Washington Heroines Honored

March 29, 2024 at 7:51 p.m.
Vi Hilbert was a revered Native American elder and one of five Washington women recognized through a poll of the most iconic women in the country
Vi Hilbert was a revered Native American elder and one of five Washington women recognized through a poll of the most iconic women in the country

For too long, the narratives of progress and innovation have glossed over the monumental contributions of women. From science and technology to the vanguards of business and social reform, women have been instrumental in shaping our modern world. Yet, their stories often remain unrecognized, their triumphs unsung. Through their courage, resilience, and trailblazing achievements, women like Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, and Eleanor Roosevelt have not only shaped the course of our history but also paved the way for future generations to dream bigger and reach further.

"As we celebrate the indomitable spirits of our heroines, we are reminded of the profound impact they have had on shaping our nation's narrative. These trailblazers, activists, scientists, and educators have not just etched their names in history; they have carved out possibilities for those who follow. We owe them an immeasurable debt of gratitude and the commitment to continue their work in our own lives,” says Steven Wang, founder of Somewang, which conducted the survey. 

To coincide with Women's History Month (March), a recent poll of 3,000 respondents revealed the 200 most beloved heroines from history, paying tribute to the rich stories of women who have broken barriers, fought for equality, and paved the way for future generations. Only women who are no longer alive were considered in the poll.

Although the top 10 did not include any women from Washington state, read below to uncover which Washington residents made the list. 

The top most influential women in the poll included: 

Susan B. Anthony: Born in Massachusetts but spending much of her adult life in Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony was a key figure in the women's suffrage movement in the United States. 

Harriet Tubman: Born into the harsh reality of slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman transcended her circumstances to become the legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad. Through her unparalleled courage and ingenuity, Tubman orchestrated the escape of dozens of enslaved individuals, guiding them to freedom with an unwavering resolve. 

Abigail Adams: As the wife of President John Adams and the mother of President John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams was more than a figure in the backdrop of American history; she was a formidable advocate for women's rights and an influential advisor to her husband.

Rosa Parks: Widely associated with Montgomery, Alabama, for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks' act of refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955 became one of the most iconic moments in the civil rights movement. 

Maya Angelou: Although Maya Angelou is primarily known for her literary work, her contributions span across civil rights activism, education, and the arts, making her a multifaceted innovator. 

Other notable names in the poll include: Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Emily Dickinson, Rachel Carson, and Sacagawea.

Washington state had five heroines included among the top 200:

Vi Hilbert

Vi Hilbert (1918-2008): A member of the Upper Skagit tribe, Vi Hilbert was a revered Native American elder and a champion of the Lushootseed language and culture. Through her work as a storyteller, teacher, and linguist, Hilbert played a critical role in preserving and revitalizing Native American language and traditions in the Pacific Northwest. Her contributions to cultural preservation have been widely recognized and celebrated. She was named a Washington Living Treasure in 1989, and received a National Heritage Fellowship in 1994 from the National Endowment for the Arts, presented by Bill Clinton. Vi Hilbert's life and work are featured in a documentary: Huchoosedah: Traditions of the Heart. Read an article about Vi Hilbert and see more photos at HistoryLink, the free online encyclopedia of Washington state history: 

Hazel Wolf


Hazel Wolf (1898-2000): An environmental activist and organizer who lived in three different centuries, Hazel Wolf was a key figure in the conservation movement in Washington state and beyond. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, but spending much of her life in Seattle, Wolf was instrumental in the founding and growth of the Audubon Society in Washington. Her activism helped protect countless natural areas and inspired generations of environmentalists. A film festival, a wetlands preserve, a bird sanctuary, a high school and an Audubon endowment were named in her honor. In 1996, Governor Mike Lowry declared her birthday, March 10, as Hazel Wolf Day. She has been described as a soft spoken in nature, but she called herself a lifelong "rabble rouser." According to HistoryLink.org, she credited the restorative powers of nature with giving her the ability to go on, year after year, fighting for the causes she believed in. Read the full article: 

Dixie Lee Ray


Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994): Born in Tacoma, Washington, Dixy Lee Ray was a scientist and politician who served as the 17th Governor of Washington, the first woman to hold the office. Before her political career, Ray was a marine biologist and the director of the Pacific Science Center, which she led back to financial solvency and changed it to an interactive learning center. She hosted a public television show, Animals of the Seashore. Richard Nixon appointed her to chair the U.S. Atomic Energy Commision. As governor, she was known for her strong support of industry and development, as well as her advocacy for science and education. She has been described as blunt, confrontational, idiosyncratic and ridiculously smart. She presided over the state's response to the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. Here is a link to HistoryLink article: 

Frances Farmer


Frances Farmer (1913-1970): Born in Seattle, Washington, Frances Farmer was a film and stage actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She appeared in over a dozen films, but her career was marked by sensationalized accounts of her personal life and struggles with mental health issues. She was involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals. Farmer's life and career later became the subject of several films and books, sparking discussions on the treatment of mental health in the entertainment industry. 

Bertha Knight Landes


Bertha Knight Landes (1868-1943): Born in Ware, Massachusetts, but making her mark in Seattle, Washington, Bertha Knight Landes was the first female mayor of a major American city, serving as the mayor of Seattle from 1926 to 1928. Landes was known for her efforts to clean up the city's operations and for her advocacy for public works, civic improvement, and transparency in city governance. Her tenure as mayor broke gender barriers and set a precedent for women in politics. Her single term ended in 1928, but she remained a civic leader and role model for women. https://www.historylink.org/File/5343

Key Findings from the Poll:

Widespread Recognition: The poll highlights a broad recognition of women’s contributions across various fields such as civil rights, science, education, and social reform.

Diverse Heroines: The top 10 list includes a diverse group of women, from Susan B. Anthony, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, to Gertrude Elion, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

Geographical Representation: The heroines come from different states, indicating that the impact of these women is felt nationwide, not just in their places of birth or where they made their mark.

Historical and Modern Impact: The list spans centuries, from Abigail Adams in the 18th century to Rosa Parks in the 20th century, showing the long history and ongoing impact of women’s contributions.

You can view an Infographic showcasing the top 100 women from the poll at this link: 

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