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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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Laurie Jacklin

was born in Preston, St. Mary Parish, Jamaica, on 13 February 1941, to Ivan Haye and Gladys Hyatt. Pamela remained in Jamaica with her grandmother during the 1950s when her parents followed the path of many British-Caribbean subjects and migrated to England hoping to improve their lives. In London, Gladys worked in the printing industry and Ivan was employed at the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (Ministry of Defence). After completing school at West Indies College, Pamela joined her parents in 1958 and studied biochemistry in London.

A vacation in 1966 altered the course of Appelt s life as she decided to remain in Montreal Quebec just shortly after the Canadian government ended its White Canada immigration policy which had traditionally excluded most Caribbean born people She accepted a position in medical biochemistry research at McGill University in Montreal and completed a master s degree in public policy at ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

doctor of ophthalmology, inventor, medical researcher, and advocate for social equity in health care, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. A one-time merchant marine and global traveler, her father emigrated from Trinidad, taking a position as the first black motorman for the New York City subways, and her mother, a descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Indians, Bath tells her biographers, “was a housewife who worked as a domestic after we entered middle school. … She scrubbed floors so I could go to medical school” (Davidson). A brilliant student, Bath attended New York's Charles Evans Hughes High School and in 1959 was selected for a National Science Foundation summer program at Yeshiva University. Working on a cancer research team, Bath demonstrated the future potential of her work in science and medicine and was recognized as one of Mademoiselle magazine s Merit Award ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

U.S. congresswoman, was born Donna F. Edwards in Yanceyville, North Carolina, one of six children of John Edwards, an officer in the Air Force, and Mary Edwards who cared for the children. Edwards grew up in a military family and moved often; traveling throughout the United States and around the world. When she was a child she had aspirations of becoming president of the United States. Edwards was a teenager when her oldest brother, John, enlisted in the Air Force during the height of the war in Vietnam. When she graduated from high school she was presented with the opportunity to enroll in the first class to admit females at the Air Force Academy; however, she chose instead pursue an undergraduate education at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where she was one of six African American women in her freshman class. In 1980 Edwards earned a ...

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Irica Grant

was born to Herbert Smith and Vera Smith in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, on 27 June 1939. After graduating from Ardenne High School in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1958, Gordon decided to further her education at the University of Manitoba, Canada, where between 1978 and 1985 she obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master of science degree in microbiology. During the same period, Gordon also earned a bachelor’s degree in the field of secondary education and teaching from the University of South Florida. She married Donald K. Gordon, a university professor, in 1964, and the couple have a son, Kevin, and a daughter, Lisa. Throughout her career, she was committed both to her family and to community development, along with the development of science and technology, both as a practicing scientist and a teacher.

Subsequent to working as a technologist at the Government Laboratory in Kingston ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, college professor, and public school reformer, was born Evelyn Boyd, the second of two girls of William Boyd, a blue-collar worker who held various jobs as a custodian, chauffeur, and messenger, and Julia Walker Boyd, a civil servant who worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the Depression. Granville received her early education in the pre–Brown v. Board of Education era of separate but equal public schools for blacks and whites Despite the dual system Boyd would later insist that she received a quality education in elementary and middle school and later at Dunbar High School one of three public high schools in the Washington D C area designated for black students Dunbar had a reputation for high academic standards and for emphasizing the importance of racial pride and personal excellence Recalling that period Granville writes My generation benefited ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar, historian, physicist, engineer, and advocate for minorities and women in science, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of two girls of William Emmett Hammonds, a postal worker, and Evelyn Marie Hammonds, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher. At age nine, Hammonds's father gave his daughter a chemistry set. For Hammonds, the chemistry set, along with later gifts of a microscope, and building sets, sparked an interest in science that would be encouraged by both parents. The events also set her on a path that would force her to think more critically about her own identity and the struggles and contributions of blacks and women in science.

