March is National Women's History Month. Just a month? Pick any decade, any year for that matter, and you'll find women making history — although too often they're not the history-makers we learn about in school. To help right that wrong, just a smidge, AttaGirl, circa 1900, is pleased to acquaint you with 10 amazing women — a race car driver, a movie director and a self-made millionaire among them — who were breaking new ground roughly 100 years ago.
Suffragist and adventurer Annie Smith Peck became the first woman to scale the Matterhorn in 1895, writing magazine articles to pay for her expedition. In 1911, Peck, then 61, climbed Peru’s Mount Coropuna, planting a "Votes for Women" banner at the summit. . . Lizzie Arlington signed a professional baseball contract — the first woman to do so — and pitched for the Philadelphia Reserves in 1898 . . . . Despite the fact that she couldn't swim, retired schoolteacher Annie Taylor, 63, (see inset) was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel — and live. "I would caution anyone against attempting the feat," she told reporters after surviving the plunge in 1901. . . . Educator, orator, religious leader and businesswoman Nannie Helen Burroughs, the daughter of two former slaves, got started early, helping to establish the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 — at just 17 years old. . . . Alice Guy-Blaché, the motion picture industry's first female film director, made her first full-length feature in 1906 and went on to direct, produce or oversee more than 700 films. . . . Madame C.J. Walker created a line of hair-care and skin products for African-American women and, thanks to her marketing genius, became the first self-made female millionaire at the turn of the century. . . . Mary Harriman founded the Junior League, one of the oldest and best-known women's volunteer organizations, in 1901. Their first project? After her coming-out ball, the 19-year-old debutante organized her friends to bring all of her party bouquets to hospital patients. . . . Jesse Tarbox Beals was the first woman to make her living as a photojournalist, covering fires, floods and murder trials beginning in 1902 for the The Buffalo Inquirer in Buffalo, New York. . . . At age 17, Anna May Wong, a native Californian, starred in her first silent film, The Toll of the Sea, in 1922, and went on to become the first Asian-American superstar. . . . Race car driver and movie star Anita King was the first person to ever drive alone across the United States — from Los Angeles to New York City. Despite getting lost in the Nevada desert due to terrible signage, Wyoming mud that rose to the top of her hubcaps and much more, King accomplished the feat in 49 days in 1915, stopping to speak at 100 Paramount Theatres along the way.