She’s the First was an idea sparked in a 23-year-old’s mind two years after she graduated college with a journalism degree and moved from suburban New Jersey to New York City. Tammy Tibbetts was a prom website editor by day, and by night, she volunteered as director of a foundation that supported children’s basic needs and education in Liberia. When she launched DonateMyDress.org, a directory of organizations that collected and distributed prom dresses to girls in need, she wondered why there wasn’t a directory of school programs for girls in the developing world. If there was, awareness for education could be raised so girls all over the globe would have the chance to become the first woman presidents of their countries, the first doctors of their villages, or even the first in their families to graduate. It was this line of thought that inspired the name “She’s the First” in March 2009. She wasn’t sure what the next steps would be, but she hurried to the computer to purchase the domain shesthefirst.org.
She’s the First stayed in the incubator until May of 2009, when Tammy read an article in an African newspaper that irked her: “Liberia: Teenage Motherhood Alarming.” The article praised a church campaign to deter teen pregnancy in Liberia. It was called “No Marriage, No Baby,” and while it had good intentions, it didn’t address the real reasons why young women often got pregnant: a lack of education and sometimes rape. She posted the link to her Facebook wall in frustration and, unexpectedly, received a message from college student Christen Brandt, whom she’d only met once, two years earlier, at an awards ceremony in New York City.
Christen expressed her own frustration at the article. So after countless Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls, Tammy hopped on a bus to DC to meet Christen, and they solidified their vision. In August, they assembled a group of friends, all under age 25, in Tammy’s sweltering hot New York City apartment, and over pizza and soda, hashed out the mission statement and plans for the PSA video that would launch shesthefirst.org.
On the heels of New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof’s book Half the Sky, She’s the First became part of the movement that believes “the best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls.” She’s the First launched in November 2009, on the belief that money could affordably be raised for girls’ education through the creativity of young people.