Fannie Lou Hamer worked to secure the social, economic, and political rights for the African American community. She entered the civil rights movement after attending a protest meeting encouraging African Americans to register to vote. She was arrested and beaten for her work. In 1964, she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and spoke at the Democratic National Convention at which she called for mandatory integrated state delegations. Hamer continually worked to put the plight of African Americans in the South in the public eye and often succeeded.
Helen Keller was born in 1880 a healthy child, but at around 19 months became deaf and blind from an unknown illness. When Keller was six, Anne Sullivan began working with her. Within a month Keller had learned to sign “water” and many other words. Keller attended Radcliffe College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. She was the first deaf-blind person to do so. Keller began writing while in college and continued to do so for the rest of her life. In 1921, Keller joined the American Foundation for the Blind and worked for them for more than 40 years.
Janet Yellen is a leading economist and was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Board of the Federal Reserve. Born in 1946, Yellen attended Brown University and then earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. She then worked as an assistant professor at Harvard University. Yellen was the president and ceo of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Then in 2014 Yellen was appointed Chair of the Federal Reserve by President Obama.
In 1955 Claudette Colvin, at age 15, refused to give up her seat to a white woman nine months before Rosa Parks did. Colvin was arrested for her refusal to move. She hired a lawyer who was prepared to file a civil rights lawsuit. However, African American community leaders decided not to file a lawsuit since Colvin did not have any civil rights training. Colvin believes the NAACP did not want her to file the suit because she was too militant. In 1956 a case was filed, Browder v. Gayle, and ruled that it is not constitutional to segregate buses.
Susan King Taylor
Susie King Taylor was born into slavery in 1848 and took a great interest in education from an early age. Taylor attended a secret school while living in Georgia, since African Americans legally could not be educated. During the Civil War, Taylor was offered a teaching position by Commodore Louis Goldsborough. She accepted and became the first African American teacher to openly teach African Americans. She taught children by day and adults at night. Taylor also worked as a nurse during the Civil War, traveling with a Union Army African American regiment.
Jennifer Harbury is a human rights advocate and attorney who has documented and exposed human rights abuses. Harbury has spent more than twenty years working for reforms in Guatemala and the United States. She has fought civil rights cases against the CIA, the US State Department, and the National Security Council. Harbury help exposed a scandal when information was released, thanks to her efforts, that CIA paid assets had kidnapped and tortured people in Guatemala.
Claire McCardell designed modern clothes during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that gave women greater freedom and flexibility. McCardell’s dresses often had an undefined waist that allowed the wearer to tie a sash or spaghetti string around the waist or under the breasts to fit their own style and shape. She also frequently went back to the monastic or monk’s dress. This dress fell from the shoulders and suited all body shapes. McCardell also created clothing that fit the American woman’s lifestyle which allowed for more movement and less restriction.
Harriet Tubman was an icon in the fight against slavery. She escaped slavery and then risked her life time and time again to lead others to freedom. She was born in Maryland around 1820 and worked first in the house before being moved to the fields. In 1849, Tubman was afraid she would be sold so she ran away. Over the next 15 years Tubman returned to the South to rescue others. Some reports suggest she helped more than 300 slaves escape.
Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan in 1997 and from a very young age began advocating for girls’ education. Because of how outspoken Yousafzai was the Taliban began issuing death threats. In October of 2012 Yousafzai was shot in the head on her way home from school. Yousafzai survived the attack and continues to speak out for girls’ education. In 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.
Cheri Honkala is a national anti-poverty advocate. She is listed as the National Coordinator of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, a grassroots effort to improve conditions and access to services for the poor. Honkala was a leader of the March of the Americas, the World Summit of the Poor, and a 125-mile march of the homeless and poor from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to the United Nations to protest welfare reform and poverty as a violation of economic human rights.
Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to be elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation’s tribal government. She was Principal Chief from 1985 to 1995. During this time Mankiller increased the nation’s membership from 68,000 to 170,000. She also opened three rural health centers and expanded the Head Start program for Cherokee children. In 1981, she founded the Community Development Department of the Cherokee Nation. She became the first woman Deputy Chief in 1983. When the Principal Chief was appointed Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Mankiller became Principal Chief. She was then elected to the position in 1987.
