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Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers
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Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers

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by Kay Bailey Hutchison

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United States senator Kay Bailey Hutchison examines the lives of sixty-three pioneers in military service, journalism, public health, social reform, science, and politics—all American women.

Following in the footsteps of her national bestseller, American Heroines, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison celebrates female


United States senator Kay Bailey Hutchison examines the lives of sixty-three pioneers in military service, journalism, public health, social reform, science, and politics—all American women.

Following in the footsteps of her national bestseller, American Heroines, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison celebrates female accomplishment in all walks of life. From the Nobel Prize to the halls of Congress, the trailblazers profiled in these skillfully drawn biographical portraits have battled tremendous odds to achieve success—if not always recognition—in their respective fields. Whether committed to a chosen cause or thrust into a public role by personal circumstance, these courageous women have all woven the thin threads of opportunity into sweeping tapestries of achievement.

Mixing historical portraits with modern success stories, Senator Hutchison shows how American women from all periods of history have contributed to the strength and progress of our nation—and no history of the nation can be written without them.

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The first woman senator from Texas pays her respects to women who opened the doors before her. With a three-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Leading Ladies

American Trailblazers
By Kay Hutchison

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Kay Hutchison
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061138249

Chapter One

The Good Fight

Women in the Military

Captain, I shall not go into that cellar should the enemy come. I will take a spear which I can use as well as any man and help defend the fort.
Mary Hagidorn (American, late eighteenth century)

In my time in the Senate, I have seen the role women play in the military transformed from limited support to full-fledged participation. Women throughout our history have shown great bravery—as spies for the American cause, as volunteers in hospitals, as ferry pilots—but full recognition has been slow to arrive. Women received general officer status for the first time in 1970, and there are still no women with four stars—the highest peacetime rank. Several of our top military leaders have daughters who have attended the prestigious military academies. Once while listening to a four-star general's briefing about women's roles in military conflict, I said to him, "I just want your daughter to be able to have enough experience to succeed you—if she earns the right."In other words, if we expect to attract the best women to military careers, they must know they have a chance of reaching thetop. To do that, women must have enough time in combat zones to allow them to earn the credibility essential to leading a branch of the armed services.

There have been many issues to address, and we are addressing them. There were early concerns about fraternization between the sexes and about sexual harassment. There have been problems in this area, but there is zero tolerance for misconduct, and I believe the professionalism in our military is second to none in the world.

Women have proven themselves in our elite service academies and are gaining combat experience, flying fighter and carrier airplanes in war zones, and participating in many ground missions as well. This has been the traditional route to the top for men, and women are now in the pipeline. Though this is relatively new for the armed services, American women on the front lines in war is not. In the Revolutionary War, our first war for freedom, women participated when they could, sometimes even disguising themselves as men in order to join the battle.

Sybil Ludington

In many ways, Sybil Ludington was a typical child of colonial America. Born in Connecticut in 1761, Sybil had eleven brothers and sisters by the time she reached her early teens. For more than a decade, Henry and Abigail Ludington had been farming over two hundred acres of land in Fredericksburgh, now Putnam County, New York, where Henry Ludington became a prosperous farmer and mill owner, was involved in the political and religious life of his region, and served in local militias. He joined his first militia in 1756, when he was just seventeen, as a loyal British subject, but by the early 1770s he had transferred his allegiance to the independence movement. As colonel of a four-hundred-man regiment in Dutchess County, New York, Henry Ludington so effectively helped stymie British efforts to supply their troops that British General William Howe offered a reward of 300 English guineas to whoever captured or killed him. One of the Ludington family's neighbors, Ichabod Prosser, thought he could surprise the colonel at home and collect the reward. He and a group of loyalists surrounded the Ludingtons' farmhouse one spring night, hoping to catch the colonel unawares. But Henry Ludington, who knew the rich reward would prove irresistible to someone, had drilled his children to keep watch over the house at night. When Sybil caught sight of Ichabod Prosser's men, she quickly roused four or five of her oldest brothers and sisters. The youngest was about six, but by lighting candles in the rooms visible to the Prosser band and marching back and forth in front of the windows, they gave the impression that a sizable armed guard was protecting the place from within. The Prosser group didn't dare storm the house. Instead, they hid until dawn and then withdrew.

By the time the American Revolution reached the Ludingtons' doorstep in 1777, Sybil was sixteen. On April 24, two thousand British troops, under General William Tryon's command, landed on the coast of Connecticut and headed for Danbury to seize the supplies the Continental Army stored there. A number of American soldiers were in the area, serving under Generals David Wooster, Benedict Arnold, and Gold Selleck Silliman, but they couldn't prevent the British from occupying Danbury. The British destroyed the supplies they found in town and burned nineteen houses, a meetinghouse, and twenty-two barns and storehouses, all of them belonging to people who sided with the revolutionaries.

On the farms around Fredericksburgh, seventeen miles from Danbury, the members of Colonel Ludington's militia were busy with spring planting. Colonel Ludington called on Sybil, an expert rider, to sound the alarm while he readied his regiment to pursue the British in Connecticut. Sybil rode all night in a hard rain, making a forty-mile circuit through the heart of Putnam County, from Carmel and Mahopac in the south as far north as Stormville, in Dutchess County. Early the next morning, the colonel led his four hundred men toward Connecticut to join forces with the twelve hundred troops already pursuing General Tryon's soldiers, who were hurrying back to their ships on Long Island Sound. Sybil's ride earned her the nickname "the female Paul Revere." In fact, her more famous predecessor rode only half as far as she did, on a clear, moonlit night—and he was forty years old, not sixteen.

Besides the lost supplies, the Americans suffered some casualties, among them General David Wooster, who was mortally wounded while attacking the British at North Salem, New York. But the Americans counted Danbury and its aftermath as a success. "The stores destroyed there have been purchased at a high price to the enemy," wrote Alexander Hamilton. "The spirit of the people on the occasion does them great honor—is a pleasing proof that they have lost nothing of that primitive zeal with which they began that contest, and will be a galling discouragement to the enemy of repeating attempts of the kind."


Excerpted from Leading Ladies by Kay Hutchison Copyright © 2007 by Kay Hutchison. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison grew up in La Marque, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas and UT Law School. She was twice elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1990 she was elected Texas state treasurer, and in 1993 she was the first woman elected to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. In 2006 she was elected chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, becoming one of the top four leaders of Senate Republicans and the only woman. She lives in Dallas with her husband, Ray, and their daughter and son, Bailey and Houston.

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Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
anneb10 More than 1 year ago
Leading Ladies by Kay Bailey Hutchison presents snapshot biographies of a number of fascinating women who had a deep impact on the formation of America.  From First ladies to scientists to women who devoted themselves to the social services, Sen. Hutchison touched on many women - some lesser known, but all put their fingerprints on this country.  It is a truly interesting read and I'm glad I took the time to do so.
stormsTC More than 1 year ago
senator kay bailey hutchison has writtion a very fasination bestseller called "leading ladies" each chapter has a politican who was a woman that was a first person in her life and there are also some other fasinating pieces of trivia that shows how other women have become first in their fields of aviation and other areas of fasinating firsts. this is a really an intresting book that is very hard to put down many of these ladies are some that I did not know about but some I did know about but there most intresting background is something I did not know about and this is truly a wonderful piece of historical history. this lawmaker has done a wonderful job researching this material. I also recamend her other book american heroines