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Indra Nooyi

Named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report in 2008, Indra Nooyi has come a long way. Nooyi was inspired by her mother who encouraged her to believe from early childhood that she could be whoever and whatever she wanted. She credits a dinnertime game her mother created for her two daughters. “Every night at the dinner table, my mother would ask us to write a speech about what we would do if we were president, chief minister, or prime minister — every day would be a different world leader she’d ask us to play. She gave us that confidence to be whatever we wanted to be. That was an incredibly formative experience in my youth.” Indra Nooyi currently serves as the Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. She’s thirteenth on the Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list and 82nd  on the most powerful woman…

Michelle Obama

Though she will forever be remembered in history as the first African-American First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama is an amazing woman in her own right. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, she is a graduate of two Ivy League schools, Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Michelle Obama started her career in law at the Sidley Austin law firm where she met her husband, the future (now former) 44th President of the United States. Assisting in his successful campaigns, she delivered the keynote address at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Democratic National Conventions each time receiving thunderous applause and critical acclaim. As a child, Obama was deeply affected by her father’s struggle with multiple sclerosis. She made up her mind to succeed for his sake and excelled in school attending Whitney Young High School, Chicago’s first magnet school for gifted students before going on to…

Regina Benjamin, U.S. – Surgeon General

The first African-American female physician under age 40 to serve on the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and the first African-American woman to head up the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. These are just two of the major accomplishments of Regina Benjamin. She went on to become the US Surgeon General following a historic nomination by Former President Barak Obama. Born in Mobile, Alabama, Benjamin comes from a family of pioneering women. Her mother raised her and her brother singlehandedly following the break-up of her marriage. Her grandmother was instrumental in establishing an African-American church in their hometown even holding Mass in her own home. Crediting these women as her inspiration, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana. Benjamin went on the attend Morehouse School of Medicine before receiving an M.D. from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. In March 2016…

Lt. General Patricia Horoho

Born in Fort Bragg, Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982, receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 1992 with a Master of Science Degree as a Clinical Trauma Nurse Specialist. In 2011 Horoho was sworn in as the first nurse, female Surgeon General. This historic day in US history was preceded by several stellar accomplishments, among them: named one of the top one hundred nurses in the state of North Carolina commanded the Army Nurse Corps received a two-grade promotion from colonel to major general served as assistant deputy for Healthcare Management Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, and retired Colonel praised Horoho saying, “She’s earned this extremely important leadership position, not only because…

Mae Jemison

In 1992, engineer and physician Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman astronaut when she took flight aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. A lifelong lover of math and science, as a child she thought space travel would be a commonplace occurrence. Encouraged by her parents in her early years, Jemison studied science and its connection to nature. A skilled, avid dancer as well, she chose to pursue her love of science over her love of dance because, “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.” Always dreaming big and never one to back down from a challenge, Jemison overcame many obstacles in her pursuit of her dream of becoming an astronaut. An elementary school teacher asked if she meant to answer nurse instead of scientist in response to the question of what she wanted to be when she grew up. Not…

Valentina Tereshkova

Forty-eight. That represents the number times Valentina Tereshkova orbited the earth on her historic three-day trip into outer space. She holds the added distinction of being the first civilian to fly in space. In 1962, because she was already an accomplished parachutist, Valentina was selected to join the female cosmonaut corps from a group of more than four hundred applicants. Born in central Russia, Tereshkova started school at the age of eight. By sixteen, she had left school and completed her education via correspondence classes. Following her school years, she became interested in parachuting, training in that and in skydiving. She completed her initial parachute jump at the age of 22, soon becoming an accomplished parachutist. This is the skill that opened the door for her selection as a cosmonaut. Intensive training for her space flight consisted of “weightless flights, isolation tests, centrifuge tests, rocket theory, spacecraft engineering, 120…

Josephine Baker

Bearing many monikers – Black Pearl, Bronze Venus, Creole Goddess – Josephine Baker was the first woman of color to star in a major motion picture and to become an international entertainer. Born Freda Josephine McDonald she was adopted by former slaves of African and Native American ancestry and raised by them in Little Rock, Arkansas. Themselves stage performers, they introduced their daughter to the stage when she was only a year old. Josephine was persistently slovenly and underfed as a child due to her family’s impoverishment. She had very little education, attending elementary school only up to fifth grade. At eight-years-old, Josephine started working as a live-in maid for wealthy white families. Fleeing abusive employers, one of whom burned her hands after she put too much soap in the laundry, she often lived on the streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes, eating food out of garbage cans, and dancing on…

Elizabeth Blackwell – First Female M.D.

Although born in Britain, Elizabeth Blackwell has the distinction of being the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US. Making pioneering strides for women in medicine, she went on to become a social and moral reformer in the US and her native UK. Following in her footsteps, her sister Emily was the third woman in the US to earn a medical degree. One of nine children, Elizabeth and Emily had a happy, but financially troubled childhood. In an effort to bolster their financial standing, the family started its own school, The Cincinnati English and French Academy for Young Ladies. Elizabeth then went on to accept a position teaching music in North Carolina to save for her medical school tuition and expenses. Elizabeth Blackwell’s greatest ambition was to attend medical school. Of her aspirations, she said, “My mind is fully made up. I have not the slightest hesitation…

Julia de Burgos

Puerto Rican poet, Julia de Burgos was more than a master writer and poet. She was also a tireless advocate for Puerto Rican independence. The oldest in a family of thirteen children, Julia de Burgos was born to a farming family in Carolina, Puerto Rico, though her father also served in the National Guard. Per Burgos, her childhood played a large part in her writings. She said, “My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.” Her family eventually relocated to Wiedras, where she won a scholarship to University High School. Following that graduation, she attended the University of Puerto Rico intending to become a teacher. She graduated at only nineteen years old with a degree in education and taught elementary school. She retired from teaching when she married Ruben Rodrigues Beauchamp in 1936. Sadly, this marriage ended in…

J. K. Rowling

The minute you hear the name JK Rowling, you probably think of Harry Potter. After publishing and producing the books and movies about the adolescent wizard, JK Rowling shot to stardom and fame. The Harry Potter series quickly became the best-selling book series in history. JK Rowling was not always as successful and prominent in the writing community as she is today. Her life is truly a classic tale of rags-to-riches. Rowlings was first inspired to write the famed series while on a train trip to London. Unfortunately, she soon started on a years-long unfortunate turn of events. In rapid succession, she lost her mother to death, gave birth to her first child, and was divorced from her first husband. She soon found herself living on state welfare benefits for nearly five years before the first Harry Potter book was published in 2007. Six sequels followed, each more anticipated…