Dot Robinson – Biker Babe From Cradle to Grave

A Trailblazer in Promoting Motorcycling for Women

Dot Robinson, co-founder of the Motor Maids of America
In the mid-20th century, Dot Robinson pioneered the concept and formed a club of a female bikers who owned, maintained, and rode their machines as well as any man and, in some cases, even better. She and husband Earl (above left) became leaders of the pack at their Detroit Harley-Davidson store.

Dot Robinson, born in Australia in 1912, was quite literally a biker babe. When her mother went into labor, her father loaded his heavily pregnant wife into a Harley-Davidson motorcycle sidecar rig and rushed her to the hospital. And when her mother came home, it was in that same sidecar, holding her tightly swaddled newborn daughter.

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María Ylagan Orosa – Filipina War Hero and Banana Ketchup Queen

Killed by U.S. Friendly Fire, She Left a Legacy Including Much of What Filipinos Eat Today

Maria Orosa and a bottle of her banana ketchup
With chemistry and pharmaceutical degrees from a U.S. university, María Ylagan Orosa was also a captain in a guerilla unit battling the Japanese invasion of her homeland during World War II. Her weapon was unique, nutrient-dense foods that kept local Filipino freedom fighters going. The most famous of her creations was banana ketchup that took on a commercial life of its own after the war.

This is a serious story about a unique woman — Filipina food technologist, pharmaceutical chemist, humanitarian, and war hero – that starts with ketchup.

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Cecelia Rose O’Neill: Before Barbie There was Kewpie

Self-Taught Artist and Savvy Business Woman Who Invented the First Novelty Toy Distributed Worldwide

The 1913 patent for the Kewpie Doll
In the turn-of-the-century world of artists and illustrators that did not welcome women, Cecelia Rose O’Neill broke through as a superstar producer who created the first novelty toy distributed worldwide. It made her fabulously wealthy.

Cecelia Rose O’Neill was many things … self-taught artist and sculptor, author and poet, suffragist and, for a time, one of the world’s richest women. But to most people, she was the woman who birthed “The Kewpies” — plump little cartoon characters and world-famous dolls with top knots, rosy cheeks, broad smiles, and sidelong eyes. Debuting in 1909, Kewpies were the world’s most widely known cartoon character until a guy named Disney introduced us to a cheeky mouse named Mickey in 1928.

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Stephanie St. Clair: Harlem Renaissance by the Numbers

From the Slums of Martinique to the Top of Harlem’s Numbers Rackets

The vibrant streets of Harlem in the 1920s
Queen of the numbers rackets during Harlem’s Renaissance, Stephanie St. Clair was an outlaw as well as an entrepreneur and Civil Rights Advocate.

The Harlem Renaissance of the ‘20s and ‘30s was a hotbed of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, politics, and scholarship. It gave us luminaries like Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, W.E.B. DuBois and Jessie Redmon Fauset. But for many, when it came to Black identity, community and the everyday experience of Black people, a woman named Stephanie St. Clair loomed large.

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Vanilla Beane: The Beloved “Hat Lady” of Washington, D.C.

She was Still Making Internationally Acclaimed Hats When She was 100

Vanilla Beane in her shop with a display of her hats
Vanilla Beane, who ran Bené Millinery & Bridal Supplies, was a beloved figure in Washington, D.C., and her hat creations were internationally famous.

She was a fashion icon, successful entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother — and a centenarian businesswoman with a name so charming you can’t help but smile.

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Mildred Blount: Milliner to the Stars

A Black Hatter Whose Work Became the Buzz of Hollywood Studios

Mildred Blount with Vivien Leigh
Mildred Blount in her workroom creating the hats for the 1939 movie “Gone With The Wind,” and Vivien Leigh wearing one of them in her Scarlett O’Hara role in the film.

When Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry was published in 2000, it honored a tradition deeply rooted in African American culture. One that poet Maya Angelou simply called, in her foreword to that book, THE HAT. And for Mildred Blount, THE HAT was always about more than just headwear.

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