Can You Pass this HERstory Quiz?


By: Elisabeth Henderson

6 Min Quiz

Image: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The old saying on purple bumper stickers claims that “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Is that true? Who are the women who have made history? Do we need a separate category for women’s history? That’s what the writer of the 1970s book, Herstory:  A Woman’s View of American History, thought. Even though the word “history” does not at all come from “his story,” (but from the French histoire, meaning “story”), the term “herstory” certainly grabs attention. 

The attention-grab highlights the reality that history books, for most of history, have left out the thoughts and actions of women, telling the narratives of men in power instead. It wasn’t until the women’s movement gained traction in the 1960s and '70s that “women’s history” came into being as a field of study. What does it cover? 

While history had typically been concerned with political events that glossed over or outright ignored the role women played in them, a history of women’s experiences also required a look into the events of daily life and culture. Women’s history acknowledges that even those parts of life we think of as private have political consequences, like deciding whether or not to have a baby, for instance. This one decision can encompass issues of healthcare, employment, discrimination, and bodily autonomy. 

How much do you know about women in history? Let’s open the Herstory book and see! 

Who was Sacajawea?

Sacajawea was born into the Shoshone tribe and kidnapped at the age of 12. When Lewis and Clark hired her husband as a translator, Sacajawea became part of the expedition. Her language skills and knowledge of the land made her invaluable to the expedition.


Which two women were involved in the fight for the right to vote?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Associate in 1869. Together, they promoted women’s rights across the country, writing, making speeches, and gathering conventions.


What was Harriet Tubman involved in?

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and escaped to the North in 1849. She used her freedom to usher other enslaved people into freedom through the Underground Railroad. She was so notorious that there was a $40,000 reward on her life.


What were the women called who worked to gain the right to vote?

Women, and men, who worked for the right to vote were called suffragists. The right to vote is also known as “suffrage.” So don’t be fooled by satirical or nefarious campaigns to “stop women’s suffrage!”


When men went off to fight in World War II, what did women do by the millions?

The masses of men leaving for the war against Germany and Japan left a gaping vacancy in the American workforce. Millions of women stepped up to fill that gap, disrupting the gender divide in employment.


What were the Salem Witch Trials?

While the witch craze started in Europe, the Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Over 200 women were accused of witchcraft and 20 were put to death for supposedly being in the power of the devil. The trials can be seen as symptomatic of society’s broader distrust of powerful women.


When did Elizabeth Blackwell become the first licensed female physician in the US?

When Elizabeth Blackwell first began seeking entrance to medical schools, there were none that accepted women. She overcame ridicule and discrimination to graduate in 1849 with a medical degree.


What was formative for women’s history about Lucy Stone’s marriage to Henry Blackwell in 1855?

When Lucy Stone marred Henry Blackwell in 1855, she kept her own name. This was a landmark moment because it symbolized Stone keeping her identity in marriage, rather than becoming Mrs. Henry Blackwell.


Who was influential in creating the first birth control pill?

When it was still illegal to educate people about birth control options, Margaret Sanger started the birth control movement. Her efforts led to the development of the pill in 1960 and the founding of a birth control clinic that later became Planned Parenthood.


Who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize?

Marie Curie is perhaps the best-known early female scientist. And for good reason: she discovered two elements, was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize (1903), and the first person to be awarded a second Nobel (1911).


When Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams to “Remember the ladies,” what was she asking him?

Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams in 1776, while he was working toward the independence of America from Britain. She adjured him to consider not giving men such power over women because women should have independence also.


What did women NOT do in the Civil War?

People burying the Civil War dead were surprised to find women’s bodies among those scattered across battlefields. Experts estimate that between 400-750 women disguised themselves to fight in the Civil War.


Who was the first female attorney general of the US?

Janet Reno was the first Attorney General of the United States, and she served in this position from 1993 to 2001. She was nominated by Bill Clinton.


What did Amelia Earhart do in 1932?

Amelia Earhart has been the hero of countless young girls for trailblazing the airways for women. In 1932 she made the first transcontinental flight as a woman. Her mysterious disappearance in 1939 only increases her mystique.


Which English queen established the Protestant church in England?

Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry III and Anne Boleyn, formally established the Protestant church in England. Later it became the Church of England. Elizabeth was the Supreme Governor of the church.


Many who involved the struggle to gain women the right to vote were involved in which other struggle?

Many activists who had been working to end slavery, like Lucretia Mott, realized that the rights they were working to gain for people in slavery were also not granted to women. This realization led them to work for women’s rights as well. However, some women fighting for women's suffrage were rabid racists, including Susan B. Anthony, who once said, "I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ask for the ballot for the Negro and not for the woman.”