Growing up in Atlanta, Hammonds attended all-black public elementary schools. This would change in 1967 when as a fourteen year old ninth grade student she was bused to a predominately white school ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

entrepreneur, inventor, and activist, was born in Monterey, Virginia, to George Emmanuel Stewart, a teacher, and Annie Dougherty Stewart, a housewife. The couple had thirteen children, but only four daughters lived beyond infancy. After relocating their family to Dayton, Ohio, Stewart's parents divorced and, in 1912, she moved to Chicago to live with her mother. In Chicago, Stewart attended Edgewood High School, worked temporary jobs, and, on 4 April 1916, she married Dr. Robert Joyner, a podiatrist from Memphis, Tennessee. The couple had two daughters: Anne Joyner Fook and Barbara Joyner Powell, who both became educators. At some point during her early Chicago years, Stewart made the decision to become a beautician and that decision would shape her future.

Joyner became the first black graduate of the A.B. Molar Beauty School in 1916 and she opened her own beauty shop ...

Article

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemist and corporate leader, was born in Pavo, Georgia, the second of three daughters of Willie Clark and Ola Watts Campbell. Her mother Ola had a third-grade education, and her father Willie was illiterate. Reatha was raised in Moltrie, Georgia, by her mother and aunt after her parents separated when she was young. She had to pick cotton and do the heavy fieldwork that was the typical life in the 1940s for poor sharecroppers' children. African American girls in the rural segregated South had few role models, but she received strong encouragement from her family and community to use her academic ability to overcome social disadvantages.

Clark started school at the age of four in the one room schoolhouse at Mount Zion Baptist Church Clark attended the segregated Moultrie High School for Negro Youth A teacher there encouraged her love of math and science even though the school ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, educator, and activist, was born Vivienne Lucille Malone in Waco, Texas. Her parents, Pizarro Ray Malone and Vera Estelle (Allen) Malone, both worked as public school teachers and stressed the importance of education as a pathway to advancement and opportunity.

After graduating from the racially segregated A.J. Moore High School in 1948 at the age of sixteen, young Vivienne attended Fisk University, a historically black institution in Nashville, Tennessee. She wanted to become a doctor and might have achieved that goal had she not met and married James Jeffries Mayes, a dental student. Her husband-to-be convinced her that the professional demands of two doctors in the family would be a strain on them personally. So she switched her major from pre-med to mathematics. The decision proved fortuitous. During her junior year in 1950 the university hired two mathematicians who would serve as mentors ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, chemist, and education advocate, was born Shirley Mathis in the small and racially segregated town of Bainbridge, Georgia, during the Great Depression. Her parents' names and occupations are unknown. By all accounts, McBay was a child prodigy who was often teased because she liked to study, especially mathematics. But McBay's mother supported her daughter's interest in mathematics and encouraged her to continue to work hard if she wanted to be successful. McBay would follow that principle throughout her professional career.

McBay found her mother's own hard work a source of inspiration and looked up to her as a role model. McBay's other role models were her teachers. One teacher in particular, Hattie Mae Mann recognized early that McBay had potential and challenged her to excel Yet despite the support and involvement of her community McBay learned early about the separation between black and white which ...

Article

Virginia Whatley Smith

Diane Alene Oliver lived only twenty-two years, but she left a legacy of short stories to earn her recognition. Born 28 July 1943, Oliver grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where her passage into adolescence coincided with the racial upheavals in the Charlotte–Mecklenburg school system. The Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, mandating desegregation of public schools. Oliver never capitulated to notions of racial inferiority and went on to graduate from West Charlotte High School.

In 1960, she enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; that marked the beginning of an auspicious writing career. Oliver served as managing editor of The Carolinian, the campus newspaper; studied under poet Randall Jarrell; and also began to write short stories. A career break occurred when Oliver won the guest editorship for the June 1964 edition of Mademoiselle magazine in its ...

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Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemical engineer, activist, and the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Chemical Engineering, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the fourth of five children of James and Elizabeth Patrick. Her parents had little formal education beyond the sixth grade; her father worked as a janitor and her mother was a maid. They wanted their children to be educated and successful. They talked repeatedly about using the mind as a way out of poverty. As a child, Jennie loved to read and enjoyed encyclopedias because they stretched her imagination and opened her world. During her early childhood years, she attended the segregated elementary and junior high schools in her home town. When she was of high school age in 1964, she was able to attend an integrated high school because the full effect of the Brown v. Board of Education decision had been implemented ...