Femme of the Week is a weekly segment where we highlight femmes through art and words. The segment was originally created by Abbie O’Hara and Daisy Jones for our EcoFeminist Issue.

Yayoi Kusama

Artwork by Hannah Smuland , words by Carson Scott

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese avant-garde artist who has a large focus in patterning through polka dots.  She grew up with parents trapped in an unhappy marriage; her father would regularly cheat on her mother and Kusama’s mother would often send her on missions to spy on her father having sex with other women.  This affected Kusama’s view of sex and love for the rest of her life, leaving her with an eternal disdain for sex.  At a young age Kusama hallucinated dots and orbs of light, which is what largely inspires her to incorporate so many polka dots into her artwork.  She also began to work at the very young age of thirteen at a factory in the midst of World War II.  The war had a great effect on Kusama and led to Kusama’s belief in the importance of pursuing one’s interests instead of sitting around and being compliant with what life seems to have destined for you.  

Kusama attended an art school in Japan and eventually departed for France and New York.  She went to New York with fellow artist and friend Georgia O’Keeffe, who mentored Kusama through her early years as an artist.  Once settled in New York, she began to build up a name and reputation for herself in the realm of avant-garde artists.  She began to create installations filled with phallic shaped, polka dot ladened objects.  She also used mirrors often in her work, creating a series called “Mirror/Infinity Rooms”.  In addition, she broke into performance art, beginning with purposefully obnoxious happenings in public that often involved nudity in an effort to protest the Vietnam War.  In another performance art piece, performers stepped into the fountains in a courtyard at the MoMA, removed their clothes, and allowed Kusama to cover them with paintings of polka dots.  

 Kusama eventually ended up back in Japan due to poor health and began to write many surreal novels and short stories.  She became an art dealer, but it was short lived and she eventually checked herself into a mental hospital.  She still resides there today by choice, but continues to collaborate with others and create new works.  She did a campaign with Louis Vuitton and designed bags decorated in her signature colored polka dots.  She has also taken part in the Venice Biennale multiple times, each time creating a new iconic piece of art or installation.  Recently a new museum opened in Tokyo dedicated to Kusama and features many of her works.  Kusama is still alive and active today, further cementing her fame and dedication to creating works of art.  


Cindy Sherman

Artwork by Hannah Smuland , words by Carson Scott

Cindy Sherman is a conceptual photographer who grew up in Long Island, New York.  She began her work as a painter but soon found that painting had certain limitations that she did not enjoy, so she in an effort to raise above these limitations she found a interest in photography.  She began to dress herself in different personas using clothing she found at thrift stores and photograph herself posing as various characters. She also turned all of her college studies towards photography and found other photographers interested in the same kind of conceptual work that she was interested at her college.  

In Sherman’s work she typically plays every role; she is her own stylist, model, director, and photographer.  In her first notable work, she dressed herself up as a variety of bus riders and photographed herself in these different personas.  She also would dress up as old Hollywood actors and actresses and created fake movie stills with mostly unclear plots. The story for these movie stills depended on Sherman’s expressions and positioning, rather than relying on background or props.  This series, called Untitled Film Stills, continued into an even longer series, where Sherman would dress up as whatever character she pleased.  She then started to include more background and prop assistance and slowly began to create more elaborate scenarios.  She left these photographs untitled to promote ambiguity and different translations of what scene she was portraying.

She eventually started another series called Sex Pictures, where Sherman used mannequin bodies and limbs to create slightly unsettling images with sexual undertones.  While these pictures were sexual in nature, they were also grotesque and unappealing, challenging the typical role of pornography as an attractive and “sexy” form of media.  These images can also be seen as a reflection on some people’s discomfort of overt and open sexuality. The images in this series are beautifully strange and tend to entice the viewer, despite their inherent unappealing nature.  

Many of Sherman’s works have feminist undertones, whether they are speaking out on the sexualization on women’s bodies or highlighting the effects of domestic violence.  She uses her art to support women’s rights and raise awareness for inequalities and disadvantages that women face. Sherman took her passion for photography and turned it into a way for her to express herself and the many ideas she has.  She is still alive and working today, and continues to create more amazing works.


