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Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
In 1932, this talented black opera singer was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. because of her race. Instead, she was allowed to perform at the Lincoln Memorial, where 75,000 people heard her unbelievable voice. She gained worldwide fame and in 1955 became the first black singer to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.

Suggested Site:
National Women’s Hall of Fame: Marian Anderson


 

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
The daughter of missionaries, Buck spent her childhood in China, learning to speak Chinese before English. She went to college in America, but returned to China for the next 20 years. As a poet and novelist, her experience in China inspired much of her work, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good Earth. In 1938, she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. After returning to the United States in 1934, she became active in civil rights and women’s rights. She also founded the East and West Association, an organization promoting Asian-American cultural exchange.

Suggested Site:
University of Pennsylvania: About Pearl S. Buck


 

Katherine Graham (1917- )
The Washington Post was first run by her father, then her husband. But when her husband died in 1963, Graham stepped in as the paper’s publisher. Once a reporter with the San Francisco News and the Washington Post, she ran the paper for the next 10 years. During her tenure, the Post became one of the nation’s leading papers and won acclaim for coverage of events such as Watergate. In 1998, she won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for her autobiography, Personal History.

Suggested Site:
People of the Century: Katherine Graham


Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Although trained in neoclassical ballet, this pioneer helped define modern dance with her unique choreography and theories. She infused her dances with emotion and a passion for the human form, creating movements unlike any the world had seen. Her style was highly criticized, but many talented young dancers were drawn to the Martha Graham School of Dance. The American composer Aaron Copland wrote his classic “Appalachian Spring” for Graham. In 1944, she choreographed the piece - one of her most famous works.

Suggested Site:
Time 100: Martha Graham



 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
As a photographer, Lange used her camera to document the suffering and injustice of her time. During the Great Depression, she was a photographer for the Farm Security Administration. Her images captured the hardships and dignity of migrant farm families escaping the dust bowl. After the start of World War II, she was hired to photograph the relocation of Japanese Americans into camps. She was shocked by the events and tried to capture the injustice in her photographs, many of which were censored by the government.

Suggested Site:
Oakland Museum of California: Dorothea Lange


Maya Lin (1959- )
A daughter of Chinese immigrants, Lin designed one of the most beloved monuments in America, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She entered her design at age 21, when she was an architecture student at Yale University. Many criticized her design, black granite tablets with the 58,000 names of American soldiers who died in the war. Others were angry that the design came from a woman of Asian decent. But her monument eventually won high acclaim, primarily from the friends and family who lost loved ones in the war. She has also designed other monuments, such as the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

Suggested Site:
Celebrating Women’s History Month: Maya Lin


Toni Morrison (1931- )
As a teacher, editor, and mother of two, Morrison did not begin writing until her 30s. Yet she quickly became a celebrated novelist - and one of the first important African-American women writers. Her novels portray the lives and challenges of African Americans. Some of her most famous works are Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. In 1993, Morrison became the first African American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Suggested Site:
Distinguished Women: Toni Morrison


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
A pioneer of modern American art, O’Keeffe created her own unique style with her large, vivid paintings of flowers, city landscapes, and scenes of the American Southwest. Her first major recognition came after a New York City gallery showed some of her drawings. The owner of that gallery, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, would later become O’Keeffe’s husband.

Suggested Site:
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum



Bessie Smith (1894-1937)
Smith began singing on street corners at the age of nine, and would later become one of the nation’s great blues singers. She composed many of her songs, which looked at the joy and suffering of African Americans. Her first record in 1923, “Down-Hearted Blues” sold two million records and she was one of the highest-paid blues singers in the country. This “Empress of the Blues” worked with several musical legends, including Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.

Suggested Site:
Stamp on Black History: Bessie Smith


 

Maria Tallchief (1925- )
This Native American woman is one of the most talented ballerinas in America’s history. She and her husband, George Balanchine, helped found what is today known as the New York City Ballet. She would later serve as the artistic director of the Lyric Opera Ballet in Chicago. Throughout her career, Tallchief has celebrated and promoted Native American culture.

Suggested Site:
National Women’s Hall of Fame: Maria Tallchief


 

Barbara Walters (1931- )
This trailblazing journalist began her news career as a writer for NBC’s Today. In 1976, she changed the face of broadcasting when she became the first woman co-anchor of the evening news. At the time Walters signed, she was the highest-paid news broadcaster. She also helped shape prime-time magazine shows and still co-hosts ABC’s 20/20.

Suggested Site:
A&E Biography: Barbara Walters


Oprah Winfrey (1954- )
She was born into poverty and a victim of child abuse, but Winfrey became one the most beloved and successful women in show business. She is the first African-American woman to own her own television production company and was nominated for an Academy Award after her first movie, The Color Purple. But she is best known for her national talk show aimed to inspire positive change and personal responsibility in her more than 14 million viewers.

Suggested Site:
Time 100: Oprah Winfrey

Pictures: Associated Press | Library of Congress | Associated Press (5) |

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