Kamala D. Harris is the first female vice president of the United States. After attending Howard University and the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, Kamala Harris embarked on a rise through the California legal system, emerging as state attorney general in 2010. Following the November 2016 elections, Harris became just the second African American woman and the first South Asian American to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. In August 2020, Joe Biden announced Harris as vice presidential running mate. On November 7, 2020, four days after election day, Biden was declared as the 46th president-elect after winning Pennsylvania, making Harris the first female vice president and first Black person and Asian American to hold the position.That evening, a beaming Harris took the stage at a victory rally in Wilmington, Delaware, her suffragette white pantsuit a nod to the efforts of her predecessors.
A member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Pauli Murray worked to end segregation on public transport. In 1940, she was arrested and imprisoned for refusing to sit at the back of a bus in Richmond, Virginia. In 1941, Murray enrolled at the law school at Howard University with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer. The following year she joined George Houser, James Farmer, and Bayard Rustin to form the nonviolence-focused Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). President John F. Kennedy appointed her to the Committee on Civil and Political Rights as a part of his Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Murray joined Betty Friedan and others to found the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. In 1973, following the death of her longtime partner Irene Barlow, Murray decided to become a candidate for ordination at General Theological Seminary. In 1977, Pauli Murray became the first African American woman in the US to become an Episcopal priest after the church changed its policy.
Learn more: https://www.paulimurraycenter.com/who-is-pauli
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a U.S. Supreme Court justice, the second woman to be appointed to the position. Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School, going on to become a staunch courtroom advocate for the fair treatment of women and working with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980 and appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993.As a judge, Ginsburg favored caution, moderation and restraint. She was considered part of the Supreme Court's moderate-liberal bloc presenting a strong voice in favor of gender equality, the rights of workers and the separation of church and state. In 1996 Ginsburg wrote the Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. Virginia, which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women. In 1999 she won the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.
Las Hermanas Mirabal (the Mirabal Sisters) are 3 women who followed their convictions with bravery and selflessness to fight for what they believed. Fighting against the Dominican Republic dictators’ rule they felt was wrong. Three of them – Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa – gave their lives for their cause when some henchmen, following the orders of Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, killed them savagely. The four sisters and the group they were involved in were a threat to this commanding dictator because they were involved with plotting to overthrow Trujillos’ cruel, ruthless and fascist government. The remaining sister, Dedé, preserved their memories until her death in 2014. After the transition to democracy in the late 1970’s, las Mariposas (the Butterflies) as Dominicans call the sisters, became symbols of both democratic and feminist resistance.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17 in 2014, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Yousafzai became an advocate for girls' education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Yousafzai when she was traveling home from school. She survived and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. Nine months after being shot by the Taliban, Yousafzai gave a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013. Yousafzai highlighted her focus on education and women's rights, urging world leaders to change their policies. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is an autobiography by Yousafzai released in October 2013. It became an international bestseller.
Rita Moreno is a Puerto Rican actress and PEGOT winner who broke new ground for Latinos in entertainment. Rita Moreno is best known as Anita in West Side Story in 1961, a role that earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first Latina actress to win the honor. Moreno also appeared on the children's shows Sesame Street and The Electric Company and is one of only 11 people to have received the four major entertainment honors — Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy awards (EGOT). In 2019, she added another letter to her list of accolades when she was honored with a Peabody Career Achievement Award, making her the first Latino to receive the award and only second person ever. With the award, she became a PEGOT, an honor only held by two other people. Today, she continues to act in feature films, make guest appearances on television, and sing and perform in theatrical productions.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/actor/rita-moreno
Frustrated by the Chicago Public Schools’ low standards, Marva Collins decided to open her own school in 1975 on the second floor of her home, naming it the Westside Preparatory School. The first students included her son, daughter and several neighborhood children, some of which were considered learning-disabled. At the end of the first year, every student scored at least five grades higher on their standardized tests. Soon, Collins’ success attracted national attention. She and the Westside Preparatory School were profiled by 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, Time and Newsweek, and were the subject of a television movie, The Marva Collins Story. Her achievements prompted President Ronald Reagan to offer her the post of secretary of education, which she declined in order to continue the development of Westside Preparatory School.
