The National Archives is the home of the 19th Amendment, the Constitutional amendment that prohibited the states from denying the vote on the basis of sex. In 2020, the Archives commemorated the centennial of this landmark document.

Black and white photograph of a group of women nurses gathering together reading letters.
We invite you to continue exploring records that help tell the story of women’s rights and history, including the fight for the vote, and recognize the great contributions women have made to our nation throughout history.

This month we are highlighting a selection of the many trailblazing women throughout history whose stories can be found within the holdings of the National Archives.
A contingent of nurses arrive in the southwest Pacific area, received their first batch of home mail at 268th Station Hospital, Australia, 11/29/1943. National Archives Identifier 531410

Mae Jemison

Mission Specialist (MS) Mae Jemison poses in Spacelab-Japan (SLJ), facing forward.
Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman accepted into NASA’s space training program on June 4, 1987. Five years later, on September 12, 1992, she became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

Learn more on the Pieces of History blog: Mae Jemison: First Black Woman in Space.

Mission Photographs Taken During the Space Shuttle Program , 4/12/1981 - 7/21/2011. STS-47, Mission Specialist Mae Jemison, 11/19/1998. National Archives Identifier 22725970

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett

Born enslaved in Mississippi in 1862, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett dedicated her life to fighting for racial and gender equality. She was a journalist, suffragist, advocate of racial justice, and anti-lynching activist.

In this letter to Republican Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, Ida B. Wells appeals for justice in the lynching of Postmaster Frazier B. Baker and his two-year-old daughter, Julia, in South Carolina, in 1898. Learn more on the Rediscovering Black History blog post, The Honorable Agitator.

Page 1 of a handwritten letter from Ida B. Wells to Mr. Dawes
Page 2 of a handwritten letter from Ida B. Wells to Mr. Dawes

Letter from Ida B. Wells-Barnett to Mr. Dawes, 1898. National Archives Identifier 24746870

Jeannette Rankin

After helping to secure women the right to vote in Montana in 1914, Jeanette Rankin was the first woman to be sworn into Congress in April 1917. She served as a Representative from Montana's at-large district, from March 4, 1917 until March 3, 1919 and again as Representative from Montana's 1st district from January 3, 1941 until January 3, 1943.

Learn more on the Pieces of History blog: Women can’t vote, but they can run for Congress
Black and white still photograph from newsreel stock. Jeannette Rankin stands in a white dress among several other women

Still image from Motion Picture Newsreel Films Used for a Documentary Series on World War I, National Archives Identifier 89241

Shirley Chisholm

In 1969, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in Congress, representing New York's 12th Congressional District. She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and the Congressional Women's Caucus in 1977. Chisholm was also the first woman and the first African American to seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972.

Learn more on the National Archives Featured Document Display: Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm: “Unbought and Unbossed”

Photograph of rules committee sitting at their seats in Congress. Shirley Chisholm sits in the middle of the front row.

Photograph of the Rules Committee, 95th Congress, ca. 1977. National Archives, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives

Geraldine Ferraro

In 1984, Democratic Presidential nominee Walter Mondale announced that Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York would be his running mate. Ferraro would make history as the first female Vice Presidential nominee for a major party.

Black and white photograph of Geraldine Ferraro talking with President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter with Congresswomen, Geraldine Ferraro, 9/21/1978. National Archives Identifier 181476

Mary McLeod Bethune

As a presidential advisor of African American Affairs during the Roosevelt administration, Mary McLeod Bethune formed the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, which would become known as the Black Cabinet. The Black Cabinet was instrumental in creating jobs for African Americans in federal executive departments and New Deal agencies.

Mary McLeod Bethune shakes hands with a woman while Eleanor Roosevelt looks on
Bethune’s influence within the Roosevelt administration also allowed her to direct funds created by the New Deal program to Black people. Programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Youth Administration (NYA) were successful in employing over 300,000 African Americans during the Great Depression.

Mary McLeod Bethune, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and others at the opening of Midway Hall, 5/1943. National Archives Identifier 533032

Page from Mary McLeod Bethune's personnel file
Mary McLeod Bethune also currently has the honor of the only Official Personnel Folder digitized in the National Archives Catalog: Official Personnel Folder for Mary McLeod Bethune, National Archives Identifier 158329664

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Amelia Earhart

Photograph of Amelia Earhart standing in front of an airplane
In 1922, Amelia Earhart set a record for reaching the highest altitude for a woman pilot, flying to 14,000 feet. Six years later, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. In the following 10 years, Earhart continued to set aviation records for speed and distance. She also helped create a women’s aviation club, the Ninety-Nines, and was elected the first president. The organization still exists today and works to promote female pilots.

Amelia Earhart, 7/30/1936. National Archives Identifier 6708609

Learn more on the Pieces of History blog, Amelia Earhart: Showing What Women Can Do – Pieces of History and explore more records relating to Amelia Earhart on our website.
Page 1 of a typewritten letter from Amelia Earhart to President Roosevelt
Page 2 of a typewritten letter from Amelia Earhart to President Roosevelt

Letter from Amelia Earhart to President Roosevelt Regarding her World Flight, 11/10/1936. National Archives Identifier 6705943

Start your research on History Hub

Have a question? Find your answer here on History Hub!

For those looking to conduct research or learn more about Women’s History records and resources, we encourage you to browse recent posts and questions on the Women's Rights and Suffrage community. Recent posts include:

Black and white photograph of a group of women welders breaking for lunch
Records of the War Manpower Commission, 1936 - 1951. Student Welders Having Lunch. National Archives Identifier 192810599
These are just a few of the many stories of trailblazing women that can be found within the holdings of the National Archives. We invite you to explore more! Learn more through our online resources:
Black and white photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt speaking with Marian Anderson

Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson in Japan, 5/22/1953. National Archives Identifier 195989

New Transcription Mission!
Screenshot of the Carded Service Records transcription mission

Carded Service Records of Hospital Attendants, Matrons and Nurses, 1861 - 1865.

Help us transcribe records relating to the service of hospital attendants, matrons and nurses.

Would you like to transcribe these records more efficiently? Try using our template for transcription! These records consist of a standard typewritten form with handwritten details. We’ve created a template for the standard typewritten form found on each card, so you can simply copy and paste the template in the transcription field, and then type in the remaining details.

Find the template and learn more on History Hub.

Women's History Collection on GIPHY

Have you seen our Women’s History collection on GIPHY?  Find historic footage of Suffrage Marchers, Pioneering Women, and more!

Animated gif of suffrage marchers protesting by their prison train

Suffrage marchers, protesting by their prison train

It’s just one of several new GIF collections in the National Archives’ GIPHY channel, which just surpassed 3 Billion total cumulative views! 

Screenshot of the Women's History collection on the National Archives GIPHY channel

The channel features hundreds of vintage animated GIFs featuring everything from fun retro patents to famous prominent Americans.

Animated gif of a one-wheeled velocipede patent
One-Wheeled Velocipede Patent
Animated gif of Amelia Earhart waving from her airplane
Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart

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