Angela Davis

Artwork by Hannah Smuland , words by Carson Scott

Angela Davis was an American civil rights activist who fought for racial equality.  She is famously associated with the Black Panther Party and also fought for women's rights.  She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where she lived in a neighborhood that was bombed in an effort to drive out African American middle class citizens.  Davis’ mother worked in civil rights as well with a communist party and tried to promote a healthy and close community among African American people in the South.  Davis was very influenced by being raised in a communist environment and remained in association with the communist party into her adulthood. Another early influence of hers was found in girl scouts, where she truly found her interest in civil rights and activism.  

She attended Brandeis University and went to grad school at UC San Diego, where she began her association with the Black Panthers.  She went on to find work as a professor at UCLA but was briefly unemployed because of her alleged association with the communist party.  Davis fought her dismissal in court and eventually got her former position as a professor back. Outside of her work, she fought for the freedom of three men nicknamed the Soledad Brothers who were accused of killing a prison guard.  At their court session, they ended up being armed and freed and the escape attempt was soon tied to Davis, who was found to have purchased the guns used in their escape. She was sent to jail and spent 18 months there until she was eventually acquitted in 1972.  

Davis eventually returned back to teaching and is now a professor at UC Santa Cruz.  She also turned to writing, her most popular book being Women, Race, and Class.   She also spent time visiting different places and lecturing on her beliefs and findings.  She incorporates her time spent in prison and her beliefs on race, gender, and class into her lectures and writings.  She has become one of the most iconic speakers on the need for social change and will forever be remembered for her fight for equality.  


Frida Kahlo 

Artwork by Hannah Smuland , words by Carson Scott

Frida Kahlo is an artist from Mexico who is known for her self-reflective portraits and surreal paintings.  She grew up in a very stiff family; her mother was serious and highly religious and her parents did not really love each other.  At a young age Kahlo contracted polio and was left with a leg that was significantly smaller and thinner than the other, leaving her with a lasting disability.  This ailment also kept her home for long stretches of time, which left her estranged and bullied by classroom peers, but caused her to become closer with her father.  Her father nurtured her creativity and encouraged her to explore education and art. Kahlo started school later in her life and went in and out of many schools. During her schooling she lied about her age, stating that she was born on the year that the Mexican Revolution began.  

Kahlo’s school career was going in a promising direction, but when she was eighteen she was involved in a bus accident that left her with near fatal injuries.  She was left bedridden for three entire months, stuck immobile in a plaster corset. She passed the time by painting, the main subject of her artworks being herself.  A couple of years after her time spent bedridden, she met Diego Rivera, another renowned painter, and they soon wed, despite her knowledge that he was known for flirting with many women and had a history of being unfaithful.  They lived in separate houses and both had many reported infidelities, and even divorced once, just to get remarried the next year.

Kahlo is viewed as an icon and main figure in female artistic history.  She was struck with may illnesses throughout her career, both physical and mental, but still tried her best to power through and continue to create art.  She also was outspoken and openly discussed her sexual interest in women, which was a very taboo topic for her time and culture. She expressed her independence fully and worked to embrace herself for who she was, for better or for worse.  Her works explored her mind and thoughts fully, which gave a unique view into her mind and inner workings of the brain.



Marsha P. Johnson

Artwork by Hannah Smuland, words by Carson Scott

Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender woman who is known for fighting for the rights of gay and transgender people.  She grew up in New Jersey, where she was raised in a religious family. She found interest in wearing dresses and skirts as young as the age of four, but stopped wearing them for awhile due to pressure from her family and neighborhood bullies.  Her parents were not accepting of her identifying as queer. Her mother even stated that she believed people who were not heterosexual were less than dogs. Eventually, Johnson ran away from her abusive household with nothing but $15 and a bag of clothes.  

Johnson ended up in New York City, where she worked as a drag queen, originally calling herself Black Marsha.  She later changed it to Marsha P. Johnson, claiming that the “P” stood for “pay it no mind.” She would say this as a response to people asking her what her gender was.  Johnson quickly made a name for herself in New York City and is credited as being one of the key people affiliated with the Stonewall Uprising. She also tried to join the Gay Liberation Front in a protest for LGBT+ rights, but was not allowed to join because of her status as a drag queen, which was thought of as an embarrassment to the community at the time.  Johnson showed up to the protest anyways, marching in the front, demanding rights for her and the people around her.

