Zitkala-Ša (which means ‘Red Bird’), also known by the name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Native American writer, musician and activist. She was born on 22nd February 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her mother was a Sioux American Indian, her father a white American who left the family when Zitkala was only young.
In 1884 Christian missionaries came to the reservation and took many of the children, including Zitkala, away from their home, traveling 700 miles to their missionary school. Despite her mother’s concerns, she allowed Zitkala to leave, at the age of 8, to attend White’s Manual Labor Institute in Indiana.
Continue reading Zitkala-Ša – The Sun Dance Shero
*Trigger warning sexual assault*
Marilyn Monroe conjures up different images for different people. Little known is the ingenuity behind the glamorous star, who owned a library of over 400 books, an IQ higher than Einstein and a knack for determining revolutions.
Championing civil rights, Marilyn used her fame to support the beginning of the end of discrimination. 1950s America saw extreme segregation, and black musicians were often faced with the brunt of it. Ella Fitzgerald, one such lady, found difficulty finding gigs in the late ‘50s. Marilyn called the Mocambo Club, being a fan of Ella’s herself, and told them if they hired Fitzgerald she would watch front row every time. Ella has stated since that Monroe was ‘ahead of her time’.
Continue reading Marilyn Monroe – The Shero Behind the Starlet
Mary Mcleod Bethune was an amazing woman; an African-American teacher, who started her own school for girls from scratch and went on to be an advisor to presidents, campaigner for civil, and human, rights and champion of girls and young people.
Mary was born in 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, she was the fifteenth of seventeen children, and her parents were former slaves. From a very young age Mary worked in the fields with the rest of her family. Mary was the only child in the whole family who was lucky enough to go to school; she had to walk eight miles there and back, to a school which only had one room, and was only for black children. Because no-one else in her family could attend, she would come home from school each day and pass on what she had learned to her brothers and sisters.
Continue reading Mary McLeod Bethune – Educator & Civil Rights Shero
Margaret Fell (1614–1702): The Mother of Quakerism
Margaret Fell (née Askew, later Fox) was born into a wealthy gentry Lancashire family in 1614. By the time of her death in 1702 she had gained an international reputation as a leading figure of Quakerism.
Known as the ‘Mother of Quakerism’, she played a crucial role as an organiser, innovator, author and elder of the early movement. Although the details of her life as a Quaker leader are well-known, her influence in the early movement was greater than traditional Quaker history has suggested and is a subject that is only just beginning to receive due acknowledgement by historians.
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Ethel Smyth was a composer, suffragette and writer known for her passionate public and private life.
Born on 23rd April 1858 Ethel developed an interest in music from a young age. At 12, when she learned that her governess had studied music at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, she decided that was where she needed to go.
Unfortunately her father saw things differently, and was completely against the idea. He even stopped her music lessons to try and change her mind. Ethel was having none of it, and over the next seven years she persistently pressured her father; refusing to eat, locking herself in her room, skipping church and other social occasions until he finally gave in! At the age of 19 she finally left to attend the music school.
Continue reading Dame Ethel Smyth: Composer and Suffragette
Leila Khaled was born on April 9, 1944 in Haifa, a coastal city in Occupied Palestine. Leila’s family fled to Tyre in Lebanon after al-Nakba, also known as the Catastrophe, which resulted in the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinian refugees and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Leila fled Palestine with her mother and her siblings leaving her father behind to take care of the house and their family business, and thinking that they would return home after the bloodshed. However, he joined them a year later, after both the house and the shop were confiscated by Israeli forces.
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Betsy Ross is a heroine of the American Revolution, and if you’ve attended grade school in the US, you probably know why. Or at least, you think you do.
Betsy Ross’s claim to fame is that she was approached by George Washington in the spring of 1776 and asked to sew the first American flag. She adapted the original design of the stars on the flag to a 5-point design, and produced the first American flag for the brand new country and remained a staunch patriot for the rest of her life.
Although that story is very famous, it is actually much more myth than reality. The real story of Betsy Ross is a little more ordinary but just as worthy of commemoration.
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