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Women's Achievements in Safety

Mar 08, 2019

Throughout history, women have played a tremendous role in improving safety and health for people around the world. These are just a few of the inspiring individuals who advanced the cause of improving worker health, made transportation safer, oversaw engineering marvels and established medical breakthroughs utilized to this day.

Rebecca LukensRebecca Lukens

Lukens was the owner and manager of the iron and steel mill which became the Lukens Steel Co. Because of the injuries that were occurring in the iron mills, she worked to improve safety in iron works.

Martha Costen

Martha Costen

Costen developed a maritime navigation system using pyrotechnics. These burning flares helped the U.S. Navy and the navies of many European countries to communicate with and rescue shipwreck victims.

Railway GateMary Riggin

After witnessing a rail crossing incident, Riggin had the idea of preventing others from the same fate. This led her to invent the first apparatus to prevent animals, wagons and some cars from crossing the tracks as trains approached.

Emily WarrenEmily Warren

On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge opened to traffic. Those who were there to witness its construction saw the familiar face of Emily Warren, the chief engineer from 1872 to 1883. She supervised the day-to-day construction after her husband became bedridden.

Frances Perkins Frances Perkins

Perkins served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. She holds the distinction of being the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet in U.S. history. To date, Perkins is the longest serving Secretary of Labor among all those who have held the position. Perkins was a witness to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911.

Virginia ApgarVirginia Apgar

Apgar made it safe for newborn babies in the first critical minutes of their lives to be evaluated for birth defects by developing the Apgar Score. This was the first standardized method for evaluating a newborn’s transition to life outside the womb.

Gertrude ElionGertrude Elion

Elion is a recipient of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. She is credited with the co-development of two of the first successful drugs for the treatment of leukemia, as well as an agent that has helped doctors prevent the rejection of kidney transplants. Elion also played a major role in the development of the first selective antiviral agent against herpes virus infections.

Elizabeth DoleElizabeth Dole     

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, Dole became the first woman ever chosen as U.S. Secretary of Transportation. One of the most famous accomplishments during her tenure was the mandatory implementation of the third brake light on all passenger cars.

Antonia NovelloAntonia Novello

Novello became the first Hispanic and first woman to be appointed U.S. Surgeon General. During her tenure, she played an important role in launching the “Healthy Children Ready to Learn Initiative." She also worked with other organizations to promote immunization of children.

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa

Ochoa’s expertise in optics and computer hardware had the potential to improve not only the gathering of data but also the assessing of the integrity and safety of equipment at NASA. In 1990, NASA accepted her into its astronaut training program, and in July 1991, Ochoa became an official U.S. astronaut.

Elaine ChaoElaine Chao

Chao was the first Asian American woman appointed to a presidential cabinet in U.S. history. Her dedication to promoting safety and health at the U.S. Department of Labor set the bar for future leaders.

Alexis HermanAlexis Herman

Herman was the youngest person to serve as director of the Women's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Labor when appointed in 1977. She later became the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor. During her tenure, Herman advocated for workers' rights, particularly those of young workers, and advocated for raising the minimum wage to create greater buying power for workers.

Hilda SolisHilda Solis

Solis was the first Hispanic woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor, holding the position from 2009 to 2013. As secretary, Solis advocated for stricter enforcement of safety regulations and a crackdown on those who violated wage and hour regulations.


Crystal Turner-Moffatt

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