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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Mary Eliza Mahoney – First African American Graduate Nurse

New England Hospital for Women and Children
In 1879, Mary Mahoney made American history when she graduated from the New England Hospital for Women and Children’s nursing school as the first African American to become a professional, licensed nurse.

When Mary Eliza Mahoney graduated in 1879 as America’s first professional nurse, she stood on the shoulders of giants. Jamaica’s Mary Seacole nursed soldiers during the Crimean War; Harriet Tubman and Susie King Taylor tended the Civil War’s wounded; and Namahyoke Sockum Curtis battled typhoid, yellow fever and malaria as a nurse during the Spanish-American War.

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Charlotta Spears Bass – Crusading Journalist and Civil Rights Activist

Charlotta Bass in front of her California Eagle newspaper office
At a time when African Americans had little presence in the mainstream news publishing industry, Charlotta Spears Bass became a a powerful journalist and newspaper owner who ran for both Congress and Vice President of the United States.

You might not know her name, but Charlotta Spears Bass was a major badass. She fought the Ku Klux Klan and won. Was the first black woman to run for vice president. And, at the ripe old age of 91, was under surveillance by the FBI.

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Josephine Baker: Exotic Showgirl and Clandestine French Operative

Josephine Baker, stage girl and French Spy
Largely remembered in the U.S. as an uninhibited showgirl and glitzy celebrity, Josephine Baker secretly served as an undercover operative for the Free French movement during WWII. She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor, France’s highest military honors.

Josephine Baker took Paris by storm, dancing in nothing more than a G-string hung with fake bananas. She had a diamond-collared pet cheetah named Chiquita. Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anybody ever saw.” But she was also a French war hero, World War II spy and a civil rights activist who raised 12 children she called her “Rainbow Tribe.”

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Lydia Mendoza : The First Lady of Tejano Music

In the mid-1900s, Mexican-American Lydia Mendoza became an international star who paved the way for later Tejano singers like Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Mendoza produced 1200 recordings during her long career and the President of the United States honored the singer and her work with the National Medal of Arts.

The shocking 1995 murder of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, often called the Queen of Tejano music, plunged fans into mourning and introduced her to English speakers who became fans. But few of them knew Selena stood on the shoulders of another woman, born 80 years before her death. That woman was Lydia Mendoza, rightfully known as the First Lady of Tejano.

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First Native American Female Marine: Minnie Spotted Wolf of the Blackfeet Tribe

Memorializing a local legend seventy six years after her enlistment, the name of a stretch of Montana’s U.S. Highway 89 was changed to Minnie Spotted Wolf Memorial Highway. [Highway photo by John McGill of the Glacier Reporter]
It was “hard … but not too hard,”  is how the 20-year-old woman who broke racial and gender barriers as the first Native American female Marine described boot camp at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune in 1943. After all, growing up on her father’s rural Montana ranch, Minnie Spotted Wolf was used to doing the types of back-breaking physical jobs usually done by men — cutting fence posts, driving two-ton trucks, building bridges and fences, and rounding up and breaking horses while raising cattle and sheep.

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