Sarah Doyle painted by Cecilia Beaux

As the end of Women’s History Month get closer, we continue to recognize the incredible contributions by so many Rhode Island women in every aspect of our lives.

To be sure, women have distinguished themselves in medicine and the arts, in business and athletics, in the classroom and the courtroom, in government, and, most of all, in our homes. 

The women who have been represented here over the past few weeks are only a small sampling of women who have had a significant impact on not only women but on all of Rhode Island’s society.

Today, we want to mention several women who have been remarkable in what they’ve accomplished. This is just a small sampling of the remarkable women that have called Rhode Island home.

Social Activists

Nancy Gewirtz (1945-2004) – Co-founder of The Poverty Institute, Rhode Island Campaign to Eliminate Childhood Poverty.

Elizabeth Buffum Chace (December 9, 1806 – December 12, 1899) An activist in the anti-slavery, women’s rights, and prison reform movements of the mid-to-late 19th century.

Lillie Buffam Chace Wyman, Dec. 10, 1847 – Jan. 10, 1929. A social reformer who was involved in the antislavery movement, and an author of short stories, poetry, and essays. co-authored a biography of her mother with her son, along with other works.

Anne Hutchinson (July 1591 – August 1643) A Puritan spiritual advisor, religious reformer, and tried, convicted, and banned, along with many supporters, from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hutchinson and many of her supporters established the settlement of Portsmouth.  

Princess Red Wing, (March 21, 1896–-December 2, 1987) A Narragansett and Wampanoag elder, historian, folklorist, and museum curator. She was an expert on American Indian history and culture, and once addressed the United NationsEducation

Mary Colman Wheeler (May 15, 1846 – March 10, 1920) Founder and first head of the Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sarah Elizabeth Doyle (March 22, 1830 – December 21, 1922) An American educator, noted for her roles in founding the Rhode Island School of Design and establishing women’s education at Brown University.                

Government, the Courts and Politics

Margaret A. McKenna – 1945-2015 – Served as White House Deputy Counsel and president of Walmart Foundation.

Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill – Stage and Screen actor of the silent film era, first woman elected to the Rhode Island Legislature, served in the State Senate, served under President Franklin Roosevelt in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Susan Farmer – First woman in Rhode Island to hold statewide office, serving as Secretary of State.

Victoria Lederberg (July 7, 1937 – December 29, 2002) A Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice from 1993 to 2002. She had been a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1974 to 1983 and the Rhode Island Senate from 1985 to 1991. 

Arlene Violet, 78, A nun in the Sisters of Mercy,, who left the order to run for Attorney General (serving from 1985–1987). She was the first female Attorney General elected in the United States.

Gina Raimondo – Commerce Secretary of the United State in the administration of President Biden. She recently served as Rhode Island’s governor and previously as the state’s General Treasurer.                                                            


Abigail Greene Aldrich Rockefeller (October 26, 1984 – April 5, 1948) – A socialite and philanthropist, married to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and a driving force behind the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art.

Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) An American billionaire tobacco heiress, philanthropist, art collector, horticulturalist, and socialite.  She was active in preserving more than 80 historic buildings in Newport. In 1968, created the Newport Restoration Foundation. Her estimated $1.3 billion fortune was largely left to charity. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is dedicated to medical research, prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the performing arts, wildlife, and ecology.                                                                                                 


Wilma Briggs (born November 6, 1930), former left fielder who played from 1948 through 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She led the league in home runs during in 1953 season, ranks second in the all-time home runs list (43) and was one of only 14 players to collect more than 300 runs batted in.

Sara Ann DeCosta, 43, was on the ice hockey team that won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Lynne M. Jewell, 62, Yachtswoman of the Year of the New York Yacht Club in 1980, the champion of the International Yacht Racing Union in 1980 and 1984, and Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in 1980 and 1988. In 1983, she was the U. S. Singlehanded National Champion, and won a gold medal, with Allison Jolly, in the 470 Class at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

Harriet Morris “Holly” Metcalf, 64, a six-time USA national/ Olympic team member in women’s rowing. She won a gold medal in rowing at the 1984 Summer Olympics for the women’s eight.

Aileen Muriel Riggin (May 2, 1906 – October 17, 2002), also known by her married name Aileen Soule was Olympic champion in springboard diving in 1920, U.S. national springboard diving champion from 1923 to 1925, and following her retirement from competition, she enjoyed a career in acting, coaching, writing and journalism. 

JoAnne Gunderson Carner, 82, a professional golfer, winning 43 times on the LPGA Tour. Her 43 LPGA tour victories led to her induction in the World Golf Hall of Fame. She is the only woman to win the U.S. Girls’ JuniorU.S. Women’s Amateur, and U.S. Women’s Open titles, and  the first person ever to win three different USGA championship events.  Carner was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. 

Albina Lucy Charlotte Osipowich (February 26, 1911 – June 6, 1964), won gold medals in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, setting world records in both events.                                                           

The Arts

Maud Howe Elliott (November 9, 1854 – March 19, 1948) An writer, she won a Pulitzer Prize with her sisters, collaborating on a biography of their mother, The Life of Julia Ward Howe, and authored several other books. 

Ruth Carol Hussey (October 30, 1911 – April 19, 2005), an actress best known for her Academy Award-nominated role as photographer Elizabeth Imbrie in The Philadelphia Story.

Rose Weaver an actress, singer, director, and writer in Rhode Island. Known for her role in the film Poetic Justice, and for numerous roles she played at Trinity Repertory Company.                                                                            


Dr. Barbara H. Roberts – First woman Gorlin Cardiology Fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the first woman to practice cardiology in Rhode Island.          


Sarah Updike Goddard (1701—January 5, 1770) A printer, and co-founder and publisher of the Providence Gazette and Country Journal, the first newspaper.