Conn. (WTNH) — Women across the globe have helped shape society into what it is today, and during March, women are honored for their contributions throughout history.
While there are thousands of trailblazers across the world and the U.S., dozens of women in Connecticut have helped pave the way for future generations.
We’ve rounded up a list of 10 highly influential women in Connecticut to honor during International Women’s History Month — highlighting women for their roles in politics, reform, law enforcement, and the arts.
Hellen Keller (1880 — 1968)
Helen Keller, arguably one of the state’s most well-known and influential women, continuously fought for others’ rights and made a name for herself across the globe. Keller was deaf and blind since she was 19 months old after she fell ill from scarlet fever or meningitis, though she preserved; she graduated top of her studies, graduated from college cum laude, and published an autobiography.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and was the first woman to receive an honorary Doctorate from Harvard.
Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822 — 1907)
Isabella Hooker, known as the wife of John Hooker — a descendant of Hartford founder Thomas Hooker — made it her goal to empower women. After discovering that a wife had no rights independent of her husband, Hooker founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and called on Congress to pass a married women’s property bill.
Hooker is known for working alongside activists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Frances Ellen Burr (1831 — 1923)
Women in Connecticut now have the right to vote, but that wasn’t always the case. Frances Ellen Burr, one of the first in the state to assist in the rise of feminism, petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly to formally discuss the bill to give women the right to vote. She co-founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association alongside Hooker.
As a writer, speaker and activist, Burr fought for women’s rights for over 70 years.
Katharine Hepburn (1907 — 2003)
Hollywood’s leading lady, Katharine Hepburn, made an impact in both the film and fashion industries, bringing a bold, strong-willed character to the screen. Throughout her career, Hepburn appeared in 44 films, eight television movies, and 33 plays, scoring four Academy Awards.
She lived in modernity, aiming to change gender norms by pioneering wearing trousers and influencing women’s fashion.
Ella T Grasso (1919 — 1981)
While she served in the state’s General Assembly since 1952 — becoming the first woman elected Floor Leader and the first woman to chair the Democratic State Platform Committee — Ella T. Grasso made national history when she became the first woman in the U.S. to be elected governor in her own right. She aimed to create a government to be more responsive to its people.
After her death, Grasso was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Ruth A. Lucas (1920 — 2013)
After joining the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942 during WWII, Ruth A. Lucas went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was promoted to the rank of Major in the Continental Air Command at Mitchel Air Base in New York. She became the first African American woman in the Air Force to be promoted to colonel in 1968.
She was the highest-ranking African American woman in the Air Force — a title she kept through 1991.
Ann Uccello (1922 — 2023)
Antonina Uccello, known as “Mayor Ann,” was the first woman in Connecticut to be elected mayor of a municipality. Uccello, born in Hartford, shaped Hartford politics as the city’s leader, aiding constituents after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
She was the only woman to head a major U.S. city during the Civil Rights era and was among the highest-ranking women in the Nixon administration.
Tina Weymouth (1950—)
At just 12 years old, Tina Weymouth toured with the Potomac English Hand Bell Ringers and taught herself to play guitar. She most notably became the singer, songwriter, founding member, and bassist of the new wave-rock group Talking Heads, which scored her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While she earned platinum and gold with the Talking Heads, she created Tom Tom Club with her husband and fellow band member Chris Frantz.
Regina Rush-Kittle (1961 —)
Law enforcement was always on the mind of Regina Rush-Kittle, who started her career in 1983 with the Connecticut Department of Corrections. From there, she became the first African American woman to become a Connecticut State Police sergeant, lieutenant, major and barracks commander.
Rush-Kittle isn’t with the state anymore. She now serves as the chief administrative officer for the City of New Haven.
Kristen Griest (1989—)
The Army invited Griest to join the Army Ranger School in 2015 with a select few hundred women. That same year, she became one of two women to earn Ranger tabs and was formally promoted to Captain. After proving that women were capable of the demands of Ranger School, the U.S. Military opened up all combat positions to women in 2015.
Griest also broke records as the first female infantry officer in the U.S. Army.