• Paula J Leon

Women Making History: Then & Now

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

March is all about celebrating women’s history and that should include the women making history right now. Here are some inspiring women who have had some extraordinary impact in society, whether that was a year or decades ago. May a child write an essay about these fierce figures one day.

1. Rashida Jones

This year, Rashida Jones became the first Black woman to lead a cable news network in the U.S. after being named president of MSNBC. As part of her early projects in her new position, she unveiled a new organizational structure that puts greater emphasis on the difference between breaking news programming, and analysis and opinion shows.

2. Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox, is known as a star of Orange Is The New Black, who became the first transgender actress of color to have a leading role on a mainstream TV show, CBS's Doubt in 2017. She is the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for a primetime Emmy in any acting category. She is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and was honored for her work as an advocate for the transgender community at GLAAD with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, a recognition given to openly LGBTQ+ members of the entertainment or media community for their work toward eliminating homophobia. Fun fact: she is the first openly transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds.

3. Billie Holiday

I’m personally a lover of jazz and I’ve been obsessed with Billie Holiday since I started to sing jazz. There is no voice more unique than Billie Holiday’s. In 1939, Billie was in the middle of recording with Columbia Records when someone sent her the poem “Strange Fruit,” it soon became a massive hit but Columbia, her record company at the time, was not interested in the piece because had a powerful story about the lynching of African Americans in the South. Holiday recorded the song with Commodore Records instead, determined to deliver the song. "Strange Fruit'' is considered to be one of her signature ballads, and the controversy that surrounded it–including getting banned from radio stations, actually helped make it a hit. Talking about no press is bad press. In early 2021, Hulu released a film about her 1947 court case: “The United States Versus Billie Holiday.” The charges against her were for possession of narcotics with the ultimate result being to stop her from singing her controversial song “Strange Fruit.”

4. Ava Duvernay:

Ava DuVernay was the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe for her movie Selma in 2014. Her documentary 13th was nominated for an Oscar in 2017. This documentary also turned her into the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget exceeding $100 million.

5. Wilma Mankiller

First I want to point out how awesome that last name is. She sounds like a superhero… and she kinda is. Mankiller was the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation and she fought for the rights of women and Native Americans. She led the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. She was admired by many, including former male chiefs stating she was the embodiment of a patriot, someone who really thought for the better of their people.

6. Chloe Zhao

Chloe Zhao is the first Asian woman and the second woman to ever win Best Director at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual awards show, the Golden Globes. The Nomadland and Eternals director made history at the 2021 Golden Globes ceremony:

"I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their stories with us," Zhao said while accepting her award, before sharing a quote from Bob Wells: "'Compassion is a breakdown of all barriers between us, a heart-to-heart bonding. Your pain is my pain. It's mingled and shared between us.' This is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories, because it gives us a chance to laugh and cry together, and a chance to learn from each other and have more compassion for each other."

These are just a handful of women who’ve inspired and continue to inspire others today. All have changed the world in one way or another. I invite you to read up on these women and consume their work if they have it, and if they don't, learn their history.

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