The Stalwart

Women: Forerunners of collaboration, community building, and admirable leadership



There’s nothing like comradery and collective experience(s) to be the catalyst for the upliftment of community and humankind. Even though The Stalwart paused for the reorganization in March, that’s how I view the celebration of Women’s History Month. Women have been the source of admirable leadership for centuries. However, their leadership often gets overlooked and is undervalued as a source of expertise and wisdom. The legacy of women’s leadership has had lasting effects on many of our institutions and policies.

When we contextually examine the leadership of women, we can see the fruits of their labor wrapped in ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness, determination, and faith. I often refer to women’s leadership as purpose wrapped in a cloak of justice. If you haven’t read Herstories: Leading with the lessons of the lives of Black women activists, I advise you to do so to shed light on women’s purpose driven leadership. It is within their purpose that we see their leadership as sites of equity, humanity, and advocacy. Here are some highlights of women who were forerunners in their perspective fields that laid the foundation for the work many of us do today:

•Frances Jackson Coppin 1837-1913 – 37 year educator. First Black woman school leader in the United States to hold the office of superintendent of a school district. Coppin State University, HBCU is named in her honor.

•Anna Julia Cooper 1858-1964. Educator, principal, and scholar. 4th Black woman to receive her doctorate in the United States

•Ethel Hedgeman Lyle 1887-1950 – Educator, 1st Black woman college graduate to teach in a normal school Oklahoma and the first to earn a Life Certificate from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated 1908.

•Jessie McGuire Dent 1891-1948 educator that successfully sued for equal pay for Black teachers in Galveston, Texas. Founder of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated 1913

Social Work & Healthcare
•Frederica Chase Dodd 1893-1972, one of New York’s first Black Social Workers

•Betty Shabazz – 1934-1997 educator and nurse. Associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College

•Gloria Richardson – leader of Cambridge Movement in 1960’s that addressed inadequate wages, poor housing, and poor healthcare

•Margaret Charles Smith 1906-2004. Former slave, one of first Black midwives in the United States. Is credited to delivering 3,500 babies without losing a single mother even in the poorest of conditions.

Entrepreneurship, Military & Activism
•Bridget “Biddy” Mason – ex slave, midwife, and entrepreneur. First woman to own land in Los Angeles

•Charity Adams Early – 1842-1946, first Black woman to be commissioned as an officer in the Women’s Army Corps

•Charlene Alexander Mitchell, labor, and civil rights activist, stood as 3rd party candidate in the 1968 presidential election.

This list is just a snippet of the breadth and depth of the influential leadership of women. I firmly believe that women should be acknowledged for leading well, be seen as successful champions in their fields, as well as not forgotten as the forerunners of collaboration, community building, and admirable leadership. It is pertinent to honor their work because it influences our work even when we are unaware. The influence of women and their leadership is all around us. I urge you to explore your professions’ origins and find the hidden figures that have paved the way and opened doors. Chances are during your exploration you’ll find hidden gems, valuable leadership lessons, and hopefully some living legends. Good luck on your leadership expedition!
Love y’all double time®

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