Countless women have made monumental contributions to our nation’s history, and that certainly extends to our local history here in Michigan, as well! In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, here are eight women from Michigan who have made historical impacts here at home

  1. Andra Rush, founder, chair, president, and CEO of Rush Group – Starting from a $5,000 loan from her parents in 1984, she now leads the largest woman-owned business in Michigan and one of the largest Native American-owned enterprises in the United States. She has been recognized by President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union Address for creating manufacturing jobs in Detroit by opening one of the first plants in decades. She has been inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and has received various awards for her work and philanthropic efforts.
  2. Clarissa M. Young, Lansing’s first female police officer & co-founder of Women Police of Michigan – A big advocate for uniting police and the community, she created the basis of what “community policing” represents. She had many firsts in her policing career, including first female sergeant in 1951 (Lansing), first woman lieutenant in 1953 (Lansing), and first woman in Michigan to achieve rank of captain in 1962. Young co-founded the Women Police of Michigan in 1968 to address discrimination and harassment issues for women police officers.
  3. Cora Reynolds Anderson, Michigan’s first female and first Native American state representative – Her election to the House of Representatives came only four years after women’s suffrage. Her focus as a state representative was on improving health care, especially the fight against tuberculosis. Anderson also chaired the Committee for the State Industrial School for Girls, a reform school for young women located in Adrian.
  4. Cynthia Yao, first Asian American woman to create a hands-on science center in the U.S. – Since opening the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, a children’s science and technology center, it has attracted over 2 million visitors in the last 3 decades. The museum has received international prestige and made Yao in expert in the museum world.
  5. Edelmira Lopez, founded Cristo Rey Church – In an effort to celebrate and emphasize her Latino heritage, Lopez was dedicated increasing awareness of the Latino community in Michigan. After founding the Cristo Rey Church, she helped found the Cristo Rey Community Center which provides assistance with housing, food, health care, senior services, legal services, job training, counseling, and more for her community.
  6. Edna Ferber, Pulitzer Prize winner – A Kalamazoo native, she is known as a famous novelist and playwright. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, So Big, at which point her career sky-rocketed, leading to many of her other works to gain critical acclaim and be adapted into movies and plays.
  7. Harriet Quimby, first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States – She was also known as the first female pilot to cross the English Channel, although it came a day after the sinking of the Titanic. Quimby was known as a bold, fearless female who blazed the trail for female pilots today.
  8. Merze Tate, pioneer in higher education for African American Women – Tate was the first African American to graduate from Western Michigan University, to earn a degree from Oxford University, and to earn a doctorate in government from Harvard. She went on to become one of the first female professors in Harvard’s Department of History.

Visit The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame for more famous Michigan women and check out “Your Neighborhood” for similar blogs.

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