Key Moments in the History of Women’s Healthcare

It was not all that long ago that talking about women’s bodies and health was considered taboo, and a lot of healthcare was hard to access, or based on superstition. Fortunately, we have come a long way from taboos and superstitions with the help of changing attitudes towards women’s healthcare, as well as medical and scientific advancements. We’ve made incredible strides in the last few centuries and decades, from the first female doctor to the birth control pill – and this Women’s History Month we wanted to take a closer look at some of the key moments in the history of women’s healthcare.

1849: The First Female Doctor

Allow us to introduce you to the first female doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell, who earned her medical degree 173 years ago from New York’s Geneva Medical College, ranking first in her class. And despite facing many obstacles trying to make a living in a male-dominated medical system, she set up a small clinic of her own in 1853, which became known as the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Then in 1868, she fulfilled a long-held dream when she opened the Women’s Medical College at the infirmary to help train more female doctors, since it was so difficult for women to get experience from their male counterparts.

1896: Menstrual Carewomen's pad opened up with other pads in wrappers around it

What did women do before the times of disposable tampons and pads? They had to be creative and make their own tampons and pads out of cloth, wool, and paper. But in 1896, that all changed when the first commercial menstrual care product in America was introduced: Lister’s Towels, a cotton sanitary napkin made by Johnson & Johnson. Unfortunately, it was not that successful because women did not want to be seen purchasing them, or anything that had to do with menstruation, for that matter. But then, in 1921, the first successful pad was finally introduced by the Kimberly-Clark company: Kotex.

The first disposable tampon was then introduced in 1933, after being patented by Dr. Earle Haas. That same year Haas sold his design and patent to a Denver businesswoman named Gertrude Tenderich, who founded the Tampax Sales Corporation. And women’s lives got just a little bit easier!

1914: All Hail The First Modern Bra

Before the bra was introduced, women engineered their own devices to support their breasts. They wore bands of animal skins and later wore incredibly uncomfortable corsets to enhance their shape. But that all changed in 1913, when New York City socialite Mary Phelps Jacob tried on a new sheer evening gown and saw that her tight corset poked out from underneath. So she ditched the corset and instead tied two silk handkerchiefs together with a ribbon- inventing the modern bra! In 1914, she patented her design and set up a business selling her bras, which she later sold to the Warner Brothers Corset Company.

1916: The First Birth Control Clinic

Margaret Sanger was most famous for her controversial and tireless advocacy for birth control in America. She saw firsthand the effects of women who were living in poverty having multiple children, the high infant and maternal mortality rates that resulted, as well as the pain caused by deaths from illegal abortions. So Sanger decided to try to change this, opening America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

1960: The Birth of The Pillpack of birth control pills

In 1960, the FDA finally approved the sale of the first oral contraceptive, the birth control pill Enovid. Within two years, it was being taken by more than a million women in the United States.

1969: The Modern Mammogram

Before 1969, mammograms were performed with X-ray machines, which can produce high doses of radiation. Because many people were worried about the effects of being exposed to such high radiation, the mammography machine was invented, and became available around the world. Then in 2000, the FDA approved the first digital mammography unit, followed 11 years later by the approval of the first 3D breast imaging technology.

1977: The First Sports Brablack sports bra

Can you imagine working out without a sports bra? Well not too long ago, that was your only choice. But in 1977, University of Vermont graduate student Lisa Lindahl got tired of not having any breast support while exercising. So, along with 2 friends, she came up with the idea of sewing 2 men’s jockstraps together, and viola- she came up with the prototype of the first sports bra, the Jogbra! 

Women’s health has come a long way from what it was not that long ago. You might even remember the days before the sports bra, easily accessible birth control, or the modern mammogram machine- yikes, all that radiation! Thanks to all of these advances, and the health insurance that covers everything to keep us healthy, you can continue to take care of your health – and Medicare will cover most of the costs. 

But Medicare only covers most, not all, of your medical expenses. So if you don’t have a Medicare Supplement Plan, we urge you to look into one, so you can not only save money but get more coverage! Medicare Supplement Plans will cover what Original Medicare does not, saving you hundreds of dollars a year, so you don’t have to worry about medical bills when getting your mammogram, or anything else needed to stay on top of your health. EZ’s agents work with the top-rated insurance companies in the nation and can compare plans in minutes for you at no cost. To get free instant quotes for plans that cover your current doctors, simply enter your zip code in the bar on the side, or to speak to a licensed agent, call 888-753-7207.

