Who Were the First Women in Your Field?November 20, 2008
As AAUW prepares for its biennial convention, Breaking through Barriers, in St. Louis, Missouri, June 26–28, I have been reading about some Missouri women who broke through their own barriers in their chosen professions. With a little research, I have found out about outstanding accomplishments achieved by women who broke the traditional mold by to become the first women to hold positions previously dominated by men.
One of these women was Mary Paxton Keeley, who made her mark in history in 1910 by becoming the first woman to earn a journalism degree. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia and then became the first female news reporter in Kansas City at The Kansas City Post. By 1928, she had earned her graduate degree in journalism from the university and became a professor. In 1976, Mary Paxton Keeley donated her correspondence and manuscripts from her articles, fiction, and poetry to the University of Missouri. The Keeley Papers are now part of the National Women and Media Collection. She died in 1986 at age 100.
Mary Paxton Keeley is one of the many heroic women who refused to be limited by the constraints of inequality that society had placed on her. There are many fascinating stories of strong women who have been challenged and who have broken through their own barriers in communities across the United States. Who are the women in your field who were the “first”? Who was a “first” woman in your state?