Black History Month Women Trailblazers

Black History Month: Celebrating Women Trailblazers.

This Black History Month we are featuring the stories and contributions of 10 African American Women Trailblazers who had to overcome not only gender inequality but also racial adversity. We are inspired by their choice to defy the status quo and by their spirit of perseverance, which helped them to break down barriers, shatter glass ceilings and become trailblazers for both women and people of color.

We hope that their life experiences and their contributions to both American and world history are told not only one month a year but are taught in schools, commemorated in books, reimagined in documentaries and films etc.

Learning about these incredible women trailblazers and their impact will help to influence the lives of young girls, women and society as a whole and their stories can be a source of inspiration and empowerment. 

It also presents an opportunity for everyone to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women of color. Which will help to eradicate negative stereotypes, be a catalyst for positive social change and create an environment for fostering racial and gender based equality.

Read on to discover the 10 African American Women Trailblazers whose lives will surely inspire you.

1. Phillis Wheatley
She was the first African American and third woman to publish a book of poems. The publication in London of her 'Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral' on September 1, 1773, brought her fame both in England and the American colonies. Figures such as George Washington praised her work.

Phillis Wheatley

2. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
She was the first African American woman to become a doctor of medicine in the United States after studying at the New England Female Medical College, in 1864. In addition to being a physician she was also a nurse and author.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

3. Charolotte E Ray
She was the first African American female lawyer and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872.She was also the first woman admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, and the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Her admission was used as a precedent by women in other states who sought admission to the bar.

Charolotte E Ray

4. Mary Elizabeth Mahoney
In 1879, Mahoney became the first African American to graduate from an American school of nursing. She was also the first African American woman to study and work as a professionally trained and licensed nurse in the United States.

Mary Elizabeth Mahoney

5. Bessie Coleman
She was an early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license not just in the US but in the world. She earned her pilot license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921. She was also the first black person to earn an international pilot's license.

Bessie Coleman

6. Maria P Williams
She was the first Black woman to produce, write, and act in her own movie titled 'The Flames of Wrath' in 1923. The former Kansas City teacher was also an activist, and detailed her leadership skills in the book she authored titled 'My Work and Public Sentiment'.

Maria P Williams

7. Jane Matilda Bolin
A pioneer in law, Jane Bolin was the first Black woman to attend Yale Law School and in 1939, she became the first Black female judge in the United States where she served for 10 years. One of her significant contributions throughout her career was working with private employers to hire people based on their skills, as opposed to discriminating against them because of their race.

Jane Matilda Bolin

8. Gwendolyn Brooks
She was the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for 'Annie Allen', and she served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, becoming the first Black woman to hold that position. She was also the poet laureate of the State of Illinois.

Gwendolyn Brooks

9. Mary Jackson
She was a mathematician and aerospace engineer, who started her career as a computer at the segregated West Area Computing division in 1951. After taking advanced engineering classes she became NASA's first African American female engineer in 1958. She worked at NASA for 34 years and during her tenure she helped to hire and promote female engineers and scientists. Her story was featured in the book and film 'Hidden Figures'.

Mary Jackson

10. Mae Carol Jemison 
She is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which she orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.

Mae Carol Jemison

Sources for this editorial include: 

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