Elizabeth Jennings: The Rosa Parks of 1854

Elizabeth Jennings, 1854
In 1854, after being physically removed from a streetcar because she was black, Elizabeth Jennings filed a lawsuit. Represented by a future U.S. President, she won the case that ultimately desegregated New York City’s public transportation. Today, she is commemorated with a New York Street Sign.

A century before civil rights icon Rosa Parks kept her seat at the front of an Alabama bus, a 24-year-old African American woman was forced off a New York City streetcar and jeeringly told to seek redress if she could. She could, and she did, ultimately desegregating New York City’s public transportation system. She is this Wednesday’s Woman, Elizabeth Jennings.

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Edmonia Lewis: ‘The Land of Liberty Had No Room For a Colored Sculptor’

African American Edmonia Lewis, fine art sculptor
Unable to follow her dream of being a fine art sculptor in the U.S., Edmonia Lewis moved to Italy and became the first mixed-race fine art sculptor to achieve international fame with her marble works. At left is her sculpture of Minnehaha, the husband of Hiawatha; at right her bust of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, who led the Union Army’s celebrated 54th Regiment of African American soldiers.

The life story of Edmonia Lewis, a Civil War-era mixed-race orphan who succeeded as an artist only after she expatriated herself to Italy, is a tale of personal triumph in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. And it’s one that makes for a poignant Wednesday’s Woman episode.

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Susan La Flesche Picotte: America’s First Native American Doctor

Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first first native American female doctor
In the middle of both background images, a young Susan La Flesche is shown in the two different worlds of her 19th-century life. The mature Susan La Flesche in the foreground is the woman who became the first Native American physician.

The idea that “it was only an Indian and it did not matter” if a person received adequate medical care or not changed the life of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915), the first Native American woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. Continue reading “Susan La Flesche Picotte: America’s First Native American Doctor”

Alice Huyler Ramsey : Cross Country Daredevil

1909 Daredevil Alice Ramsey one of the first women race car drivers
Named Woman Motorist of the Century, Alice Ramsey was the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

According to Jersey girl Alice Huyler Ramsey, “Good driving has nothing to do with sex. It’s all above the collar.” Born in 1886 and a Vassar grad when fewer than 7% of women went to college, she got her first car in 1908 and went on to become an inspiration for future women race car drivers. Continue reading “Alice Huyler Ramsey : Cross Country Daredevil”

Margaret Abbott: The First Female Olympic Champion

America's first female Olympic champion Margaret Ives Abbott
Margaret Ives Abbott was a 1900 Olympic champion — but didn’t know it.

How do you win an Olympics event without even knowing it? That’s the story of this Wednesday’s Woman — Margaret Ives Abbott (1878-1955), America’s first female Olympic champion. She played in and won the women’s nine-hole golf tournament at the 1900 Paris Games. Her prize? A gilded porcelain tournament bowl that she never knew was an Olympic honor. Continue reading “Margaret Abbott: The First Female Olympic Champion”

Lotta Crabtree, California Gold Rush Show Girl and Millionaire

Cigar-smoking Lotta Crabtree, known as Miss Lotta, was an entertainer during the gold rush.
Lotta Crabtree was one of America’s wealthiest, most beloved entertainers of the late 1800s.

A day late and a dollar short, this week’s Wednesday Woman is Lotta Crabtree. Born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree, she was one of America’s wealthiest, most beloved entertainers of the late 1800s who lived along Lake Hopatcong, NJ, in her later years. Continue reading “Lotta Crabtree, California Gold Rush Show Girl and Millionaire”