Multicultural Initiatives Women's History Month
Women's History Month "Little Known Facts"
- This granddaughter of a former slave gained early success designing African-styled dresses for celebrities before embracing cooking. She authored three popular cookbooks that many say revived the lost art of refined southern cuisine.
- The talented chef worked in a variety of restaurants, helping to revamp menus with her signature, award-winning soufflés.
- Learn more about Edna Lewis.
- Born in Jamestown, New York, Ball got her start as a singer, model and film star before becoming one of America's top comedic actresses with the 1950s TV show I Love Lucy, co-starring with her husband, Desi Arnaz.
- After divorcing Arnaz, Ball took over Desilu Productions, became a top TV executive and went on to star in The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. She was the first woman to run a major television production studio.
- Learn more about Lucille Ball.
- A product of Chicago public schools, Michelle Robinson studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University. After graduating from Harvard Law School, she joined the law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met Barack Obama.
- As the First Lady of our nation’s 44th president, she supports and inspires young people through programs, such as Let’s Move, Joining Forces, Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn.
- Learn more about First Lady Michelle Obama.
- Louisiana-born DeGeneres hit it big as a stand-up comedian before starring on her own sitcom, Ellen.
- In 1997, she came out as gay, and became a staunch advocate of LGBT rights.
- She has been hosting her award-winning talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003, and is married to actress Portia de Rossi.
- Learn more about Ellen DeGeneres.
Jackie "Moms" Mabley
- Born Loretta Mary Aiken, Mabley was one of the first, most successful women to work in comedy, becoming the highest-paid comedian during her heyday.
- Known for her signature housedress and floppy hat, she was the first comedian to incorporate lesbian routines into her act.
- A veteran of the the Chitlin’ Circuit, an African-American vaudeville tradition, she overcame a tragic childhood to become one of the most beloved comedians of her generation, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
- Learn more about Jackie "Moms" Mabley.
- Pantoja was an educator and activist dedicated to the improvement of Latino communities through education.
- Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she spent much of her life living and working in New York City.
- In 1957, after receiving her master’s degree from Columbia University, she founded the Puerto Rican Forum (originally called the Hispanic American Youth Association or HAYA), which helped promote economic equality.
- Learn more about Antonia Pantoja.
- In January 2016, Johnson became the first black woman to open a comic bookstore on the East Coast, Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse.
- The store not only features the top companies’ comics from Marvel and DC, it also offers a growing number of the nation’s independent comic book lines.
- Johnson envisions Amalgam as a place where everyone feels welcomed and has put in place a staff that will help guide the less experienced on their comic journey.
- Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe-enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the Native American White Earth Reservations.
- She is the executive director of Honor the Earth, working as a national advocate to raise public support and create funding for the survival of sustainable Native American environmental groups.
- In 1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth.
- Learn more about Winona LaDuke.
- Huerta has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination.
- To further her cause, she created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960 and co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers (UFW).
- Huerta stepped down from the UFW in 1999, but she continues to her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women.
- Learn more about Dolores Huerta.
- Siebert is the first female member of the New York Stock Exchange and a well-known brokerage founder and executive. She was known across Wall Street as "Mickie."
- An outspoken advocate for financial literacy and for women's advancement on Wall Street, she often did that both through encouraging others and bucking a system intent on keeping her at the margins.
- "I had a dream of earning the same pay as my male colleagues. So I asked a friend what large firm would pay me equally and he said that the only way it would happen was if I bought my own seat on the New York Stock Exchange," Siebert recalled in her autobiography Changing the Rules.
- Learn more about Muriel Siebert.
- Born on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison is a Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor and professor.
- Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue and richly detailed black characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved.
- Morrison has won nearly every book prize possible. She has also been awarded honorary degrees.
- Learn more about Toni Morrison.
Joan Ganz Cooney
- Cooney first created TV programming as a documentary producer for public television in 1962.
- She began to think about television as a teaching medium. To this end, she founded the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) in 1968. CTW’s first show was Sesame Street.
- Next came The Electric Company in 1971. In 1989, she received an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
- Learn more about Joan Ganz Cooney.