Johnson also started the first shelter for LGBT+ teens and adults called the STAR house.  Here she worked as a sex worker alongside many other people to keep the house up and running.  She was the “drag mother” of the house and was the main provider for everybody who stayed there.  The house did not stay in operation for a very large amount of time, but it became a model for future shelters that were soon to come.   Johnson’s involvement with sex work left her in a lot of trouble with the police, which did not help with her poor mental health. She was never formally diagnosed, but it was suspected that Johnson may have had a split personality.  She fought her best to overcome this issue, but it sometimes left her in a violent outrage, unexpectedly lashing out on others who may be around her.

Johnson’s death is still a mystery, but it is believed to have been a suicide.  She was found floating in the Hudson River with a large gash in the back of her head.  The presence of this gash has Johnson’s friends and family convinced that her death was more than a suicide, but it has never been explicitly proven.  She is remembered as being a pioneer for trans rights and a woman who fought to help others like her have a better life than she had to live.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton

words by Carson Scott

Elizabeth Cady Stanton is a major figure and advocate for women’s rights in the early nineteenth century.  Stanton was born and raised in New York and was a part of a large family. She was the eighth of eleven children, but five of her siblings died when they were very young.  Stanton’s mother was left in a deep depression due to the loss of so many of her children, leaving a motherly gap in Stanton’s life. Her father worked in law, which is one of the main early influencers in her life towards a career of fighting for women’s rights.  Her father had many books about law that she would read, sparking her interest in politics from a young age. Her study of her father’s books is also drew her attention to the fact that the laws were majorly in the favor of men, leaving many rights for women largely disregarded or nonexistent.  Her father was often busy with his work, leaving more time for Standen to immerse herself in law and rights.

Stanton is largely credited for starting the original women’s rights movement in the United States.  She was also an abolitionist in tandem with her husband on top of fighting for women’s rights. She stood out because she fought for more than just the right to vote; she also fought for better women’s rights in topics such as divorce, parental rights, birth control, among other areas that were regularly ignored.  She also did not support an amendment that was up to be passed that only gave new rights to African American men, ignoring African American women. This caused a rift in the women’s rights movement, because some women still opposed giving rights to African American people. She also regularly wrote and published books and articles about her stance on women’s rights.  

Stanton is an outstanding woman in history because she is one of the mothers of feminism and fought for the rights that women have today.  She not only fought for women’s rights, but also fought for equal rights for African American people. She demanded equality for all and did not just fight for the rights of her demographic only, which many other women of her time were doing.  She fought for what she believed was right and just, not allowing the popular beliefs of the time to dictate her opinions.


Amelia Earhart

words by Carson Scott

Amelia Earhart was a renowned aviator who is famed for her role as one of the first major female figures in plane flight and for mysteriously disappearing, still remaining unfound to this day.  She grew up in Kansas, where she spent a large part of her childhood playing outside. Her mother did not have a focus on raising girls the traditional way and did not particularly enforce the typical roles of a “proper” girl, allowing Earhart to play and dress how she pleased.  This is probably where Amelia, nicknamed Millie, got her roots of overcoming the boundaries in which women were placed. As a child she saw her first plane, and ironically found it boring and unremarkable. As she grew older, her idyllic childhood was interrupted and she realized that her father was an alcoholic, losing his job as a result.  This prompted a move to Chicago, where Earhart was unhappy. It is here where she finished high school and started her life as an adult.

As a college student, she started to become interested in aviation and saved up $1000 for flight lessons.  She immediately fell in love and fell deeply into the role of a typical pilot, cropping her hair short and even making slight changes in her style to look more the part.  She became the sixteenth woman in the United States to be issued a pilot's license. She also slowly started to gain celebrity status, and was even seen as a sort of fashion icon.  With celebrity endorsements and association with Cosmopolitan, she gained attention towards aviation and became known as the “Queen of the Air.”

She was the first woman to cross the Atlantic ocean on her own, earning her the United States Distinguished Flying Cross.  In 1937, she and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in an attempt to circumnavigate the United States. There are several radio signals that were picked up from her on this flight, but they were fairly unclear and jumbles, not giving much help to the search.  There are many theories revolving around her disappearance, but sadly none have been confirmed, and what happened to her still remains a mystery.


