Influential Women (Celebrating Women's History Month)

Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917- December 3, 2000) was the first African-American poet born in Topeka, Kansas. She was the first African- American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. It was for her book "Annie Allen".  Her other notable works are " A street in Bronzeville", "Children Coming Home", "Blacks", "To Disembark" and many others. "A street in Bronzeville" is the piece that garnered her national attention. Brooks style was unique, she was able to articulate vivid pictures of urban life for blacks.  Other honors she received during her life include the Eunice Tietjens Prize. During her writing career, she taught at these universities: Columbia College, Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin.

Alice Walker (February 9, 1944) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist, author. Her most famous body of work is “The Color Purple”. This body of work was critically acclaimed and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983. It was turned into a movie by Steven Spielberg in 1983. Which prompted the release of more novels, where she incorporated the characters from “The Color of Purple” into her new works. Those titles are: “The Temple of My Familiar” and “Possessing the Secret of Joy”.  While attending Spelman, that’s where she got her start in activism. She was a big advocate for blacks getting their right to vote. The meeting with Dr. King really spearheaded her desire to participate in the civil rights movement.

Angela Davis (January 26, 1944) is a political activist, author, who advocates for change. An advocate for gender fairness, prison reform. She wrote books titled “Women, Race& Class" and worked as a professor. Her upbringing laid the groundwork for her career choice. She grew up in Alabama where racial discrimination was prevalent. Her parents were active members of the NAACP. Her mother was a teacher and her father owned a service station. Coming from a strong background resulted in a keen sense of self. While her mother obtained her masters, Davis attended NYU with her. Then went to the University of California for her graduate degree. This is where she fraternized with the Black Panthers and Che-Lumumba which was an all-black communist party. Her affiliations with the communist party became problematic in her professional life. It almost cost her university teaching position, the only reason she was able to her position back was court ordered. Her affiliation with the Soledad brothers caused her to be accused of murder, where she was later acquitted. Davis stopped teaching in 2008 but she still does speaking tours at prestigious institutions.  Where she discusses issues like race, the criminal system, and women’s rights.

Dr. Ruby Hirose (August 30, 1904- October 7, 1960) she was a Japanese American biochemist and bacteriologist. The results of research led to vaccines for polio and other diseases. While suffering from hay fever, she was able to make medications to help treat that and infantile paralysis. It was her contributions while working at William S. Merrell Laboratories working with pollen, she came up with the diphtheria vaccine.

Bertha Parker Pallan (August 30, 1907- October 8, 1978) was a Native American archaeologist. She was Seneca and Abenaki descent. Her father was the archaeologist who peaked he interest in this field, her mother was an actress. She didn’t receive any formal training from a university, yet she was able to produce high-quality work. Pallan was self-taught, the way she was able to become an established archaeologist was the caves she accessed. The Gypsum Caves wasn’t easily accessible by her male colleagues. So, she was able to obtain interesting artifacts like an extinct giant ground sloth. In addition, to her great artifacts and notes is what garnered the respect from her peers. Pallan’s published works include California’s Indian Baby Cradles, Kachina Dolls.


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