Vera Wang was a senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years and then a design director for Ralph Lauren. After designing her own wedding dress, she opened a bridal boutique and soon launched her own signature collection. Now hugely popular, she has a large Hollywood following and also designs lingerie, jewelry and home products. Arguably the most prominent designer of bridal wear in America, Wang has been honored with a number of accolades for her achievements, including the 1993 Chinese American Planning Council's Honoree of the Year Award and the 1994 Girl Scout Council's Woman of Distinction Award. Later that year, she was elected as a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In 2005, the CFDA selected Wang as the Womenswear Designer of the Year. In 2019, the iconic designer was honored with the Sandra Taub Humanitarian Award by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate youth activist who sparked an international movement to fight climate change beginning in 2018. With the simple message "School strike for climate" handwritten on poster board, Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays and protesting outside the Swedish Parliament. Thanks to social media, her actions have spread and influenced millions of young people all over the world to organize and protest. Launching "Fridays For Future," Thunberg and other concerned youths throughout Europe have continued to pressure leaders and lawmakers to act on climate change through their regular walkouts. Thunberg has also traveled the world, meeting with global leaders and speaking at assemblies to demand climate solutions and a recommitment to the Paris Agreement. Recently diagnosed with Asperger's, the activist has publicly shared her views on her disorder, referring to it as her "superpower." Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2019, and a few months later she became the youngest individual ever to be honored as Time's Person of the Year.
Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first person to receive federal aid for professional education, and the first American Indian woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. In her remarkable career she served more than 1,300 people over 450 square miles, giving financial advice and resolving family disputes as well as providing medical care at all hours of the day and night. In 1906 she led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to lobby for prohibition of alcohol on the reservation. In 1913, two years before her death, she saw her life's dream fulfilled when she opened a hospital in the reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska. Today the hospital houses a museum dedicated to the work of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte and the history of the Omaha and Winnebago tribes.
Katherine Johnson made the most of limited educational opportunities for African Americans, graduating from college at age 18. She began working in aeronautics as a "computer" in 1952, and after the formation of NASA, she performed the calculations that sent astronauts into orbit in the early 1960s and to the moon in 1969. Johnson was honored with an array of awards for her groundbreaking work. Among them are the 1967 NASA Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft and Operations team award, and the National Technical Association’s designation as its 1997 Mathematician of the Year. Additionally, she earned honorary degrees from SUNY Farmingdale, Maryland's Capitol College, Virginia's Old Dominion University and West Virginia University. In November 2015, President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Margot Lee Shetterly's 2016 book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race celebrated the little-known story of Johnson and her fellow African American computers. It was also turned into an Oscar-nominated feature film, Hidden Figures (2016). A year later, in September 2017, 99-year-old Johnson was honored by NASA, with the dedication of a new research building which is named after her — the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
Sonia Sotomayor became a U.S. District Court Judge in 1992 and was elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice. The nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2009 by a vote of 68 to 31, making Sotomayor the first Latina Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. In June 2015, Sotomayor was among the majority in two landmark Supreme Court rulings: On June 25, she was one of the six justices to uphold a critical component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act—often referred to as Obamacare—in King v. Burwell. The decision allows the federal government to continue providing subsidies to Americans who purchase health care through "exchanges," regardless of whether they are state or federally operated. Sotomayor is credited as a key force in the ruling, having presented cautionary arguments against the potential dismantling of the law. The majority ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, thus further cemented the Affordable Care Act. On June 26, the Supreme Court handed down its second historic decision in as many days, with a 5–4 majority ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that made same sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Sotomayor joined Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in the majority.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of one U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, and married a man who would become another, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Redefining the role of the first lady, she advocated for human and women's rights, held press conferences and penned her own column. After leaving the White House in 1945, Eleanor became chair of the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission. As her husband achieved success in politics, Eleanor found her own voice in public service, working for the American Red Cross during World War I. She also exerted herself more prominently after Franklin suffered a polio attack in 1921 that essentially left him in need of physical assistance for the rest of his life. When Franklin took office as president in 1933, Eleanor dramatically changed the role of the first lady. Not content to stay in the background and handle domestic matters, she gave press conferences and spoke out for human rights, children's causes and women's issues, working on behalf of the League of Women Voters.
