Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For African American Women of Note...

Last year, I wrote a post about Henrietta Lacks. It had not even occurred to me as I wrote it, that it was the first day of African American Heritage Month. And there are so many amazing African American Women of Note to be acknowledged that I thought I'd write a post to celebrate a few of the amazing African American women in our history...

Of course there is Ida B. Wells, that I have written about and was included in my Currency of Strength project, as was Wilma Glodean Rudolph who I've admired since childhood.

Then I heard of an amazing African American woman who was an early aviatrix and her name is Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Coleman - The First African American Aviatrix
image from her Wikipedia page

She was born before Amelia Earhart and Bessie died before Amelia's disappearance on route to Howland Island, but she was the first African American Female pilot as well as the first African American to hold an international pilots license.

Bessie loved to read and was an excellent student. As a child she dreamed of learning to fly planes but in order to become a pilot she would have to learn in France where women were being trained as pilots. She studied the French language and traveled to Paris in 1920 where she would learn to fly in a bi-plane. 

A few years later, she knew she would need to learn stunt flying to earn money so she traveled back to France to learn how to be a stunt pilot. She also learned  stunt flying in Germany, under the tutelage of one of the chief pilots of the Fokker Corporation.

Bessie was quite successful as a stunt pilot and she dreamed of opening a school of aviation for young African Americans. Sadly, she died in a flight accident in 1926 before her dream could come to fruition. She was just 34 years old.

I thought I'd do a search for some women inventors because I just KNOW they're out there and I found one that is alive today: Dr. Patricia E. Bath.

Dr. Patricia E. Bath's motto is "The Right to Sight"
image from her Wikipedia page

This amazing woman has created a device called the Laserphaco Probe, which is used to treat cataracts the world over. She holds the patent for this device making her the first African American woman to hold a patent for a medical purpose.

The obstacles she faced in her childhood make the achievement of her invention amazing: there were virtually no high schools in the city where she was raised - Harlem. There were no female scientists or doctors, since the field was dominated by men and her family lacked the funds to send her to medical school, though they highly encouraged her academic studies.

Inspired by Albert Schweitzer, she applied for a National Science Foundation scholarship and won it, which allowed her to work on cancer research projects in Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center. Dr. Bath was inspired to help stop the blindness that ran high among minority and poor communities and as a result she has pioneered a new discipline of "community ophthalmology", a way for medical volunteers to bring eye care to under-served communities.

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These women make me proud to be a part of what once was called the 'Fair Sex', but their achievements prove that we are all capable of great things in our lives, regardless of our gender, race or age.

When I'm ready to begin another round of Currency of Strength, you can bet these ladies will be included!

Are there any women of accomplishment that you admire? I'd love to hear about them!

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