Rising to Stage and Film Fame Despite Racism and Red Baiting
Gertrude Jeannette was a true trailblazer as the first woman to get a motorcycle license in Manhattan and The Big Apple’s first licensed female cabdriver. Perhaps her more important accomplishments were as an actor, director and playwright who mentored a generation of Black actors in New York. But none of that would have happened were it not for a persistent childhood stutter and a man named Joe Jeannette who loved to dance.
An early female pilot and promoter who claimed several aviation “firsts” that weren’t
Blanche Stuart Scott couldn’t stand the thought of “being a nobody and a nothing in New York’s millions.” So this only child, spoiled by wealthy parents and described as stubborn, adventurous, competitive and fiercely determined, became somebody, racking up a slew of firsts along the way. Unfortunately, some of those firsts weren’t. Some were more like close, but no cigar.
Caves Beneath Her Bronx Mansion Were Packed With Guns and Explosives
The future Emilia Casanova de Villaverde was a willful, headstrong teenager and never one to hold her tongue. She lacked the “coquettish manners believed to be natural in young women.” But what she had was a fire in her belly for Cuban independence in the late 19th century when Cuba was still governed by Spain. So much so that at a convivial banquet attended by Spanish authorities, she rose to lift her glass in a very public toast “to the freedom of the world and the independence of Cuba.” Talk about knowing how to clear a room.
Music gave us The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Duke and, of course, The Boss. But long before Elvis swiveled his pelvis, Ellington tickled the ivories and Springsteen picked up the guitar, the music world was captivated by The Valkyrie of the Piano.
Zitkála-Sá (pronounced Zitkála Shá), also known as Gertrude Evaline Simmons, was born in 1876, year of the Battle of Little Bighorn, on South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux Reservation. Her mother was a full-blooded Dakota Sioux named Ellen Tatiyahewin (“She Reaches for the Wind”) Simmons, her father a white man about whom little is known. We do know he abandoned the family, leaving her mother to raise their children in traditional Sioux ways.
First Chinese American Female Physician and Wartime Celebrity
From the time she was 10 years old, Margaret Chung wanted to become a doctor. But with no dolls or toys to practice on, she resorted to using banana peels to practice her suture technique. Born into a time when the stories of Chinese Americans were those of rejection and exclusion, Margaret Chung learned early on she would need to forge a distinctive path for herself if she were to achieve her dreams.