2020 marks 100 years since the passing of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women’s right to vote. At Road Scholar, we believe it’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of incredible women – past and present – whose strength and determination have inspired so many. That’s why we created the Road Scholar Women’s Hall of Fame – to honor the women who helped us get where we are today. Learn more about these fascinating women below, and join us as we thank them for their important contributions to this global campus we love to learn about and explore.
Pioneers in Education, Travel & Beyond
Fanny Bullock Workman
One of the first female record-setting mountaineers, Fanny Bullock Workman was an American cartographer, travel writer and explorer. She was an advocate for women’s rights and climbed the Himalayas in a skirt!
Rebecca Lee Crumpler
The only female physician to author a book in the 19th century, Rebecca Lee Crumpler was also the first African-American woman to become a doctor in the United States.
Paving the way for women in the medical field and beyond, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. She was a strong social reformer and champion of women’s education – opening her own medical college for women in 1868.
Fanny Jackson Coppin
The first African-American woman to head an institution for higher learning in the United States, Fanny Jackson Coppin was a passionate educator and lifelong advocate for women’s higher education.
The founder of the Troy Female Seminary, the first school for women’s higher education, Emma Willard was a dedicated women’s rights activist. She traveled across the country and abroad, promoting women’s education.
Spanish nun and child prodigy, Juliana Morell, was the first woman to receive a university degree at 14 years old. Two years earlier, she defended her thesis in ethics and dialectics at just age 12.
American lawyer, educator and politician Barbara Jordan was the first African-American congresswoman elected from the Deep South. She was an eloquent speaker and a passionate leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander
An accomplished lawyer and civil rights activist, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in economics in the U.S. She was also the first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Road Scholar Women
With a great thirst for learning, Shirley Kirby embarked on her journey in higher education, despite her parents disapproval, and received her nursing degree. But she didn't stop there! Shirley enrolled in a Nurse Practitioner program in her 40s as she was raising three teenagers and working for a family physician. When she realized she was being paid less to perform the same duties as the male Physician Assistants in her office, Shirley went to Yale to take the Physician Assistant exam, received her dual certification and was granted equal pay. Shirley faced both sexism as well as ageism when she went on to pursue her PhD in psychology at the age of 61. But, through all of these challenges, she persevered and went on to lead a successful private practice for 25 years. She only retired recently at the age of 87. Ever the lifelong learner, she continues her educational journey on learning adventures with Road Scholar.
During her 44 years of teaching in higher education, Mary witnessed many examples of gender discrimination – from men getting credit for women’s ideas, to a lack of respect from colleagues. Fueled by this, she felt a responsibility to mentor and advocate for underrepresented groups, from young women, to LQBTQ students and students of color. Mary went on to receive her Masters and PhD and had a successful career as an educator. She now works as a Road Scholar Ambassador and a volunteer with ReadWithMe, an organization in Southern California offering language development programs for students whose first language is not English.
Mary is Professor Emeritus in the department of Sociology at State University of New York - College at Oswego, where she has taught since 1985. Throughout her career, Mary has always advocated for underrepresented people: other women, people of color and LGBTQ students, faculty and staff – both in and outside the classroom. She mentored and inspired countless students and colleagues, many of whom have gone on to become college presidents, vice presidents, deans, published authors, academics and activists. Today, Mary continues her journey in lifelong learning as a Road Scholar participant, traveling across the U.S. on educational adventures.
Dr. Lois Goodman
After graduating from Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Goodman began her career in 1977 as an OBGYN physician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where she was the hospital’s first full-time female OBGYN MD (and one of only 6 female doctors on the entire staff of the hospital). “The doctor’s lounge was in the men’s room,” she said. “But that’s where many cases were discussed and professional relationships established.” She raised two children while working full time as an OBGYN physician. As she reached her 70s, Dr. Goodman began to face pressure to retire, so she opened her own office instead! Today, at 73, she works full time as a Gynecologist, seeing patients at her own pace, and managing her business. When Dr. Goodman isn’t practicing, you can find her traveling on educational cycling programs with Road Scholar.
Paula entered the workforce as an Engineering Technician, and, at the same time, enrolled in college to earn an Engineering degree. She was the only woman in the program and often encountered professors who would make comments like, "I'm sorry dear, you must be in the wrong room – this is an Engineering class." At 28, and a newly single mother, Paula supported herself and her children by working full-time days and going to school at night. She went on to have a successful career in Engineering despite the harassment she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field. She was the first woman to be on and to Chair the 'Engineering Committee' of the National Aerospace Industries Association in Washington D.C. As part of that role, she testified at the Pentagon before all of the top officials and members of Congress. Now in her mid-seventies, Paula volunteers as an Ambassador for Road Scholar, where she gives talks to numerous groups.
Dr. Betty Nyangoni
Dr. Nyangoni was educated in a segregated school system in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Immediately after graduating college, she went to Malawi with Operation Crossroads Africa (a forerunner of the Peace Corps). Her time there made a profound impact on her and would later inspire her to pursue a Master's in African Studies at Howard University. As a single, working mother, Dr. Nyangoni had to overcome many obstacles to build a successful career in education. She went on to teach social studies in the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C., and was an ardent advocate for including African and African Studies into the curriculum. In 1979, she earned a Ph.D. in Education Administration. After working as a supervisor and administrator in the Washington, D.C. public school system for nearly 30 years, Dr. Nyangoni retired, but still spends her summers engaging in a wide range of numerous workshops, institutes and Road Scholar programs, both in the U.S. and abroad.
During her 45-year career as a psychotherapist, Faye specialized in family systems therapy. “I felt a responsibility, especially to mentor younger women,” she said. “I think there is a kind of kinship with women in my field. As women, we had to support one another and strategize to get to the top.” She also developed a family therapy training program with David Treadway, a colleague of hers. Faye also attended summer poetry workshops at Bennington College, where she studied with renowned poet Mary Oliver. When Faye closed her long-term practice in 2005, she went on to receive her MFA in creative writing at Pine Manor College. The oldest person to have graduated from the program, she writes and publishes poetry, memoir and essay. Faye and her husband attend Road Scholar’s Chautauqua program every summer, and she is actively involved in a close-knit women’s group that has been meeting monthly for 31 years.
Donna A. Kimura
A former physical education teacher and current Road Scholar participant, Donna helped write the rule book for girls’ sports and draft Title IX legislation for the State of California.
As co-founding director of Great Camp Sagamore, Barbara helped design the many learning adventures that Road Scholars still enjoy today.
Want to nominate a woman to be included in Road Scholar’s Women’s Hall of Fame? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
About the Author
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states. JoAnn’s extensive travel industry experience informs her expert insight on everything from where to find the world’s most charming streets to must-see hidden gems across the globe.