Women’s History Month
Learn about 4 women in history that you may have never heard of
Happy Women’s History Month!
This month, we’re celebrating the amazing contributions women have made to the world, honoring the past to inspire the future. As we reflect on the famous and notable—as well as the ordinary and everyday—achievements of women throughout history, we wanted to highlight incredible women in history that have made huge impacts on our local community and the world, but who may be unknown to most people.
These historical highlights were curated by the librarians at our 4 Cultural Resource Centers: American Indian Resource Center, Asian Pacific Resource Center, Black Resource Center, and Chicano Resource Center. Our Cultural Resource Centers were established to address the informational needs of these cultural communities, and to make information about them available to the larger community. They play an important role in supporting and preserving research and study on the social and historical aspects unique these cultural experiences.
In no particular order, we present 4 women in history that you may have never heard of.
American Indian Resource Center
Born in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca (Northern Paiute) was one of the most influential and controversial female figures in Native American History. Because of her educational background and her ability to read and write English, Winnemucca was an interpreter for her people and the US government. She was also an interpreter and scout for the US army during the Bannock War of 1878, an armed conflict between the US military and Bannock and Paiute warriors in Idaho and Southeastern Oregon, which caused some Natives to believe she had betrayed them. Winnemucca was known for her lectures and speeches that advocated for Native rights and education. She was the first Native American woman to write an autobiography, Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. It detailed the history and culture of her tribe, and their mistreatment committed by European Americans and the government.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu
Asian Pacific Resource Center
Often referred to as the “First Lady of Physics,” Chinese American Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu is one of history’s most renowned, yet unsung, physicists. During the mid-1950s, Wu conducted groundbreaking experiments that disproved the Law of Conservation of Parity. While her male colleagues went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize, her role in this scientific breakthrough went unacknowledged and uncredited. Nevertheless, she persisted. Wu continued to make cutting-edge contributions in physics throughout her career. She went on to be awarded the National Medal of Science, the Comstock Prize, and the Wolf Prize in Physics. In 1975 she became the first female president of the American Physical Society and her 1956 book, Beta Decay, remains an authoritative work on nuclear physics.
Bridget “Biddy” Mason
Black Resource Center
Bridget “Biddy” Mason arrived in Los Angeles as a slave in 1851. After being freed by the courts in 1856, she went on to become a nurse, midwife, prominent real estate entrepreneur, philanthropist, community leader, and a founder of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME). Mason established a home for herself and her family at 331 S Spring Street, and bought other lots that increased greatly in value as the City of Los Angeles grew, and its business district expanded to include Mason’s property. In 1991, almost a hundred years after her death in 1891, Biddy Mason Park, situated between Broadway and Spring Street at 3rd Street, was dedicated to this pioneering woman.
Chicano Resource Center
Muralist, activist, community leader, and educator Judith Baca has been a seminal force in Los Angeles’ community art scene. Starting in the 1970s, she headed a program to paint The Great Wall of Los Angeles mural. The half-mile-long mural depicts the history of California from the perspective of women and minorities. By her design, the project uniquely utilized underprivileged youth as artists and creators. Over the years, this program has helped over 400 young people discover their culture and artistic talent. As Artistic Director of the Social and Public Art Resource Center, Dr. Baca is still very active in the community today. Her art initiatives continue to create opportunities for the underprivileged and give voice to underrepresented groups, including the working poor, women, the elderly, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities.