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History contains so many stories, and so many people who alter the course of the world. But so many of those world-altering acts don’t make it into history books at all, especially when the people behind them are not male and not white. Sometimes that’s on purpose, but sometimes, parents and educators just need a bit of help to ensure that our history is more well-rounded. This Women’s History Month, we wanted to introduce you to a few more women that your kids might not have been told about in textbooks.
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Claudette Colvin grew up surrounded by racism in Alabama, and eradicating it became her life’s work, beginning at age 15. Colvin made waves when she tried to sit on a bus in the days of segregation. She sat down in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., before a white passenger requested her to move. She refused to move to the back of a bus and was subsequently arrested for this. She did this in March 1955, nearly 10 months before Rosa Parks did.
Her seemingly simple act of standing up for herself was powerful. She was one of five people who testified in the case of Browder vs. Gayle, which ultimately resulted ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
You can read more about Colvin, who is still alive, in the book Claudette Colvin Refuses to Move: Courageous Kid of the Civil Rights Movement.
Jovita Idár’s efforts as an activist and journalist in Mexico and Texas in the early 20th century are especially important in our time of heated border questions and statements.
Idár had a deep desire to bring attention to topics others chose to ignore or hide. She shone a light on socio-economic and political issues, such as Mexican Americans who were being lynched. In 1911 she wrote a piece for the paper La Crónica advocating for women’s rights and suffrage. She and her brother collaborated on a paper they called Evolución. She continued to write, inform, and educate folks on the importance of women in politics.
You can read more about the teacher turned journalist and political activist in the book Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote.
If you’re interested in Disney or children’s books, you might have already seen Gyo Fujikawa’s work but not known about it. She was a Japanese American immigrant from Berkeley who became a children’s book illustrator. Her art is on the pages of several books including Dreamland, Babies of the Wild, Fraidy Cat, and Are You My Friend Today?.
Fujikawa worked in the Disney promotional department, most famously for the movie Fantasia and later on book versions of the studio’s movies.
You can read more about Gyo Fujikawa in the book Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation.
In the ’50s, however, a female comic artist was rare, and Marie Severin is affectionately known in the comic world as “the first lady of comics.”
Severin worked on major titles and covers within the Marvel universe in the so-called Silver Age of comics. It was a time when comics were really picking up steam, with legendary titles by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Few knew there was a woman working alongside them, drawing powerful narratives and bringing them to life.
Severin’s pen was responsible for covers and works of famous Marvel characters Dr. Strange, Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, and many more. She was also responsible for co-creating Spider-Woman. Later she would work on comic book versions of the Jim Henson classics Fraggle Rock and the Muppet Babies.
You can read about the barriers Severin broke with her work and her life in the book Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics.
Yuri Kochiyama was among many of the immigrants sent to internment camps during World War II. This tragedy sparked her life of activism. In the ’60s she spoke against war and segregation, and her work led her to meet and befriend Malcolm X. Sadly, she was present when he was assassinated in 1965 and even held his head when it happened.
Her efforts and dedication to informing and advocating against the tragedies of the Japanese interments paid off when Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1987, acknowledging this dark chapter of American history.
You can read more about Kochiyama in the book Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Stars Who Made America Amazing.
So many people know about Amelia Earhart, but Jerrie Mock was the first woman to complete the journey that Earhart didn’t: flying solo around the world.
Mock and her husband got their pilots licenses in the ’50s, before the 38-year-old mother of three decided to let him stay home while she embarked on her record-winning historical journey from Ohio in 1964. Her flight was 29 days long with several different stops in countries that were shocked to see her, a woman as the pilot in her Cessna.
You can read more about Mock in the book Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest.
Like others on this list, opera singer Leontyne Price knew she wanted to use her voice to make the world beautiful. As a young woman in the 1930s, she contributed singing in her church choir in Mississippi. Later she would attend the highly renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Her debut in a 1952 Broadway revival called Four Saints in Three Acts eventually lead her to opera stardom.
Years later in 1957 in San Francisco, the soprano starred Les Dialogues des Carmélites. She would tour the world, dazzling audiences internationally for decades to come.
You can read more about Price in the book Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century.
Juliette Gordon Low
Few know that the founder of the Girl Scouts of America was deaf. She hardly let that stop her from founding the organization in 1911, after seeing the Girl Guides in action across the pond. Low had a passion for empowering young women. She knew the importance of community for building long lasting friendships.
In fact she was known for amplifying her deafness in order to feign not hearing someone trying to get out of helping with her passion project. She would not hear anything but support.
You can read more about Low in the book Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure.
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