Texas Tech University

Celebrating Diversity: Focus on Women's History

Phillis Wheatley, Poet, Slave (1753-1784)


"They disgrace/And hold in bondage Africa's blameless race." Born in Senegal and sent to Boston as a slave, Phillis Wheatley was educated by her owners and became the first published African American woman.

Read her "On Being Brought from Africa to America."

Anne Hutchinson, Puritan Leader (1591-1643)

"I have been guilty of wrong thinking." Anne Hutchinson was a religious leader, midwife, and a central figure in the Puritan conflict of the 1630s.

Read her biography


Abigail Adams, Wife of and Mother to Presidents (1744-1818)


"Remember all men would be tyrants if they could." Abigail Adams, the wife of second president of the United States John Adams and the mother of sixth president of the United States John Quincy Adams, advised her husband on women's issues during the founding of the nation.

Read her famous letters to her husband at the Continental Congress in 1776.

Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Abolitionists (1805-1879; 1792-1873)

"We Abolition Women are turning the world upside down." The Grimke sisters of Charleston, SC, were noted abolitionists and activists.

Read Angelina's speech on slavery at Pennsylvania Hall.


General Harriet Tubman, Freedom Fighter (1822-1913)


"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." A former slave herself, Harriet Tubman famously led hundreds of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, and she later served as a Union spy during the Civil War.

Read her biography

Susan B. Anthony, Suffragist (1820-1906)

"Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry."
Susan B. Anthony was a leader in the women's rights movement, traveling, lecturing, and even getting arrested for illegal voting.

Learn more about the trial of Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting.


Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Writer, Anti-Lynching Activist (1862-1931)

Ida B

"The Afro-American is thus the backbone of the South." Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist and early civil rights leader who wrote and lectured frequently about the evils of Jim Crow and racial violence in the American South.

Read her book, "A Red Record".

Alice Paul, Suffragist, Feminist, Author of the Equal Rights Amendment (1885-1977)

"There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it."
Alice Paul was a major leader in the campaign to secure a federal voting rights amendment for women, serving time in jail and going on hunger strike to advance the cause.

Read an excerpt from a prison diary and about feminist hunger strikes in the 1910s.


Zora Neale Hurston, Anthropologist, Author (1891-1960)


"Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." Zora Neale Hurston was a major scholar and writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

Read her biography

Lydia Mendoza, "The Lark of the Border" (1916-2007)

"When I sing that song, I live that song." Known as "la cancionera de los pobres," Mendoza was a musical sensation in her home state of Texas and throughout Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s.

Hear her "Mal Hombre" and read a recent profile of her


Eleanor Roosevelt, Activist, Diplomat (1884-1962)


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt transformed the role of First Lady into that of a diplomat; she advocated for many causes and was a driving force behind the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.

Read her 1948 speech, "The Struggle for Human Rights".

Women in World War II (1941-1945)

"I think the beginning of the women's movement had its seeds right there in World War Two." (FDR) Women's roles at home, at work, and at war were transformed during the early 1940s.

See newsreel footage about this change from 1942.


Septima Clark, Educator, Civil Rights Activist (1898-1987)


"I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift." Known as the "Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement", Septima Clark's citizenship schools were a key part of the voter registration drives in the Jim Crow South.

Read more about her.

Pauli Murray, Activist, Civil Rights Lawyer, (1910-1985)

"Give me a song of hope/And a world where I can sing it." Pauli Murray was an attorney who dedicated her life to fighting racial and gender discrimination.

Read more about her trailblazing.


Betty Friedan, Activist, Author (1921-2006)


"The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive." Betty Friedan was a writer and feminist activist who wrote The Feminine Mystique (1963) and co-founded the National Organization of Women. Read an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique.

Read more about her trailblazing.

Women of the Civil Rights Movement

"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." (Fannie Lou Hamer)

Read "Women Battling Jim Crow and Jane Crow" and Hayden and King's "A Kind of Memo," a critique of sexism within the social movements of the 1960s.

Ms. America Protest (1968)

Ms America

"Welcome to the Ms. America Cattle Auction!" In 1968, feminists protested outside the Ms. America Pageant in Atlantic City.

Read about the protesters.

