When we think of women who influenced education in America we often think of Maria Montessori, Ruby Bridges, Michelle Obama and, of late, Dolly Parton. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we want you to learn more about some other incredible women.

Alice Palmer (1855-1902)

Before women were legally allowed to vote, Alice Palmer opened the door for women for opportunities for women to attend college.  She rallied for a woman’s need to be educated so she could be self-reliant – not a popular stance in the late 1880s but a mantra for today’s women. She co-founded and served as president of the American Association of University Women. She served as President of Wellesley College from 1881 to 1887 and she served as Dean of Women at the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1895. LEARN MORE

Marian Wright Edelman (1939- )

Beginning as a civil rights activist, Marian Wright Edelman transitioned her focus to children’s rights. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1972 as a voice for all children but particularly children in underserved communities, children of color and children with disabilities because children cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. Her influence helped overhaul the foster care system, encouraged support of adoption, made meaningful improvements to childcare and supported several school desegregation cases. LEARN MORE

Lucy Diggs Slowe (1885-1937)

In 1919, Lucy Diggs Slowe was asked to start the first Black junior high school. She became highly influential after becoming the first African-American to win a major sports title; winning the American Tennis Association’s first tournament in 1917. In 1922, he was selected as the first African-American Dean of Women at Howard University. Lucy was also one of the original founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first sorority founded by African-American women. LEARN MORE

Patsy Mink (1927-2002)

Patsy Takemoto Mink, J.D., was the first woman of color to be elected to Congress. She consistently worked to reduce gender bias in education and the workforce. While serving 12 terms in Congress, she fought for women’s rights and equal pay, Title IX and focused on many issues affecting Asian and Pacific Americans. She wrote the Early Childhood Education Act, and the Women’s Educational Equity Act, and Mink was the first Asian-American to run for the office of U.S. President. LEARN MORE

Rita Pierson (1951-2013)

Rita F. Pierson, Ed.D. of Houston, Texas, became a professional educator in 1972, teaching elementary school, junior high and special education. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for children and a professional speaker, she had stints as a counselor, test coordinator and assistant principal. With a focus on supporting and building relationships with her students, Dr. Pierson’s inspirational TED talk, “Every Kids Needs a Champion,” is highly praised by educators across the globe. LEARN MORE

Stephanie Bravo-Jafari (1976- )

Stephanie Bravo-Jafari, M.A. is focusing on improving college completion and preparing students for the workforce of tomorrow. She is the co-founder of StudentMentor.org, a non-profit dedicated to supporting low-income college students by connecting them with industry professionals. Today, the program has helped students from thousands of colleges nationwide and has partnered with the White House on many educational issues. LEARN MORE