6 Virtual Tours of Sites Devoted To Women’s History

It is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate it than to pay homage to the women who helped mold history, or should we say, herstory! Take time to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of amazing women throughout the years by visiting multiple National and State Parks and the National Historic Sites across America. Don’t have the time to travel and visit them? Well, you can visit these sites from the comfort of your own couch! Check out these six historic sites devoted to women’s history:

  1. Votes for Women: A Visual History at the Brandywine River Museum -Located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, this tour demonstrates all of the different ways women of the suffrage movement spread their message.
  2. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House- Located in Washington, D.C., this National historic site was once home to Mary McLeod Bethune. She was an advisor on African American Affairs to four U.S. presidents. She founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
  3. Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site- Located in New York, this historic site, known as Val-Kill, is where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt launched Val-Kill Industries. It was a training program for family farmers who needed extra income during hard economic times.
  4. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park- Located in Maryland, the museum is devoted to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave, Civil War spy, abolitionist, and suffragist. Learn about her struggles and the Underground Railroad experience with this video presented by a park ranger.
  5. Women’s Rights National Historical Park- Take a tour of the sites dedicated to the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY, which took place in 1848! You can learn about all the women who made a mark in the demand for equality and reform.
  6. The National Women’s History Museum-  Take a tour of MANY different online exhibits about different subjects related to women’s history!

virtual tours infographic

This Women’s History Month, Let’s Focus on Women’s Futures

It’s Women’s History Month again! So, as with any month that is dedicated to highlighting the history of a “minority” (and we use that term loosely, since women make up more than half of the population) or marginalized group, there will be a lot of focus on historical figures who have beaten the odds and have made a big difference. And that’s great: history is there for us to learn from, and that’s what we should be doing. 

But the problem with this way of thinking is that there’s a danger of losing sight of those who couldn’t beat the odds, and those who are still working to do so. So while we’ll certainly think about women’s fascinating past this month, and how we’ve gotten where we are today, we also want to focus on the futures of all women. To do that, let’s look at ways that we can ensure bright futures for all women. One way to do this is by supporting organizations run by and for women that strive toward equality in the present.

Where We Are Now

There’s no doubt that women have made great strides over the centuries, especially over the last one, and we would never want to diminish those hard-fought battles, and the rights and achievements we have attained. But it’s also clear that we still have a long way to go. Consider these stats about where we are today:2 rows of coins, one smaller with a pink woman gender sign and the other larger with a blue male gender sign

  • The gender wage gap persistsIn 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020. Those extra few cents also mean that women make at least $80,000 less over their lifetime than men – and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that African American, Latinx, and Indigenous women will earn even less over their lifetimes.
  • Domestic violence is still an alarming problem – More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) in the U.S. will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this adds up to more than 10 million people – and again, these numbers change when adjusting for factors like race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and housing status. In addition, on average, more than 3 women are murdered by their intimate partners in the U.S. every day.
  • Sexual violence and harassment plague us –  One in five women in the United States has experienced a completed or attempted rape during their lifetime, and 81% of women have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. And consider this unexpected statistic: the estimated lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per victim.
  • Women are still underrepresented – Women are 51% of the population in the U.S. but make up only:
    • 27% of Congress at large 
    • 24% of the U.S. Senate 
    • 27% of the U.S. House of Representatives 
    • 0% of presidents of the United States 
    • 30% of statewide elected executives of any kind
    • 31% of state legislators
    • 31% of the largest cities’ mayors 
    • 25% of mayors in cities with populations over 30,000

And, again, these numbers are not adjusted for race, income level, or age. fetus with a heart and a stethescope

  • Access to reproductive healthcare remains an issue – Although most U.S. maternal deaths are preventable, we have the highest maternal mortality ratio among wealthy nations. In addition, contraception and assisted reproduction services are often unaffordable and out of reach for many, and 90% of counties in the country are without a single abortion provider. African American women, Indigenous women, and people of color, and those living in rural communities and with lower incomes, are disproportionately harmed when healthcare is inaccessible. For example, African American and Indigenous women in the U.S. are roughly three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. 

Organizations to Support

The above facts and statistics highlight just a few of the issues that continue to stand in the way of ALL women moving forward, and having the chance to make history. And these numbers can make things seem hopeless, or like nothing has changed or will ever change, but that’s not true! Things have gotten better, and can continue to improve, thanks to the hard work of many people. So what can you do, if you’re not in the position to get into the trenches and do some hands-on work? You can help by supporting the following organizations. 

Note: we have highlighted issues and statistics here in the U.S., as well as organizations aimed at supporting women in the U.S., but there are many, many excellent organizations helping women around the world that are well worth your time and money.

