Her Stories

As we get to the end of Women’s History Month, let me remind you of all of the women I have honored in February and March. I did a creative photo shoot to honor some women who impacted the world around them. Sacagawea, Dolores Huerta, Betsy Ross, Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks, Madam CJ Walker and Bessie Smith.

Her Stories

Sacagawea  was born about May1788 and was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who, at age 16, helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition explore the Louisiana Territory. Sacagawea traveled with the expedition thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, helping to establish cultural contacts with Native American populations and contributing to the expedition’s knowledge of natural history in different regions.

At age 11, she was taken from her home tribe, the Shoshone by the Hidatsa people where when she was older she became the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French trader.

Lewis and Clark hired Toussaint Charbonneau after learning that his wife, Sacagawea, spoke Shoshone. She was pregnant with her first child at the time.

On November 4, 1804, Clark recorded in his journal.

A week later, on July 13, Sacagawea advised Clark to cross into the Yellowstone River basin at what is now known as Bozeman Pass. Later, this was chosen as the optimal route for the Northern Pacific Railway to cross the continental divide.

While Sacagawea has been depicted as a guide for the expedition, she is recorded as providing direction in only a few instances. Her work as an interpreter certainly helped the party to negotiate with the Shoshone.

But her greatest value to the mission may have been her presence during the arduous journey, as having a woman and infant accompany them demonstrated the peaceful intent of the expedition. While traveling through what is now Franklin County, Washington, in October 1805, Clark noted that “the wife of Shabono [Charbonneau] our interpreter, we find reconciles all the Indians, as to our friendly intentions a woman with a party of men is a token of peace. Further he wrote that she “confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter”

Following the expedition, Charbonneau and Sacagawea spent 3 years among the Hidatsa before accepting William Clark’s invitation to settle in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1809. They entrusted Jean-Baptiste’s education to Clark, who enrolled the young man in the Saint Louis Academy boarding school. Sacagawea gave birth to a daughter, Lizette Charbonneau, about 1812. Lizette was identified as a year-old girl in adoption papers in 1813 recognizing William Clark, who also adopted her older brother that year.

She died December 20, 1812 or April 9, 1884.

Her Stories

Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers.

She was born in 1930 in Dawson New Mexico, but spent her growing up life in Stockton California with her mother and brothers after her parents divorced. She graduated from Stockton High School and went on to University of Pacific’s Delta College in Stockton earning a provisional teaching credential.

She began organizing by joining the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO) and later met Caesar Chavez. They went on to form the National Farm Workers Association in the spring of 1962. While Dolores was busy breaking down one gender barrier after another, she was seemingly unaware of the tremendous impact she was having on, not only farm worker woman but also young women everywhere.

At age 58 Dolores suffered a life-threatening assault while protesting against the policies of then presidential candidate George Bush in San Francisco. A baton-wielding officer broke four ribs and shattered her spleen. Public outrage resulted in the San Francisco Police Department changing its policies regarding crowd control and police discipline and Dolores was awarded an out of court settlement.

In 2012 President Obama bestowed Dolores with her most prestigious award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Upon receiving this award Dolores said, “The freedom of association means that people can come together in organization to fight for solutions to the problems they confront in their communities.

Her Stories

In honor of Women’s History Month I will share more images from my Queens photoshoot. I chose women from history who had an impact on history.

Betsy Ross was a woman who ran a business during a time when most women could not own property and where not considered citizens. She was able to influence leadership and get some of her ideas on the able.

Elizabeth Griscom Ross was born in 1752 in Gloucester City, New Jersey was an upholster who made the first American flag. Her parents were Quakers and sent her to a state-run Quaker school. Afterwards she became an apprentice to an upholsterer.

She married John Ross (nephew of George Ross who signed the Declaration of Independence) in 1773.  This marriage caused her to break from her family and start a business with her husband.  Among her first customers were George Washington, for whom she made bed hangings. When the Revolutionary War started, John was a member of the Pennsylvania Militia. He died 1775.

Betsy worked at the upholstery business repairing uniforms, making flags, tents, blankets and other things for soldiers.

The legendary story is that Betsy convinced Washington to alter the six-pointed stars on the flag to five-pointed stars.

She married again in 1777 to Joseph Ashburn and they had two children. He died in an English prison during the war. In 1783 she married John Claypoole and they had five daughters.

Betsy stayed in business until 1827, after which she passed it on to her daughters.

She died in 1836 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Model: Mary Jane Cardona Lopez Photographer: Karen J Anderson

This is Our History

Best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. She was arrested, lost her job and was the subject of death threats.

But as the movement grew stronger she became an icon of what activism looks like.  After the boycott, Parks moved to Detroit. She went to work for US Rep. John Conyers in the House of Representatives from 1965 to 1988. She died in 2005.

This Is Our History

Madam CJ Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana in 1887. After moving to St Louis in 1888, she worked at a laundry and became a part of the community.  She learned about haircare from her brothers who were barbers. She became an agent for Annie Malone, who owned a company that catered to African American hair care.  Walker would later become Malone’s biggest rival.

Walker moved to Denver in 1905 to sell Malone’s products and start to create her own.  She met and married Charles Walker. She began selling her products door to door, and her market grew to the point where she could hire other people to sell them for her.  She opened a college where she taught other women how to take care of their hair. She also opened a manufacturing plant to make her products.  She created a method of grooming that helped promote healthy hair and scalps. Her goal was to teach women how to live better.

She became a millionaire and her products were sold all across the US and the Caribbean. She supported organizations like the YMCA and scholarships for education of African Americans. She tried to fulfill a need in the community.

In this image it spoke to a woman who was able to be where she was. It did not limit her.