Namahyoke Sockum Curtis In The Spanish-American War

Recruited to Solve a Critical Shortage, She Helped Elevate the Status and Role of U.S. Military Nurses

Nurses at a U.S. Army field hospital in Havana during the Spanish-American War
The only known photo of Namahyoke Sockum Curtis against an 1898 image of a U.S. Army Field hospital in Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. Daughter of an African-American/Native American family, and a Black socialite who raised funds to build hospitals for non-whites in Chicago, she was selected by the U.S. Surgeon General to head the recruitment of desperately needed war-time nurses. It was the first time nurses served in dedicated, quasi-military Army units, leading to the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901.

As wars go, the Spanish-American War gets very little attention. But black women hired as nurses during what some called the “splendid little war” get even less. So you’re excused if you’ve never heard of a woman with the unusual name Namahyoke “Namah” Sockum Curtis, and her role in the Spanish-American War.

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Gertrude Benham: First Woman to Summit Mount Kilimanjaro

Early 20th Century Mountaineer Received Little Credit for Her Exploits

A long view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.
The first female climber to reach the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Gertrude Benham should have been included in the record books, but few histories of Kilimanjaro even mention her name.

It was a classic case of “anything you can do, I can do better,” set in the magnificent Canadian Rockies in 1904 when Gertrude “Truda” Benham, at 36, set out to satisfy her wanderlust by climbing as many Rocky Mountain peaks as she could before summer’s end.

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Clora Bryant: Jazz Trumpeter “As Good As Any Man”

Album Cover or Clora Bryant's
An extraordinary talent, Clora Bryant fought through gender discrimination her entire career to made her mark as a trumpeter and vocalist who was as good as any of the men who dominated the world of jazz.

Think of jazz trumpeters from the 1940s, and names like Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie come to mind. But one name you may not know belongs to a woman who could hold her own with all three of them. A product of the West Coast jazz scene, her name was Clora Bryant, who called herself a “trumpetiste.”

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Marguerite Higgins: First Pulitzer-Prize Winning Female War Correspondent

New York Herald Tribune reporter and Korean War media star Marguerite Higgins chats with General Douglas MacArthur in the field.

Marguerite “Maggie” Higgins wasn’t America’s first female war correspondent. Legendary journalist and novelist Martha Gellhorn (who was also Ernest Hemingway’s third wife) had covered conflicts all over the world in her 60-year career. But Higgins was the first to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1951 with her front-line coverage of the Korean War.

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The Electrifying Story of Engineer Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke with one of her electrical system patents
Orphaned in 1895 in Baltimore, Edith Clarke excelled in mathematics and dreamed of being an electrical engineer at a time when there were no female engineers in that burgeoning new field of technology. Ultimately she went into the Hall of Fame as one of the most important electrical engineers of the 20th century and was also America’s first female university engineering professor.

For most of us, America’s vast electrical infrastructure is something we take for granted, rarely think about until it goes down, and don’t really understand. But for Edith Clarke it was the stuff of dreams. A pioneer in electrical engineering, and role model for every young woman pursuing a STEM education today, she used the power of math to improve our understanding of power transmission at a time when engineering was a man’s world and women just didn’t “do” science.

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Frances Densmore – Song Catcher of Native American Music, 1867-1957

Mapping the rhythms of a vanishing tribal life

Chief of the Blackfoot tribe records his music.
Frances Densmore recording the Mountain Chief of the Blackfoot Nation in the Smithsonian Institution’s castle building.

Frances Densmore first heard the sound of a Dakota Sioux drum as a child. “I fell asleep night after night to the throb of that drum,” she later recalled. But while others heard the same sound and quickly forgot it, Frances Densmore followed that drum beat for the rest of her life.

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