1. National Women’s Law Center

The National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, has played an active role in the passage of legislation that supports women’s rights. It also advocates for women’s health care and reproductive rights, as well as the rights of children and families. Its current 100 Wins 100 Days campaign is asking for the Biden administration to prioritize a range of political initiatives from passing the Equality Act to protecting tipped workers, who are primarily women, impacted by the pandemic. You can donate to the National Women’s Law Center to support its fight for gender justice.

2. Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women

According to the National Institute of Justice, four out of five Native women experience violence in their lifetime, so the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) is dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. By advocating for and engaging with tribal communities, CSVANW is working toward a future where all people can feel safe.

3. I Support the Girls

I Support the Girls serves women and girls experiencing homelessness, and it does so in a way that is often overlooked. They believe “A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health.  Every woman should have the ability to maintain her dignity.” So they collect and distribute essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products to women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress like domestic violence. 

4. Trans Women of Color Collective

stop violence written in a stop sign
INCITE! works to end violence in our homes, communities, and at the state level.

The Trans Women of Color Collective “seeks to shift the narrative of surviving to thriving in our communities.” The group provides a network to trans women of color where they can meet entrepreneurs, healers, and collaborators to help them succeed.


A network of self-described radical feminists of color, INCITE! works to end violence in our homes, communities, and at the state level. They’ve created accessible activism toolkits to help encourage community organization against issues that disproportionately impact women of color like police brutality and gender violence.

6. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is currently the only national organization dedicated to empowering Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls through community mobilization and political change. They do this through their work in reproductive rights advocacy, economic justice, and immigrant rights. 

7. Women’s Prison Association

The Women’s Prison Association works to keep women out of prison, support women who are incarcerated, and help women who were previously incarcerated set up for life afterward. This includes finding affordable housing, preparing them for job interviews, or locating any mental health services they might need.

8. Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code empowers young women to pursue careers in technology and computer science. The organization offers after-school coding classes for young women in 3rd grade through 12th grade, as well as summer programs and an alumni network. They have worked with 185,000 girls in all 50 states, and college-aged alumni of the program are majoring in computer science at a rate 15 times the national average.

9. The Center for Reproductive Rights

The Center for Reproductive Rights uses litigation and advocacy to fight for the rights of women to have access to quality reproductive health and resources.

10. Girl Up 

Girl Up is a nonprofit organization that works to defend gender equality through leadership development training sessions for school-aged girls and women, according to the website. There are currently 3,300 registered Girl Up clubs in 50 US states, two territories, and 118 countries.

11. UltraViolet

According to their website, UltraViolet “work[s] to end violence against women, increase economic security for women and families, and ensure that all women have access to full and affordable health care services.” They do this through “a combination of organizing, technology, creative campaigning, and people power.”

12. She Should Run

She Should Run is a nonpartisan organization that inspires women to run for office by providing a free starting place for women to explore running for office. Its current goal is to get 250,000 women to run for office by 2030. Through its Ask a Woman to Run tool and She Should Run incubator, women from all backgrounds can enroll in courses on leadership, networking, and communication skills to build their individual paths to candidacy.

13. Poetic Justicewomen in orange jumpsuits with notebooks on their laps

Poetic Justice offers both in-person and remote creative writing for women in a growing number of prisons in the U.S. According to their website, their “vision is to offer opportunities for healing and growth by holding space to process trauma and rewrite personal narratives to transform the story of incarceration.”

It’s extremely important to know our history, but it’s just as vital that we support our present and empower our future. The organizations above are working hard to do this – and there are so many more that are doing so, as well, it just takes a little research to find one that speaks to you. So if these many, many organizations and many, many women and allies who are hard at work are any indication, the future is bright.

The Untold Stories Of Influential Women In Medicine

March is Women’s History Month, and to honor this month, we are proud to celebrate a few of the women who have influenced the medical field, and who, in our opinion, are not spoken about enough. Many women have made huge contributions to U.S. medical history, from the first women to receive medical degrees, to others who have made discoveries in, or contributed useful inventions to, the medical and surgical field. 

Elizabeth Blackwell

graduation cap and diploma
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first American woman to be awarded a medical degree in 1849.

In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first American woman to be awarded a medical degree.  She first trained as a midwife, and then worked for several years in Europe before she returned to New York City to practice medicine. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hire her because she was a woman, so, instead, she opened up her dispensary in a rented room of a house. 

In 1857, Blackwell opened up the New York Infirmary, which focused on caring for the poor, as well as training women to become doctors – training that they could not get at male-dominated hospitals.

Blackwell also made regular trips to Europe, establishing the first British medical school for women in 1874, allowing more women to follow in her footsteps and pursue their passion for medicine.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

In 1864, Rebecca Crumpler became the first African American woman to earn a medical degree and become a doctor in the U.S. She later published a book of medical discourses that discussed her career and the field of family medicine, making her one of the first people of color to publish in the medical field. 