Oprah Winfrey is a talk show host, media executive, actress and billionaire philanthropist. She’s best known for being the host of her own, wildly popular program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons, from 1986 to 2011. In 2011, Winfrey launched her own TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Winfrey contributed immensely to the publishing world by launching her "Oprah's Book Club," as part of her talk show. The program propelled many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure reading a new kind of popular prominence. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In September 2002, Winfrey was named the first recipient of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. Winfrey is a dedicated activist for children's rights; in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill into law that Winfrey had proposed to Congress, creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers. She also founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and also contributes to her alma mater, Tennessee State University. In November 2013, Winfrey received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama gave her this award for her contributions to her country.
Sacagawea, the daughter of a Shoshone chief, was captured by an enemy tribe and sold to a French Canadian trapper who made her his wife around age 12. In November 1804, she was invited to join the Lewis and Clark expedition as a Shoshone interpreter. Often called the Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition planned to explore newly acquired western lands and find a route to the Pacific Ocean. The group built Fort Mandan, and elected to stay there for the winter. Even though she was pregnant with her first child, Sacagawea was chosen to accompany them on their mission.She gave birth to her child during the mission. Despite traveling with a newborn child during the trek, Sacagawea proved to be helpful in many ways. When a boat she was riding on capsized, she was able to save some of its cargo, including important documents and supplies. She also served as a symbol of peace. Sacagawea also made a miraculous discovery of her own during the trip west. When the corps encountered a group of Shoshone Indians, she soon realized that its leader was actually her brother Cameahwait. It was through her that the expedition was able to buy horses from the Shoshone to cross the Rocky Mountains. Despite this joyous family reunion, Sacagawea remained with the explorers for the trip west.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/explorer/sacagawea
While representing Hawaii for nearly 20 years in Congress, Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink has made great strides toward peace, women's rights, civil rights, equality and justice. On January 3, 1965, Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first Japanese American woman and the first woman of color to be elected to the United States Congress. Breaking new ground for women and ethnic groups, though, was nothing new for her. The road to Congress was paved with many firsts such as being elected the first female class president in her high school and being the first Japanese American woman to practice law in Hawaii. Mink's dedication to helping others has resulted in legislative reforms in health care, education, women's rights, civil rights, conservation, employment and environmental affairs. Mink worked for the rights of Native Hawaiians and others of Asian descent. In February of 1997, she introduced a bill that would speed up the naturalization process by eliminating literacy and civics tests for certain categories of legal immigrants. Mink was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus which she has chaired since 1995. As chairperson, she has placed health, immigration, and affirmative action legislation among the agenda items of the caucus.
Amelia Earhart, fondly known as "Lady Lindy," was an American aviator who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe from the equator. Earhart was the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license. She had several notable flights, including becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, as well as the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. Earhart's public persona presented a gracious and somewhat shy woman who displayed remarkable talent and bravery. Yet deep inside, Earhart harbored a burning desire to distinguish herself as different from the rest of the world. She was an intelligent and competent pilot who never panicked or lost her nerve, but she was not a brilliant aviator. Her skills kept pace with aviation during the first decade of the century but, as technology moved forward with sophisticated radio and navigation equipment, Earhart continued to fly by instinct. She recognized her limitations and continuously worked to improve her skills, but the constant promotion and touring never gave her the time she needed to catch up. Recognizing the power of her celebrity, she strove to be an example of courage, intelligence and self-reliance. She hoped her influence would help topple negative stereotypes about women and open doors for them in every field.
Billie Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday had a thriving career as a jazz singer for many years before she lost her battle with substance abuse. Also known as Lady Day, her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues. In 2000, Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Striking out on her own, Holiday performed at New York's Café Society. She developed some of her trademark stage persona there — wearing gardenias in her hair and singing with her head tilted back.
During this engagement, Holiday also debuted two of her most famous songs, "God Bless the Child" and "Strange Fruit." Columbia, her record company at the time, was not interested in "Strange Fruit," which was a powerful story about the lynching of African Americans in the South. Holiday recorded the song with the Commodore label instead. "Strange Fruit" is considered to be one of her signature ballads, and the controversy that surrounded it — some radio stations banned the record — helped make it a hit. Considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday has been an influence on many other performers who have followed in her footsteps.
