Women Make History: Stories we should have learned in school
Mary Ware Dennett, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kamala Harris
Welcome to the first issue of Women Make History, a monthly newsletter spotlighting stories of women who opened doors – sometimes just a crack – and blazed a trail for other women. Too often, the ordinary women who spoke up when it mattered or who took risks that initiated change, have been quickly forgotten. Women like Mary Ware Dennett. Read more
Maggie Lena Walker
Maggie Lena Walker was born into slavery in 1864 in Richmond, VA, the capital of the Confederacy. A brilliant entrepreneur, Walker became the first woman in the U.S. to found a bank.
She launched many successful businesses and was a celebrated philanthropist and ... Read more
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte
In 1865, Susan La Flesche Picotte was born on the wind-scorched prairie of Nebraska, during what would be the Omaha tribe's last buffalo hunt. The word, Omaha, means against the current, and Picotte would live her life accordingly. Read more
In 1967 when 26-year-old graphic designer Margaret Crane took a job with a pharmaceutical giant outside New York, she never imagined that her greatest contribution to the company––and to women worldwide––would be a scientific invention. Using a paper clip holder, reflective mylar, a test tube, and an eye dropper...Read more
In the air and on the ground, Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman defied the laws of gravity and racial and gender discrimination. In the face of what seemed to be the impossible, Coleman always managed to find a way. Read more
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Although she died more than fifty years ago, the legacy of labor organizer, feminist, and civil rights activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is still hotly debated today.
Born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire, Flynn was always on the side of marginalized workers...Read more
Frances Benjamin Johnston
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1966) was among the first professional and nationally acclaimed women photographers in the U.S. Her groundbreaking career spanned more than 60 years during which time she served as White House photographer to five administrations. Read more
Nina Evans Allender
With her sharp wit and artistic talent, the political cartoons of Nina Evans Allender not only captured the news of the week, but also the spirit of women's suffrage in the early 20th century. Her work helped to shape public opinion surrounding the cause of women's rights. Read more
Mary Jane Colter
In an era when there were very few female architects, Mary Jane Colter (1869-1958), broke with traditional European design to create groundbreaking commercial buildings with a distinctly Southwest American flare. Utilizing natural materials from surrounding landscapes and artifacts inspired by indigenous cultures, Colter's unique style paid tribute to Native American, Spanish Colonial, and Arts and Crafts elements. Read more
The granddaughter of emancipated slaves, Edna Regina Lewis was born in 1916 in a small farming community in Virginia. Later known as the Grande Dame of Southern cooking, Lewis inspired generations to return to farm-to-table cooking, and was among the first Black women to author a cookbook without concealing her race or gender. Read more
In 1826, Ellen Craft was born into slavery in Georgia. Twenty-two years later, she disguised her race, gender, and social status, to enable her and her husband’s escape to freedom in Philadelphia. The couple became celebrated abolitionists, political activists, and educators. Read more
Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray
Born Angelina Pauline Murray in Maryland in 1910 to bi-racial parents, Murray became the first Black person to earn a Doctorate degree from Yale Law School, was a co-founder of... Read more
In 1782, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army. She fought for nearly two years in the Revolutionary War before her secret was discovered. Although other women concealed their gender in order to join the fight, Sampson was the first whose service was recognized by the government and the only woman to receive a full pension. Read more
Alice Guy Blaché
Pioneer of the French and American movie industry, Alice Guy Blaché is the first woman to direct or produce narrative films and the first and only to own a major studio.
Alice Ida Antoinette Guy was born near Paris in 1873. At the age of 21, she talked her way... Read more
Classical composer Florence Price made history in 1933 when she became the first African- American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. Her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair to packed house of more than 4000 people. Price received multiple standing ovations and critical acclaim. Read more
Sui Sin Far
More than 100 years before literary giants Amy Tan and Celeste Ng brought the Asian American experience to life, Sui Sin Far was a prolific author of fiction for both children and adults. She was also a travel writer, essayist, and among the first journalists to document the harsh realities facing Chinese immigrants in... Read more
Mary Ellen Pleasant
Self-made millionaire Mary Ellen Pleasant never learned to read or write, yet she became a notorious anti-slavery crusader and the secret funder of abolitionist John Brown’s failed insurrection at Harper’s Ferry.
