Inventor. Educator. Activist. Athlete. Artist. These are just some of the roles women have played in the writing of our nation’s story. The contributions of women like Sandra Day O’Connor, Althea Gibson and Elvia Carrillo Puerto have not only helped to advance progress in the United States, but they’ve been the proverbial “shoulders” today’s woman stands upon to continue pushing our society forward.

Michigan is fortunate to tout an impressive list of historic female figures whose stories line the pages of U.S. history books. Let’s take a look at Michigan natives instrumental in writing the nation’s “HERstory” in honor of Women’s History Month throughout March and International Women’s Day on March 8:   

  • Harriet Quimby. After four months and 33 lessons, Arcadia native Harriet Quimby became the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license on August 2, 1911. She was also the first female to fly across the English Channel.
  • Merze Tate. Tate was a scholar and educator committed to providing African Americans with equal access to educational opportunities. Though the state barred her from teaching because of her skin color, Tate was the first African American to graduate from Western Michigan University, the first female to attend Oxford University in England, and the first to earn a Ph.D in government from Harvard. She eventually went on to become professor and dean for Barber-Scotia College, Bennett College, Morgan State College, and Howard University, where she worked from 1942-1977.
  • Flora Hommel. Native Detroiter Flora Hommel was a passionate advocate for the rights of women of all socio-economic backgrounds. She co-founded the Childbirth Without Pain Education Association (CWPEA), an organization that taught mothers the Lamaze method of natural childbirth and served on the Detroit Health Commission and as a city representative to the State of Michigan Health Commission.
  • Marguerite Lofft de Angeli. Born in Lapeer, de Angeli is a literary legend whose stories and illustrations would transcend generations of young people. She is responsible for award-winning classics such as Book of Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes and the trailblazing Bright April.
  • Alexa Canady. A native of our state’s capital city, Dr. Canady is a Michigander with numerous firsts attached to her prestigious name. This includes becoming the first female African American neurosurgery resident in the United States in 1976 and the first female African American neurosurgeon in the U.S. in 1981.

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