Firsts for Women: August 2021

Zonta International celebrates “firsts for women” in all different sectors in countries and communities around the world.

Looking back on last month, we acknowledge the following women:

  • Josephine Baker – first Black woman to be honored at the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris.
  • Dr. Dhriti Banerjee – first woman director of the Zoological Survey of India.
  • Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt – first woman to lead a nuclear carrier in U.S. Navy history as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
  • France Margaret Bélanger – first woman to serve on the Canadiens’ executive committee, as president of sports and entertainment.
  • Kay Bounkeua – first Asian American woman to serve in the New Mexico Legislature.
  • Amy Brolsma – first woman to coach in the United States Hockey League.
  • Di Bush – first woman to be full-time lifeboat coxswain for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
  • Dr. Alexis Colvin – first woman and first Asian American to be chief medical officer at the U.S. Open.
  • Nia DaCosta – first Black woman director to debut a movie in the No. 1 weekend spot at the U.S. box office. 
  • Emmarae Dale – first woman to play in the Canadian Junior Football League.
  • Allyson Felix – first woman to win 10 Olympic track and field medals.
  • Janja Garnbret – first woman to win a climbing gold medal at the Olympics.
  • Sharon Graham – first woman general secretary of Unite the Union, the second-largest trade union in the United Kingdom.
  • Kylie Grimes – first woman to win a Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair rugby.
  • Julie P. Hamil – first woman administrator of the Rhode Island State Court.
  • Jacy Hurst – first woman of color sworn in on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
  • Kathy Hochul – first woman governor of New York state.
  • Alia Issa – first woman on Paralympic Refugee team.
  • Debbie Lee – first woman to join the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
  • Avani Lekhara – first woman to win a Paralympic gold medal for India.
  • Suzanne McCormick – first woman to be appointed president and executive director of YMCA of the USA.
  • Marsha McWilson – first Black woman inducted into the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame.
  • Tamyra Mensah-Stock – first Black woman to win an Olympic wrestling gold for the U.S.
  • Heather R. Morris – first woman deputy chief of police at the Miami Police Department.
  • Blessing Oborududu – first wrestler to win an Olympic medal representing Nigeria.
  • Amanda Pritchard – first woman chief executive officer of England’s National Health Service.
  • Ellen Port – first woman to win the Metropolitan Senior Amateur Championship, a 36-hole championship for seniors (65 and over) of the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association.
  • Menna Rawlings – first woman appointed as the United Kingdom’s ambassador in Paris.
  • Yulimar Rojas – first woman from Venezuela to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Liz Shuler – first woman president of the AFL-CIO, the biggest U.S. labor federation.
  • “Tai” (full name has been withheld) – first Black woman to train for an FBI Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
  • Jean Taylor – first woman president and chief executive officer of the American Public Media Group (APMG).
  • Elaine Thompson-Herah – first woman to win both the 100m and 200m gold medals in successive Olympic games.
  • Jennifer Valente – first woman to win an Olympic track cycling gold medal for the U.S.
  • Daisy Veerasingham – first woman chief executive officer of the Associated Press (AP).

Moments we missed in July:

  • First woman to complete Navy special warfare training (it is standard military policy for special operations forces to not identify the graduate).
  • Norma Hardy – first Black woman police chief in Vermont.
  • Katie Ledecky – first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for 1,500-meter freestyle.
  • Carissa Moore – first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for surfing.
  • Melanie Newman, Sarah Langs, Alanna Rizzo, Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner – first women to perform all-female broadcast crew for a Major League Baseball (MLB) game.
  • Janet Petro – first woman to lead NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center.
  • Connie Marie Washington, first woman police chief at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System.

As an organization that has fought for gender equality for more than 100 years, Zonta International believes it is important to celebrate and honor women who are making history. Each month, we will recognize women who have broken the glass ceiling and set an example for future generations to come.

Do you know of a first for women moment that should be recognized? Share with us at [email protected].