Hello andieanderin community,
We started andieanderin to celebrate women and to educate ourselves on those who have paved the way for so many of the freedoms and rights we have today. The women we have showcased are diverse in background with contributions that have spanned sports, activism, entertainment, science, politics, and more. Women who have shaped and are continuing to shape the world we live in. Like many others, the Black Lives Matter movement has made us stop to listen and learn. We are motivated more than ever to continue our mission of celebrating influential women and will be funneling our energy towards sharing stories of influential women of color for the weeks to come.
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See our first week of women highlighted.
Born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia, and growing up in North Carolina, at an early age, Ella Baker had a spark for social justice. She heard stories from her grandmother and her life while in slavery. These stories moved Ella, she would become one of the leading figures in the Civil Rights Movement.
A bright student attending college at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Ella Baker fought against policies she felt were unfair. She graduated as class valedictorian and after college moved to New York City. While in NYC, Ella joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL), an organization that allowed its members to pool their funds for better deals on goods and services. Not long after joining, Ella served as the YNCL’s national director.
As a civil rights activist, Ella founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a prominent organization in the Civil Rights Movement that united its young leaders. She was also very influential with organizations such as the NAACP and Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In her life of social activism, Ella Baker worked with other leaders, such as MLK Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.
Today, Ella Baker’s name lives on through the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The center aims to combat issues with mass incarceration. The work of the center strengthens low income and minority communities. Also, a K-8 school in the Upper East Side of Manhattan is named after the brilliant Civil Rights hero.
“In order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been.”⠀
Grace Lee Boggs
Grace Lee Boggs was a prominent philosopher and activist, living until she was 100 years old, she embraced the idea of constantly questioning - who we are as individuals, and how we relate to those in our community, both local and global. Grace believed by working together that positive social change can happen.
Born in 1915 in Rhode Island, Grace Lee, a daughter of Chinese immigrants spent her childhood in Jackson Heights, Queens. At a young age, Grace demonstrated keen intelligence and studied at Barnard College at 16 years of age. At age 25, she received her Ph.D in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College.
At 40 years of age, Grace married her husband James Boggs, an activist and writer like his wife. The married couple settled in Detroit, where they set out to give people of color, women, and youth the necessary tools to effect social change. In 1992, Grace helped to establish the Detroit Summer organization. A program that connects youth to a number of community service projects.
In her early career as a writer, Grace translated the works of Karl Marx, and as a prolific author herself, she penned a number of her own books. Her first book, George Herbert Mead: Philosopher of the Social Individual, debuted in 1945. Grace’s other books include 1974’s “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century,” which she co-wrote with her husband; 1977’s Women and the Movement to Build a New America; 1998’s Living for Change: An Autobiography; and 2011’s The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, which she co-wrote with Scott Kurashige. “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it”
Wilma Pearl Mankiller became the first woman elected as the principal chief of the Cherokee nation. Born in Tahlequah, OK, a descendant of the Cherokee Indians, the Native Americans who were forced to leave their homeland in the 1830s; the name Mankiller descends from the high military rank achieved by a Cherokee ancestor. At the age of 10, Wilma and her family relocated to San Francisco, California.
Mankiller graduated from high school in California. She married and had two children. She studied sociology and went to work as a social worker. In 1969 she became active in the Native American Rights movement when the American Indian Movement (AIM) and other activists occupied Alcatraz. In 1974, she returned to Tahlequah and started working for the Cherokee nation while attending college. During this time, she was severely injured in a car crash that took the life of her best friend. Then, in 1980, just a year after the accident, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular disease that causes varying degrees of weakness in the voluntary muscles of the body. Despite all these challenges Mankiller managed to complete a master’s degree in Community Planning.
In 1983 she won election as deputy principal Cherokee chief and when the principal chief Ross Swimmer became head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1985, Mankiller succeeded him as principal chief. She won in her own right two years later. By 1992 she received 82% of the vote.
Her administration focused on the high unemployment rate and low levels of education on the reservation, improving community health care, and developing the economy of northeastern Oklahoma. She spent much of her time writing grants for health and education programs, including the Cherokee Home Health Agency and Head Start. She also created the Institute for Cherokee Literacy.
In 1995 Mankiller was diagnosed with lymphoma and chose not to run for reelection. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and in 1998 President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Women in leadership roles can help restore balance and wholeness to our communities”
Sonia is the daughter of Puerto Rican-born parents, and was born in the South Bronx of New York City where she grew up. Her father passed away when she was 9 years old and her mother, Celina, worked hard to support Sonia and her brother. Sonia has said her mother's sacrifices made her professional success possible.
Sonia earned her bachelor's degree from Princeton University and made her way to Yale Law School. There, Sonia was an editor of the prestigious Yale Law Journal before earning her law degree in 1979.
From 1979 to 1984, Sonia was the assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office. From there, Sonia moved into the private sector, where she litigated international commercial matters at a prominent law firm where she rose to become a partner in the firm.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. She served in that position until 1998. From 1998 to 2009, Sotomayor served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She was appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton.
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Latina Justice as well as the third female Justice of the United States Supreme Court, nominated by President Barack Obama, and sworn in August 8, 2009.
In addition to her positions on the bench, Sotomayor also taught at Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law. Sonia also wrote her memoir, My Beloved World, which was published in 2013.
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Madonna Thunder Hawk, born Madonna Gilbert in 1940 on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in Southeastern South Dakota, is a member of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Madonna spent her life being guided by the goals of winning justice for Native Americans. She is the embodiment of courage, a co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), founding member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and is currently the Lakota People’s Law Project’s principal organizer and Tribal Liaison. She has been featured in several documentary films including the PBS series, We Shall Remain, released in 2009 and the 2019 film Warrior Women, a story on Madonna as an AIM activist who fought for civil rights in the 1970s. Through her work, Madonna builds alliances and support for Child Welfare among South Dakota’s tribal leaders and communities.
Madonna’s activism has always emphasized the need for group empowerment and achievable goals, prioritizing the importance of community accountability and connecting rural residents of reservations to national or international policies and issues. She has maintained a talent for coalition building, even among those with whom she does not agree. Informed by her understanding of the indigenous identity as tied to the struggle for land and cultural preservation, she welcomes others into movements for indigenous peoples’ rights, looking beyond racial identity and skin color.