Who runs the World? Black Women Trailblazers who changed the World

There is no doubt that women have been a beacon of light, arms of refuge, foundations of success, and overall triumphant warriors of our nation. We have fought relentlessly for the rights and wellness that our male counterparts are freely given and we continue to press the mark until our every need is rightfully met, without fear of consequence or inquisition. Women from all corners of the Earth have boldly defended and tended to society. A particular group of women, often overlooked yet somehow widely imitated, have been exemplary in their unwavering voice and stance for all things just: Women of Color.

As we come to the culmination of another Women’s History Month, Black Girl Fly Magazine has elected to explore the transitions of time, highlighting the contributions, demonstrations, inventions, revolutions, and magic that has been given to us and created by us- Sistahs.

(Note: This article is in no way intended to diminish the historic impact and contributions of other ethnicities; we salute all women all ways, always. However, we are a publication that celebrates Black women, because...well, we are Black women. Carry on.)

Throughout almost every significant moment in American history, there has influential women directly pursuing change. But, resting in the shadows of every majority women’s movement, is a Black woman in the trenches, doing the dirty, necessary work for equal rights in education, the workforce, sports, medicine, literature, and the list goes on and on and on. In early history, education for Women and Blacks was not a widespread concept of acceptance. Education opportunities were nearly obsolete for Black women. Yet, we prevailed. See below.

  •  Mary Jane Patterson- the first African-American woman to obtain a college degree. In 1862, she earned her Bachelors of Arts degree from Oberlin College in Ohio. Now, it is widely reported that African American women are the most educated group in the United States. Thanks, Mary! 

We often hear of the courageous leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but has anyone ever educated you on the National Association of Colored Women or Black women suffragists, at all.

  • Mary Church Terrell was considered a member of the African American elite. The daughter of well to do former slaves. She was very well educated, having obtained her B.A. and M.A., studied German, French, and Italian before going on and becoming an educator at the first, private Historically Black College or University: Wilberforce. Mary Church Terrell was also President of the National Association of Colored Women. In 1898, she addressed the all-white National American Women's Suffrage Association, where she was sure to bring to their attention that, for black women, access to education and employment were as important as the vote.

With the progress being made for Women of Color in education and the working world, there were more Black women blazing the trails by not only working but owning their own wealthy companies.

  • Madam CJ Walker (birth name Sarah Breedlove) was born on a plantation in Louisiana, to former slaves, in 1867. Suffering a  number of significant losses of her parents and first husband early on in life, Madam Walker was a woman embodying self-determination. She began working in the health and skin care industry as a sales agent for a Black, woman-owned business “Poro”. Shortly after her move to Denver, she married Charles Joseph Walker and took to the name Madam, because she believed the titled conveyed regality and would demand respect. Together, she and “CJ” began to make and sell her first independent product “Madam CJ Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower”: a conditioner suitable for the diverse hair textures of Women of Color. Once she relocated to Indiana where she settled, her hair care business flourished exponentially. Madam CJ Walker became the first self-made women millionaire, Black or White.

Black women continue to expand our reach and influence as some of the first to do many astounding things that even some men are either not able or willing to pursue.

  • Gwendolyn Brooks- the First African American woman to win a Pulitzer for her book of poetry “Annie Allen” in 1949.
  • Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner received a patent for the sanitary belt (maxi pad) in 1956: 30 years after she initially invented the now prevalent feminine care product. History notes that the original company interested in her invention denied it after discovering that she was a Woman of Color.
  • Patricia Roberts Harris- the First African American woman U.S Ambassador (ambassador to Luxembourg) in 1965.
  • Doris A. Davis- the First African American woman mayor of a U.S. city (Compton) in 1973
  • Ruth J. Simmons- the First African American woman President of an Ivy League Institution: Brown University (2001)
  • Michelle Obama- the first African-American First Lady of the United States (2009)

There is not enough space to list the past, present, and forthcoming, groundbreaking historic impact  Black women have on the world we know and love. We say to the women who have paved the way “Thank you!”; to the ones who are carrying on in the spirit of the leaders before us, we say “We are with you”: and, to the leaders of tomorrow, who are still dreaming today, we say “We Got You!”

Happy Women’s History Month! Salute to the Black, Sistah Soldiers who’ve brought us this far and that continue to pave the road to the future.