By: Laurie Goodman

How do we inspire and empower the next generation of women pioneers?  One way is to ensure that today’s girls know about the trailblazers who went before them to achieve great things.  By looking back and learning about the women who have shaped our past and present, we can inspire future leaders.

The first female pilot for a major airline was Bonnie Tiburzi.  In 1973, at the age of 24, she became the first female pilot for a major American commercial airline, American Airlines.  She also became the first woman in the world to earn a Flight Engineer rating on a turbo-jet aircraft.  Female aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Lucille Wright helped to pave the way.  Lucille Wright became a passionate supporter of Girls Clubs, the parent to Girls Inc.  She believed so deeply that women can succeed in any field, she left a bequest from her estate to fund scholarships for Girls Inc. members.  Those scholarships continue today and are a powerful legacy to one of the original “Ninety-Nines”, an international organization of women pilots with Amelia Earhart as their first President.  With all the ground-breaking work in this field, today, only three percent of pilots worldwide are women.  Women have accomplished much, but there is still much to do.

Other firsts include:

First Female Candidate for the Presidency, American suffragist Victoria Woodhull, she and sister were one of first to open a Wall Street Brokerage Firm – 1872

Marie Curie, first women to be awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1903, for her work on radiation

Katharine Graham, America’s first female Fortune 500 CEO, The Washington Post, 1972

First Female on Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor – 1981

Sally Ride, first American woman to go into space – 1983

Wilma Mankiller, first Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, 1985

Aretha Franklin, first women inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 1987

Dr. Antonia Novello, first female US Surgeon General and first Hispanic to hold the job – 1990

Janet Reno, first female US Attorney General – 1993

Danica Patrick, first woman to win Indy Car Race –  2008

Kathryn Bigelow, first to win Academy Award for Best Director – 2009

Ursula Burns, first African American woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and to succeed another woman – 2010

Hillary Rodham Clinton, first woman to be nominated for President by a major political party – 2016

These are just a few of the remarkable things that these strong, smart, and bold women have done.  As the oldest girl serving organization in the United States, with roots back into the 1800’s, Girls Inc. continues to empower girls to be their best self and to be bold enough to pursue their goals, even when it means being the first.  Who will be the next pioneer?

Today, more than ever, we need the example of strong female role models.  It is important to look back and remember what these trailblazing women gave us.  What did it mean to be a woman in the early 1900’s?  In the 1950’s?  Today?

Since the 1800’s, girls needs have changed, but much of the Girls Inc. message remains the same.  We believe that girls have basic and inalienable rights.  At Girls Inc., we base all of our work around the Girls’ Bill of Rights.

At Girls Inc., girls as young as four are learning to read with books about strong female heroines.  Middle school girls are learning to code and program robots.  High school girls are getting ready for college and careers.  Many of them will be the first in their families to go to college.

Perhaps a current Girls Inc. member will be the next big first.