Lillian Wald fought for public health care, women’s rights, and children’s rights. While organizing classes and providing nursing on the Lower East Side, she witnessed first-hand the hardship and deprivation experienced by poor immigrant families living in the neighborhood. In 1893, Wald coined the term “public health nurse” to describe those who worked outside hospitals in mostly poor and middle-class communities. With the help of donors and friend Mary Brewster, she also started the Visiting Nursing Service of New York to bring affordable and decent health care to the neighborhood. In 1894, Wald and Brewster started the Henry Street Settlement House, an organization dedicated to providing social services and instruction in various subjects for the Lower East Side community. As part of her work with the Settlement, Wald established one of the earliest playgrounds and helped pay the salary for the first public school nurses in NYC. Wald was a tireless advocate for the rights of women, children, immigrants, and laborers. She helped start the United States Children’s Bureau, the National Child Labor Committee, and the National Women’s Trade Union League. She supported and worked for a women’s right to birth control and was a part of the women’s suffrage movement. She became the Chairman of the Committee on Community Nursing of the American Red Cross once World War I was inevitable. After WWI, she chaired the Red Cross’s campaign to end the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and represented the U.S. at International Red Cross Meetings. In 1922, the New York Times named Wald one of the 12 greatest living American women. She later received the Lincoln Medallion for her work as an “Outstanding Citizen of New York.”
Josephine Baker spent her youth in poverty before learning to dance and finding success on Broadway. In the 1920s she moved to France and soon became one of Europe's most popular and highest-paid performers. In 1936, Baker returned to the United States to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies, hoping to establish herself as a performer in her home country as well. However, she was met with a generally hostile, racist reaction and quickly returned to France, crestfallen at her mistreatment. When World War II erupted, Baker worked for the Red Cross during the occupation of France. As a member of the Free French forces, she also entertained troops in both Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, however, Baker did work for the French Resistance, at times smuggling messages hidden in her sheet music and even in her underwear. For these efforts, at the war’s end, Baker was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance, two of France’s highest military honors. During the 1950s, Baker frequently returned to the United States to lend her support to the Civil Rights Movement, participating in demonstrations and boycotting segregated clubs and concert venues. In 1963, Baker participated, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., in the March on Washington, and was among the many notable speakers that day. In honor of her efforts, the NAACP eventually named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.” After decades of rejection by her countrymen and a lifetime spent dealing with racism, in 1973, Baker performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and was greeted with a standing ovation. She was so moved by her reception that she wept openly before her audience. The show was a huge success and marked Baker’s comeback to the stage. In April 1975, Baker performed at the Bobino Theater in Paris, in the first of a series of performances celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut. Just days later, on April 12, 1975, Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 68. On the day of her funeral, more than 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to witness the procession, and the French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Baker the first American woman in history to receive French military honors.
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican American poet, author and essayist. Born on March 27, 1950, in New York City, Julia Alvarez was raised in the Dominican Republic, but had to leave the country when she was 10 years old; her family had supported an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo, and then fled to Brooklyn, New York. Struggling at first to adapt to her new home, Alvarez graduated from Middlebury College in 1971, and went on to earn a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1975. The theme of being caught between two cultures can be found throughout Alvarez's poetry and fiction work. She explored this cultural divide in her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, published in 1991, which garnered critical and commercial success. Her reading audience continued to grow with her second novel, In the Time of Butterflies, published in 1994. Several more works of fiction have followed, including Saving the World (2006), earning Alvarez more praise and fans worldwide. A versatile artist, Alvarez has created books for children, including The Secret Footprints (2000) and Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay (2001) and a novel for young adults, Before We Were Free (2002). She also writes essays and poetry. Her latest volume of poetry, The Woman I Kept to Myself, was published in 2004. In recent years, she has served as a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/writer/julia-alvarez
The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia killed seven astronauts. One of those, Kalpana Chawla, was the first Indian-born woman in space. Chawla obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College before immigrating to the United States. She began working at NASA's Ames Research Center in 1988, working on power-lift computational fluid dynamics. In 1994, Chawla was selected as an astronaut candidate. After a year of training, she became a crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches, where she worked with Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and tested software for the space shuttles. Chawla's first opportunity to fly in space came in November 1997, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87. The shuttle made 252 orbits of the Earth in just over two weeks. In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second voyage into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times, and finally launched in 2003. Over the course of the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments. On the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle returned to Earth, intending to land at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle broke up over Texas and Louisiana before plunging into the ground. The entire crew of seven was killed. Over the course of her two missions, Chawla logged 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space. The University of Texas dedicated a Kalpana Chawla memorial at the Arlington College of Engineering in 2010. At the time of its opening, the display included a flight suit, photographs, information about Chawla's life, and a flag that was flown over the Johnson Space Center during a memorial for the Columbia astronauts.
