My Personal Women’s History Month Heroines. Who Are Yours?

Joan of Arc

I Was Just Thinking…

By Norma Adams-Wade
Guest Column

March, of course, is Women’s History Month when the nation highlights women who have made a difference. But, like in sports, everyone can’t be Most Valuable Player.

But through their achievements, they can carry a torch for others.

I have listed women who I learned about over the decades and why I admire them. Let’s place them center stage for a moment. I hope you’ll salute them, too.

Who’s on your list? Here’s mine:

  1. Joan of Arc. (Life span 1412- 1431) Admired for her bravery and strategy as a teenage female warrior who died a martyr during a French-English war.
  2. Marian Anderson. (1897-1993) For her stunningly powerful contralto voice and magnificent presence that, as a youngster influenced my music appreciation.
  1. Eleanor Roosevelt. (1884-1962). Admired for her multi-cultural influence and self-awareness as the wife of a powerful U. S. President.
  2. Yvonne Ewell. (1926-1998) Because this HBCU graduate rose from the small farming town of Frankston, Texas to hold many top-ranking positions and “firsts” in Dallas school administration and who taught a young Norma Ruth Adams (me) in one of her early classrooms.

    Marian Anderson
  3. Harriet Tubman (my favorite). (Circa 1822-1913) For her seeming fearless resolve in not accepting southern slavery as a way of life for herself and, historians estimate, about 300 other enslaved[cq Africans that she shepherded to freedom.
  4. Ida B. Wells Barnett. (1862-1931) For inspiring me to pick up a pen and write to tell the many untold stories of my African-American people.
  5. Shirley Chisholm. (1924-2005). This daughter of Barbados immigrants was the first Black female elected to Congress in 1968 and — with the now-famous slogan “unbought and unbossed” — also was the first Black candidate for U. S. presidential in a major party. (Frederick Douglass, in the Liberty Party, reportedly received 1 vote in 1848.) Major party nomination winners in 1972 were Richard Nixon (Republican), George McGovern (Democratic).
  6. Alice Ball. (1892-1916) This brilliant, rising-star, young chemist created the first effective treatment for leprosy at age 23. But her heartbreaking story of triumph and tragedy, to me, represents the countless episodes of African descents who did not get credit for their creations. Ball, who some researchers call a genius, died suddenly and mysteriously, a year after her achievement. Researchers say her death certificate was altered. Yet she received some honors years after her death.
  7. Josephine Baker (1906-1975). Captivating, risqué vaudeville dancer, actress, civil rights activist. The first Black woman to star in a major motion picture in 1927 – the silent film Siren of the Tropics.
  8. Golda “Iron Lady” Meir (1898- 1978). The former Prime Minister was the first top female government leader in Israel and any Middle East country.

Runners-up: Barbara Jordan, Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris.

  1. Lucille Ball (1911-1989). One of the funniest and most entertaining actresses I can think of. Always reminded me of my mother’s humor.
  2. Ida B. Wells

    Samaritan woman at the well, Bible, John 4:1-42. (Circa 20-30 C. E./common era). Love the message of this tainted woman who receives and passes on an important message that ultimately improves her life and that of others.

  3. Ethiopian Empress Taytu (Also Taitu) Betul (1851-1918). Fought on the frontline of her own battalion in a famous 1896 battle that saved Ethiopia from European colonization.
  4. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020). Memorable women’s rights advocate by example and on the U. S. Supreme Court.
  5. Fannie Lou Hamer (1917- 1977). Led effective voting rights efforts for disenfranchised Southern Blacks and a movement to encourage women of all races to run for elected offices.
  6. Lorraine Hansberry (1930- 1965). One of my favorite authors who wrote the acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun. Runner-up: Bebe Moore Campbell.
  7. Nettie Ruth Ivory Adams, my mother (1921-2006). For her humor, energy, people skills with youth and adults, Runners-up: My maternal and paternal grandmothers Lucy Miller Ivory, Eva Williams Adams.

Now list your own. E-mail norma_adams_wade@

Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974.