To celebrate Black History month, let’s take a look at a few black women leaders you might not have heard of before. They’re from different walks of life and different professions but share some amazing accomplishments.
Mary Mahoney, first black nurse – Hers is a story of breaking through barriers. Born in 1845, Mary knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nurse. It didn’t affect her at all that there were no black nurses at the time. After going through school, she began working private care in people’s homes. She was known for being one of the most skilled and prepared nurses around. In a time when some people wouldn’t even accept a black nurse into their home, Mary became so popular that people would request her for private duty. She helped pave the way for others, changing the views on minority nurses. She also formed the Association of Colored Graduate Nurses because the American Nurses Association didn’t accept some minorities. After her retirement she continued breaking barriers, working for women’s voting rights. She was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote.
Bessie Coleman, first black woman pilot – Talk about being self-driven! Born in 1892, Bessie had to walk 4 miles to and from school (each way) from the age of 6. Determined to make something of herself, she completed all of her schooling, began saving her money as a young child and enrolled herself in college until her money ran out. Eventually working as a manicurist in Chicago, she would hear stories about WWI pilots and became intrigued. She wanted to become a pilot, but no American flight school would admit black women. Did that stop her? Nope. She found money from supporters and went to Paris to earn her pilot’s license. She returned to the United States and worked as a stunt flier in the 1920’s, as commercial airlines were still non-existent then. Sadly, she died in a plane crash at the young age of 34. It would have been amazing to see her fly back then!
Shirley Chisholm, first black woman in congress – We now have a black president and this year could be the first time a woman is nominated by a major political party for president. But before both Obama and Clinton, there was Shirley. She was a teacher early in her career and eventually ran her own day care center. As a businesswoman and educator, she became interested in politics and the laws that would affect her students and their families. She led committees that improved the lives of those in her community: helped domestic workers gain the same rights other workers had but were denied to them, helped disadvantaged children to enter college, fed the poor and hungry (especially children), and improved education. She became the first black person in a major political party to run for president in 1972. After she retired from politics in 1982, she continued to work in education, teaching and speaking at universities to inspire women and minorities to have a voice in the world.
Mae Jemison, first black woman in space – Mae’s many accomplishments are almost overwhelming. She has done so much in her life and continues to do so today. Take a look at this WOW woman:
A nurse, a stunt pilot, an educator-turned-politician, an astronaut and modern ‘renaissance woman’… leadership can take many forms and inspire all different kinds of people. What form will it take in your life?