February is Black History Month and we wanted to pay tribute the best way that we at The Stork Bag know how- by giving a shout out to the amazing African-American mamas that have kicked butt in their field all while raising families of their own. We are completely in awe of this list- the fearless trailblazers who have taken the world by storm, all while being a mom.
1. Maya Angelou– We are starting off strong, aren’t we? Maya was an American poet, storyteller, autobiographer, and civil rights activist, just to name a few. She is the author of seven autobiographies, two books of essays, several books of poetry and credited with a long list of plays, movies and television shows. With more than 50 honorary degrees, she has worked with presidents, activists including Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr and numerous influential politicians and leaders. She is also credited with being Hollywood’s first female black director.
2. Mary McLeod Bethune– Mary was an American educator who was one of the most prominent African American women of the first half of the twentieth century. She dedicated her life to improving the lives of African Americans through politics and education, even starting her own private college for African American students. In her role as advisor during the FDR administration, she was able to be an advocate for African Americans and she was also the only woman of color at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945.
3. Jane Bolin– Jane was a woman of many firsts! She was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the NY Bar Association, the first to join the NYC Law Department and the first to serve as judge in the United States. She fought hard for racial justice all her life but as a judge she saw herself as a guardian to the people, especially children in need.
4. Rosalind Brewer – Rosalind is an American businesswoman who was the first woman and African American to serve as COO of Starbucks. While at the helm of Starbucks, she strengthened Starbucks’ sustainability initiative. She also recently joined Amazon’s board of directors, becoming only the second African American woman to join and is currently the only African American serving on the board. Prior to Starbucks, Rosalind was the CEO of Sam’s Club for several years.
5. Ursula Burns– Ursula is an American business executive who currently serves as chairman and CEO of the Xerox Corporation and in doing so became the first African American to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She was also the first female to accede to CEO of a Fortune 500 company in succession after another female.
6. Sarah Elisabeth Goode – Born into slavery, Sarah was able to overcome adversity and become the first African American woman to receive a U.S. Patent. As the owner of a Chicago furniture store, she had an idea for a folding cabinet bed that would help people save space in cramped living quarters. After receiving her patent, she unknowingly opened doors for other African Americans and women in general to patent their inventions.
7. Janice Bryant Howroyd– Janice is the first African American woman to own and operate a billion dollar company. She is the founder and CEO of Act 1 Group, the largest woman-owned workforce management company. In addition to being a highly sought after speaker, she also devotes considerable time to philanthropy.
8. Katherine Johnson– A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Katherine’s life work was literally out of this world, working as a mathematician for NASA helping to sending astronauts to the moon. During her three decades of work at NASA, she calculated and analyzed flight paths for spacecrafts. She was instrumental in the return of the Apollo astronauts return from the moon to earth and did trajectory analysis for America’s first human spaceflight.
9. Michelle Obama – Michelle is an author, lawyer and writer but is probably best known as the first African American First Lady of the United States. During her time as First Lady, Mrs. Obama launched “Let’s Move” to address the challenge of childhood obesity. While in the White House, she was also an advocate for service members, veterans, young people and students.
10. Madam CJ Walker – An entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist, Madam CJ Walker successfully launched her own line of hair products and straighteners for African American women. She went from poverty to one of the wealthiest, self-made African American women of her time and was a strong advocate for African American women’s economic independence.