Influential Women of the 20th Century: Monday M’s

Influential Women of the 20th Century

Monday M's

Women contributed so much to areas of politics, science, and entertainment in the 20th century, though many of their efforts were eclipsed or outright overwritten by male counterparts. Today’s Monday, so here are some influential women of the 20th century, whose names all happen to start with the letter M.

Maria Mayer

Mayer was a prolific scientist born in Germany, later moving to the US to teach as a professor and study nuclear physics. She worked with great scientists such as Edward Teller, one of the foundational influences behind atomic bomb research, and Enrico Fermi, the first person to create a nuclear reactor. Mayer was the second woman ever to receive a Nobel prize in physics, after Marie Curie, for her hypothesis of the nuclear shell model. Much of her work is remembered in the early forms of nuclear physics, most notably The Manhattan Project and Teller’s Super.

Margaret Bourke-White

Though Bourke-White started as a commercial and architectural photographer, her advanced skills launched her career to great heights in the 30s and 40s especially. She was the first female war correspondent and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones. Bourke-White often found herself in the grips of danger, especially working in the northern parts of Africa and battles in Moscow. Years later her iconic photos of the India-Pakistan partition violence made international news, and she was one of the last to interview and photograph Gandhi hours before his assassination in 1948. You can see her work in many New York exhibits today.

Marie Daly

Daly was the first black American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1947 at Columbia University. She worked extensively on protein metabolism and cell nucleus research. Daly worked as a professor at Howard University, Columbia, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and finally established a scholarship at Queens College in memory of her father.

Margaret Mead

Mead, a Philly native herself, was a cultural anthropologist and held a focus in South Pacific And Southeast Asian countries. Her work as an anthropologist was influential for several reasons: it was done at a time where gender roles were called into question in the late 50s and early 60s; the feminist movements were gaining traction among the public; previously un-conducted research of gender roles in these foreign countries was now being explored. She was integral in dispelling the idea that sexual and cultural values were inherently universal. Mead received the presidential medal of freedom in 1979 after her death.


These women often defied cultural norms in establishing important roles within their community, most especially in male-dominated fields like STEM paths. We hope you enjoyed Monday’s list of influential women of the 20th century!