5 Pennsylvania women who did it first

Women’s History Month may be coming to a close, but these important women’s accomplishments live on. Remember their names and honor them.

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

This iconic woman was very familiar with breaking boundaries. She was the first black woman to earn a PhD in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1927, she became the first black woman admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. Alexander was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. Needless to say, Alexander paved the way for black women so that others didn’t have to.

Sharron Cooks

Cooks was the first black, transgender woman to represent Pennsylvania as a Democratic National Delegate at the DNC in 2016. In addition, she was the first openly transgender black woman to graduate from Arcadia University. Cooks was also the first transgender person to claim a Chair on a City Commission, but was ousted from her position in May 2017.

Alice M. Bentley

Bentley became the first woman Speaker Pro Tempore (“temporary speaker”) of the House of Representatives in 1923. She was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1922 as a Republican along with seven other women, all of who were the first to serve as state representatives. The terms she served helped to solidify the importance of women representation in government.

Elizabeth Hirsh Fleisher

Fleisher was the first woman licensed architect in Philadelphia. Her works helped immortalize the round designs that were prevalent in the 60s. Ever gazed at the architectural giant that is Parkway House? You have Fleisher to thank, that’s one of her most famous works of art. In fact, a pavilion she designed in Columbus Square in 1960 is now in danger of being demolished to make way for park improvements.

Hilde Lysiak

Lysiak is the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists at 12 years old. She publishes the Orange Street News, which claims to be the only newspaper covering the town of Selinsgrove. She began reporting on violent crimes in her town at nine years old, for which people criticized her, claiming she was too young to do so. However, she continues to rise above the criticism and succeed in her journalistic endeavors, and even interviewed Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, in 2016.


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