Discover the Unsung American Female Photographers of the Past Century

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This International Women’s Month, TIME honors, with this non-exhaustive list, some American female trailblazers who challenged the accepted conventions of the time and paved the way for today’s image makers.

The world has not always included women in its narrative. Many female photographers of the past decade remain in the footnotes of history’s conversations, their contributions fizzling into relative obscurity while their male counterparts were the stars. They were some of the world’s greatest visionaries and strongest image makers, from Alice Austen to Ebet Roberts, Eve Fowler to Deborah Turbeville. Each demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to move the race forward—documenting everything from the Civil Rights Movement to the effects of drought in the African Sahel, 90s male hustlers to Native American issues—sometimes unpaid and off the books.

Now as the movement for women’s equality gains momentum, the women’s landscape looks increasingly different. Beyond the unpalatable acerbity that defined second and third-wave feminism came the charge to “lean in,” secure the right to “have it all” and fly through the glass ceiling. Hillary Clinton’s viability as a presidential candidate is a given; A U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup; Academy Awards are received with equality speeches; and next year, women will be allowed to the front lines of combat in the U.S. military.

But the struggle for gender equality across the world is far from being fully realized, as the gender gap in the industry remains, as World Press Photo found when less than 20% women entered this year’s contest.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated Tammy Rae Carland’s position. She is the Provost at the California College of the Arts.

Caroline Smith, who curated this photo essay, is a special projects editor at TIME.

Rachel Lowry is a writer and contributor for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @rachelllowry.