Women's Liberation Movement

The feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s campaigned for reforms on issues including equal pay, reproductive rights, an end to sexual harassment and violence, maternity leave, and the Equal Rights Amendment, among others.

See stock footage of the movement.


Angela Davis, Scholar, Activist (1944-)


"We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society." Angela Davis is one of the foremost American thinkers on issues of race, class, and gender, most recently in her publications and lectures about the mass incarceration system.

Hear her lecture at UCLA in 1969.

Gloria Steinem, Journalist, Activist (1934-)

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Gloria Steinem has been an outspoken activist for women's rights since the 1960s.

Read "Women Voters Can't Be Trusted" from the founding issue of Ms. Magazine.


Johnnie Tillmon, Activist (1926-1995)

"I will never accept that I got a free ride. It wasn't free at all. My ancestors were brought here against their will. They were made to work and help build the country." Johnnie Tillmon was a leader in the welfare rights activism that accompanied the feminist and Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s-1970s.

Read "Welfare is a Women's Issue" from Ms. Magazine, 1972.

Shirley Chisholm, Politician, Educator, Author (1924-2005)

"At present, our country needs women's idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else." Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress and to run for presidential nomination on a major party's ticket.

Watch her declare her presidential bid.

Wilma Mankiller, First Female Chief of the Cherokee Nation (1945-2010)


"The secret to our success is that we never, never give up." Wilma Mankiller was an outspoken advocate for women's rights and for the Cherokee people, whom she served as chief from 1985-1995.

Read an excerpt from "Every Day Is a Good Day."

Dolores Huerta, Labor and Civil Rights Activist (1930-)

"My mother was a dominant force in our family...that was great for me as a young woman, because I never saw that women had to be dominated by men." The recipient of numerous awards for service and advocacy, Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to organizing and achieving rights for workers, immigrants, and women.

Learn more about her.


Alice Walker, Author, Activist (1944-)


"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." Alice Walker is an acclaimed novelist and recipient of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Hear her read from The Color Purple.

Kathleen Hanna, Musician, Activist (1968-)

"There are just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world." Kathleen Hanna is a founding member of the Riot Grrrl movement and a musician in feminist bands, including Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and the Julie Ruin.

Watch the trailer for The Punk Singer, a documentary about Hanna's life.


Emma Sulkowicz, Activist, Artist (1992-)


"Carry that weight!" Emma Sulkowicz is a current student at Columbia University, where she is known for her work of performance art that involves carrying her mattress as a protest against the university adminstration's response to her report of a sexual assault on campus.

Watch a video about her performance art.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice (1933-)

"My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent." Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an advocate for gender equality who was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1993.

Read more about her.


Beyonce, Queen of the Beyhive (1981-)


"We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible."

Read her essay, "Gender Equality is a Myth."

History of Women at Texas Tech


Mrs. Mary Doak presided over the first women's convocation, which was held on Monday, October 12, 1925, at 4 PM. During the meeting, the women voted to establish a YWCA and elected a temporary Chairperson for the Women's organization. (Toreador, October 17, 1925)


The first student to graduate from Texas Technological College was Mary Dale Buckner, who won the drawing for the right to be the first official graduate of the newly established college.


Mary Woodward Doak, Dean of Women, is credited with idea of a museum at Texas Tech. She gave a presentation on February 28th on her recent trip to England, where she visited the British Museum. Discussions following the presentation spawned the idea of a museum at Texas Tech, and the Plains Museum Society was established to collect items for a museum and push the idea forward to fruition. (The First Thirty Years, p. 280)


Comprised of 15 first year women, the Girl's First Year Council helped secure a First-year student representative position on the Student Council.


Laura Song, a native of Korea, was the first Asian student to graduate from Texas Tech on June 5, 1933. She received a Bachelor's of Science degree in Home Economics. (ToreadorJune 15, 1933)


Opal Hill (Mrs. Gustav Johnson) was the first woman to graduate as a textile engineer. She went on to become a technician with the Good Housekeeping Institute. (The First Thirty Years, p. 175)


From 1944-1945, the student government officers were all women.


Texas Technological College received accreditation by the American Association of University Women.


In 1948 the first woman graduated from both the Electrical and Industrial Engineering Departments of Tech. (Tex Talks July, 1950)

More Notable Women »