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Women WHO LED THE WAY.

In recognition of Women's History Month, Junior Scholastic honors six women whose guts and determination have helped change the world.

Sojourner Truth

Born a slave in upstate New York, Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883) became the first black woman to speak out publicly against slavery. Although she never learned to read or write, her commanding presence and quick wit electrified audiences.

"Ain't I a Woman?"

Originally named Isabella Baumfree, Truth gained her freedom in 1828. New York State had actually banned slavery in 1827. But, when Truth's master refused to let her go, she ran away. In 1843, she said the voice of God had told her to travel and tell people about the sin of slavery. She also said that God gave her a new name: Sojourner Truth.

"The Lord gave me Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showin' the people their sins," she said. "And the Lord gave me Truth because I was to declare truth unto people."

Even though Sojourner Truth was harassed and sometimes even beaten, she traveled to many states, preaching against the injustice of slavery. In the 1850s, she took up the cause of women's rights. At a women's rights convention in Ohio, she gave her most famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?"

That same year, Truth dictated her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. During the Civil War (1861-1865), she collected food and clothing for black soldiers. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln invited Sojouner Truth to the White House.

Susan B. Anthony

Fighter for Equal Rights

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) spent a lifetime working for social change. She began her career as a schoolteacher, one of the few positions open to women at that time. But Anthony soon left teaching to join the temperance movement, a campaign to abolish alcoholic beverages.

After meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, Anthony became involved in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements. During the Civil War, Anthony and Stanton established the American Equal Rights Association, which worked to secure voting rights for both blacks and women.

But, after the war, the two women were crushed when the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave the vote to black men, but not to women. In 1869, Anthony and Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. Its goal: a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. Anthony traveled around the country to drum up support. She gave speech after speech and flooded congressional offices with hundreds of petitions.

In 1872, Anthony went to the polls in Rochester, New York, to cast her vote for President. Several weeks later, she was arrested, jailed, and fined $100. She refused to pay the fine.

Despite many setbacks, Anthony kept campaigning for women's rights. "United," Stanton said, "we have a feeling of ... such strength of self-assertion that no ordinary obstacles, difficulties, or dangers ever appear to us insurmountable."

In 1920, 14 years after Anthony's death, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote. Many people called it the Anthony Amendment.

Elizabeth Blackwell

First Female Doctor

In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. Although most people accepted women as nurses and midwives then, female doctors were unheard of.

Blackwell applied to 29 medical schools before finally being accepted by Geneva College in Geneva, New York. She was admitted only because the all-male student body decided that having a female classmate would be a hilarious joke!

Although other students shunned her at first, Blackwell's intelligence and determination eventually won them over. "The idea of winning a doctor's degree gradually assumed the aspect of a great moral struggle," she later wrote in her autobiography.

But after Blackwell received her degree, no American hospital would hire her. So she returned to England, her birthplace, to work in a hospital. She also studied midwifery in France.

In 1851, Dr. Blackwell moved back to New York to start a medical practice. But no one would rent her office space. So she and her younger sister, Emily, set up their own hospital, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

In 1868, Blackwell opened the Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary.

Nellie Bly

Around-the-World Reporter

Nellie Bly (1867?-1922) loved adventure. A resourceful and courageous reporter, she never hesitated to put herself in danger to find a story. People called Bly "the best reporter in America."

Her real name was Elizabeth Cochran. She changed it to Nellie Bly, the name of a popular song, after she landed a job as a reporter for The Pittsburgh Dispatch. Bly wrote about life in the slums and the horrible conditions for working girls in Pittsburgh's factories.

In 1887, she got a job at the New York World newspaper. For her first story, she pretended to be insane and got herself committed to Blackwell's Island, a New York mental institution. Her story exposed appalling conditions at the asylum, and led to better treatment of patients.

For the next two years, Bly wrote about miserable conditions in factories; the mistreatment of women in prisons; and corrupt politicians. But what assured Bly's place in history was her whirlwind trip around the world.

She decided to beat the record of Phileas Fogg, the fictitious hero of Jules Verne's popular novel Around the World in 80 Days. Traveling by boat, train, donkey, and rickshaw, Bly circled the globe in 72 days. When she returned to New York, thousands of cheering fans greeted her.

Wilma Mankiller

Cherokee Chief

In 1985, Wilma Mankiller became the first female chief of a major Native American tribe--the Cherokee Nation. "Prior to my becoming chief, young Cherokee girls never thought they might be able to grow up and become chiefs themselves," Mankiller wrote in her autobiography. "That has definitely changed."

Born in 1945, she grew up in poverty on the family farm in Mankiller Flats, Oklahoma. In 1956, the U.S. government encouraged the family to move to San Francisco as part of a nationwide project to urbanize Native Americans.

Living conditions were no better in the city, and in 1969, Mankiller joined the American Native Rights Movement. In the 1970s, she moved back to Oklahoma, where she worked to improve housing and social services as a community organizer for the Cherokee Nation.

After becoming Cherokee Nation chief, Mankiller created programs to improve education and job opportunities. At the same time, she worked to preserve ancient Cherokee traditions. She developed the Institute for Cherokee Literacy to teach young tribal members how to read and write Cherokee.

Mankiller was so popular that under her leadership, the tribe's membership increased from 55,000 to 156,000. She was re-elected as chief twice, but declined to run for a fourth term. In 1987, Ms. magazine named her woman of the year.

Maya Lin

"The Wall"

In 1981, a committee of architects, designers, and sculptors held a contest to choose a design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. From 1,421 anonymous entries, they chose the compellingly simple design of Maya Lin, a 21-year-old student at Yale University.

Her design features two black granite walls. Inscribed into the granite are the names of the more than 58,000 Americans who died in the war or who are listed as missing in action.

Critics complained that Lin's design was too abstract and cold. But after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in Washington D.C., many people were struck by its emotional power.

"I think when you're overcoming grief, you have to face that in order to accept and begin to heal from it," Lin says. Thousands of mourners leave flowers and letters near the names of their loved ones engraved on the memorial.

Lin has become one of the most respected and well-known architects in America today. Among her many works are the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama; The Women's Table at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut; and the Museum for African Art in New York City.
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Title Annotation:ladies who mad history in the United States
Author:Miller, Amy
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 26, 2001
Words:1339
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