Diane Arbus

words by Carson Scott

Diane Arbus is an American photographer who was active in the mid 1940s to the early 70s.  Arbus was raised in a relatively wealthy family and therefore had a comfortable childhood. Her father was constantly at work and her mother struggled with depression, leaving Arbus in the care of maids and siblings.  She married her highschool sweetheart and had two children with him, eventually divorcing but remaining on good terms. During their marriage, they ran a photography business together where Diane typically art directed and her husband took the photographs.  She also had an ongoing relationship with painter Marvin Israel, but he was married the entire time and refused to get a divorce.

Arbus’ photography is known for paying attention to more unexpected subjects.  Instead of going out of her way to photograph beautiful models in lavish clothing, she sought after people who tended to be alienate from fine art.  She worked with people with disabilities, people who were transgender, people who worked in the carnival, and other characters such as those. She also deviated the norm by producing photographs that were slightly unsettling, rather than creating images that were pleasant and happily received by the viewer.  She challenged what was socially accepted as a suitable model and presented people as subjects who were not typically represented.

Arbus continually struggled with depression as her mother did, and occasionally experienced intense depressive episodes.  During one of these episodes, Arbus took her own life, dying at the age of 48. Her artistic assets were left with her eldest child and she ended up with a memorial gallery in the Venice Biennale and in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  She was remembered as an artist who pushed boundaries and created a platform for subjects that were not typically represented. Her work lives on today and is admired for its originality and personality.


Grace Jones

words by Carson Scott

Grace Jones is a Jamaican fashion and music icon from Syracuse, New York.  She grew up with religious parents, who eventually left her living with her abusive grandparents.  Her grandfather, who had recently gotten married to her grandmother, was exceptionally abusive and hated by Jones.  Her grandparents were also highly religious and sent Jones to a Pentecostal school, where she struggled to make friends.  Even once she started to attend a regular public high school, she still had trouble making true connections with her peers.  She eventually returned to living with her parents and went on to go to community college in Syracuse. She went on a summer trip to Philadelphia and eventually fell into the counterculture of the sixties and began to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and partied at gay bars much to her parents disapproval.  

She moved back to New York at the age of eighteen and then to Paris, soon falling into the major modeling world.  Casting directors loved her deep skin and androgynous look and before she knew it, Jones was modeling for huge fashion brands and making the cover of Vogue.  Jones eventually transitioned into creating music as well. Her album Nightclubbing gained a lot of attention, making it to the top 5 charts of four different countries.  She also dabbled in acting, placing roles in about twenty different films.

Grace Jones is a leading example of experimental beauty, fashion, and music.  Her take on life is one of freedom; she lives in a manner that is pleasing to her and does not conform to any set standard.  She has worked with countless world renowned artists and designers to create unique works of art, whether it be visual or auditory.  She also often appeared in the gay nightclub scene with friend Andy Warhol, creating a name for herself in the queer community and making a place for herself in the grand history of art, music, and fashion.  


Kathleen Hanna

Digital art by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Kathleen Hanna is a singer/songwriter who is known for starting the 90’s feminist
movement riot grrl. She was born and mostly grew up in Portland, Oregon where she stayed
until she graduated high school. She then moved to Olympia, Washington for college, where
she became increasingly interested in feminism. During this time she also started creating
zines, which are small hand made magazines that normally sport handmade art and messages.
Zines became a big part of Hanna’s brand and really helped spread her general message of

In the late 80s, Hanna started a band with some friends in Washington called Bikini Kill.
This band of theirs broke into the male-dominated Washington punk scene with an exceptionally
strong force and they quickly made a name for themselves. Hanna was known for allowing all
of the girls to come to the front of her shows to create a safe space for women and to reduce
the amount of male hecklers that would come to her shows. Hanna was also known for her
rebellious, “I don’t care” demeanor and would go up on stage wearing almost no clothing with
slogans such as, “I’m a slut” written on her stomach. Soon, Hanna was working with other
bands such as Joan Jett or Bratmobile in an effort to promote feminism and general equality.
Hanna then went on to create two more bands called Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin. Le
Tigre was still a punk feminist band, but with added electronic elements. Le Tigre was met with
success but had to be put on a hiatus due to health problems on Hanna’s behalf. It was later
discovered that Hanna had been suffering from Lyme disease and as of today she is officially
Lyme free. Hanna’s band The Julie Ruin, a continuation of a project she had in the late 90’s, is
still together today and released their latest album in 2016. You can also watch a documentary
about Hanna’s involvement in the riot grrl movement called The Punk Singer, which outlines her
and her friends involvements in the movement.

