heavily involved the civil rights movement in America.


9. Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz

The first female to sail solo around the world.

Chojnowska-Liskiewicz was a Polish yachtswoman and the first woman to sail solo around the world. She began her journey in February 1976 in the Canary Islands, it took her two years to arrive back in Las Palmas. She was forced to stop in Australia during her sailing for a brief period in hospital, but powered on after to achieve her goals. She was revolutionary in breaking barriers that women were unable to complete this arduous journey, let alone solo. 

10. Charlotte Cooper

The first female Olympian to win gold medal in an individual event.

Cooper was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event. In Paris in 1900 Cooper competed in the women’s tennis singles, this was the first Olympics that women were allowed to compete in, back when tennis was played in long dresses and a volley was extremely rare. Her playing style focused mostly on a strong attack and she was one of the only females at the time to serve overhead.