On this date in 1876, Zitkala Sa was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She would go on to write several books, including American Indian Stories, co-write the first Native American opera, and found the National Council of American Indians. She was also a talented musician – before becoming a writer and activist, she played the violin with the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston for two years.

For more information about this pioneering organizer, listen to RWHP founder Shelby Knox’s profile of her over at Chick History:

On January 13th, 1913, 22 women at Howard University founded the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Less than two months after the sorority’s founding, the Founders of Delta Sigma Theta began their political activism by participating in the historic 1913 Women’s Suffrage March on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913. The twenty-two Founders of Delta Sigma Theta marched with honorary member Mary Church Terrell under the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority banner on the day prior to Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration; they were the only Black women’s organization to walk in the march. They were subjected to racism, not only from the spectators, but from white women organizers who forced them to walk in a “Black Only” section at the end of the parade.

On January 17th, 1938, Chicana feminist writer and activist Martha Cotera was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Educated in Texas, Cortera began her career as a librarian in El Paso and quickly became involved with organizing in the Latino community, including the farmworkers movement. She was a pivotal figure in the Raza Unida Party that formed in Texas and she is one of the founders of the Texas Women’s Political Caucus. Cotera also wrote two books, Diosa y Hembra: The History and Heritage of Chicanas in the U.S and The Chicana Feminist, focusing on the history and role of women inside Chicano culture, including activism, and their contributions to and struggles within the US women’s movement of the 1970’s. 

For more on Cotera, check out this interview she gave to the University of Michigan about her life as a Chicana feminist on the frontlines on social justice movements.

On January 13th, 1850, Charlotte Ray was born in New York City to abolitionist parents. She would go on to become the first woman to graduate from the Howard University School of Law. She was also the first woman allowed to practice and argue in the Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

Interested in women’s history? Watch the story of how women changed America over the last half-century — “MAKERS: Women Who Make America” narrated by Meryl Streep TONIGHT at 8:00 PM EST on PBS (check your local listings). And join the #MAKERSchat on Twitter – @MAKERSwomen.

Day 14: Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author, best known for her work, The Handmaid’s Tale.  The science-fiction, dystopian novel is set in a near future, in which Christian theocracy has overthrown the United States.  It explores issues such as women’s subjugation and their means of regaining agency, and asks the question: Who controls women’s bodies?  Both Atwood and her book(s) have won countless awards.  She currently serves as a Vice-President of PEN International.

January 26th in Women's History

1826: Julia Dent Grant, First Lady to Ulysses S. Grant, author of ‘The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant’, born

1831: Mary Mapes Dodge, author of ‘Hans Brinker or, the Silver Skates,’ editor of St. Nicholas’s Magazine, born.

1833: Elisabet Ney, German-born sculptor influential in the early TX art scene, co-founder of the Univ. of TX Art Dept, born.

1872: Julia Morgan, 1st woman licensed architect in CA, innovative architect of Hearst Castle & over 700 buildings, born

1893: Wu Yifang, China’s 1st woman university president, the only woman in China’s delegation at the founding of the UN, born.

1905: Maria von Trapp, the step-mother & leader of the Trapp Family Singers whose story inspired ‘The Sound of Music,’ born.

1944: Angela Davis, revolutionary supporter of the Black Panther Party, the Civil Rights & feminist movements, prison reformer, born.

1961: JFK appoints Janet G. Travell to be his physician. This is the first time a woman holds this appointment.

1966: Dame Annabelle Rankin appointed Minister for Housing, the 1st woman to be appointed to a cabinet position in Australia.

1972: Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulovic survives 10,160m fall without parachute after plane she is working on explodes.

1990: Elaine W. Steward named assistant general manager of Boston Red Sox, 1st Black woman executive in professional baseball.

2000: Thomas Jefferson National Foundation acknowledged that Jefferson was probably father to at least 1 of the children of his slave, Sally Heming.

2005: Condoleezza Rice is sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State, becoming the first African American woman to hold the post.

As part of RWHP’s US Women’s History Month mission, we’ll be featuring a photo and profile of an individual radical woman of history each day of the month.

Lucy Hicks Anderson was born in Waddy, Kentucky, USA in 1886.  When she entered school, she insisted on wearing dresses and calling herself Lucy.  Since the term transgender hadn’t been invented yet, when Lucy’s mother took her to the doctor for an explanation of her strange behavior, the physician encouraged her to raise Lucy as a girl and not a boy. 

Lucy left school when she was 15 to be a maid.  In 1944 she married a soldier in California, which led to troubles.  When the government found out that Lucy had been born male, she was prosecuted for receiving checks as a wife of a US Army soldier. 