Susan La Flesche Picotte

Susan Picotte was the first Native American woman in the United States to get a medical degree, which she received in 1889 from the women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. After she received her degree, she returned home to the Omaha Reservation and cared for members of her tribe, at the same time giving them financial, legal, and spiritual guidance. She did all of this while she was battling a terminal illness.

Virginia Apgar

apgar machine for newborns
In 1952, Apgar developed the Apgar score, which alerts doctors the need for medical intervention in the first minutes of an infant’s life.

Virginia Apgar was the first woman to become a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1952, Apgar developed the Apgar score, which uses simple measurements to alert doctors to the need for medical intervention in the first minutes of an infant’s life. The Apgar test is still used in hospitals today.

M. Joycelyn Elders

Jocelyn Elders was the first female board-certified pediatric endocrinologist in Arkansas, where she researched juvenile diabetes, and later went on to become the head of the Arkansas Health Department. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her the U.S. Surgeon General, making her the first African American doctor and the second woman to hold the position. Her campaign to increase access to family planning and to distribute contraceptives in schools was met with a lot of backlash, which led her to resign after just 15 months in her post.

Patricia E. Bath

Patricia Bath was the first African American doctor to complete a residency in ophthalmology at New York University. Soon after, she became the first female ophthalmologist and went on to invent a device that helps remove cataracts from the eye, called the LaserPhaco probe, which helped restore the vision of people all over the world.  Her invention made her the first African American woman to receive a medical patent.

Mary Steichen Calderone

Mary Calderon was a legendary physician and advocate for sexual health and education, as well as an inspiration to many women who dreamed of pursuing a career: Calderone didn’t enter medical school until she was thirty years old and already had children. After she got her Masters in public health from Columbia University, she became the medical director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She was a tireless advocate for educating people about safe sex and empowering them with the tools to have healthy, happy sex lives. 

Margaret Higgins Sanger

Margaret Sanger is often considered the reason we have access to birth control. She advocated for safe and effective birth control at a time when it was not easy to do so, but she continued pushing for access to family planning options, opening up the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916. Nine days after she opened the clinic, she was arrested  – but she continued to fight for women to have access to birth control, and went on to develop what became one of the first oral contraceptives, Enovid. 

Marie Curie

illustration of Marie Curie and radium symbol next to her
Marie Curie discovered radium and polonium, which was later used in X-rat machines.

Marie Curie, working with her husband, discovered the elements polonium and radium. The discovery of these chemical elements paved the way for the X-ray, which helped doctors make diagnoses without surgery, as well as led to the development of radiation therapy for cancer. She is the only woman to win two Nobel prizes, one for physics in 1903 and one for chemistry in 1911. 

Gertrude Elion

When Gertrude Elion was 15, her grandfather died of cancer, which led her to dedicate her life to finding a cure for that disease. She became a pharmacologist and biochemist, who, along with her research team, received 45 patents for drugs, including drugs to fight AIDS, leukemia, and herpes, as well as therapies that help reduce the rejection of foreign tissue in kidney transplants. She was awarded a shared Nobel Prize for her innovation in the field of pharmacology.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

Barré-Sinoussi, and her colleague Luc Montaigner, discovered that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Their research revealed that HIV attacks lymphocytes, an important part of the body’s immune system. 

These remarkable women are just a few of the many women who have made an impact on medicine around the world. Although women have dealt with discrimination and sexism throughout the years, it has not stopped them from pursuing their passions, becoming some of the most influential medical professionals in the world, and contributing to advancements in healthcare, sexual health, and the treatment of diseases. This Women’s History Month, let’s all honor the achievements and contributions that these women have made to medical science and research!  

The contributions made by these women have helped ensure that you and your family can lead healthier lives. And one way you can do this yourself? Make sure you have a great health insurance plan. EZ can help: we offer a wide range of health insurance plans from top-rated insurance companies in every state. And because we work with so many companies and can offer all of the plans available in your area, we can find you a plan that saves you a lot of money – even hundreds of dollars – even if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. There is no obligation, or hassle, just free quotes on all available plans in your area. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to a local agent, call 888-350-1890.

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month. During this time, we might take a few minutes on social media to reflect on the achievements of women despite the adversity they have faced, or students might get some extra homework that relates to a set list of prominent historical women. But it’s probably been a long time since you were in school, and there might be some things you just never learned about what women have contributed to society. We’re here to change that! Check out our (nowhere near complete) list of things that might surprise you about women’s history.

