Women of Influence

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    Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama was born on January 17, 1964, and is well-known as being the First Lady from 2009 to 2017. She is the wife of former President Barack Obama and was actually the first of African American descent to serve in that position.

    Mrs. Obama was raised in Chicago and graduated from Harvard Law School and Princeton University. It was while working at Sidley Austin that she met Barack. Likewise, she worked in various nonprofits before her husband became the President of the US.

    Michelle has been part of her husband’s political career and has been in the public image for a long time. This led her to create new initiatives for children and parents throughout the nation. Though people speculated, she chose not to run for presidency herself.

    Let’s Move is her addition to the White House, which focused on purchasing organic food. This shifted to the public, hoping to upend childhood obesity. Overall, she claims that this will be her legacy.

    Kamala Harris

    Kamala Harris was born on October 20, 1964, and is currently the Vice President of the US. This American-born attorney and politician is the highest-ranking woman official in history, but she’s also the first Asian and African American to become vice president.

    Before becoming part of the Democratic Party, she was the attorney general in California (2011 to 2017) and has also served as a senator for California (2017 to 2021).

    Harris was born in Oakland, California, graduating from Hastings College of Law and Howard University. She started her career in the district attorney’s office in Alameda County before she moved to the San Francisco district.

    Though Kamala sought a presidential nomination in 2020, she withdrew from the race. Joe Biden chose her as his running mate, and they won, moving to the White House in 2021. This woman devotes her time to helping law enforcement and focuses on environmental protection.

    Zora Neale Hurston

    Zora was born on January 7, 1891, and passed away in 1960. The filmmaker, anthropologist, and American author was also an African American who pushed the boundaries in every way. She focused on the racial struggles of the American South, publishing her research on hoodoo.

    Born in Alabama, Hurston moved to Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. Later, she used the area for most of her stories. While attending Columbia University and Barnard College, she conducted research for her books.

    Primarily, Zora chose to write fictional works about the issues the Black community faced and became an important figure for the Harlem Renaissance. The short satires drew from racial division and African American experiences and are now part of anthologies, such as “Fire” and “The New Negro.”

    Some of her most prominent works include Mules and Men, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Jonah’s Gourd Vine. Zora suffered from a stroke in her older age, dying of heart disease in 1960.

    Belle Kearney

    Belle (Carrie) Kearney was born in March of 1863 and died in 1939. She was the first woman ever to be elected to the State Senate in Mississippi. However, she was also a white supremacist, teacher, suffragist, and temperance reformer.

    This woman was born in Flora, Mississippi, on her family’s plantation. Walter Kearney, her father, owned slaves and suffered huge financial losses after America’s Civil War.

    Belle attended the Canton Young Ladies’ Academy, though she had to leave because her family couldn’t afford tuition. Therefore, she became self-educated, opening a private school in the plantation’s spare bedroom. Her goal was to teach in the public system.

    Kearney was part of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and part of the suffrage movement. In fact, she was a lobbyist and speaker for the American Woman Suffrage Association. This allowed her to travel across Europe, Canada, and the US. She had no children and died at a friend’s home from cancer.

    Mary McLeod Bethune

    Mary McLeod Bethune was born in 1875 and died in 1955. She became an important Black educator and fought for women’s and civil rights in the 20th century.

    In fact, she founded a college that set the standard for today’s educational system. Likewise, she was an advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was president, giving African Americans everywhere an advocate within the government.

    Bethune was the last of 17 children. Her mother worked for their owner after the Civil War, but the family finally bought the land where they grew cotton. At 9 years old, she picked about 250 pounds of cotton daily.

    She attended two schools, became a teacher, married, and divorced by 1904. Throughout her years, she focused on gender and racial equality. In 2022, she was the first African American to get represented with a statue, which sits in the US Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.

    Coretta Scott King

    Coretta Scott King was born on April 27, 1927, and passed away in 2006. She was a civil rights leader, activist, and American author who married Martin Luther King, Jr. This woman was an advocate for equality and a leader in the 1960s civil rights movement.

    Scott met her husband in Boston while they attended graduate school. They quickly became active in the civil rights movement. She played a crucial role after her husband was assassinated in 1968, taking on the leadership personally and getting involved in the Women’s Movement.

    Overall, Coretta founded the King Center and fought to make his birthdate a national holiday. Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law, which caused her to broaden her scope. This led to opposing apartheid and advocating for LGBTQ rights.