“I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” Anderson told reporters in the midst of her trial. “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.”

Both Lucy and her husband were sent to prison.  Once free, Lucy moved to Los Angeles where she lived until she died in 1954.

Source: TransGriot

Day 13: Sylvia Rivera

          Sylvia Rivera was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance, and the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR).  A veteran of the Stonewall Uprising in ‘69, Rivera advocated on behalf of those marginalized by the mainstreaming of the “gay rights” movement, including “people of color and low-income queers and trans people.”  Her efforts towards inclusivity are still critically important, reflected in contemporary struggles for inclusivity and intersectionality in our movement and others.  

          In 2003, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was founded by Dean Spade in her honor.  For more reading on Sylvia Rivera, check out this interview and article on her life and story, provided by the SRLP webpage. 

January 27th in Women's History

1870: Kappa Alpha Theta established at Indiana Asbury College, the 1st Greek-letter fraternity for women.

1888: Hedwig Vicki Baum, German-born novelist known for her novel Menschen im Hotel (“People at a Hotel) that became the film Grand Hotel.

1944: Mairead Corrigan, Irish peace activist & co-founder of Community of Peace People, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, born.

1961: Leontyne Price formally debuted at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. The standing ovation after lasted 35 minutes.

1964: Maragaret Chase Smith (R-ME) declares her candidacy for the US presidency.

1991: Nadine Strossen becomes the 1st female president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

2010: After a year of working in what was essentially a rabbinic position at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York. Sara Hurwitz was given the title of “rabbah,” (sometimes spelled “rabba”) the feminine form of rabbi.

On January 17th, 1893, the last monarch and only Queen Regent of Hawaii, Liliʻuokalani, was overthrown by the US government. She had taken the throne just two years earlier and angered US and British businessmen by drafting a new Constitution that would have reduced their growing power over the nation and restored voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians. The businessmen began advocating for the US to annex Hawaii so that it could control its resources and economy, namely via the sugar trade, and eventually sent US troops to the Island. Facing a coup d'état that could spill the blood of her citizens, Liliʻuokalani relinquished her throne and her nation became the Republic of Hawaii in 1894, a “protectorate” of the United States. She was kept under house arrest for over a year after her abdication and died in 1917.

February 26th in Women's History

1858: Lavinia Dock, nursing pioneer who wrote history of nursing & general manual, suffragist & women’s rights activist, born.

1859: Louise DeKoven Bowen, helped establish separate justice system for juveniles, suffragist & Hull House president, born.

1879: Mabel Dodge Luhan, wealthy US patron of the Taos art colony, author of her memoirs & books on artist friends, born.

1906: Edith Madeleine Carroll, English actress, famous “Hitchcock blonde,” gave up career to work as nurse in WWII, born.

1944: Sue Dauser, Director of the Navy Nurse Corps, becomes the first female Captain in the U.S. Navy.

1950: Helen Clark, 2nd female Prime Minister of New Zealand and the 1st to have won office at an election, born.

1987: The Church of England’s General Synod voted to support the ordination of women priests.

2012: Danica Patrick becomes the 3rd woman to start the NASCAR Daytona 500 race.

On January 23rd, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States when she graduated from New York’s Geneva Medical College. She had applied to 29 medical schools and Geneva was the only one willing to accept a woman. Her acceptance, in fact, was a bit of sexism gone awry – the faculty presented her application to the 150 male students at the school and asked them to vote on it, assuring them that if even one man objected, she would not be admitted. The students assumed it was a joke and unanimously voted ‘yes,’ accidentally paving the way for her historic graduation.

Blackwell went on to found, with her sister Emily and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. This institution and its medical college for women (opened in 1867) provided training and experience for women doctors, many of whom had been barred from the internships needed to practice, and medical services to NYC’s poor and immigrant populations. She also published several important books on the issue of women in medicine, including Medicine as a Profession For Women in 1860 and Address on the Medical Education of Women in 1864.

Day 9: Faye Wattleton

         Faye Wattleton was the youngest and first woman and African American elected as President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, serving between 1978 and 1992. She is also the co-founder of African-American Woman for Reproductive Freedom, co-founder and former president of the Center for the Advancement of Women.  She currently serves as the Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal in New York. Ms. Wattleton has earned countless awards in her lifetime, including the Fries Prize in 2004 for her service to improving public health, and in 1993 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame

          Faye Wattleton, through her practice in nursing and her activism, is truly an icon in the reproductive justice movement.  She was recently chosen to be highlighted in a Makers documentary, where she discusses “the essence of reproductive rights and leading Planned Parenthood through violent attacks on clinics.”  If you are interested, you can check out the documentary here.