Michigan’s Mighty Women Leaders

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Throughout history, women have overcome enormous obstacles and discrimination to achieve the success, respect and recognition that they deserve. From gaining the right to vote in 1920, to almost 60 percent of women in America participating in the workforce as of 2008, women definitely have a reason to celebrate their triumphs this month. Michiganians have paved paths for women in education, law, social services and more.

Abigail Rogers

(1818-1869)
One of the most important leaders of women’s education in Michigan, Abigail Rogers has been recognized as one of the most admired women of the 19th century. Rogers and her sister Delia opened a school for women in Lansing in 1855. The Michigan Female College taught classes on both scientific and classical subjects, and by 1867, Rogers had successfully helped to educate more than a thousand women in Michigan. A pioneer of women’s education and schooling, Rogers inspired women to claim the knowledge and success that was
rightfully theirs.

Hortense Canady

(1927-present)
Hortense Canady was the first African American to be elected to the Lansing Board of Education. Canady’s leadership was key during a time when school integration was a controversial issue. She became the first executive director of the Lansing Community College Foundation and also founded Les Meres, a group focused on relationships between mothers and daughters. Canady is known internationally as president of the Delta Sigma Theta National Service Sorority, and in 2000 she was presented with the highest honor in the sorority, the Mary Church Terrell Award.

Alexa Canady

(1950-present)
Alexa Canady, Hortense Canady’s daughter, was the first and youngest African American woman neurosurgeon in the United States. Described as disciplined and soft-spoken, Dr. Canady served as chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Detroit and developed a reputation for her passion for her profession. With her specialty in pediatrics, Dr. Canady has contributed greatly to the fields of neurological illness, injury and trauma in children. She was a participating member of the Michigan Head Surgery Alliance, the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery and the Child Abuse and Neglect Division of the Michigan State Medical Society.

Debbie Stabenow

(1950-present)
In 2000, Debbie Stabenow became the first woman from Michigan to serve in the U.S. Senate (one of only 33 women in history). She’s also the only woman in the U.S. Senate who has been voted into local office, both houses of the State Legislature, and both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Stabenow currently holds the highest position occupied by any Democratic woman in the Senate.



Eva Evans

(1935-present)
A leader of education in Lansing, Dr. Eva Evans has held several positions in the Lansing School District, including director of elementary education and deputy superintendent of schools in charge of instruction. Evans developed groundbreaking programs like the Be a Star performing arts program, schools of choice and the 2+2+2 Program, which works with Lansing Community College (LCC) and Michigan State University (MSU) in guiding minority students into MSU’s College of Engineering. To encourage African American students to pursue careers in math and science, Evans worked with several organizations as a part of the national Partnership in Mathematics. Evans is currently the president of the LCC Foundation.


Jennifer Granholm

(1959-present)
Harvard Law grad Jennifer Granholm is best known for becoming Michigan’s first female governor in 2002. But before she was governor, Granholm was a federal prosecutor in Detroit and Michigan’s first female attorney general. She also created a program to prosecute Internet criminals and founded the Michigan Mentors Program.



Georgia Johnson

(1930-present)
Georgia Johnson was the first African American medical staff member and intern at Evanston Hospital in Illinois. Johnson went on to become the second African American woman resident in internal medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital, the chief resident of internal medicine at Wayne County Hospital and the first African American physician at Ypsilanti State Hospital. She was also the first African American woman on tenure at Michigan State University, where she co-founded a course for women in science. Johnson’s passion for fitness and competition has garnered her many awards, including four gold medals and one silver medal at the 2005 Michigan Senior Olympics.


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Tags: leaders, women history

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