While attending NIU, Tammy Duckworth enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps with the Illinois Army National Guard. Trained as a Blackhawk pilot, in 2004 Duckworth was deployed to serve in the Iraq War and lost both of her legs when her helicopter was struck. The explosion also robbed her of full function in her right arm. While believing in the worthiness of her mission she did express frustration that U.S. policymakers were failing to match the sacrifices of American soldiers. Following her injuries, Duckworth was promoted to major and awarded the Purple Heart. During her year's recovery time, she became an activist, advocating for better medical care for wounded veterans and their families. Her activism led her to pursue a political career after her recovery. Duckworth became director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs in 2006, and three years later President Barack Obama appointed her assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In her new role, Duckworth focused largely on putting a stop to the cycle of homeless veterans. She also developed resources especially tailored to the unique needs of female veterans. In 2012, she was elected to Congress, representing Illinois’ 8th District. Four years later, she was elected a U.S. senator, thereby becoming the first disabled woman and the second Asian American woman in the Senate. In April 2018, Duckworth became the first female senator to give birth while holding office. A few weeks after giving birth, the senator penned an op-ed piece in which she pushed for expanded benefits for parental leave.
Maya Angelou was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist. Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009. Angelou published several collections of poetry, but her most famous was 1971’s collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. One of her most famous works was On the Pulse of Morning. Angelou wrote this poem especially for and recited at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony in January 1993. The occasion marked the first inaugural recitation since 1961 when Robert Frost delivered his poem "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Angelou went on to win a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem. Friend and fellow writer James Baldwin urged Angelou to write about her life experiences. The resulting work was the enormously successful 1969 memoir about her childhood and young adult years, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
The poignant story made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. The book, which made Angelou an international star, continues to be regarded as her most popular autobiographical work. In 1995, Angelou was lauded for remaining on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction bestseller list for two years—the longest-running record in the chart's history. After publishing Caged Bird, Angelou broke new ground artistically, educationally and socially with her drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972, which made her the first African American woman to have her screenplay produced. In 1998, seeking new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut with Down in the Delta.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/writer/maya-angelou
Geraldine A. Ferraro worked as an assistant district attorney before being elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978. Ferraro was the first woman to chair her party's 1984 platform committee and the first female vice presidential nominee, running with Walter Mondale. She later worked for the United Nations and with Hillary Clinton. In 1974, Ferraro began her career in public service, becoming an assistant district attorney in Queens County. One of her most notable contributions to the district attorney’s office was creating the special victims bureau, which prosecuted a variety of cases involving crimes against children and the elderly as well as sexual offenses and domestic abuse. Ferraro made her first bid for office in 1978, seeking election to the House of Representatives for New York City’s ninth district. Ferraro won the election and proved to be a Democrat on the rise. During her three terms in office, Ferraro fought for women’s rights, urging the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. As one of the few women in Congress at the time, she became a powerful symbol to the feminist movement. In her second term, she was chosen to be the secretary of the Democratic Caucus, which meant that she had a role in planning the party’s future direction and policies. In January 1984, Ferraro became the chair of the Democratic Party Platform Committee for its national convention. Later that year, Ferraro was picked as the running mate for Walter Mondale, the 1984 Democratic presidential candidate. Ferraro became the first woman to receive the vice presidential nomination from either of the country's two major parties. After Mondale and Ferraro lost the election, she finished the remainder of her term in the House, leaving office in 1985. She wrote a campaign memoir soon after, Ferraro, My Story (1985). In her later years, Ferraro remained active in politics. She served as an alternate delegate to the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 and was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission by President Bill Clinton in 1994. She also co-hosted CNN's political talk show Crossfire from 1996 to 1998.
