Naming your daughter (or your son) after your own fierce grandma or your favorite famous female in history is a way to let your kiddos know from Day One you believe in them. Read on for next-level baby name inspiration!
Alice Eastwood: Born in Canada, Eastwood is best known for her work as a renowned (and self-taught!) botanist whom in 1906—after the big earthquake in San Francisco—she rescued 1497 irreplaceable botanical specimens from the Cal Academy before it fell to flames. There are 17 plant species (and two plant genera) named for her. She also hiked Mt. Shasta by herself and published over 300 scientific articles in her lifetime.
Amelia Earhart: The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, she also set an altitude record and became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Honolulu, HI.
Anna May Wong: The first Chinese-American movie star and the first Asian-American actress to gain international fame, she used her influence to fight against the rampant racism in Hollywood, especially the offensive depiction of Chinese characters, usually played by white actors.
Billie Jean King: The world-renowned tennis player, Billie can count 39 World Grand Slams and three years as captain of the United States tennis team at the Federation Cup among her numerous ground-breaking accomplishments. Known as a long-time advocate for gender equality and social justice, at the age of 29 Ms. King fought and beat Bobby Griggs (he was 55 at the time) in a legendary tennis match—Battle of the Sexes. Ms. King was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
Bobbi Gibb: In 1966, Bobbi Gibb wanted to run the Boston Marathon but when she was denied entry for being a woman she did what all, self-respecting women at the time did: she defied authority and ran anyway! Gibb waited until the race started, a few yards from the starting point, pulled a black hoodie over her head so no one would recognize her, and after several hundred runners began the race she jumped in! And not only did Bobbi run the race, she finished it in 3 hours and 20 minutes, unofficially. That’s just one hour behind the winner and ahead of half the male runners. Check out this cool picture book based on Gibb’s Boston Marathon story.
Deb Haaland: In 2018, Debra Anne Haaland became one of the first Native American woman elected to Congress (along with Sharice Davids). She is the former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and a member of the Laguna Pueblo people. She is also an attorney and 35th generation New Mexican.
Dolores Huerta: Huerta worked side-by-side with famous labor and farm worker advocate Cesar Chavez to help protect agricultural and immigrant worker’s rights. She founded the Agricultural Workers Association and co-founded United Farm Workers, and continues to fight for the rights of Latinos and women.
Durga Banerjee: The first woman pilot in India, she became an official pilot for Indian Airlines in 1966. She was also the first woman ever to fly the Tornado A-200.
Frida Kahlo: Mexican-born Kahlo was just 18 with hopes of becoming a doctor when she suffered a serious injury from a traffic accident. Confined to her bed, she began painting. Her works remain today as some of the most impressive, iconic and recognizable art in history.
Florence Nightingale: Considered the founder of modern nursing herself, she organized care of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-1856). She became known as a manager and trainer of nurses who advocated for sanitary conditions in hospitals, and a holistic approach to treatment (that rest and good nutrition were key to recovery and good health). So if you want a kiddo who will wash her hands and eat her veggies, this is the name for you.
Gloria Steinem: Activist, feminist, journalist, founder of Ms. Magazine and champion of women’s rights, she’s considered one of the pioneers of the American feminsit movement.
Greta Thunberg: Countless kids and young adults are trying to change the world. Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, the founder of the Fridays for Future movement, has already inspired many to stand up for their beliefs. She was named Time’s 2019 Person of the Year, and 2020 marks the second year in a row the 17-year-old has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
Grace Hopper: Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (1906-1992) was one of the first computer programmers ever in the United States. A Navy Rear Admiral, in 1944 she worked on the Harvard Mark I Computer and invented the first compiler for computer programming language. In other words, she figured out how to explain computer code to mere humans (and how to program a computer to do what humans want). In the 1940s!!! She continued working for the Navy and later for other government agencies as a high-ranking official.
Gwendolyn Brooks: One of the most highly celebrated poets of all time, Gwendolyn was the first Black author ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies and one novel. She was also Poet Laureate to the State of Illinois and the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.
Harriet Tubman: Find major inspiration for doing the right thing, even when the wrong thing is the norm, by teaching your kiddos about the incredible, unflappable Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery in 1822, she emancipated herself at the age of 27 and went on to be instrumental in helping dozens of other slaves find freedom using the Underground Railroad—the system of secret safehouse and waystations from the south to the north. Tubman was an armed scout and spy during the Civil War, an early suffragist (advocate for women’s rights) and a humanitarian. She established a home for elderly African-Americans, where she later resided. Today, you can visit Harriet Tubman National Historical Park which includes her home, a visitor’s center, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, and the church she raised funds to build. Her burial site is nearby.
Hedy Lamarr: Not only was Hedy a famous Hollywood actress, she is also credited with inventing Wi-Fi. Her groundbreaking work on spread spectrum technology is what modern day digital communications are based on.
Jane Goodall: Possibly the most famous primatologist in the entire world, Goodall’s work with chimpanzees changed the way we view them and our relationship with (and part in the destruction of) their habitat.
Lella Lombardi: She was Italian and she was a Formula One race car driver. If that’s not reason enough to worship her, she raced in 17 Grands Prix, and was the only female driver in history to finish in the top six.
Queen Liliuokalani: The last reigning monarch over the Kingdom of Hawaii, she was imprisoned in her own home in Honolulu after the rebellion attempt to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy by U.S. soldiers and her attempts to refuse the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. Her birth name was Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha.