Alice Austen (1866–1952)A Self-taught photographer born on Staten Island best known for her documentary images of New York life, her images contain a strong artistic sense. Trude and I MaskedAlice Austen—Collection of Historic Richmond Town in collaboration with the Alice Austen House
Bettye Lane (1930–2012)A documentary photographer who captured and preserved images of feminist activism and other social rights issues. In this photograph, gays arrested at anti-”Cruising” film demonstration. A photograph from the 1969 Stonewall protests by Ms. Lane that appeared in a 2010 documentary, “Stonewall Uprising.”Bettye Lane—Courtesy of Harvard University, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Jo Ann Callis (1940–)Callis exhibited this work for the first time in 1974, at the Woman’s Building, a hub for feminists in downtown Los Angeles. Untitled, from Early Color Portfolio, c.1976 Jo Ann Callis—Courtesy of ROSEGALLERY
Meryl Meisler (1951–)She studied with Lisette Model in the 70s, reveived the CETA grant in 1978 and then went on to a 30 year career as a public school teacher. Upon retiring from the public school system in 2010, she began to release large bodies of previously unseen work. She currently has a show open at the Stephen Kasher gallery in New York until April 9th. 1975. King Shalom’s Rubies [L to R: Helen, Ronda, and Stephanie] The Mystery Club, Seaford, NY June 1975Meryl Meisler
Renée Cox (1960–)A Jamaican-American artist, photographer, lecturer, political activist and curator. Her work is considered part of the feminist art movement in the United States. HOUSEWIFE MISSY! from 'THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOUGIESRenee Cox—Courtesy of Renee Cox Studio
Eve Fowler (1964–)She was born in New York and received her MFA from Yale University in 1992. Fowler's work tries to identify what she perceives as male biases in language and culture and reframe them around sex-positive, feminist, and queered images. Untitled, 1996Eve Fowler—Courtesy of artist and Mier Gallery, Los Angeles
Donna Trope (1954-)Donna Trope was born in Los Angeles, but spent her formative years in London, where she began her career as a self taught photographer in the late 80s. She booked her first campaign for Max Factor from a group of test shots. Vanessa Greca photographed by Donna TropeDonna Trope
Martha Rosler (1943–)She works in video, photo-text, installation, and performance, as well as writing about art and culture. Rosler’s work is centered on everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women's experience. Recurrent concerns are the media and war, as well as architecture and the built environment, from housing and homelessness to systems of transport. Cargo CultMartha Rosler—Courtesy of Mitchell Innes & Nash
Deborah Lou Turbeville (1932–2013)Although she started out as a fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, she became a fashion photographer in the 70s. She is widely credited with adding a darker, more brooding element to fashion photography, beginning in the early 1970s. Turbeville is one of just three photographers, together with Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton, who essentially changed fashion photo shoots from traditional, well-lit images into something much more edgy. Bathhouse, VOGUE, 1975Deborah Turbeville—Estate of Deborah Turbeville / Staley-Wise Gallery, New York
Sage Sohier (1954–)She has been photographing people in their environments for more than 30 years. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum. Mt. Vernon, IN. 1985Sage Sohier
Frances "Fannie" Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952)One of the earliest American female photographers and photojournalists. She was given her first camera by George Eastman, a close friend of the family. In 1894 she opened her own photographic studio in Washington, D.C. 1896 self-portrait in her Washington, DC studioFrances Benjamin Johnston—Library of Congress
Eliza Scidmore (1856–1928)She was the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. Eliza Scidmore—Library of Congress
Dickey Chapelle (1919–1965)An American photojournalist working as a war correspondent from World War II through the Vietnam War. She "was a tiny woman known for her refusal to kowtow to authority and her signature uniform: fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses, and pearl earrings," wrote Roberta Ostroff, the author of Fire in the Wind: The Biography of Dickey Chappelle. This photograph depicts a guerrilla chief on an assignment to the combat zone.Dickey Chapelle—Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society
Donna De Cesare (1955 –) An author, documentary photographer and educator known for her groundbreaking coverage of the spread of US gangs in Central America. In this photograph, a three-year-old Esperanza named her pigeon after her wheelchair-bound teenage uncle. He was shot by a rival gang member in a drive-by shooting. Taken in Watts, Los Angeles, 1994.Donna DeCesare
Sarah Edwards Charlesworth (1947–2013)An American conceptual artist and photographer who was considered part of The Pictures Generation, a loose-knit group of artists working in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s, who were concerned with how images shape our everyday lives and society as a whole. Charlesworth held various teaching positions and was a major influence on a new generation of artists, including Sara VanDerBeek and Liz Deschenes, she was appointed to the faculty of Princeton University in 2012. Tiger, 1985Sarah Charlesworth—Courtesy of the Estate of Sarah Charlesworth and Maccarone
Maria Varela (1940–)She was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1962 to 1967.Varela determined that these materials needed to show black people taking leadership to change their communities and enlisted SNCC photographer Bob Fletcher to take pictures for her various projects. Fletcher eventually challenged her to begin making her own photographs and recommended that she study with Matt Herron in New Orleans. This photograph was taken as farm workers wer evicted from a abandoned Air Force Base in Greenville, MS. 1965. Maria Varela
Carol Guzy (1956–)News photographer for The Washington Post. She has won the Pulitzer Prize four times—one of four people to do so, and the only journalist with that achievement. The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, for The Washington Post.Carol Guzy—The Washington Post/Getty Images
Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie (1954–)A Professor in the Native American Studies Department and Director of the C.N. Gorman Museum at University of California Davis. Tsinhnahjinnie is a multimedia artist, and known for creating multi-layered images addressing Native American issues. The Three Graces, 2003, from the series Portraits Against Amnesia.Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie
Kathy Willens (1949–)In 1973, she took a position as a part-time lab technician at the now-defunct Miami Daily News. Willens earned a staff job at the News when several of her photos (shot on her own time) wound up on Page One. In 1976, she became one of the A.P.’s first female photographers, joining the Miami bureau. Willens transferred to New York in 1993, specializing in sports. Orange Bowl, 1983Kathy Willens—AP
Wendy Watriss (1943–)Saturday Night, East Central Texas, 1984Wendy Watriss and Frederick C. Baldwin―Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Ebet Roberts (1945–)Moved to New York City to paint but switched to photography in 1977 when she began began documenting the evolving CBGB scene. Beastie Boys, 1987Ebet Roberts
Mary Berridge (1964–)Mary Berridge's photographs have been exhibited in many galleries and museums including the Museum of Modern Art in NY, The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. She has received several awards- among them are: a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NY Foundation for the Arts Artist's Fellowship, the Lange-Taylor Prize, the Ernst Haas Award and the Romeo Martinez International Award. Tracie, from the series A Positive Live: Portraits of Women Living With HIVMary Merridge
Marion Post (1910–1990)Marion Post Wolcott, was an American photographer who worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression documenting poverty and deprivation. Post's photographs for the FSA often explore the political aspects poverty as well as finding the humour in the situations she encountered. Cotton Queen: May 1940. "Cotton carnival. Memphis, Tennessee." Waiting for her Royal CrownMarion Post Wolcott—The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
Abigail Heyman (1942–2013)Heyman’s first photography exhibit was in New York 1972, shortly after she published, Growing Up Female: A Personal Photo-Journal which won her acclaim. In the late 1970s Charles Harbutt invited Heyman to join Magnum Photos, she was one of the first women to be invited. Women.Abigail Heyman
Sharon Core (1965–)Sharon’s Theibaud series (2003–04) attracted major attention for her photographic likenesses of the iconic paintings by Wayne Theibaud of cakes, hotdogs, and sandwiches created in the 1960s. She used her training as a painter and pastry chef to recreate the scenes in minute detail. She has an exhibition opening at Yancey Richardson gallery on March 24 titled 'Understory'. "Boston Creams" 2004Sharon Core—Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery
Yvette Marie Dostani (1971–)Yvette Marie Dostatni has been taking pictures since she was a teenager. She was one of eight photographers to document the city of Chicago as part of the Comer Foundation and her images are in the Permanent Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Photography's Midwest Photographers Project in Chicago. Larry and Jeanette, Munster IndianaYvette Marie Dostani
Christine Osinski (1948–)She received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University. She currently teaches at The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art, in New York City. Young Woman Cutting GrassChristine Osinski—Sasha Wolf Gallery
Tammy Rae Carland (1965–)Tammy Rae Carland is the Provost at the California College of the Arts, where she also Chairs the Photography Program. From 1997-2005 she co-ran Mr. Lady Records and Videos, an independent record label and video art distribution company that was dedicated to the production and distribution of queer and feminist culture. Carrie, from the series, Horror Girls. 1996.Tammy Rae Carlan—Courtesy of Tammy Rae Carland and Jessica Silverman Gallery

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