Israeli politician Golda Meir was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but she and her family had to move to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to flee the 1905 Kiev pogrom where mobs killed over 100 Jews. She moved to Jerusalem in 1924, and served as a delegate to the World Zionist Organization. Before World War II, much of the Middle East was under the control of France and Great Britain. British officials made promises to establish a Jewish homeland, but the British White Paper of 1939 only called for a Jewish homeland, not a Jewish state and it allowed Arab officials to determine the rate of Jewish immigration. Meir fought against the policy, pleading that increased Jewish immigration was crucial in light of the persecution by the German Nazi regime. In 1948, Israel declared its independence and Meir was one of the signers of Israel’s declaration. Meir served as minister of labor and worked to solve Israel’s housing and employment problems by implementing major residential and infrastructure construction projects. In 1956, she was appointed foreign minister and helped establish relations with emerging African countries and strengthened ties with the United States and Latin America. In 1966, members of the Mapai political party encouraged her to serve as the party’s secretary general. Over the next two years, she helped merge her party and two dissident political parties into the Israel Labor Party. Following the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1969, she agreed to serve out the remainder of his term. That same year, her party won the elections, giving her a four-year term as prime minister. During her tenure, she opened peace talks with the United Arab Republic in hopes of ending hostilities. During the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, Meir straddled the line between radicals who wanted to settle the captured territory of the 1967 war and proposals by moderates who favored giving up land claims in exchange for peace. The debate ended with the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, known as the Yom Kippur War. Israel was victorious and had gained more Arab land. Meir formed a new coalition government but resigned in 1974. Though she remained an important political figure, Meir retired for good and published her autobiography, My Life, in 1975.
Constance Baker Motley was an American lawyer and jurist, an effective legal advocate in the civil rights movement and the first African American woman to become a federal judge. Her interest in civil rights led her to join the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) after she was denied admission to a public beach and skating rink. She graduated from New York University in 1943 and earned a law degree from Columbia University. Even before completing law school, she joined the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP, where she worked with Thurgood Marshall. Over the 20-year period during which she served as a staff member and associate counsel, she won nine civil rights victories in cases she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, including James H. Meredith’s right to be admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962. From 1964 to 1965 Motley served a full term in New York state’s Senate, and in 1965 she became the first woman to serve as a city borough president. While working in that capacity, Motley developed a plan to revitalize the inner city and to improve housing and inner-city schools. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, making Motley the first black woman to be appointed to a federal judgeship. Although opposed by southern conservatives in the Senate, she was eventually confirmed and later became chief judge in 1982 and senior judge in 1986, serving in the latter post until her death. In addition to numerous awards and honorary degrees recognizing her contributions to civil rights and the legal profession, Motley was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Her autobiography, Equal Justice Under Law, was published in 1998.
Twyla Tharp is a popular American dancer, director, and choreographer who was known for her innovative and often humorous work. In 1963, shortly before graduating from Barnard, she joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company, where she soon established herself as a dancer of considerable talent and imagination. In 1965 she formed her own troupe. Tharp’s first publicly performed piece of choreography, Tank Dive, was presented in 1965 at Hunter College. Over the next several years she choreographed numerous pieces, many of which employed street clothes, a bare stage, and no music. With her offbeat, technically precise explorations of various kinds and combinations of movements, she built a small but devoted following. In 1971 Tharp adopted jazz music and began creating dances that appealed to larger audiences. Her choreography retained its technical brilliance, often overlaid with an air of nonchalance, while its touches of flippant humour became more marked. In 2015 Tharp launched a major 50th-anniversary tour, which included two new works, Preludes and Fugues and Yowzie, a rollicking and humorous performance set to a jazz score. She later premiered A Gathering of Ghosts, a work for ABT set to Johannes Brahms’s second string quintet, in 2019. Tharp was named a MacArthur fellow in 1992 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2004 by U.S. Pres. George W. Bush. In 2008 she was the recipient of the Jerome Robbins Prize for excellence in dance and was a Kennedy Center honoree. Tharp also published several books, including Push Comes to Shove (1992), an autobiography; The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (2003), part self-help book and part memoir; The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together (2013); and Keep It Moving (2019).