    King suffered a stroke in 2005, which paralyzed her and left her unable to talk. She passed away from ovarian cancer complications and respiratory failure five months later.

    Eudora Welty

    Eudora Welty was born on April 13, 1909, and passed away in 2001. She was a photographer, novelist, and short-story writer who focused on the American South. Her educational background was varied, as she went to Central High School, the Mississippi State College (Women), and the University of Wisconsin.

    When she graduated, it was during the Great Depression, making it hard for her to find work. Then, her father passed away, and she chose to write for Commercial Appeal, a newspaper in Memphis. Likewise, she got a job with a local radio station. This helped her collect stories and take photographs for her books.

    Her most popular work is “Death of a Traveling Salesman,” but she also published stories in “The New Yorker” and “The Sewanee Review.”

    Welty continued writing and taking photographs, living in the Jackson, Florida, family house until she died in 2001 from natural causes. She received many awards and nominations throughout her lifetime.

    Rosa Parks

    Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born on February 4, 1919, and passed away in 2005. She was best known for what she did in the bus boycott in Montgomery. The rules in place said that

    conductors could assign seats and require Black riders to enter from the back. One time in 1943, the bus Parks entered forced her to exit, driving away without her.

    In 1955, Parks was tired from working and was waiting for a bus. When it came, she sat in the first row of seats at the back, which was reserved for Black people. She then noticed that the man was the same person as before, though this was many years later. As the bus filled with white people, he demanded that she stand up, and she wouldn’t. She was arrested by the local police.

    Her refusal to stand up caused a boycott of many in the Black community. They stopped using the buses for one day, choosing to walk or ride in Black-operated taxis.

    Rosa continued to fight for the rights of women and Black people everywhere. She passed away from natural causes in her Detroit apartment.

    Susan B. Anthony

    Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 in Massachusetts. Her father became an owner of a cotton mill, and her mother’s family was in the American Revolution and served in the state’s government. Therefore, she was inspired by the belief that everyone was equal in God’s eyes. This guided her through her life.

    After teaching for many years, Susan returned home, meeting Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, who were her father’s friends. In time, she became an activist for abolition, though it was improper for women to offer public speeches.

    She was part of the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848, starting the Suffrage movement. During her time there, she met a woman named Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and they fought for 50 years to get more rights for women.

    Anthony had a good strategy and the energy to organize. Therefore, she and Stanton created the American Equal Rights Association and started a newspaper to spread their ideas.

    Whenever Congress passed the amendments to give African American men the right to vote, the pair opposed the legislation, demanding that women have that same right. They continued fighting, though Susan died 14 years before women were allowed to vote in 1920.

    Lucy Stone

    Lucy Stone was a suffragist, abolitionist, and orator who became an advocate for women’s rights. She was born on August 13, 1818, and died in 1893. In fact, she was the first woman in Massachusetts to get a college degree and chose to use her birth name even after marriage.

    Her organizational activities for women’s rights saw tangible gains in the 19th century. She initiated the National Women’s Rights Convention and supported it each year, along with other regional and state-wide conventions. In fact, this woman spoke to various legislative bodies to promote the laws that would give rights to women.

    Stone wrote articles that focused on women’s rights, distributing speeches and publishing the ones she could find. She even founded Woman’s Journal, the weekly periodical at the time that became an influence to all.

    She couldn’t do this work alone and influenced Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Together, the three fought against the suffrage of women, which included clothing, divorce, and many other controversial topics at the time.

    Betty Friedan

    Betty Friedan was a writer, activist, and feminist born on February 4, 1921. She led the woman’s movement and has been credited with sparking American feminism’s second wave during the 20th century. In 1966, she co-founded and became the president for the National Organization for Women. This group focused on being equal with men.

    She stepped down from that role in 1970, organizing a strike for equality in August. This was on the 50th anniversary of the amendment allowing women to vote. It was highly successful and attracted more than 50,000 people.

    Friedan also supported the equal rights amendment to the US constitution, advocating for the amendment’s ratification in the states. This led her to start repealing abortion laws and bring abortion to the forefront of women’s rights.

    Betty continued to be active in advocacy and politics until the 1990s and authored six books. Though she saw backlash from homemakers and men, she never stopped fighting. On her 85th birthday, she passed away from congestive heart failure.

    Meta Description: There have been many women of influence throughout the decades, and it’s important to read about them and learn how they advocated in the past.

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