Mae C. Jemison: On June 4, 1987 Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American woman to enter the space program. On Sep. 12, 1992, she joined the crew of seven astronauts on the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space. Born in Decatur, Alabama and raised mostly in Chicago, Il, Jemison holds multiple awards and degrees including a a B.S. in biomedical engineering and an M.D. She has worked as a medical doctor (including in the Peace Corps). As a child, Jemison spent a lot of time in her school library, reading especially books about space.
Malala Yousafzai: Want to raise a child that isn’t afraid to fight against inequality and injustice? Name your kid Malala after this brave young woman. Malala was shot in the head at age 15 after refusing to stay at home when the Taliban declared that girls could not attend school. After surviving the gunshot wound, she devoted her life to helping girls and women get the education they deserve. She won a Nobel Peace Prize winner and wrote her own children's picture book.
Margaret Atwood: She might be best known for her feminist science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale but that’s only one of her 16 novels! She is a prolific author whose stories address gender, identity, religion and myth all at once. She is the winner of numerous awards in both poetry and fiction. We like the name Atwood for a gender-neutral vibe, too.
Marie Curie: A physicist and chemist who was not only the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, she was also the first person and only woman to win it twice, once for Chemistry and once for Physics. Her pioneering work includes the theory of radioactivity and discovering not one but two elements (radium and polonium).
Maya Angelou: Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, her brother nicknamed her Maya. After a difficult childhood she found release in her writing. She was the first African American cable car operator in San Francisco, was also a waitress for many years and later became an actress, singer, dancer, activist, professor and (most famously) a poet and writer. She was awarded numerous prestigious awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nichelle Nichols: Born Grace Dell Nichols (also an awesome name) Nichelle’s impressive career includes singing with Duke Ellington and playing Lt. Uhura on the Star Trek television series and movies. What you might not know is that she ran a company called Women in Motion which worked with NASA to recruit minority and female astronauts, scientists and personnel for NASA. She has served on the board for the National Space Society since the 1980s and has been a tireless advocate for exploring the final frontier.
Rachel Carson: Insure your little one grows up to be a nature lover and defender of all creatures great and small by naming them after this fearless woman who helped end the use of DDT and other harmful chemicals in our environment. Her hard work and dedication also jump-started a grassroots campaign that eventually led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Her presence in the global fight for the environment continues to this day, via the Rachel Carson Prize, which is awarded to women working in the field of environmental protection.
Rashida Tlaib: Rashida is a woman of first. She is the first Muslim woman ever to serve in Michigan legislature and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress (along with Ilhan Omar).
Ruby Bridges: In 1960 Ruby was just six-years-old when she made history as the first African-American child to attend a desegregated school. She went on to live a life of activism and later formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation to fight racism and promote tolerance, respect and appreciation of differences.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Born Joan Ruth Bader, she is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, the second female justice in history. A consummate bada$*, she is a trailblazer in fighting against gender discrimination, and an outspoken advocate for (and defender of) women’s rights.
Rosa Parks: AKA the Mother of the Freedom Movement and the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus to a white passenger. She was arrested for civil disobedience and fought it in court. This was just the beginning of many years of activism and work toward equal rights.
Sally Ride: The first American woman to fly in space, on June 18 1983. She flew again in 1984. She was also a professor at UC San Diego, invented the EarthKAM project which helps kids take pictures of Earth from the International Space Station and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003.
Sharice Davids: In 2018, Sharice Davids was elected to Congress, becoming one the first Native American women to be elected to Congress (the other is Deb Haaland also elected in 2018) as well as the first openly gay person elected to Congress from Kansas and the first LGBT Native American elected to Congress.
Susan B. Anthony: A suffragist, anti-slavery advocate and early champion for women’s rights, she fought for the right for women to vote. In fact, she and her three sisters voted in the 1872 presidential election even though it was illegal. She was arrested, went to trial, and ordered to pay a fine which she refused. The Nineteenth Amendment (the 1920 law that finally gave women the right to vote) is named after her (Susan B. Anthony Amendment).
Sonia Sotomayor: The first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. History, she holds multiple degrees and was also a U.S. District Court Judge as well as a U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge.
Tu Youyou: Chinese born Tu Youyou took the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, primarily for her work in researching and discovering artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin, two compounds used to treat malaria. Her work has saved millions of lives. Tu’s extensive knowledge of the vast pharmacopoeia of traditional and Western medicine has made her one of the most important scientists in her field.
Wilma Rudolph: Wilma Rudolph had polio, scarlet fever and pneumonia as a child which left doctors doubting she’d ever walk again. But Wilma didn’t agree: at 16 she competed at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. She won the bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay. In 1960 she competed in Rome and won gold medals and set world records in the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay. Never let them get you down!
Winona LaDuke: Winona is an environmentalist, economist, activitst and writer whose father was a Native American from the Gaa-waabaabiganikaag reservation in Minnesota, a member of the Ojibwe nation. From a young age she was inspired to advocate for sustainable farming, heritage foods and land protection for indigenous (and all) people and continues to be a pioneer and leader.
Wú Méi: One of the few known martial arts warriors from the 17th century, Mei survived an attack at a Shaolin Monastery, fought in numerous invasions and is still known today as a founding mother of martial arts styles including Dragon Style.
Zora Neale Hurston: One of the most influential and important writers in the twentieth-century, her unique voice and style that integrated her knowledge of folklore with her prose is required reading for anyone who wants to experience the true voice of African-American literature.
Feature photo: Sara Pflug via Burst