Who are my sheroes?1 I have so many that it is hard to choose.
I’ve been a champion for gender equity my entire life, starting when I was five, and my neighbor and bestie, Ricky Nissley, told me that all fathers wanted sons, not daughters. I checked with my dad, and he said he loved having daughters and that girls could do anything boys could do.
Although I learned about the Civil Rights Movement from my parents and from Life Magazine and television, it was remote from my daily life in affluent White suburbs in the Northeast. My family believed strongly that racism was unjust, but we didn’t do anything about it. But gender inequity was part of my life, and something I set out to change.
For most of my life, my sheroes were all White women, including the famous women’s suffragists, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But thanks to Black women scholars, I have learned about Black suffragists and civil rights activists who played a crucial role in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, including Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Mary Church Terrell. Then I learned of the racism of Anthony and Stanton, and that racism pervaded the White women’s suffrage movement. It was shocking to me and made them no longer sheroes in my eyes.
As I have learned more about the history of my home city of Cambridge over the past 10 years, I have many more sheroes from my city to admire, including these two women who had a major impact on our society:
- Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) was a writer, activist, and abolitionist who escaped from enslavement and—among many other things—wrote a book. Titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written By Herself, it is still used in school and college courses today.
- Gertrude Wright Morgan (1861–1931) was a teacher, activist, and with her husband, Clement Morgan, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
So you can imagine my delight when as a citizen journalist for the Cambridge Community Television, I was able to cover a street renaming ceremony in honor of Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Wright Morgan. Many of Ms. Wright Morgan’s descendants attended, including Dr. James Spencer, one of the founders of the Cambridge Black History Project. Dr. Spencer spoke of the importance of this honor and the acknowledgement of his aunt’s major contributions to Black empowerment, especially as, until recently, Morgan’s husband received most of the credit. It was a moving experience for me to meet Dr. Spencer and hear the family’s perspective.
Who are your sheroes? Someone you know, learned about, or wish you could meet?
Siobhan Bredin is the director of technical assistance for the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE). She is also a member of EDC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and serves on the Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness federal work group.
1Shero is indeed a word, and it dates back to the mid-19th century. See the LEXICO dictionary (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/shero) and the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shero).
Photos. Left photo: 1906 Niagara Movement Conference at Harpers Ferry: Mrs. Gertrude Wright Morgan is seated. (Photo in the public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Niagara-women.jpg)
Right photo: Harriet Jacobs (Photo in the public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gilbert_Studios_photograph_of_Harriet_Jacobs.jpg)