Important Women in U.S. History – Alabama


Women’s history has, until recently, been largely overlooked in U.S. schools.

For many students, one of the only women they will ever learn about is Betsy Ross. She is a fine example of women making a difference, but there are so many more wonderful women who worked hard to make their America (and the world) a better place. Women from every state in the U.S. fought battles and took chances to give other women the opportunities available to you today. It’s time for students to hear their stories.

Maud McLure Kelly (1887-1973)

Maud Kelly came from a wealthy family, where she could have followed expectations and become a society wife. What Kelly chose to do was follow her father’s footsteps into the world of law.

Women were not encouraged into careers and law was most certainly a world left to men. Kelly had grown up around her father’s law practice, developing an interest in Kelly that couldn’t be shaken. Kelly became her father’s stenographer and later took the entrance exam at the University of Alabama Law Department. She did well enough on the test to enter the school as a senior! After one year of classes, Kelly graduated with honors.

She became the first woman to practice law in Alabama as well as the first woman to argue a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carrie A. Tuggle (1858-1924)

Carrie Tuggle and her husband moved to Birmingham in search of better job opportunities to support their four children.

What they found was an opportunity for Tuggle to make Alabama a better place for kids. She worked as a welfare officer for delinquent boys which led her to wonder what more she could do for these kids. She wanted to provide a home for them and, at first, their home was her home. Eventually, she was able to open a school and residence for homeless African American boys. The school grew quickly, graduating many well respected Birmingham residents.

Tuggle also worked tirelessly to help create the Jefferson County Juvenile and Domestic Court.

Fran McKee (1926-2002)

From the beginning of the U.S. Navy in 1775, women were not allowed to hold positions of rank. For many years, women weren’t allowed to serve their country in any capacity, but as that began to change, some women began pushing ahead, succeeding in an arena previously only open to men.

Rear Admiral McKee was one of these women. In 1976, she became the first female unrestricted line officer to become a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. She was one of the first two women to graduate from the Naval War College, quite a feat in itself, and she went on to be the first woman to serve at many different levels, excelling in each of them.

Rear Admiral McKee was instrumental in effecting opportunities available to women in the U.S. military.