Harper Lee is an author best known for her Pulitzer Prize winning book, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Interested in writing from an early age, Lee attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama starting in 1944. She transferred to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa where she pursued writing. She wrote for the school newspaper and humor magazine. Lee would serve as the Rammer Jammer magazine’s editor. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was published in 1960 and quickly became very popular, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
Maya Angelou was an internationally renowned poet, dancer, singer, and civil rights activist. Born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri Angelou grew up in St. Louis and in Arkansas. Angelou won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco's Labor School, but she soon dropped out to be one of the first African American woman to work as a cable car conductor. Angelou did finish high school and had her son only a few weeks after graduating. In the 1950s she joined the Harlem Writer's Guild and began working on her novel "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which was published in 1970. She would go on to write 35 more books. Angelou has also won three Grammy Awards, served on two presidential committees, and been awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Leontyne Price was an incredible opera singer. Price attended Oak Park Vocational High School starting in 1937 and was designated as the school's pianist for all concerts and functions. Price then went to the College of Educational and Industrial Arts in Wilberforce, Ohio where she planned to become a music teacher. However, the president of the college soon recommended Price change her major to voice. She did and in 1948 graduated with a BA. Price then attended the Juilliard School of Music, to which she received a full scholarship. Price first appeared on Broadway in April 1952 and would spend the next two years performing around the world. In 1961 she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Verdi's II Trovatore. She continued performing throughout the 1970s. Over the course of her career, Price won 15 Grammy Awards.
As early as 18, Eleanor Roosevelt was active in helping those in need. A member of many organizations, including the Junior League, American Red Cross, League of Women Voters, Women’s Trade Union League, and Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Committee. Roosevelt was the first, First Lady to hold her own press conferences. She also allowed female reporters to attend, who were not allowed at presidential press conferences. Roosevelt traveled to many relief projects and became an advocate for the rights and needs of the poor and minorities. Upon leaving the White House Roosevelt’s work did not end; she was appointed to the United Nations General Assembly until 1953.
A former slave, Sojourner Truth spoke out for abolition and civil rights. At the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, Truth challenged prevailing notions of racial and gender inferiority declaring, “Ain't I a woman?” In her speech, Truth focused on the idea that, despite her race, she too was a woman and deserved to be treated as one. Truth also recruited African American troops for the Union Army and worked to secure land grants from the federal government for freed slaves.
Sandra Ramos’s artistic work focuses on her experiences living in Cuba and her separation with the country after leaving. Ramos also highlights the upheaval of the 1990s in Cuba. Ramos works at the Higher Institute of Art and has curated several Cuban contemporary art exhibits.
Mary Putnam Jacobi
Mary Putnam Jacobi, an accomplished physician and strong advocate for expanding the education of women was born in 1842. She used her position in the scientific community to reject disparaging and ungrounded theories about women’s health. She was the first woman to graduate from the Ecole de Medecine in Paris as a physician. She was also the first woman to be admitted to the New York Academy of Medicine.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in America, earning her degree in 1849. She, her sister Emily Blackwell, and Marie Zakrzewska opened the first hospital run by women in the US. Their hospital, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, was dedicated to serving women and children.
Ann Preston was the first woman to serve as the dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. In the early 1840s Preston was teaching all-female classes about hygiene and their bodies. In 1847, Preston enrolled in a medical education apprenticeship. She was part of the first class at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1851 and did her postgraduate work there as well. In 1866 Preston became the first dean of the school and in 1867 was elected to the Board.
The mother of four, New York resident Ellen McCormack became involved in politics because of her passion against abortion. Her campaign centered on that issue in both her 1976 and 1980 presidential bids. She made the decision to run just three years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, declaring herself a candidate in the 1976 Democratic primaries for “the defense of unborn babies.” Because of changes in federal election law, McCormack became the first female presidential candidate to qualify for federal campaign funding. Running as the nominee of a minor party instead of as a Democrat proved to be a disadvantage to her, as McCormack was successful in getting on 1980 primary ballots in just three states -- New York, New Jersey and Kentucky. She and her running mate, Carroll Driscoll, received 32,327 votes.
Margaret Sanger worked her entire life to legalize birth control and make it universally available for women. Beginning in the 1910s, Sanger actively challenged the Comstock Act, which criminalized contraceptives. Sanger’s goal was to find a contraceptive that would prevent women from repeated, unwanted pregnancies. Working as a nurse in the Lower East Side of New York City Sanger saw a need for contraceptives. She coined the term “birth control” and opened the first birth control clinic in the country. Sanger was arrested for opening this clinic. In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, the precursor to the Planned Parenthood Federation. Sanger would work for the next 40 years to increase the number of birth control options available to women.
Deborah Sampson fought in the American Revolution disguised as soldier Robert Shurtlieff. For two years, despite being wounded, Sampson’s sex remained a secret. She was honorably discharged from the army in October 1783. After the war, Sampson was married and upon her death her husband petitioned for pay as the spouse of a soldier. The government granted his request.
Emma Goldman was a political activist that fought for absolute freedom and a new social order. Goldman was a talented writer and a great orator; through these methods she shared her ideas. Goldman advocated for freedom of expression, sexual freedom, birth control, equality and independence for women, unions, and workers’ rights. Goldman became known as one of the most dangerous anarchists in the country.
Susan Gravely is the CEO of VIETRI: Irresistible Italian a store that celebrates the beauty and art of Italy. The company, started by Gravely, her sister, and mother, came out of a trip to Italy where the family fell in love with the craftsmanship of Italian goods. VIETRI is one of the largest importers of handcrafted Italian tableware and home décor products in the United States.