The Influential Women Collection this year releases on Wednesday at Noon, and I am so excited! This is one of my favorite collections we do at Rose & Clay. We try to honor well-known women who have paved the way for us, but we also try to learn about lesser-known women. This year we have a great bunch of ladies who have changed the world that we live in. Here's a sneak peek of the women we're highlighting this year and their amazing accomplishments.
We lost not only a great comedian, but trailblazing woman last year when Betty White passed away just shy of her 100th birthday. She was born in Oak Park, Illinois, but raised in Los Angeles. She got her start in radio in the 1940's. While she began acting on TV in the 50's, Betty White didn't get her breakout role until 1973 when she was cast in the The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She won multiple Emmy awards for her work on this show as well as The Golden Girls, and The John Larroquette Show.
Betty White continued acting well into her old age. She became Saturday Night Live's oldest host at 88 and won another Emmy for her performance. In addition to acting, she was passionate about animals and was a donor for organizations such as the American Humane Society. The Los Angeles Zoo erected a plaque in her honor in 2006 for her activism for animals. Her last appearance was in 2018, prior to her death in 2021.
Susan La Flesche
Susan La Flesche is a lesser known figure, but one who paved the way for many other women to come and changed healthcare for Native Americans. Susan grew up on the Omaha Reservation in the late 1800s. She was inspired to attend medical school after watching racism from medical providers near the reservation. A white doctor refused to give care to a Native woman who later died. This was not acceptable to her and she left the reservation to complete her education and bring change.
She attended the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduated top of her class, and became the first Native American woman to ever become a doctor. She returned to her home in Nebraska to care for the people she loved. She had a long career in medicine helping people of all skin colors. Her dream was to see a hospital built on the Reservation. This was realized shortly before she passed away in 1915, cementing her legacy in medicine among her people.
Ida Lewis was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1842. Her father was a lighthouse keeper, but suffered a stroke when she was 12. Ida and her mother took over running the lighthouse and keeping the lamp lit. After her parents died, she became the official lighthouse keeper in an organization that was the predecessor for the Coast Guard.
Ida was known for her rowing skills, which enabled her to rescue 36 from her time at the Lime Rock LIghthouse. She was known as "The Bravest Woman in America" and was awarded the Gold Livesaving Award. She faithfully served her post at the lighthouse until her death from a stroke at 69.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II was the longest reigning monarch in British history. She had little chance of becoming Queen at her birth, but her Uncle abdicated the throne, making her father king. After his passing, she assumed the monarchy. Her coronation was held June 2, 1953.
Queen Elizabeth guided the monarchy through a changing world. She was known for taking an interest in political and governmental issues, not just acting as a ceremonial figurehead. She kept an extensive travel schedule over the course of her life to make diplomatic visits with other countries. Her and her husband began paying income taxes in 1993, despite not being required by law to do so. She was the first monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland in 2011. She was an advocate for change in gender discrimination in selecting an heir to the throne.
She had a love for horses throughout her life. She was given the inaugural lifetime achievement award from the International Equestrian Federation. Queen Elizabeth passed away last year after celebrating 70 years on the throne. She was well-loved by those she governed and mourned by many all over the world.
Those of you who have seen Hidden Figures may already be aware of Mary Jackson's legacy. She was born in Hampton, VA in 1921. She attended the Hampton Institute after graduating high school and received a degree in Math and Physical Sciences. She found her way to NASA several years afterward, where she worked in the West Computing Department. While there, she completed a training program that promoted her from mathematician to engineer. The classes were segregated, meaning she had to get special permission to attend. She completed them, becoming NASA's first black female engineer.
Mary was a decorated engineer, earning the Apollo Group Achievement Award and Langley's Volunteer of the Year in 1976. Despite her accolades, she was never promoted to manager and quickly realized she was being passed over for promotion due to her gender. Instead, she transferred to become Manager of the Women's Program and make a career change. She trained and empowered the upcoming generation of women to break the glass ceiling she never could. She retired in 1985, but her legacy is felt at NASA today by the women she paved the way for.
Sarah and Angelina Grimke
Sarah was born first on a plantation in South Carolina. Angelina was 12 years younger, but that didn't stop the two from becoming close. Sarah grew to despise slavery as she watched the slaves labor growing up. She cared for her ailing father, and after his passing, she converted to Quakerism and moved north to Pennsylvania. Angelina followed her a couple years later, also joining the Quaker religion. The girls were avid abolitionists and advocated for ending slavery. Their ideas were radical, even for the North where they lived, and made them somewhat outcast.
After Angelina penned Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, she received a large backlash from men who felt women had no business speaking on serious issues. In response, Sarah wrote Letters on the Equality of the Sexes. They began addressing small groups of women in private and soon after openly crusaded for women's rights. They were invited to the Seneca Falls Convention on the topic of women's rights, but were unable to attend. Angelina married Theodore Dwight Weld in 1838, and the sisters retreated from the public arena. They spent their remaining years assisting Weld with his school and inspiring the rising generation.
Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts to a wealthy family. She was able to attend Amherst Academy growing up and received an education well above what was standard for women at her time. She had an interest in writing and she began penning poems as a teenager. Most of the poetry she is known for comes from an intense period of around ten years which coincided with the Civil War. She moved back with her family to her birthplace, the Homestead, where she wrote poetry and maintained close relationships with her family members. Inspiration for her writing came from Transcendentalist writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and her complicated relationship with Christianity.
In her lifetime, Emily Dickinson wrote over 1,800 poems, most of which were private and given to her friends as gifts. She had a strong bond with her sister-in-law Susan Gilbert, who was the recipient of most of these poems. Some of her works were published in newspapers while she was alive, but mostly without her consent. She became increasingly reclusive as she grew older, which also influenced her poetry with themes of loneliness. She died at age 55 after several years of frailty. Her poetry was published post-humously by her Susan and Mabel Loomis Todd. She has become one of the greatest poets in American history, and stands out for proving that women have intelligent minds and are capable of greatness.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RBG was known for shattering the glass ceiling. She was born in 1933 in Brooklyn. She went to Colombia for her undergraduate and was one of nine women in her class of 500 at Harvard Law School. She was the subject of lots of gender discrimination and transferred to Columbia. Though she graduated top of her class, she struggled to find a job, as she was both a woman and a Jew. She eventually found a position as a law clerk for the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri and began her long law career.
While teaching at Rutgers University School of Law, RBG helped found the Women's Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union. She was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1993. While on the court, she was a fierce advocate for equality of the sexes. Her votes consistently opened doors for women that were previously closed. She was also heavily involved in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that fought pay disparity between men and women. She held her position on the court until she passed away in 2020 due to pancreatic cancer.