The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle — designed by Julia Morgan.

Heroines Honored: Poll reveals California’s Julia Morgan among most iconic female pioneers in history

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.

To coincide with Women’s History Month (March), a recent poll of 3,000 respondents by Somewang 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.

The top 10 were as follows:

1. New York, 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.

2. Maryland, 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.

3. Massachusetts, 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.

4. New York, Gertrude Elion
Born in New York, Gertrude Elion’s groundbreaking work in biochemistry and pharmacology had a profound impact that reached far beyond any single state. Elion was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for her development of drug treatments for leukemia, herpes, and AIDS, among other achievements.

5. New Jersey, Clara Maass
A nurse from East Orange, New Jersey, Clara Maass sacrificed her life in the name of medical research. She volunteered for experiments to determine the cause of yellow fever, ultimately dying from the disease. Her death led to reforms in medical experimentation ethics and contributed to the eventual understanding and control of yellow fever.

6. Alabama, 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.

7. Missouri, 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. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou spent much of her childhood and early adult years in Arkansas.

8. Georgia, Juliette Gordon Low
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912. Inspired by her meeting with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, Low established the Girl Scouts as a way to prepare young women for future roles as professional women and active citizens. Her innovative approach to girl’s education and empowerment has influenced generations of girls and young women across the United States.

9. South Carolina, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (1872-1906): Born in Talbotton, Georgia, but Elizabeth Evelyn Wright’s impact was strongly felt in South Carolina, where she founded Voorhees College in Denmark, SC. Inspired by Booker T. Washington, Wright faced numerous challenges in her mission to provide education to African American students in the rural South at the turn of the 20th century.

10. Indiana, May Wright Sewall
May Wright Sewall (1844-1920): An influential educator, suffragist, and reformer from Indiana, May Wright Sewall was instrumental in the fight for women’s rights, including suffrage. She founded the Indianapolis Woman’s Club and was a key figure in both national and international women’s suffrage movements.

California had five heroines included among the top 200

Julia Morgan in front of Notre Dame in 1901.

32. Julia Morgan (1872-1957)
An architectural pioneer, Julia Morgan was the first woman to receive an architecture license in California and the first woman architect admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her prolific career is marked by the design of over 700 buildings in California, including the iconic Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Morgan’s work broke barriers in a male-dominated field and set new standards in architecture, particularly in the use of reinforced concrete and her attention to detail and the integration of site with architecture.

55. Gerty Cori (1896-1957)
Born in Prague, Gerty Cori became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947, which she shared with her husband Carl Cori and Argentine physiologist Bernardo Houssay. The Coris’ work was crucial in our understanding of the catalytic conversion of glycogen, laying foundational knowledge for the field of biochemistry. Though her Nobel Prize predates her time in California, her legacy as a pioneering woman in science is celebrated widely, including in California where she spent a significant part of her research career.

90. Sally Ride (1951-2012)
As the first American woman in space, Sally Ride shattered the ultimate glass ceiling with her journey aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. A physicist and astronaut, Ride’s contributions to science and space exploration made her a national hero and a role model for girls aspiring to careers in STEM. Beyond her space missions, Ride was dedicated to education, founding Sally Ride Science to inspire young people, especially girls, to pursue their interest in science.

166. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
A documentary photographer and photojournalist, Dorothea Lange is best known for her work during the Great Depression. Her photograph “Migrant Mother” is among the most famous images of the era, capturing the suffering and resilience of American families. Lange’s innovative approach to photography as a tool for social change helped to humanize the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography as a powerful medium for advocacy.

172. Ray Eames (1912-1988)
Alongside her husband Charles, Ray Eames was instrumental in shaping 20th-century American design. Though often primarily recognized for her contributions to furniture design, Ray’s work encompassed a broad range of disciplines, including architecture, textile design, and filmmaking. The Eames Office in California became a hub of innovation and creativity, producing designs that were both functional and beautiful. Ray Eames’ multidisciplinary approach and her seamless blend of art and science in design continue to influence designers around the world.

“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,” said Steven Wang, founder of Somewang.