Here is a collection of Congressional Gold Medals that honor the work of great American women.
2014 Civil Air Patrol
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) are unpaid volunteers who support military operations. They were created one week before the United States entered World War II (Dec. 1, 1941). The CAP used their own planes to keep watch over our borders, deliver mail and to look for submarines during war. They were early supporters of women flying airplanes in a time where women weren't known to take on jobs considered only for men. Today, CAP is a part of the U.S. Air Force, and their job is to provide emergency and public services to communities, states, the federal government and the military.
Congress voted to pass a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal "in recognition of World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol military service and exemplary record during World War II."
2010 Women Airforce Service Pilots
In March 2010, leading members of Congress presented the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II medal to WASP members.
Their pioneering military service led to reform in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The WASPs flew more than 60,000,000 miles in every type of aircraft and on every type of assignment
flown by male pilots except combat missions.
During that time, 38 women pilots lost their lives.
The front of the WASP Congressional gold medal portrays a WASP wearing pilot headgear.
Three other pilots are also shown in period uniforms, with an airborne AT–6 in the background.
The back features the three aircraft that the WASPs flew during their training: the AT–6, the B–26, and the P–51.
The WASP wings are depicted at the base of the design.
A legend states one of their accomplishments: "The First Women in History to Fly American Military Aircraft."
2004 Dorothy I. Height
President George W. Bush presented the congressional gold medal to Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
The medal honored her for a lifetime of work helping people exercise their civil rights.
She was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1958 until she retired in 1998.
She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders throughout the 1960s.
She also received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.
The congressional gold medal was awarded to Dr. Height in recognition of "her many contributions to the Nation."
The medal is inscribed with her words:
"We African–American women seldom do just what we want to do, but always do what we have to do.
I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed."
1999 Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks was a Black woman who was put in jail one evening in 1955.
The reason she was arrested was that she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a White man.
When others heard about it, they stopped riding on the busses.
That’s called a "boycott."
They boycotted the busses because they knew it wasn’t fair that Ms. Parks was in jail and that Black people didn’t have the same rights as White people.
The boycott worked to change the bus rules, and helped people work on changing other unfair rules.
Rosa Parks kept working for civil rights for many years after as well.
This medal honors her as the "first lady of civil rights" and "mother of the freedom movement."
Her "quiet dignity ignited the most significant social movement in the history of the United States."
1998 Little Rock Nine
The Little Rock Nine were nine students—six of them were girls—who were the first African–Americans to study at Central High School in 1957.
The school was in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Though all were excellent students, some people didn’t want them to go to that school because of their race and were very mean to them.
But the girls went on to raise families, have careers, and win awards.
One even teaches at Central High.
The school's rule used to be that only White students could go there, and changing that rule is called "desegregation" or "integration."
This medal honors Jean Brown Trickey, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Melba Patillo Beals, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, and Jefferson Thomas for their "selfless heroism and the pain they suffered in the cause of civil rights by integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas."
1996 Ruth Graham
Ruth Graham was the daughter of missionaries to China.
She grew up in China, in danger and hard times.
She married Billy Graham, a minister who wrote books and spoke to people around the world.
Ruth has written several books of poems and books that help people to be better people.
This medal was given to Ruth and Billy Graham for their "outstanding and lasting contributions to morality, racial equality, family, philanthropy, and religion."
1988 Betty Ford
As First Lady, Betty Ford helped artists and handicapped children.
She also helped women to be treated more fairly and to get better health care.
Her "Betty Ford Center" helps people stop taking drugs and alcohol who haven’t been able to stop by themselves.
Gerald R. and Betty Ford received this medal because they worked hard to serve the people of the United States and take care of those who needed it.
1987 Mary Lasker
Mary Lasker and her husband started the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, where scientists try to make better medicines and find ways to help people stay healthy.
She was especially interested in finding cures for cancer.
She also has had a pink tulip named after her because of the way she worked to beautify New York City and Washington, D.C.
Mary Lasker’s medal honors her for this work, for educating people, and for helping artists.
1984 Lady Bird Johnson
Claudia Taylor was nicknamed "Lady Bird" when she was only a child, but the name stuck.
She often gave advice to her husband, President Lyndon B. Johnson.
She also helped him talk to people about voting for him and worked to make America and its highways more beautiful.
She started the National Wildflower Center, which was later renamed "Lady Bird Wildflower Center" in her honor.
This medal honors Lady Bird Johnson’s "humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to the improvement and beautification of America."
1977 Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson was a world–famous singer who was often treated unfairly.
But she didn’t give up.
She won many awards and her career lasted for more than 30 years.
The medal honors her "highly distinguished and impressive career."
Even foreign countries gave her awards.
She helped the arts to advance in this country and throughout the world, helped world peace through her performances, her recordings, and her work as United States delegate to the United Nations, and gave freely of her time, talent, and energy to enrich our lives.
The Congressional Gold Medal is sometimes awarded to non–Americans as well.
In 1997, Congress honored Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was born in Albania in 1910.
She became a nun and later, when she was 38, moved to India to live with the poorest people in Calcutta.
Part of her work was to teach them how to wash and how to read and write in their own language, Bengali.
Congress honored Mother Teresa for her ’outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities.’
Besides medals, we have commemorative and circulating coins that have honored women. Read more about them here.