Women on U.S. Postage Stamps

postage stamp

Nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is featured on a 2021 postage stamp. Martha Washington was the first American woman to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp and the year was 1902. In this month’s column, we feature some of the women from our book who have been featured on recent U.S. postage stamps.

Shirley Temple

In 1932, at the age of three, Shirley Temple started her film career and became the number one Hollywood draw from 1935 to 1938. She was recognized as a star in 1934 when the film Bright Eyes was released. Her song from that movie, On the Good Ship Lollipop, sold more than 500,000 sheet-music copies. In February 1935, she won a special Juvenile Academy Award for her 1934 performance. Temple was affectionally nicknamed “America’s Little Darling”; she sang and danced in comedy-dramas in which she was often a fixer-upper, good fairy or re-uniter. Her friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said of her performances, “It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.” Temple retired from the movies when she was 22. As an adult, she became active in politics and served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and later Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Her many honors, in addition to her Oscar, include the Kennedy Center Honors.

Lena Horne

For more than seventy years, actress, singer and dancer Lena Horne entertained. In 1933, at age 16, she appeared in the chorus line of the Cotton Club in New York City. She made her first records in the late 1930s and also appeared in a few low-budget movies. Her movie debut was in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1942 movie Panama Hattie. In 1943 she performed the title song for the movie Stormy Weather. Frustrated by the restrictions in Hollywood due to her race, and blacklisted because of her ties to communism, Horne concentrated on her nightclub and recording career. Her 1957 album titled Lena Horne at Home at the Waldorf-Astoria became the biggest selling record by a female artist up to that date. In 1958, she was the first African-American woman nominated for a Tony award. Horne made many television appearances, even appearing on Sesame Street. A committed civil rights activist, Horne entertained troops during World War II. She received Grammy awards, the Kennedy Center Honors and a Tony award.

Chien-Shiung Wu

In February 2021 Nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu was honored with a commemorative postage stamp. Wu came to the United States from China to pursue graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in 1940. From 1942 on, she served on the faculty at several universities and was involved in the Manhattan Project – the successful effort by the U.S. to develop the atomic bomb. During her years at Columbia University, Wu performed an experiment that confirmed that the “Law of Conservation of Parity” did not hold up in nature. The two men who developed the theory received the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics; Wu was not selected to share in that Prize, although she did receive the Wolf Prize and many other honors for her work. Wu was the first living scientist to have an asteroid named after her. She was the first Chinese American person to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first female instructor in the Department of Physics at Princeton University, the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Princeton University, and the first female president of the American Physical Society. Wu has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan is regarded as one of the most influential singers of jazz and pop history and it has been said of her that she had one of the most wondrous voices of the twentieth century. Nicknamed “The Divine One” and “Sassy”, Vaughan had a multi-octave range and was at the height of her popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Vaughan began her musical career at the age of seven studying organ and piano and singing in her church choir. Her professional career was launched in 1942 after she won at contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. After performing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, two well-known jazz greats, she said that she “always wanted to imitate the horns.” She appeared on television and had movie roles as well. She won four Grammys including the Lifetime Achievement Award and her album Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown and her single If You Could See Me Now have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1981, she won a Primetime Emmy for Individual Achievement. Vaughan has been inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor became interested in fiction writing during her childhood. Known as a master of short stories, only two of her novels and one of her short story collections were published before her death at a very young age from lupus. Her book, Complete Stories, compiled and published posthumously, won the 1972 National Book Award for Fiction. A short story collection, her letters and lectures, and another novel were published posthumously. O’Connor was an inaugural honoree into the Georgia Women of Achievement and was a charter member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

Sally Ride

The first U.S. female astronaut in space, Sally Ride made two trips aboard a space shuttle. She later encouraged children to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Ride grew up in California where she was a star tennis player. She attended Stanford University, majored in physics as an undergraduate and also received her masters and doctoral degrees. In 1978, she was one of the first six women selected to train as astronauts. Her first flight was aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She later served on committees investigating the Challenger and Columbia shuttle tragedies, taught college physics and started Sally Ride Science, to encourage children, especially girls, to pursue STEM careers. She also wrote science-related books for children. Ride has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

Women participate and contribute to every area of our lives. These women who have been featured on U.S. postage stamps, as well as many other women, almost all of whom we have not heard about nor learned about in school, are profiled in our book, Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.

Jill Tietjen
Author: Jill Tietjen

Jill S. Tietjen, PE, is an author, national speaker, and an electrical engineer. After 40 years in the electric utility industry, her professional focus is now on women’s advocacy, worldwide. She blogs for The Huffington Post, speaks nationally on the accomplishments of women, nominates women for awards, and continues to write books (8 published to date), following in the footsteps of her bestselling and award-winning book, Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America (written with Charlotte Waisman). She is a frequent keynote speaker as her positive energy and her ability to relate to the audience result in inspired and energized listeners. The recipient of many awards, her induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010 remains one of her most treasured.

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