Grab some confetti because today is International Women’s Day! This marks the 108th anniversary of the holiday that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. As the world honors the triumphs of mothers, daughters and sisters everywhere, we’re taking a look at some remarkable women in Michigan history.
This aviator and writer was born on May 11, 1875, in Manistee county. She later moved to Manhattan and worked as a theater critic and screenwriter until she became interested in flight. In 1911, she became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviation certificate and then was the first woman to fly over the English Channel. There was little press coverage of her historic flight because the RMS Titanic sunk the day before. She was famous for her flying costume of purple silk and daredevil maneuvers but died in 1912 when she crashed while performing at a Massachusetts air festival.
Grace Elderling, Pearl Kendrick and Loney Gordon:
These three women worked for the Michigan Department of Health Laboratory in Grand Rapids where they studied Pertussis bacteria, also known as whooping cough. At the time, the disease was killing thousands and 95 percent of those deaths were children. After years of research, they successfully created the first whooping cough vaccine. Mass production of the injection began nationwide in 1940, forever changing the medical landscape.
This Ukrainian-American was a lawyer, activist, politician, and publisher/editor of a variety of publications, including the “Ukrainska Zoria” (Ukrainian Star) of Detroit. She began as a social worker at the International Institute and then worked as a juvenile court investigator for Wayne County. She entered politics in 1949 and, after setting a string of firsts, became the first woman to serve as acting mayor. February 29, 1972, was proclaimed “Dr. Mary V. Beck Day” by Roman S. Gibbs, then Mayor of Detroit.
Born in Rudyard, Mich., she began her aviation career as a charter pilot and owned her own flight school where she trained over 200 men. In the 1960’s she was selected as one of the thirteen women to train with NASA as an astronaut. Despite years of training, she and the other women in the Mercury 13 program were ultimately denied the opportunity to go to space based on their sex. She went on to co-found the International Women’s Air and Space museum in Ohio in the 1980’s.
So here’s to all of the incredible ladies of Michigan’s past and present. Thank you for inspiring us all to achieve our dreams and fight for our beliefs each day. Now get out there and wish a “Happy International Women’s Day!” to all the women in your life.