Thirty-two living women with “firsts” to their credit offer reflections and attitude.
The qualifier “American” is absent from the title, but everyone here except Madeleine Albright was born in the United States, and all are still residents. Distilled for young audiences from an online project and its earlier print spinoff, Firsts: Women Who Are Changing the World (2017), the birthdate-ordered gallery begins with Barbara Walters (“First woman to co-anchor a network evening news program”) and Rita Moreno (“First Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony”) and ends with Mo’ne Davis (“First girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in a Little League World Series”). In between it offers both third-person biographical thumbnails and original one- or two-page statements from women in a range of professions. As role models, the usual suspects (Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Maya Lin) are interspersed with some venturesome choices (Kellyanne Conway, Rachel Maddow, transgender TV actor Candis Cayne), but common themes emerge in their experiences—being “the only woman in the room,” for instance, and the struggle to overcome “the curse of perfectionism.” If some remarks read like aspirational boilerplate, there is enough individual voice in most to convey strength of character and steadiness of purpose. Each entry features a recent, formal color portrait; most also include additional, sometimes early photos.
Reasonably inclusive if parochial in geographic scope and with a message that Aretha Franklin puts most pithily: “We’re coming.” (index) (Collective biography. 10-13)