• Weird History

The Greatest Renaissance Women in American History

List RulesPeople on this list must be 1) American women who 2) have proven expertise in more than one field. Can be from any time in American history.

While many technical and scientific professions were closed off to women until recently, renaissance women still managed to make their mark on American history. These polymaths excelled in a wide range of fields, from business to medicine to politics. Famous renaissance women have led incredible lives while breaking the traditional barriers that kept them out of their fields.

Did you know that Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States while also being a prominent social and moral reformer? Or that actress Hedy Lamarr also helped invent innovative radio communications technology that's used in modern Wi-Fi? Or that TV chef and author Julia Child was also an intelligence officer in World War II whose activities weren't declassified until 2008?

These American women changed history and excelled in multiple fields, while usually also balancing the rigors of family life and raising children. Upvote the most remarkable renaissance woman or women you see below and add any talented females throughout American history who have made a difference and excelled in a variety fields, arts, and industries.
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  • Photo: Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images
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    Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (née Murray December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first linkers. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today. Prior to joining the Navy, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University and was a professor of mathematics at Vassar College. Hopper attempted to enlist in the Navy during World War II but was rejected because she was 34  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 85 (1906-1992)
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York
    • Profession: Programmer, Mathematician, Computer scientist, Scientist
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    Judith Resnik

    Judith Arlene Resnik (; April 5, 1949 – January 28, 1986) was an American electrical engineer, software engineer, biomedical engineer, pilot and NASA astronaut who died when the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed during the launch of mission STS-51-L. Resnik was the second American woman in space and the fourth woman in space worldwide, logging 145 hours in orbit. She was also the first Jewish American in space and the first Jewish woman of any nationality in space. The IEEE Judith Resnik Award for space engineering is named in her honor. Initially planning to be a concert pianist, Resnik turned down a place at the Juilliard School of Music, choosing instead to study at Carnegie Mellon  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 36 (1949-1986)
    • Birthplace: Akron, Ohio
    • Profession: Astronaut, Scientist, Engineer
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  • Photo: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
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    Hedy Lamarr (), born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler; November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000) was an Austrian-born American film actress and inventor.After a brief early film career in Czechoslovakia, including the controversial Ecstasy (1933), she fled from her husband, a wealthy Austrian ammunition manufacturer, and secretly moved to Paris. Traveling to London, she met Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood. She became a film star with her performance in Algiers (1938). Her MGM films include Lady of the Tropics (1939), Boom Town (1940), H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), and White Cargo (1942). Her greatest success was as Delilah in Cecil B.  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 85 (1914-2000)
    • Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
    • Profession: Pin-up girl, Inventor, Scientist, Actor, Engineer
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  • Maria Goeppert Mayer (June 28, 1906 – February 20, 1972) was a German-born American theoretical physicist, and Nobel laureate in Physics for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. She was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics, the first being Marie Curie. A graduate of the University of Göttingen, Goeppert Mayer wrote her doctoral thesis on the theory of possible two-photon absorption by atoms. At the time, the chances of experimentally verifying her thesis seemed remote, but the development of the laser permitted this. Today, the unit for the two-photon absorption cross section is named the Goeppert Mayer (GM) unit. Maria Goeppert married Joseph Edward Mayer  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 65 (1906-1972)
    • Birthplace: Katowice, Poland
    • Profession: Physicist
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