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5 groundbreaking women from Boston

From the first public library and U.S. college to America’s oldest parks and pubs, Boston has a history of, well, making history. So, it’s no surprise that so many pioneers called the city home. Meet five of the women who helped change the world and paved the way for today’s glass ceiling-shattering women in science and medicine. 

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Ellen Swallow Richards

Among many firsts, Richards — who established the field of sanitary engineering — was the first woman admitted to MIT, where she later became the first female instructor. Her work as a chemist spurred the field of home economics.

Harriot Kezia Hunt

Hunt was the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School — though women wouldn’t be admitted until nearly 100 years later. As a practicing physician, she advocated for women in her field and for women’s rights.

Shirley Ann Jackson, PhD

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Her work in theoretical physics led to the invention of fiber optic and solar cells — among other essential tech — and she was the first Black woman to receive a doctorate from MIT in 1973. Today, she’s the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Margaret Hamilton

The former director of MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory, Hamilton is perhaps best-known for developing software for NASA’s Apollo program. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in 2016.  

 Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

In the face of extreme prejudice against her race and gender, Dr. Crumpler persevered to become the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. Her former Beacon Hill home is featured on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail.

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This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

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