We will celebrate February by honoring the journeys and accomplishments of African American women who have made history.

It is no exaggeration to say that women, especially African-American women, have had to put in an exceptional effort to get where we are today professionally. (And even then, we still don’t occupy the same level of power.)

Authors Kevin Stainback and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey found in their research for the book, Documenting Desegregation, that segregation has increased between black and white women since 1970. They state in an article written for The Washington Post that it has eliminated progress made in the late 1960s.

In recognition of Black History Month, here are 26 significant moments for African-American women in the workforce that remind us how far we’ve come. Though we still have a way to go until equality is reached based on race or gender, it’s worth looking back at our progress.

First known African-American woman to publish a book:

Phillis Wheatley, who wrote Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773

First college instructor:

Sarah Jane Woodson Early, Wilberforce College, 1858

First to receive a degree:

Mary Jane Patterson, Oberlin College in 1862

First to enlist in the U.S. Army:

Cathay Williams, in 1866

First to hold a patent:

Sarah E. Goode, for the cabinet bed, in 1885

First to found and become president of a bank:

Maggie L. Walker, with St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (now the Consolidated Bank & Trust Company), in 1903

First to earn a Ph.D. in the U.S:

Sadie Tanner Mossell, who earned her degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921

First to head a federal agency:

Mary McLeod Bethune, head of the National Youth Administration in 1938

First to win a Pulitzer:

Gwendolyn Brooks, for her book of poetry, Annie Allen, in 1949

First ambassador of the United States:

Patrician Roberts Harris, ambassador to Luxembourg in 1965, who was later the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban development in 1977

First elected to U.S. House of Representatives:

Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, in 1968

First graduate of Harvard Business School:

Lillian Lincoln, in 1969

First mayor of a U.S. city:

Doris A. Davis, mayor of Compton, Calif., in 1973

First with a signature to appear on U.S. currency:

Azie Taylor Morton, the 36th treasurer of the United States, in 1977

First elected as to a U.S. judgeship, and first appointed to a state Supreme Court:

Juanita Kidd Stout, who achieved both milestones in 1988

First astronaut:

Dr. Mae Jemison on the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992

First elected to U.S. Senate:

Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat from Illinois, in 1992

First to win the Nobel Prize for Literature:

Toni Morrison in 1993, who also is the first African-American to be awarded the prize

First president of an Ivy League university:

Ruth J. Simmons of Brown University, appointed in 2001

First National Security Advisor:

Condoleezza Rice, in 2001

First billionaire:

Sheila Johnson, who earned the title in 2001 as owner of the Washington Mystics

First combat pilot in the U.S. Military Corp.:

Captain Vernice Armour, in 2002

First appointed Secretary of State:

Condoleezza Rice, in 2005

First combat pilot in the Air Force:

Major Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell, in 2008

First first lady of the United States:

Michelle Obama, 2009

First CEO of a Fortune 500 company:

Ursula Burns, of Xerox, in 2009

Know of someone we missed? Tell us in a comment.

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