What does the feminist saying “the personal is political” mean?

Feminists in the women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s explored how the similarity of women’s experiences with power in relationships, domestic violence, reproductive decisions and other issues showed that these issues were not private but part of a larger system of power politics. This idea became encapsulated in the saying “the personal is political.”


When did a women first run the Boston marathon with an official race number?

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer entered the Boston Marathon without speificying her gender on her race application. During the race, a race official ran up to her and physically tried to remove her from the race. He was blocked by Switzer’s hulky boyfriend, who was running alongside her. Switzer completed the race.


Sojourner Truth famously asked which question?

Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became powerful activist for abolition and women’s rights, asks “Ain’t I a Woman?” in her most well-known speech. She breaks down perceptions that women are naturally weaker than men by painting a picture of the back-breaking labor she endured.


What did Rachel Carson’s 1962 book bring into motion?

Rachel Carson’s book "Silent Spring" called America’s attention to the widespread ecological damage being done by the rampant use of pesticides. The awareness Carson raised burgeoned into a broader concern for how we could better care for our ecosystem.


Who is the youngest person to be awarded a Nobel Prize?

Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her heroic efforts to withstand the threats of the Taliban against girls going to school. After surviving a Taliban attack against her bus and undergoing many surgeries, Malala returned to the struggle of gaining education for girls globally.


Who was the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice?

Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman on the Supreme Court in 2009. Sotomayor says she was first inclined to the law profession after watching Perry Mason.


Who is sometimes called the First Lady of American Olympics?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, according to USA Track & Field, is thought by some to be “the greatest female all-around athlete in history.” She won three gold medals, and still holds the record for heptathlon.


Why is Greta Thunberg renowned for ditching school?

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, began missing class to protest global inaction on climate change. Her efforts, at 16 years old, ignited a worldwide youth movement protesting climate change and demanding action.


Who was George Eliot?

George Eliot was the pen name of Marian Cross, a British novelist in the 19th century. Eliot was a voracious intellectual and wrote the masterpieces "Silas Marner" and "Middlemarch."


What did Maria Mitchell discover in 1847?

Maria Mitchell discovered a new comet and was awarded a medal by the King of Denmark. Mitchell found the comet with a telescope, and it was aptly named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.”


Gloria Steinem said that “A woman without a man is like a fish without ____.”

Gloria Steinem said that “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Steinem, a feminist activist and writer, was a leading figure of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s and is still actively making blisteringly accurate statements and working for women’s rights.


Who was the first Chinese-American movie star?

Anna May Wong first graced the screen when she was 14 in the 1919 silent film, "The Red Lantern." Wong had a starring role at age 17, but was often cast in roles that played out racist stereotypes of Asian women. She eventually left the US for Europe.


Which woman was one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century?

Virginia Woolf was a modernist genius who changed the way stories are told. Her novels, such as "To the Lighthouse" and "Mrs. Dalloway," broke new ground in describing how intricate psychological perceptions define daily life. A recent movie depicts the torturous love affair between Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. JK Rowling is more 21st century.


When was the Equal Pay Act passed by Congress?

President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, amid a swath of Civil Rights legislation. The law made it illegal to pay men and women different salaries for the same work requirements. Of course, the wage gap is still alive and well — the AAUW estimates that white women make 80% of what men do, while women of color make considerably less.


What does Seneca Falls stand for in women’s history?

The Seneca Falls Convention was the first large gathering of women in the US to discuss women’s rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others led discussions on the need for action and shared the Declaration of Sentiments, a compilation of resolutions for change.


What does Title IX prohibit?

Title IX, passed into law in 1972, prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational activity or program that receives federal funding. The law is widely understood as protecting equality in school sports, which it does, but it also has much broader applications across the education landscape.


Who is sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of Physics”?

Born near Shanghai, Wu moved to the US after graduate work in physics and finished a PhD at Berkeley in 1940. She went on to contribute to the Manhattan Project and later helped to disprove the Law of Conservation of Parity. I hadn’t heard of her either. That’s how herstory works.


Before the Industrial Revolution, how were many women occupied?

Before the industrial revolution, it was more common for men and women to work together running a homestead than it was for them to operate in separate worlds of “work” and “home.” Work and home were the same thing. Until the mid-nineteenth century, most teachers were men.


When did women get the right to vote in the US?

Congress passed the 19th Ammendment on June 4th, 1919, giving women the right to vote. It wasn’t ratified until August 18, 1920. The struggle to gain this right was an epic battle and initiated the First Wave of Feminism.


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