Phenomenal Women – Coretta Scott-King

Most well known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Scott-King was always an activist and a civil rights campaigner, but the spotlight shifted to her talents and achievements after the tragic death of her husband.  Not only did she become a widow and single mother to four children but she also picked up the mantle to fight racial segregation and oppression that her husband had left.

Some of her notable achievements included founding the King Center, campaigning successfully to have a day of commemoration for her husband as a public US holiday and finally winning the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2004.

Up until her sad passing in 2006, she remained a vocal advocate for change and lent her voice to many campaigns including anti-apartheid demonstrations and LGBT+ campaigns.  Her speeches were almost as legendary as her husbands, and one of our favourite quotes by her is:

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

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Phenomenal Women – Laverne Cox

Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” is a firm favourite with everyone at WoK HQ it should come as no surprise that Laverne Cox has made it onto our list.  An outspoke LGBT activist with an emphasis on the T and a talented actress she has racked up an impressive number of firsts including being:

  • The first openly and African-American trans* person to be nominated for an Emmy for a Primetime show
  • The first openly trans* person to grace the cover of Time magazine
  • The first openly trans* person to be on the cover of any Cosmopolitan magazine

Born in Alabama known for its civil rights history Laverne was often teased for being too effeminate a comparison made more apparent because she also has an identical twin brother.  By age 11 she had recognised that she didn’t feel like a boy “should” and as she got older she made the decision to transition and in so doing became the outspoken and proud African-American and trans* activist and pioneer.  In her own words:

“I am a person of color, working class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you”

Phenomenal Women – Mellody Hobson

Everyone at WoK HQ was excited to share this profile because we know that depending on the industry you work in you may have missed her.  Mellody Hobson is a formidable American businesswoman.  Her accomplishments include being the President of a large investment company  (Ariel Investments)as well as being Chair of the Board of the DreamWorks Animation company.  Just one of these jobs would be enough for one person, but the Mellody takes them both in her stride.

Her story is all the more important and poignant because she joined Ariel as an intern proving that it is possible to learn and rise through the ranks.  She also serves on various boards and gives her time to raise awareness about the issues that are important to her in a range of ways including fronting a television show about money management in 2009.

The final thing we will say about Mellody, because it is interesting, but by no means, an achievement or an accolade, is that she is also Mrs. George Lucas!

Phenomenal Women – Janet Jagan

Irrespective of your political persuasion, no series looking at notable women especially Guyanese women would be complete without mentioning Janet Jagan.  Janet Jagan was the first female president of Guyana which is no easy feat considering that it is an extremely patriarchal society.  It is so patriarchal that she was only able to take the role of President after her husband’s death in 1997.

An avid activist and women’s rights organiser, Janet was dedicated to progressing equal rights for women and founded the Women’s Political and Economic Organisation in 1946.  Born in Chicago to Jewish immigrant parents her dedication to Guyana was even more remarkable because it was her adopted home after her marriage to her Guyanese husband.

In yet another tribute to her adopted homeland, Janet was one of the early and staunch objectors to the British rule in Guyana and along with her husband and many others she actively fought for independence and was subject to house arrest and jail by the British government in their efforts to undermine the challenge to colonialism.

A heroine to some and a bitter political foe to others she received polarised opinions in Guyana, but ultimately she still stands as an example fo what a tenacious woman prepared to challenge stereotypes can achieve.