Since winning the right to vote in the early 20th century, women have been hungry for equality and respect in all areas of life — and with good reason! What’s the point of having the right to vote on subject matters in your country and community if your life is spent washing dishes and folding laundry?

Over the past 100 years, women’s warrior cries have shattered the glass ceiling and coined the term “Boss Lady.” That level of achievement in the workplace wouldn’t have been possible without these leading ladies, who put the word force back into workforce.

1. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States had no choice but to join World War II. The devastation in Hawaii brought the community closer together and women were not sitting this one out. Fires often broke out in the naval shipyard, so women were assigned firefighting duties.

NBC Investigations

2. Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as WASPs, were part of a 350,000 person crew that joined the military during World War II. Pictured below: Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner, and Blanche Osborn, piloted their “Pistol Packin’ Mama” from factories to military bases for use in the war.

Khan Academy

3. The Women’s Royal Naval Service in the United Kingdom began during the Great War. These women were in charge of running “Colossus,” the world’s first programmable computer. Operators known as “wrens” would help crack enemy codes.

History Extra

4. After Pearl Harbor, more than 16 million women entered the workforce. Less famous than Rosie the Riveter, but still as important, were the welders! These ladies worked in the Vancouver Kaiser Shipyard turning steel into tanks in as little as a week!

Welding Supplies From Ioc

5. With German forces using blitzkrieg warfare to devastate the Allies, many parts of London were in ruins. The United Kingdom and its friends weren’t going to stay down long. Women combed the streets and were tasked with cleaning up the debris while salvaging any building materials.

NY Daily News

6. A true pioneer of her time was Melba Roy, an employee of NASA in the 1950s. Roy started as a mathematician working directly with the Echo 1 and 2 satellites and worked her way up to the Program Production Section Chief at the Goddard Space Center. This earned her the Apollo Achievement Award and an Exceptional Performance Award.


7. Dr. Christine Darden spent her whole career paving the way for women and African-Americans alike. Working as an aerospace engineer, she optimized the aeronautical design to launch our species into space for NASA. 

Langley Research Center

8. Punching out after a long shift meant something different to men than it did to women. This picture shows women enthusiastically leaving while the men look worn out. No matter the job, women were just happy to work!

Oakland Museum of California

9.  These switchboard workers would work from sunup to sundown in a small room in the Empire State Building, glued to their chairs. Still, they were expected to maintain a “lady-like” appearance and wear heels and skirts.


10. Emmy Lou Packard was a printmaker, painter, and muralist, but during World War II she used her gifts differently. She illustrated what labor looked like for a newspaper.  

Oakland Museum of California

11. Taken in 1942 in Ontario, this photo showed mostly women lining the benches of a munitions factory, helping to produce military weapons and equipment. Male workers were far and few between during this time.

Virtual Museum

12. As men went to fight in the wars that plagued the 20th century, it was the responsibility of women to keep the country running and to manufacture wartime equipment. As a result, Rosie the Riveter was born: blue overalls, hair tied in a bandanna, strong, and hardworking.


13.  Veronica Lake was the poster-child for the working woman. For this photo, she donned her famous peek-a-boo hairstyle, demonstrating the ridiculous expectations of women to uphold their “lady-like” appearance in the workforce.


14. Women were funneled into the classroom by the same men who didn’t think they had what it took for the “real” workforce. Oddly enough, they were fine with them teaching their children.

The New York Times

15. With women flooding the workforce, they received push back from men who were scared about job security. This fear lead to discrimination against women. During the ’50s and ’60s, women protested the pay gap and treatment by employers.

University of Maryland Libraries

16. Sally Ride was a true American hero. She was the first American woman to travel out of the Earth’s atmosphere and into space with a male crew. To this day, she remains the youngest American astronaut in space.

Library of Congress

17. A leading lady in science, Dorothy Hodgkin was passionate about Chemistry and the STEM field. She won a Nobel Prize for her work deciphering the structure of vitamin B-12 and for her advanced technique of X-ray crystallography. 


18. Taken in 1943, this snapshot shows women of all colors getting ready to start their workday. Some wore heels and carried a briefcase, while others wore coveralls and held hardhats. 

Oakland Museum of California

19. Transcribing speech day in, day out was the tedious job of these stenographers in the 1920s. Nothing about it was glamorous, but it was a job that needed to be done. 


20. At end of World War II, men returned and reclaimed their positions and titles as “breadwinners” of the home. There was an influx of women returning to their households again, but some women weren’t turning back the clocks. These welders continued to work proudly… because they earned the right to work.

Feminist Activism