Throughout the month of March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, every Friday in Stanza we’ve been highlighting important women in American poetry. In this final installment, we take a look at the women who have received Academy of American Poets Prizes since we began our awards program in 1946.

Academy of American Poets Fellowship
Established: 1946
First woman winner: Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1949

This Fellowship, given in memory of James Ingram Merrill, is a $25,000 prize awarded to one poet each year to recognize distinguished poetic achievement. Other notable female winners of this prize: Elizabeth Bishop (1964), Marianne Moore (1965), Gwendolyn Brooks (1999), Ellen Bryant Voigt (2001), and Carolyn Forché (2013), among many others.

James Laughlin Award
Established: 1954
First woman winner: Constance Carrier, 1954

The James Laughlin Award is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. The first female winner, and first winner overall, of this prize was Carrier, whose manuscript, The Middle Voice, was selected by Louise Bogan, Rolfe Humphries, Randall Jarrell, May Sarton, and Mark Van Doren. Other female winners of this prize: Jane Cooper (The Weather of Six Mornings), Ai (Killing Floor), Rosanna Warren (Stained Glass), and Tracy K. Smith (Duende), among others.

Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
Established: 1975
First woman winner: Denise Levertov, 1976

This $25,000 award recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous calendar year. Levertov won the second annual Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her collection The Freeing of the Dust (New Directions, 1975), selected by Hayden Carruth. Other female winners of the prize: Josephine Miles (Collected Poems, 1930–83), Marilyn Hacker (Winter Numbers), and Patricia Smith (Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah), among others.

Wallace Stevens Award
Established: 1994
First women winner: Adrienne Rich, 1996

This $100,000 award is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Adrienne Rich was the third poet and the first woman to win the award, and she was followed by women winners Ruth Stone (2002), Louise Glück (2008), Jean Valentine (2009), and Joy Harjo (2015).

Walt Whitman Award
Established: 1975
First woman winner: Laura Gilpin, 1976

This award, which now comes with a $5,000 stipend, publication by Graywolf Press, an all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy, and distribution of the book to Academy of American Poets members, was established to enable the publication of a poet’s first book. The first female winner of this award was Gilpin, for The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe, chosen by William Stafford. Other female winners of the prize: April Bernard (Blackbird Bye Bye), Elaine Terranova (The Cult of the Right Hand), Nicole Cooley (Resurrection), Barbara Ras (Bite Every Sorrow), and the most recent winner, Mai Der Vang (Afterland), among others.

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