Learn more: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Twyla-Tharp
At age 21, Maya Lin would become an artist to watch when her design took first prize in the nationwide competition to design a monument to be erected in honor of soldiers who had served and died in the Vietnam War. The design she submitted was in sharp contrast to traditional war memorials: It was a polished, V-shaped granite wall, with each side measuring 247 feet, simply inscribed with the names of the more than 58,000 soldiers killed or missing in action, listed in order of death or disappearance. This made the work controversial. As soon as the winning design was unveiled, a group of Vietnam veterans loudly objected to virtually all of its key traits. Three realistic figures of soldiers, along with an American flag mounted atop a 60-foot pole, were placed near the monument — close enough to be a part of it but far enough away to preserve Lin’s artistic vision. After what proved to be a draining experience for Lin, the monument was dedicated and opened to the public on November 11, 1982, Veterans Day. It has since become a massive, and emotional, draw for tourists, with more than 10,000 people per day viewing the work. It has been noted that its polished surface reflects the viewer’s image, making each visitor one with the monument. For its lasting power, the American Institute of Architects granted the monument its 25-Year Award in 2007. In 1988, Lin signed on to design a monument to the civil rights movement. The monument consisted of just two elements: a curved black granite wall inscribed with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a 12-foot disk inscribed with the dates of major civil rights-era events and the names of 40 martyrs to the cause. The memorial was dedicated in Montgomery, Alabama, in November 1989. Lin was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009 and in 2016, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/artist/maya-lin
On June 26, 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history when she thoroughly defeated 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley, the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House, in New York's 14th congressional district in the state's Democratic primary. On November 6, less than a month after her 29th birthday, she emerged victorious in the general election to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. It was her first time running for office, and as a Democratic Socialist of Puerto Rican descent, her stunning triumph was a boon to the progressive hopes of her liberal supporters. Ocasio-Cortez was the first opponent in the Democratic party to challenge Crowley's seat in 14 years. She went on to dispatch her Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas, to become the youngest female ever elected to Congress. As an active member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Ocasio-Cortez ran on a progressive platform — abolishing ICE, criminal justice reform, tuition-free college and universal healthcare. Despite drawing a disproportionate share of ire from foes across the aisle, she hasn't shied away from speaking out on issues important to her. That included her strong feelings after Alabama passed a state law in May 2019 that effectively outlawed abortion. After voting against a $4.6 billion emergency border aid bill, on the grounds that funding could be used to detain migrant children and conduct deportations, Ocasio-Cortez was among a group of Democratic lawmakers who visited two Texas border facilities in early July 2019. She later recounted the horrific conditions of one facility and claimed she did not feel safe with the Border Patrol agents supervising her tour. She was re-elected to the House for a second term on November 3, 2020, beating Republican John C. Cummings. Her re-election also keeps "The Squad" of congresswomen, consisting of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, intact.
Wilma Pearl Mankiller was a descendant of the Cherokee Indians, the Native Americans who were forced to leave their homelands in the 1830s. Always passionate about helping her people, she returned to her native state of Oklahoma in the mid-1970s, and began working for the government of the Cherokee Indian Nation as a tribal planner and program developer. Mankiller ran for deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1983 and won, subsequently serving in that position for two years. Then, in 1985, she was named the tribe's principal chief, making history as the first woman to serve as principal chief of the Cherokee people. She remained on the job for two full terms thereafter, winning elections in 1987 and 1991. A popular leader, Mankiller focused on improving the nation's government, and health-care and education systems. Due to ill health, she decided not to seek re-election in 1995. For more than two decades, Mankiller led her people through difficult times. After leaving office, she continued her activism on behalf of Native Americans and women. Mankiller shared her experiences as a pioneer in tribal government in her 1993 autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People. She also wrote and compiled Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women (2004), featuring a forward by leading feminist Gloria Steinem. For her leadership and activism, Mankiller received numerous honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.