• 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
    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
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Profession: Programmer, Mathematician, Computer scientist, Scientist
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  • Photo: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
    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
    • Nationality: Austria, United States of America
    • Profession: Pin-up girl, Inventor, Scientist, Actor, Engineer
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    #94 of 349 The Best Actresses In Film History#132 of 322 The Greatest American Actresses Of All Time#67 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

  • Photo: Chicago History Museum / Getty Images
    Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She arguably became the most famous black woman in America, during a life that was centered on combating prejudice and violence, who fought for equality for African Americans, especially women.Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. At the age of 16, she lost both her parents and her infant brother in the 1878 yellow fever epidemic.  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 68 (1862-1931)
    • Birthplace: Holly Springs, Mississippi
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Profession: Journalist, Women's rights activist
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  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    Eleanor Roosevelt

    Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (; October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was an American political figure, diplomat and activist. She served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office, making her the longest serving First Lady of the United States. Roosevelt served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952.President Harry S. Truman later called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements.Roosevelt was a member of the prominent American Roosevelt and Livingston families and a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. She had  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 78 (1884-1962)
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Profession: Politician, Diplomat, Author, Writer
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    What Was Franklin And Eleanor Roosevelt's Relationship Really Like?#782 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#412 of 2,753 The Most Influential People of All Time