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7 Black Women in History That Made an Impact in Their Industry

"Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”—Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut

History would never have been the same without strong and influential black women who made an impact that lasted for a hundred generations.

From literature to space, there is no untouched field where the influence of women has not been seen. This Black History Month, we're celebrating such black women from history who made an impact in their industry.

1. Patricia Roberts Harris

Patricia Roberts Harris was a former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who had served under then-president Jimmy Carter. She was the first African-American woman to serve as the US ambassador to Luxembourg. After becoming ambassador, Harris said she was proud and grateful but also sad because no black African-American woman had been elected before.

She also topped her class at George Washington University Law School. And after completing her diplomatic career, she became the first African-American dean at Howard University Law School.

2. Althea Gibson

A tennis player born in 1927, she has to overcome many racial prejudices to make her place in the tennis world. An inspiration to Serena Williams and Venus, Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1956. She continued to win five singles, Grand Slams, and six doubles. The Associated Press also awarded her the Female Athlete of the Year in 1957–58.

3. Phillis Wheatley

Born in the period of the American Revolution, Phyllis Wheatley became the first African-American woman to publish her collection of poems. She was only 13 when she became a published author. Born in The Gambia, Africa, Wheatley had a tough childhood. At the age of 8, she was captured by slave traders and brought to America. Fighting all odds and with financial help from the English Countess of Huntingdon, she traveled to London and published a collection of poems on a variety of subjects, including religion and morality.

4. Edmonia Lewis

Born in July 1844, Edmonia Lewis became the first African American sculptor whose work was internationally acclaimed. Orphaned as a child, she became a popular figure in the 20th-century. Her work was based on religions and classic themes that depict the oppression of black people. Lewis' popular sculpture Forever Free depicts the enslavement of African Americans during the Civil War. Despite being freed after the war, they still face inequality and oppression by society.

5. Jane Matilda Bolin

A graduate of Yale Law School, Jane Matilda Boleyn became the first black female judge. She was appointed as an assistant corporate attorney in New York at the age of 31. Bolin was a child rights activist and also a member of the NAACP. She was also an inspiration to prominent personalities, including Judith Kaye and Constance Baker Motley Fool.

6. Fannie Barrier Williams

Born in Brockport, New York, Fannie Barrier Williams was an educator and women's rights activist who fought to free slaves in South America. She spends her entire life working for opportunities for African-Americans. Williams brought social reforms to the lives of black women living in South America and supported them in their education. She also founded the 'National League of Colored Women', which works on the betterment and rights of black women.

7. Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is an important figure in history who bought a revolution for African-American women. Born into a former slave family, fight her way up to open a school for African-American girls. Bethune fought for the educational and freedom rights of African-Americans and laid the foundation for the modern civil rights movement. She also became the first black woman to serve in the White House. In her 60 years of service, she has worn many hats in her life as a teacher, philanthropist, activist, humanitarian, mother, and grandmother.

We salute those women who broke the glass ceiling in their field and worked towards the advancement of society and their people. Inspired by them, we encourage more such determined personalities who fight for their's and others' rights against all odds.


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