Women’s History Month: 10 Women Who Made History

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Jackie Ormes: Jackie Ormes was the first African-American woman to work as a professional newspaper cartoonist, and become well-known for series that included ‘Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem’ and ‘Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger

Zora Neale Hurston: Though she went largely unappreciated by her writing peers, Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist, novelist and fixture of the Harlem Renaissance before writing her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston incorporate themes of racial heritage and folklore in her work.

 

Faith Ringgold: Faith Ringgold is an American artist and author who became famous for innovative, quilted narrations like Tar Beach, that communicate her political beliefs.

Septima Poinsette Clark: Septima Poinsette Clark was a teacher and civil rights activist whose citizenship schools helped enfranchise and empower African-Americans.

Anna Arnold Hedgeman: Political activist and educator Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the first African American woman to serve on the cabinet of a New York mayor when she worked during the term of New York City Mayor Robert Wagner from 1957-1958. Her career spanned more than six decades as an advocate for civil rights. In 1963 she helped A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin plan the March on Washington and was the only woman among the key event organizers.

“Stagecoach” Mary Fields: Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States and the second woman to work for the United States Postal Service.

Audre Lorde: Audre Lorde was an American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. Lorde’s poems often expressed anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of Black female identity. Lorde coined the term “womanist” to contrast her Black lesbian activism with that of the “feminist,” an identity she saw dominated by white, heterosexual women. In reference to white feminists in the United States, Lorde also famously said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Yuri Kochiyama: Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese-American human rights activist who became closely acquainted with Malcolm X. She was also a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was, reportedly, present at his assassination on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying. Over the years, Kochiyama had dedicated herself to various causes, such as the rights of political prisoners, working on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, nuclear disarmament, and reparations for the Internment of Japanese-Americans. In 2005, Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.

Comandanta Ramona: Comandanta Ramona was an influential member of the Zapatista Army or Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. Dubbed “The Petite Warrior,” she led the Zapatistas’ initial uprising against the Mexican government, leading to the Zapatista rebellion and the revolution of indigenous women’s rights throughout Mexico. Comandante Ramona influenced the early decisions and actions of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN), a group of indigenous peoples in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico who continue to struggle against government exploitation and marginalization.

Marsha P. Johnson: Marsha P. Johnson was a transwoman and activist who became an important face to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in New York City. Johnson has been identified as one of the first to fight back in the clashes with the police amid the Stonewall riots. In the early 1970s, Johnson and close friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR); together they were a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organizer and marshal with ACT UP.


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