Dear Future Teachers,
In my previous post, The Importance of Representation In The Classroom, one of my recommendations was to teach students about people in marginalized communities who have made large impacts on society. We often hear about the significance of inventors such as Thomas Edison, or read the works of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, or discuss seemingly progressive changes made by politicians such as Abraham Lincoln, but many classrooms don't mention the lasting effects of movements or inventions influenced by people of color. Today, I would like to specifically highlight 10 women of color who deserve to be mentioned in our history lessons! #empower
Many women on this list I had never discussed in a classroom setting, or I just learned about them this year! It's incredible to learn about these influential women, but it makes me sad that I didn't learn about them while growing up. Representation matters, and hopefully I inspire you to broaden your classroom discussions to include more people like the women in this list!
Malala is a 23 year old women from Pakistan who today is an education activist for girls around the world. I first learned about Malala's story by reading "I Am Malala", her self-authored book detailing her life journey. Malala's father wanted her to have the same opportunities as a boy would, so he made sure she went to school and received an education. When the Taliban prohibited girls from continuing their education, Malala would often speak out on the rights of girls to attend schools, which made her a target. Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban, but luckily survived her injuries and relocated to the U.K.. She completed her education at Oxford University and continues to fight for educational rights for women worldwide. Malala also picked up a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest recipient ever (17 years old).
I first learned of Dolores Huerta during my first year in college through the film titled Dolores. Dolores is a Latina civil rights activist, who focuses primarily on advocating for rights in the labor force. If you've heard of Cesar Chavez and his workers' rights movement, I have some news for you: Dolores Huerta played a large role in creating the entire movement! Chavez was often the face of the campaign because he was a man, but Dolores did a lot of hard work to fight for laborers, especially immigrant laborers. Dolores co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers) and served as co-chair for the Women's March in Washington. I highly recommend watching the documentary on her to learn more!
Alice Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal in 1948. She was born in Albany, Georgia, and grew up in the segregated South. She was denied from training or competing against white peers, so she ran barefoot in fields or dirt roads for practice and used old equipment to practice jumping. At the Olympics, she broke the record for high jumps by leaping 5 feet, 6 and 1/8 inches! Later she would create The Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to support young athletes in training and competing.
Daisy Bates was born in 1914 in Arkansas, where she dedicated her life to battling racial injustice. Bates created The Arkansas Weekly, one of the only Black newspapers at the time, which focused on the Civil Rights Movement. Daisy also led the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, where she focused on the integration of schools. Daisy created the Little Rock Nine and spent her life improving educational opportunities for Black students. After her death in 1999, Daisy was awarded the Medal of Freedom.
Barbara was an educator, a lawyer, and accomplished several "firsts" throughout her career. She was the first Black women from the deep south to be a Congressional Representative (1966) AND ushered the first state law on minimum wage in Texas. Barbara became the first Black woman to hold the post of president pro tempore of the state senate, and in 1972, she was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives. Barbara also played a vocal role in impeaching President Nixon for the Watergate Scandal.
Ellen was the first Latina woman in the world to go to space on April 8, 1993. She was also the world's first Latina astronaut when she started working for NASA in 1991. She spent a total of 9 days in space aboard the Discovery shuttle studying the earth's ozone layer. Ellen returned to space three more times and spent a total of nearly 1,000 hours in space! Later, Ellen would become the first Latina Director, and second female director, of the Johnson Space Center in Texas!
Tawakkol was born in Yemen in 1979. She is also known as "The Mother of the Revolution". Tawakkol is a human rights activist, journalist, and politician. She was the first Yemeni, first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to be awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her nonviolent work for the safety of women and for women's rights in Yemen. She was also the youngest person (at the time) to receive the Nobel Prize at 32 years of age. Tawakkol participated in a lot of peace-building in Yemen as she battles a corrupt government and injustice within her home country.
Angela Davis is an educator and major figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up in Alabama, she faced a lot of racial discrimination and became an outspoken advocate for equal rights. Angela was imprisoned and had trouble with school administration while she worked at the University of California in LA due to her vocal nature at empowering the Black community. After retiring from her career as a professor, Angela still speaks at lectures today, and has published several books advocating for equal rights for Black citizens and supporting Palestinians in their struggle against Israel.
Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995. She is known for her advocacy for women's rights and the rights of Native Americans. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1998, Bill Clinton awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While she was Chief, she advocated for improved healthcare programs, education, and community development for the Native people. Under her leadership, the tribe enrollment in Oklahoma tripled, infant mortality declined, and educational attainment rose.
Sylvia River was a transgender Venezuelan-Puerto Rican who advocated for the rights of the LGBT+ community, specifically transgender individuals. Alongside her friend Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia was known to be an active participant in the Stonewall Uprising, which fought against police brutality towards the LGBT+ community. Sylvia co-founded the Gay Liberation Front, allowing her to heavily advocate for the LGBT+ community during the 60s and 70s. In the 70s, she created The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries organization to provide housing for homeless transgender individuals. In honor of her activism, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was created to give members of the LGBT+ community access to legal services and provide lessons in advocacy skills.
If you have heard of these incredible women, that's awesome! If not, I'm glad to share their achievements with you! I encourage you all to continue researching each of these women in more depth as I did not even begin to cover all of their empowering stories in their entirety. There are also HUNDREDS of women I did not get to discuss in this post, like Marsha P. Johnson, Ella Baker, Grace Lee Boggs, and so many more! If you would like to browse through more inspiring women who should be talked about in history, click the following link: https://professionalwomanmag.com/2017/03/womens-history-month-women-of-color-whose-names-you-should-know/.
I hope this article not only shows you that our schools history lessons are severely neglecting the incredible accomplishments of women in history, but also inspires you to insert the histories of these women into your classroom! Even if standardized exams don't cover the information provided in this article, students should still be learning about different aspects of history that have influenced many of their lives today! If you have any particular women you would like to see mentioned, send me a message via my Contact form on the Home Page or email me at email@example.com, and a follow-up post can be in the works soon!