Agnes “Aggie” Weston: Mother of Britain’s Royal Navy

Believed to be the oldest one of its kind, this 120-year-old tinned Christmas pudding is a prized exhibit in Britain’s National Museum of the Royal Navy and a beloved artifact of the troop-focused social work of  Agnes Weston (above).

This is the tale of a rusty, dinged-up, century-old tinned Christmas pudding and how it wound up in the dark recesses of a family pantry in a seaport town on England’s south coast. It’s also the story of the 19th-century woman known as the Mother of Britain’s Royal Navy.

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America’s First Female Bank President: Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Walker, first female bank president in U.S. history
Despite her hardscrabble early life in Richmond, Va., Maggie Lena Walker used her business acumen to build a small financial empire focused on supporting Black enterprise, civil rights and women’s rights at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1903 in Richmond, Virginia, Maggie Lena Walker knocked the banking industry on its ear. She founded and became president of a bank, making her the first female bank president in the history of the United States. In an age when the financial services industry was captained by wealthy white men, her achievement was even more noteworthy given that Walker was the daughter of two former slaves.

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Why is a Crater on the Moon and an Asteroid Named for Maria Mitchell?

Maria Mitchell and female astronomers from Vassar
America’s most prominent female scientists in the second half of the 19th century, Vassar Professor Maria Mitchell is shown here in the 1880s with students from her astronomy class.

She is the only champion of women’s rights in the last two centuries to have both a crater on the moon and an asteroid named in her honor. Maria Mitchell was a star of 19th century American science who used astronomy to expand the boundaries of what women could expect and achieve. Her life and work are a root of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) movement that today draws ever larger numbers of young women to scientific careers. But, ironically, Mitchell is not well know to most of them.

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A Slave Who Sewed Her Way to Freedom and The White House

Against all odds, Elizabeth Keckley rose from being a whipped and raped plantation slave girl to become the confidant and famed dressmaker of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln during the Civil War.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley wasn’t born to greatness. She was born the daughter of an enslaved woman on a Virginia plantation. Sent to North Carolina, where she was repeatedly beaten and whipped in an effort to break her spirit. Given to a white merchant who used her as his concubine and raped her for four years. Pregnant at age 20. Not exactly the makings of a success story.

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Florence Mills: Jazz Age ‘Queen of Happiness’

Smashing racial barriers and wowing audiences on two continents, Florence Mills sang and danced her way into the history of the Jazz Age, leading the way for female African American superstars who came after her.

It was the Roaring Twenties, the anything-goes Jazz Age, when Florence Mills made her mark in American history. Known as the “Queen of Happiness,” she was a cabaret singer, dancer and comedienne known for her effervescent stage presence, unique birdlike voice, wide-eyed beauty and slicked bobbed hair imitated by women on both sides of the Atlantic.

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History-Making Black Professor and STEM Advocate Josephine Silone-Yates

Josephine Silone-Yates was an academic leader in the world of African American schools and pioneer in the field that would later be called STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for women. Above is the lab at Lincoln Institute where Professor Silone-Yates headed the Chemistry Department.

Josephine Silone-Yates, the first African American certified to teach in Rhode Island public schools, also became America’s first black female college professor and the first black female to head a major college science department. Aside from her role in the field of what would later be called STEM education, she also became a national advocate for the rights of black women.

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