Elizabeth Peratrovich – America’s Least Known Civil Rights Activist

Led the Alaskan Battle for the First U.S. Anti-Discrimination Law

A mural of Elizabeth Peratrovich
In 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich of the Alaskan Tlingit Nation led the fight that established the country’s first Anti-Discrimination law and championed the civil rights of the Alaska territory’s indigenous tribespeople. [2021 mural by Crystal Kaakeeyáa Worl]

Pauli Murray. Fannie Lou Hamer. Dorothy Height. Rosa Parks. Mary Church Terrell. Ida B. Wells-Barnett. When you think of female civil rights activists, these are just some of the names that come to mind. But Elizabeth Peratrovich? Chances are her name probably wouldn’t be on that list. But she was the Alaska Native civil rights champion who was instrumental in the 1945 passage of what was the United States’ very first anti-discrimination law.

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Anne Hutchinson – A Forerunner of American Feminism

A Rebel Against a Virulently Misogynist Puritan Culture

Statue in front of the Massachusetts State House
A statue standing in front of the Massachusetts State House memorializes Anne Marbury Hutchinson who, nearly four centuries ago, was an opponent and victim and of the virulent misogyny that defined Massachusetts Bay Colony society.

Anne Hutchinson may well have been one of America’s first “nasty women.” A spiritual leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, she poked the hornet’s nest by challenging the patriarchy and upending gender roles, preaching to audiences of both sexes and daring to critique the Bible and Puritan laws.

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Madeline Pollard and the Gilded Age’s #MeToo Moment

How the Historic Courtroom Takedown of a U.S. Congressman Challenged Victorian Misogyny

Madeline Pollard and Congressman William Breckinridge
In an epic 1893 Washington, D.C., legal battle that seized the nation’s attention, young Madeline Pollard took U.S. Congressman William Breckinridge to court in a case that ended his political career.

If you think women taking powerful older men to court under the banner of the #MeToo movement is something new, think again. A chance meeting between a young Madeline Pollard and a powerful politician in 1884 at the height of America’s Gilded Age set the stage for a sensational trial that helped change the way society thought about men, women and sex.

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Isabelle Kelley – The Economist Who Fed America

A Little Known Advocate Who Ran Federal Programs Feeding Hundred of Millions

Isabelle Kelley was particularly moved by widespread hunger among African Americans in the U.S.
Through presidential administrations from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, Isabelle Kelley was the architect of the federal government’s sweeping food assistance and nutrition programs addressing widespread hunger in America.

You probably don’t know her name. But one female economist has been feeding America for decades. From the “Penny Milk Program” of the 1940s to today’s Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), Isabelle Kelley made it her mission to see that the poorest of Americans did not go to bed hungry.

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Ynés Mexía, Late-Blooming Mexican-American Botanist

Pioneer in the Fight to Preserve Northern California’s Majestic Redwood Forests

A section of California Red Woods and botanist Ynés Mexía
Aside from her pioneering work to save the California Redwoods, Ynés Mexía traveled North and South America amassing a collection of plant specimens still used by scientists today.

One of the most successful botanists and female plant collectors of her time, Ynés Mexía didn’t begin her career until age 55. Assertive, brave, and not afraid to knock the stereotypes of racism, sexism and ageism on their heads, she was remarkable not just for the number of specimens she collected, but for the number of miles she traveled to collect them.

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The Leesburg Stockade Girls – A Civil Rights Horror of 1963

How Racist Georgia Authorities Held Teenagers in a Secret, Squalid Prison

Two of the 30 girls who were locked away in a secret prison in Americus, Georgia in 1963
Two of more than 30 African American teenage girls who were locked away in secret for 45 days in a dilapidated former Civil War jail for participating in a 1963 Civil Rights protest in Americus, Georgia. (Photo: Danny Lyon, 1963)

It was 13-year-old Shirley Green’s first civil rights demonstration. She went to the protest without her parents’ knowledge, figuring she could make it back home before they did. She was wrong.

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