Born in Philadelphia in 1814 to parents of mixed race, Pleasant was known for her quick wit and street smarts. Read more
Dr. Gladys West
The next time you use a map or location service on your phone, laptop, or other electronicdevice, give a nod to Dr. Gladys West, an African American mathematician. Defying poverty, sexism, and Jim Crow segregation, her work was critical to the invention theGlobal Positioning System commonly known as GPS. Read more
Marjorie Merriweather Post
When Marjorie Merriweather Post inherited $27 million in 1914, (about $620 million in 2020 dollars), she became the wealthiest woman in the world. During her lifetime (1887– 1973), Post was renowned for her beauty, lavish lifestyle, and vast collections of art and jewelry. But Post was also one of the most astute, pragmatic, and visionary business leaders and philanthropists in the first half of the 20th century. Read more
Julia DeForest Tuttle
Julia DeForest Tuttle (1849-1898) was an American businesswoman, visionary, and developer of what became the City of Miami. She is recognized as the only woman in the U.S. to found a major city.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in January 1849, Julia Sturtevant married at the age of 19 and had two children. When her husband, an iron magnate, died ten years later and left her in debt, the resourceful Tuttle... Read more
Game designer, inventor, feminist, and economic activist, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie created the game later known as Monopoly. Whether writing short stories and poems, working as a newspaper reporter, or performing as a comedian and stage actressMagie used social engagement and entertainment as a tool to bring about political and economic change. Read more
Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, (she/they) is one of the most important and – least well-known – feminist and civil rights scholars of the 20th century.
Born Angelina Pauline Murray in Maryland in 1910 to bi-racial parents, Murray became the first Black person to earn a Doctorate degree from Yale Law School, was a co-founder of the... Read more
Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez, Madame CJ Walker
Born in Los Angeles in 1881, Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez was a pioneering Latinx suffragist, educator, and activist for the preservation of Mexican-American heritage.
After graduating from Pasadena High School in 1897, Lopez earned a degree in education at what later became UCLA. She began her career teaching English as a second language to high school students... Read more
Minerva Hamilton Hoyt
Minerva Hamilton Hoyt (1866–1945) became the champion of desert ecosystems when she moved to Pasadena from New York in the late 1890s. When her husband and son died in close succession, she found comfort sleeping under the desert sky, listening to the winds blow through the Joshua trees. She later remarked that this landscape was one of “…strange and inexpressible beauty, of mystery and singular aloofness, which is yet so filled with peace.” Read more
Although she was eventually known as the First Lady of Physics, Chien-Shiung Wu fought to overcome gender and racial prejudice her entire life. She was born in China in 1912, in an era when it was unusual for girls to attend school. With her parents’ support, Wu received the equivalent of a high school education. In 1936, she immigrated to the U.S. and earned a coveted spot in the graduate physics program... Read more
Zitkála-Šá, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
In the late 19th century, when the U.S. government was attempting to erase Native Americans and their cultures, Zitkála-Šá rose up to become the voice and energy of the opposition. A fierce activist for Native American civil rights, Zitkála-Šá (aka Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) wove music, writing, and political activism into her fight for full equality of Indigenous people and the celebration of Native cultures. Read more
Seraph Young, Dr. Joycelyn Elders
On Valentine’s Day in 1870, Seraph Young became the first woman in the U.S. to cast a ballot. The 23-year-old voted in a Salt Lake City municipal election two days after the Utah Territory unanimously passed legislation giving women full voting rights.
Utah women were the first to have the opportunity to exercise their new political power. Read more
Lucia True Ames Mead, Mary Ware Dennett
At an early age, Lucia True Ames Mead, 1856 – 1936, adopted a global perspective of allegiance to humanity, rather than to political boundaries formed by nations. She opposed elitism in all forms and dedicated her life to social, educational, legal, and economic equality for all. Read more
Naomi Long Madgett, Jarena Lee, and Angelina Grimke Weld
Angelina Grimke Weld was a White abolitionist and supporter of women’s suffrage. Her niece, also named Angelina Grimke in her aunt’s honor, was considered Black under the law. In the 19th century, anyone with “one ancestor of Black ancestry (“one drop” of Black blood), was legally Black.” Read more
Katalin Karikó, Amanda Gorman, and Edith Wilson
Many of us cheered and even cried as Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman – and first person of color – sworn in as Vice President of the United States. But this remarkable moment yielded to even greater inspiration when twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman delivered her poem, The Hill We Climb. Read more
Rosalind Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, and Beryl Markham
In 1936 Beryl Markham (1902-1987) became the first person to make a solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic from Europe to North America. Because the plane is traveling against prevailing winds, the east-west route requires more stamina, time, and fuel. Markham chose this route because it hadn't been done. Read more
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