Ida Holdgreve: Wright Brothers’ Plane Seamstress

Played a major role in earliest era of powered human flight

Seamstress Ida Holdgreve at work in the Wright Brothers’ Ohio factory in 1911. Her work was crucial in the earliest era of powered human flight when airplanes were made of wood, wire and fabric, including the DH-4, which was the only American-built plane to fly in combat in World War I.

Had computers and Spell Check! existed in 1910, we might never know the name Ida Holdgreve. Lucky for her, a simple typo in a local newspaper ad led to her finding a place in history as the first woman to work in the American aviation industry.

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Hidden WWII Hero: Filipina-American Florence Finch

Saboteur, Resistance Fighter, and POW in the Pacific Theater

Military medals of Florence Smith Finch
After the Japanese invaded the Philippines at the start of World War II, Florence Finch became a spy, resistance fighter, and finally, a prisoner of war. She also went on to become the first Asian- American woman to wear a U.S. Coast Guard uniform. Later still, in a quieter career as an office worker at Cornell University, she never mentioned her military exploits or medals to her co-workers.

If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it’s that unsung heroes are all around us — people doing great things or committing acts of bravery or self-sacrifice quietly, without celebration or recognition, sacrificing their time and energy for the good of others. So it’s understandable that neither a small community in Ithaca, NY, nor people working at Cornell University knew they had been, for years, in the presence of a true, unsung, World War II hometown hero, Florence Finch.

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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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Alse Young: America’s First Witch (And Hanged For It)

Hanging America's first witch, Alse Young, 1647
In this May 26, 1647 diary entry (above, left), Windsor town clerk Matthew Grant recorded, “Alse Young was hanged.”

This is the story of Alse Young, today’s Wednesday’s Woman. Forty-five years before the Salem witch trials in 1692, Alse Young (ca. 1600–1647) of Windsor, CT, was the first woman to be tried, convicted, and executed for witchcraft in America’s 13 colonies. Continue reading “Alse Young: America’s First Witch (And Hanged For It)”