- Caoile is a recognized civic leader. She was a founding member of two national groups: the Asian Pacific American Women Leadership Institute (APAWLI) and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
- In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the White House Advisory Commission of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is known for her work at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a $1.3 million-member union.
- She was the executive assistant to the AFSCME president when she retired after 30 years of service. Currently, she is involved with the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, based in the capital, Feed the Hungry and APIAVote.
- Learn more about Gloria Caoile.
Charlotte E. Ray
- Born in New York City on January 13, 1850, Ray graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar that same year, becoming the first female African-American lawyer in the United States.
- Active in the suffrage movement, Ray was a member the National Association of Colored Women. She died in 1911.
- Learn more about Charlotte E. Ray.
- Sotomayor was born June 25, 1954, in the Bronx borough of New York City. Her desire to be a judge was first inspired by the TV show, Perry Mason.
- She graduated from Yale Law School and passed the bar in 1980. She became a U.S. District Court Judge in 1992, and was elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.
- In 2009, she became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.
- Learn more about Sonia Sotomayor.
- Longoria was a beauty pageant contestant in her youth who received her first break in show business with a regular role on The Young and the Restlessfrom 2001 to 2003.
- In 2012, Longoria was chosen to co-chair President Barack Obama's re-election. Having a keen interest in immigration and encouraging Latinos in politics, she has spoken out against strict anti-immigration legislation and in 2014, founded the Latino Victory Project to help encourage voting and donations for candidates.
- Longoria is also known for her support for the Coalition of Imokalee Workers and has produced the worker-based agricultural documentaries, The Harvestand Food Chains.
- Learn more about Eva Longoria.
- Cho is a Korean-American comic best known for her candid comedy, TV roles and advocacy.
- Her activism isn't new: She's been at the forefront of gay rights, anti-bullying and anti-racism campaigns for years and her efforts have been honored by organizations, such as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the American Women in Radio and Television, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
- Learn more about Margaret Cho.
- Journalist, news program host and member of the Hopi Nation tribe, Talahongva is vice president of the Native American Journalists Association. She is the first Native American to host a national news program.
- She has produced TV newscasts, documentaries and special projects for television, additionally, she writes for various national newspapers and magazines and contributes to the national radio talk show, Native America Calling.
- Learn more about Patty Talahongva.
- Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot's license.
- Because flying schools in the United States denied her entry, she taught herself French and moved to France, earning her license from the well-known Caudron Brother's School of Aviation in just seven months.
- Coleman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, earning a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. She remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.
- Learn more about Bessie Coleman.
- Angela Davis, born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, became a master scholar who studied at the Sorbonne.
- She joined the U.S. Communist Party and was jailed for charges related to a prison outbreak, though ultimately cleared.
- Known as the author of Women, Race & Class, she worked as a professor and activist of gender equity, prison reform and alliances across color lines.
- Learn more about Angela Davis.
- Born in Los Angeles, California, on January 25, 1938, Etta James was a gospel prodigy. In 1954, she moved to Los Angeles to record The Wallflower.
- Her career had begun to soar by 1960, due in no small part to songs like I'd Rather Go Blind" and At Last. Despite her continued drug problems, she earned a Grammy Award nomination for her 1973 album.
- In 2006, she released the album All the Way. James died in Riverside, California, on January 20, 2012, and continues to be considered as one of the most dynamic singers in music.
- Learn more about Etta James.
Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez
- The Lipan Apache human rights defender and the only Native American woman and individual to counter-sue the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Customs Border Patrol against the construction of the U.S. border wall.
- To this day, she staunchly defends Aboriginal Title of Lipan Apaches and challenges the United States’ claims to sovereignty in Indigenous lands and over Indigenous Nations in the U.S. courts and in the Inter-American Commission/Organization of American States.
- Learn more about Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez.
- Staceyann Chin is a spoken-word poet and performance artist dedicated to LGBT rights. She was a writer and performer in the Tony-nominated Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.
- She has appeared in one-woman Off-Broadway shows and at the famed Nuyorican Poets Café. Her work has been featured in more than 21 publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
- Born in Jamaica, Chin is of Chinese- and African-Jamaican descent, a subject she often writes about. She appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Showto discuss what it was like growing up gay in Jamaica.
- Learn more about Staceyann Chin.