Editor’s note: U.S. and world history has been shaped by many people, many of whom are often left out of or passed over quickly in the annals of history. As part of our Women’s History Month special edition, we have included a few short profiles of women—some well known, others not so well known—who had tremendous impact on the shape of this country and the world. Of course, our coverage doesn’t begin to even scratch the surface of the rich role women have played in shaping our world. The library and the Internet are full of sources that can help lead to further studies on the subject of women’s history. One excellent beginning source is http://www.biography.com/people/groups/african-american-firsts-women. Take some time to investigate the site and look further.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924, Shirley Chisholm was the first black congresswoman (1968), representing New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven terms. In 1972, she ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, making her the first black candidate to do so for a “major” American political party. A strong education advocate, Chisholm left Congress in 1983 to teach. She died in2005.
Mae C. Jemison
Mae C. Jemison was Born on Oct. 17, 1956, in Decatur, Ala., Dr. Mae C. Jemision is the first African American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. Accepted into the U.S. astronaut program in 1987, Jemison flew her first space mission with six other astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on Sept. 12, 1992, becoming the first African American woman in space.
Born Aug. 18, 1911 in Savannah, Ga., Amelia Boynton could be considered something of an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. Beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 950s, Boyton risked limb and life holding black voter registration drives in Selma, Ala. In 1964, she became both the first black woman and the first woman Democrat candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama. The following year, she helped lead a civil rights march during which she and her fellow activists were brutally beaten by state troopers, a march which would change the course of civil rights history in the U.S.—the march known as Bloody Sunday. In 1990, Boynton was recognized for her work by winning the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom. She made her transition on Aug. 26, 2015 at the age of 104.
Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler was Born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, Calif., Octavia E. Butler defied stereotypes that wanted to relegate African American—and women—writers to only certain select genre. Beginning her writing career in the 1970s, Butler went on to become one of the giants of science fiction and speculative fiction producing acclaimed books that blended black spirituality with science fiction. Among her works are her debut novel, “Patternmaster” which became the beginning of a four-part series, “Kindred,” “Parable of the Sower” and “Parable of the Talents.” Butler made her transition after a home accident in February 2006 in Lake Forest Park, Wash.
Sarah E. Goode
Born into slavery in 1850, Sarah E. Goode was the first African American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After being freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War, Goode moved to Chicago, where she started a career as an entrepreneur. With her husband Archibald, a carpenter, Goode opened a furniture store. Interestingly, Goode’s patent for a folding cabinet bed, granted in 1885, was the result of her having a working class clientele who often lived in apartments with limited space., for her invention of a folding cabinet bed in 1885. Goode died in 1905.
Marie M. Daly
Born on April 16, 1921, in Queens, N.Y., Marie M. Daly was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. After graduating from Hunter College High School with honors in 1942 Daly worked as a lab assistant at her old college as well as a hard-earned fellowship which helped her to pay for graduate degree in chemistry from New York University. Daly didn’t waste time in completing her studies. Iin 1944, enrolled at Columbia University as a doctoral student in a chemistry program led by Dr. Mary L. Caldwell, a renowned scientist who championed women in chemistry. Dr. Daly’s work led to the discovery of many processes on how the human body works.