This article is a follow-up to last week's list of trailblazers from Alabama to Georgia.
11. Hawaii - Patsy Mink. At the 1960 Democratic National Convention, North Carolina Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. introduced the civil rights plank, which included a 1963 deadline for school desegregation plans across the country, granting the attorney general power to file civil injunctions to prevent discrimination, and maintaining the Civil Rights Commission as a permanent agency. It was controversial at the time, but the entire plank was approved 66-24 after Patsy Mink gave an "impassioned" speech to 10,000 delegates and a live national television audience. Mink founded the Oahu Young Democrats in 1954 and ten years later became the first Asian-American woman and the first native Hawaiian woman to be elected to Congress. An early advocate of civil rights, social welfare, and women's issues, Mink lent support to and helped draft several bills in Congress, including the Women's Education Equity Act and Title IX. After her death in September of 2002, Mink's name remained on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives and she was posthumously re-elected by a wide margin.
12. Idaho - Marilynne Robinson. In September of 2015, President Barack Obama sat down in Des Moines, Iowa and interviewed one of his favorite authors, Idaho native Marilynne Robinson. That's right, the writer did not interview the President, the President interviewed the writer. Obama had read Robinson's second novel Gilead while he was campaigning in Iowa years earlier and was finally able to meet the woman behind the words when he awarded her the National Humanities Medal in 2012. President Obama, it turns out, is not the only one who reveres Robinson, who has been a professor at the preeminent Iowa Writer's Workshop since 1989 (she is retiring this year); indeed, in addition to the National Humanities Award, Robinson has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the Louisville Gravemeyer Award in Religion.
13. Illinois - Tammy Duckworth. Born in Thailand and raised in Hawaii, Iraq War veteran and US Representative Tammy Duckworth is Illinois' first Asian American Congresswoman and the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Duckworth holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science, a Master of Arts in international affairs, and a PhD in Human Services. For her service in the military, she has received a Purple Heart, a Meritorious Service Medal, an Air Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Badge, and a Senior Army Aviator Badge. Following a double-amputation of both legs, Duckworth became a fierce advocate of for Veterans, first serving as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and then as the Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
14. Indiana - Madam C.J. Walker. Born Sarah Breedlove, Madam Walker grew up working in the cotton fields of Delta, Louisiana, where her parents had previously been enslaved. After moving to Denver and changing her name to "Madam," Walker began selling Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, the result of her own hair-loss condition and a dream that revealed to her the idea of a scalp healing formula. After travelling the country to sell her product, Walker eventually settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, and opened the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, employinhg 3,000 African-Americans. The company sold a variety of hair and beauty products for black women and by 1917, it was the largest black-owned business and Madam Walker was the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. The NAACP, the Colored YMCA of Indianapolis, and the National Conference on Lynching were just a few of the many benefiters of her extensive philanthropy.
15. Iowa - Arabella Mansfield. In 1869, Arabella Mansfield took the Iowa state bar exam, despite the fact that it was legally restricted to men over 21. Mansfield passed the exam and following a court ruling that stated an "affirmative declaration that male persons may be admitted is not an implied denial to the right of females," Judge Francis Springer certified Mansfield at the Henry County courthouse in Mount Pleasant, making her the first female attorney in the United States. A dedicated educator, Mansfield chose to continue teaching at Iowa Wesleyan University, and later DePauw University, rather than practice law. Mansfield was also a committed women's rights activist, helping to found the Iowa Woman Suffrage Society, serving as chair and secretary of the Iowa Women's Rights Convention in June 1870, and serving as president of the Henry County Woman Suffrage Association.
16. Kansas - Amelia Earhart. Aviator Amelia Earhart was a feminist well before she made the first of her many landmark flights; following her marriage to fellow aviator George Putnam, Earhart "referred to the marriage as a 'partnership' with 'dual control.'" In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. For her endeavor, President Herbert Hoover awarded her a gold medal from the National Geographic Society and Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years later, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific. In 1937, Earhart began her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. After her radio contact received messages of distress, the U.S. Government began the "most extensive air and sea search in naval history" ($4 million and a 250,000 square mile ocean search). Well aware of the risk she was taking, Earhart wrote a letter to her husband before taking off on the fatal flight, proving she was a feminist to the death: "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards...I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
17. Kentucky - Rose Will Monroe. In 1942, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote the song "Rosie the Riveter," a national hit that inspired the character depicted in the famous "We Can Do It" poster created by J. Howard Miller during World War II. A "worldwide symbol of women in the defense industry," the figure prompted actor Walter Pidgeon, who met Monroe during a shoot at Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to make a film. Monroe was a riveter helping to build B-24 and B-29 airplanes for the U.S. Army Air Forces at the time and agreed to visit in a promotional film that encouraged women to support the war effort by joining the American workforce. Monroe continued working after the war, as a taxi driver, a beauty shop operator, and the eventual owner of Rose Builders, an Indiana construction firm.
18. Louisiana - Mahalia Jackson. "Queen of Gospel" Mahalia Jackson is perhaps best known for performing immediately before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington, but the world-famous singer was also a highly regarded civil rights activist. Fellow singer and friend Harry Belafonte called Jackson the "single most powerful black woman in the United States...the woman-power for the grass roots," and noted that there was not "a single field hand, a single black worker, a single black intellectual who did not respond to her." Jackson sang for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, recorded with Duke Ellington and eventually signed with Columbia Records. In 1950, she gave her first performance at Carnegie Hall and two years later began a world-wide tour. Following her death in 1972, both Coretta Scott King and President Nixon paid tribute to the "artist without peer...magnetic ambassador of goodwill...exemplary servant of her God."
19. Maine - Mary R. Cathcart. Politician and member of the Maine Women's Hall of Fame, Mary Cathcart's lifelong dedication to advocacy for women began in the 1970s, when she started volunteering to work the hotline for Spruce Run, the third oldest domestic violence shelter in the country. Cathcart was eventually hired as the organization's education coordinator and her years of training, community outreach, and publicity earned her a position with the Maine Commission for Women. Cathcart was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1988 and the Maine Senate in 1996. During her time in Congress, she sponsored legislation in support of Maine's Protection from Abuse Act, was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Child and Family Welfare, and helped create Maine's Joint Select Committee on Research and Development. When her Senate term ended, Cathcart took a position at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine and later co-founded the Center's NEW Leadership, a program that offers undergraduate women students free leadership training for careers in public service and politics.
20. Maryland - Harriet Tubman. In March of 2013, President Obama issued a proclamation in honor of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County, Maryland, the first commemorative site established in honor of historic figure and national hero, Harriet Tubman. Tubman was born on a plantation in Dorchester County, where she lived and worked enslaved for 27 years. She escaped in 1849 but returned many times during her tenure as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, earning her the name of "Black Moses." After leading countless slaves to freedom, Tubman continued fighting for and supporting the enslaved during the Civil War, as nurse, a cook, and a Union spy. This past April, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Tubman would be replacing Andrew Jackson on the 20 dollar bill as "part of a historic overhaul of U.S. currency aimed at addressing America's legacy of slavery and gender inequality."
Next week: Ten more trailblazing women from Massachusetts through New Jersey.