Throughout 2019 American women have led the charge towards progress. Some became the first in their respective fields, while others have laid the groundwork for future successors. So we thought it best to end the year (and decade — wow!) highlighting some of the kickass women who have — and will — continue to make history.
Lilly Singh —
Singh made headlines this year for being the first bisexual woman of color to have her own late-night talk show. Singh’s lengthy career started on YouTube where she’s known as IISuperwomanII. During her nine years on the Internet, she has garnered 14.9 million subscribers and over three billion views combined on her videos… and she hasn’t stopped there. She’s done voice acting work and was even cast as a tabloid blogger named Raven in the HBO adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Her resume includes a music career where she works with mostly Punjabi artists, she’s the author of several books including How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, and she was named as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2017.
Katie Bouman —
Earlier this year the first image of a black hole was captured and splayed all across the Internet. The woman behind that image, Katie Bouman, developed the computer program that made the image possible. Dr. Bouman spent over three years crafting the algorithm while she was still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her TED Talk details her contribution to the historic event. Though her name has been the most mentioned, she says it wasn’t just her that made this possible, but a team of over 200 scientists who have used telescopes in locations ranging from Antarctica to Chile.
Simone Biles —
In October, Biles won her 24th gold medal making her the most decorated gymnast in world championship history. Biles first appeared in the 2013 US P&G Championships, and later became the first female African-American athlete to win gold in the all-around. Though she has a decorated string of medals, Simone doesn’t count them — she’s simply happy to be in the sport and is proud of what she’s achieved for gymnasts. She’s set to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Susan Zirinsky —
After 45 years, Susan Zirinsky became the first female president of CBS News. This promotion is the culmination of unmatched journalism, decades of hard work, and a perseverance to outlive the men who tried to fire her. Aside from years serving as a producer on 48 Hours, Zirinsky’s career has led her to cover the Nixon administration’s Saturday Night Massacre, the Gulf War, the Tiananmen Square student uprising, the Paris terrorist attacks, and the Parkland Florida mass shooting. CEO and president Joe Ianniello said about Zirinsky, “She is an exceptional leader, a creative force, and an outstanding and proven journalist. Her energy, innovative instincts, and competitive spirit are just what is needed to bring the best of CBS News to viewers on every platform.”
Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager —
In June, Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager took control of the 40th Infantry Division in the California National Guard, a unit that’s been commanded by men for more than a century. Despite the fact that Yeager is a minority amongst her male peers, she has never mistreated. She told the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, “In every assignment I have held, my mostly male peers, subordinates, and superiors, have supported me, treated me with respect, coached, mentored, and advised me.” She went on to say, “At the same time, I have been inspired by the incredibly strong and amazing women I have served with and for.” It is now her responsibility to prep soldiers to fight and win in American wars.
Toni Morrison —
Last but not least, the great Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, Toni Morrison passed away this year. Her death was immediately felt by the literary community and those who loved her work. After getting her Master’s degree in 1955, she moved to New York and become a senior editor for Random House where she edited the works of Angela Davis and Malcolm X. Her novels focused on the African American experience in stunning detail — some of her most notable being The Bluest Eyes and Beloved. Hulu’s The Piece I Am documents Morrison’s life and career, and her words will forever live on in American literature.
Joy Harjo was the first Native American woman to become the Poet Laureate; Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck was the first woman to win the Abel Prize (the Nobel prize for Math); the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is bringing awareness to climate change; and NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were part of the first all-female spacewalk.
2019 has been one hell of a year for women. Here’s to many more…
Johanie Cools is a blogger, writer, book editor, and aspiring author. Follow her on Twitter at @jmartdotcom or on Medium at @jmcools.