As the year draws to a close, we look back on what we see as some of the most significant events that affected women in the past 12 months.

Lexington's Nikki Haley elected South Carolina's first female governor

Nikki Haley, a relatively unknown state lawmaker from Lexington, becomes South Carolina's first female governor Nov. 2 after surviving a bruising primary complete with allegations that she was unfaithful to her husband.

Nikki Haley (above, right) is joined on stage by her husband, Michael, daughter Rena, 12, and son Nalin, 9, on election night.

Health care reform bill passes

President Barack Obama (above) is joined by Democratic leaders and Marcelas Owens (left), 11, of Seattle at the signing of the health care bill on March 23 at the White House.

Pre-existing conditions, including C-sections and a history of breast cancer, will no longer be used to deny a person insurance coverage, and a person cannot be charged differently based on gender.

Elena Kagan sworn in to high court

Elena Kagan joined the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 7, putting three women on the high court bench for the first time in U.S. history.

Above, Justices Sonia Sotomayor (from left), Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kagan gather in the Justices' Conference Room prior to Kagan's Investiture Ceremony at the Supreme Court in October in Washington.

Submarine service open to women

The Navy announced in the spring that it was lifting the ban on women serving aboard submarines, the last class of military vessels off-limits to them.

Twenty-four female officers are training for submarine service and are expected to join their boats in December 2011.

UConn sets new NCAA record

The University of Connecticut's Women's Basketball Team surpassed the 1971-74 UCLA men's team for the longest winning streak in NCAA history (men's or women's sports). UConn set a new record Dec. 21 with 89 wins.

UConn's Maya Moore (above, right) high fives teammate Lorin Dixon during a Dec. 5 game.

Woman's stoning sentence in Iran sparks international uproar

In September after international protests, the Iranian government dropped the stoning sentence of an Iranian woman whose confession of adultery was beaten out of her.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani continues to face murder charges in connection with the death of her husband, an accusation disclosed by the Iranian government only after the global outcry put it on the defensive.

Jenny Sanford publishes book

Jenny Sanford continued to break the "stand by your man" code for wronged political spouses by publishing a book detailing her relationship with Gov. Mark Sanford and going on a national media tour.

"Staying True" is the former South Carolina first lady's tell-all book about her 20-year marriage to Sanford.

News of his affair broke in June 2009, and the Sanfords' divorce was finalized in March.

Elizabeth Edwards dies

Elizabeth Edwards, who closely advised her husband in two bids for the presidency and advocated for health care even as her own health and marriage publicly crumbled, died Dec. 7 at 61 after a six-year struggle with cancer.

Edwards (above) participated in the "Stand Up to Cancer" television event in Culver City, Calif., in September.

President Barack Obama said in a statement, "Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."

Teen birth rate hits all-time low

A report issued Dec. 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2009 to 39 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19. It was a 6 percent decline from the previous year, and the lowest rate since health officials started tracking that data in 1940. Experts think the recent recession was a major factor.

The pill turns 50

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. It was formally approved as an oral contraceptive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 23, 1960. Opinions about hormonal contraceptives are mixed, but the pill undoubtedly gave women more control over their lives.