1. Women Have More Inventions Under Their Belts Than You Thinktable saw cutting a piece of wood.

Windshield wipers, disposable diapers, white-out, hair products, non-reflective glass, dishwashers, modern petroleum refining methods, the ice-cream maker, the circular saw, the word processor, antifungal drugs, caller ID, fire escapes…what do they all have in common? Yeah, you’ve probably guessed by now: they were all invented by women. And that list is by no means complete! Women have been inventing, perfecting, and patenting (even if they had to do it in their husband’s name) for centuries – the first patent was granted to a woman in the U.S. in 1809.

2. Women Have Been Involved in Tech for Over a Hundred Years

Many people think that men were the only ones involved in developing computer technology, but, well, they’re wrong. Starting with Ada Lovelace in the 19th century, who is credited with the being the world’s first computer programmer, women like Grace Hopper (who programmed computers during WWII), Katherine Davis (of Hidden Figures fame), and Susan Kare (who developed much of the Apple MacIntosh’s interface elements) have been helping the human race advance for decades. 

3. Women Have Excelled in the Sciences (Plural)x-ray of a human skull

Most people have heard of Marie Curie, who is basically the mother of radiation and x-rays. But did you know that she was not only the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, but she is also the only person – man or woman – to ever win the prize in two different science categories, physics and chemistry?

4. When It Comes to IQ, Women Hold the Record

For centuries, it was believed (mostly by men, we assume) that women are intellectually inferior to men. And then came standardized IQ testing, and that theory got blown out of the water. Both of the top two scores ever recorded belong to women. One of those women is the renowned author and columnist, Marilyn vos Savant. To this day, she is the Guinness World Record holder for “highest IQ.”

5. Women Have Been Powerful, in More Ways Than One

Queen Hatshepsut statue
Queen Hatshepsut

Women have sometimes been powerful figures, and sometimes had the ability to decide their destinies, despite the general oppression they lived under in many places and at many times. For example, there was actually a female pharaoh in ancient Egypt: Hatshepsut, who ruled during the 18th Dynasty. She, like Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria in their days, was extremely powerful and presided over a large empire. 

On the personal side, women in 16th century France had the ability to divorce their husbands. The only catch was it had to be because of impotence…and the men had to prove themselves, publicly.

6. Women Definitely Throw Like Girls

On April 2, 1931, Virne “Jackie” Mitchell was on the roster as a relief pitcher for an all-male professional baseball team, the Chattanooga Lookouts, playing in an exhibition game against the Yankees – and not just any Yankees team, the one that had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig playing for it. And you know what? She struck them both out. There’s some controversy surrounding that day, with some arguing that it was all a publicity stunt, but we’re going to stick with believing our eyes.

7. Women Can Be Beautiful, Talented, AND Help Win Wars

Both Josephine Baker, a singer and the first African American woman to star in a major motion picture, and Heddy Lamarr, a glamorous and successful Hollywood actress, contributed to war efforts in different ways. During WWII, Baker smuggled messages to French soldiers, carefully concealing them in her dresses, or writing them in invisible ink and hiding them in her sheet music. Lamarr developed a radio-controlled torpedo device that utilized frequency hopping as a way to prevent the jamming of torpedo signals. Unfortunately, she wasn’t taken seriously by the top brass, and her invention wasn’t utilized during WWII. However, the American government used her device to help with future conflicts and efforts.

8. Women Get There Quicker

Ever hear of the famous fictional book Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne? Well, American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, better known as Nellie Bly, beat the pants off of the main character, Phileas Fogg. She managed to travel around the world in an astonishing 72 days – which is all the more impressive considering there were no airplanes in 1889 when she began her journey.

a wall of books in a library
A woman, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote the first novel ever, The Tale of Genji.

9. The Worlds of Literature and Academia Would Be Nothing Without Women

These days, women with college degrees outnumber men with college degrees. And you know what else? A woman founded the world’s oldest continually operating, degree-granting university. In 859 CE, Fatima al-Fihri funded the construction of the Al Qarawiyyin mosque and an adjoining madrasa, which became a center of scholarly and religious activity. Besides personally overseeing the extensive building project, she attended and graduated from the university, which would have Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish students.

Not only that, but a woman wrote the first ever novel, The Tale of the Genji. Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting, Murasaki Shikibu, penned her work, a unique description of the life of courtiers, in the 11th century.

10. And Finally…

There are so many other great contributions that we could talk about. Women have fought for freedom and for suffrage, they’ve invented, built, written, studied, persevered, and basically made the world a better place; we hope that you’ll seek out as many of their stories as you can. But we just can’t end this without bringing this story up: On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. On her 63rd birthday. So yes, women also know how to celebrate.