Tag Archives: Women’s History

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Dauntless Fight for Black Americans’ Right to Vote

Like many African Americans living in the Jim Crow South, Fannie Lou Hamer was not aware she had voting rights. “I had never heard, until 1962, that black people could register and vote,” she once explained. The granddaughter of enslaved black people, Hamer was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1917. Continue reading Fannie Lou Hamer’s Dauntless Fight for Black Americans’ Right to Vote

Meet Elizabeth Freeman, the First Enslaved Woman to Sue for Her Freedom—and Win

In 1780, the proclamation “all men are born free and equal,” rang out from the central square in the small town of Sheffield in western Massachusetts. The line was from the state’s newly ratified constitution, read aloud for a proud public to hear. America’s war for independence was raging and, like the rest of the burgeoning country, the town was gripped by revolutionary fever. Continue reading Meet Elizabeth Freeman, the First Enslaved Woman to Sue for Her Freedom—and Win

Charlotte E. Ray’s Brief But Historic Career as the First U.S. Black Woman Attorney

Martha Gadley’s marriage was a nightmare. When her husband drank, he turned increasingly violent. One night, he used an ax to chop a hole in the floor and threatened to push her into the room below. He refused to bring her water when she was sick. When she left the house, he nailed up the entrance and put padlocks on the door. Continue reading Charlotte E. Ray’s Brief But Historic Career as the First U.S. Black Woman Attorney

The Multiple Truths in the Works of the Enslaved Poet Phillis Wheatley

I do not remember how old I was when my grandmother showed me Phillis Wheatley’s poetry. Ten, maybe 11? Young enough that my hands were open to everything she put in them—a crochet needle and thick hot pink yarn, a sewing needle, a gingham apron. Young enough that I obeyed, old enough to roll my eyes in secret when I didn’t want to listen. Continue reading The Multiple Truths in the Works of the Enslaved Poet Phillis Wheatley

Meet the Female Inventor Behind Mass-Market Paper Bags

It’s natural to think about the processes that produced the food in your daily sack lunch, but have you ever stopped to consider the manufacturing techniques behind the sack itself? The flat-bottomed brown paper bags we encounter constantly—in the lunch context, at grocery stores, in gift shops—are as unassuming as they are ubiquitous, but the story underlying them deserves recognition. At the center of it is a precocious young woman, born in Maine on the heels of the Industrial Revolution and raised in New Hampshire. Her name is Margaret Kni
Continue reading Meet the Female Inventor Behind Mass-Market Paper Bags

Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Military’s Only All-Black Female Band Battled the War Department and Won

An estimated crowd of 100,000 people clogged the intersections in Chicago’s central business district in May of 1945 for a war bond rally, one of several marking the War Department drive that week. Police had traffic stopped for blocks approaching the stage at State and Madison Streets, and reporters noted sales clerks and customers hanging out of store windows to catch a glimpse of any famous performers or war heroes who might arrive. Continue reading Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Military’s Only All-Black Female Band Battled the War Department and Won

U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection Will Get Its First State-Commissioned Statue of a Black American

The Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol includes two statues from each of the 50 states, depicting notable people in the states’ histories. Most of the collection, displayed in National Statuary Hall and throughout the Capitol, depict white men. Now, for the first time, a state-commissioned statue representing a black American will join their ranks. Continue reading U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection Will Get Its First State-Commissioned Statue of a Black American