Hanna was an outstanding figure due to her lack of regard for what others thought of her
and her promotion of acceptance of self. She builded a platform for women and people of all
kinds, preaching acceptance of all based off of gender, race, sexuality, or personal expression.
She is also a huge supporter of Planned Parenthood and openly discusses how it has helped
her when she had almost nothing to offer in return. Overall, she is a woman who stands up for
her beliefs fearlessly and fights endlessly for what she believes in.


Marina Ambramovic

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Marina Abramovic is a Serbian performance artist who largely focuses on the human body and its physical limits.  She grew up in the custody of her grandmother until her brother was born. After that, she left to go live with her parents who were in an extremely unhappy marriage.  Both of her parents had violent tendencies and Abramovic's mother had her and her brother under an almost militaristic control. Abramovic stated in an interview that she was not allowed to stay out later than 10pm until she was 29 years old.  Every art show or exhibit she did had to be over before 10pm so she would be able to make it home to her mother in time.

Abramovic’s performances stood out for being extreme and testing to the human body.  In her first notable work, she video taped herself playing a knife game, in which a person tries to stab a knife between their fingers without stabbing themselves.. She did this game with twenty different knives and would keep playing until she cut herself.  After she cut herself she would then switch to the next knife, going through all twenty knives, therefore cutting herself twenty times. After she got through the knives, she watched the video footage of her performance and tried to recreate it as accurately as she could, combining elements of the past and present.  In another work, she placed 72 objects on a table and allowed the viewers of the performance to use the items on her in any way they desired. The items were a mix of things that would bring her pain and pleasure. The work was observing what limits people have with regards to another’s personal safety and well-being when violence is encouraged and seemingly okay.

Abramovic also had a partner for period of time named Ulay who would join her in her testing performances.  Their collaborations tested not just the will of one body, but required the will and collaboration of each other to reach their goal of pushing their own limits.  In one work entitled Breathing In/Breathing Out, they breathed into each others mouths through a tube until eventually they both passed out due to lack of oxygen.  After a considerable amount of time, the duo decided to separate, but turned their separation into an art piece. They each started at complete different end of the Great Wall of China and walked until they met in the middle and said their final goodbyes to each other.  

The works and performances of Abramovic are outstanding due to their controversial and limit-pushing nature.  She used her own boy as a vessel to create these visual works of art that exhibited how the human body reacts to certain stimuli, especially in an environment where people are standing around and viewing such painful and miserable acts.  Her works also challenged the human morals, by highlighting how the viewer can be so willing to view or even participate in such a chilling act.


Yoko Ono

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Yoko Ono is an iconic Japanese artist and activist who was famously married to John Lennon.  She was born and spent a lot of her childhood in Japan, but occasionally bounced back and forth from the United States.  Her family had a noble background and was relatively well off, but after the effects of World War II on Japan, her family to lived in poverty.  Her family depended on begging and bartering to support themselves and keep from starving. Ono claims that this time in her life is what gave her slightly aggressive and untrusting tendencies.  After the war, her family moved back to New York and Ono soon joined them. There she became familiar with the bohemian, experimental art scene. It is here where she found a group of people she truly found solace in, and started to build a name for herself in the contemporary art scene.  

After a failed marriage, Ono entered into a serious depression which left her institutionalized and seemingly hopeless.  Soon after her divorce, she met another man named Anthony Cox, who aided in her mental recovery and release from the institution.  She had one child through this marriage, but sadly this marriage did not last long as well. A few years after the second divorce in 1969, Cox took their child and raised her under a different name and extreme religion.  Ono was not reunited with her daughter until 1998.

The same year Ono divorced from Cox, she married John Lennon, a member of the Beatles.  They met at an art exhibit that Ono was a part of, where Lennon was viewing Ono’s pieces of art.  Over time they developed a friendship and started a band together called The Plastic Ono Band. They released experimental albums that they worked on together under this band name.  A large majority of Ono and Lennon’s relationship was a rocky one. They separated while Lennon lived with his assistant, May Pang, and had no communication for that time. After they reconciled, they had a son, but Lennon continued to have sexual relations with Pang with Ono’s consent.  Years later, Lennon was murdered in front of Ono. She released several memorials in his honor to continue his legacy.

Ono largely worked in the field of experimental art, whether that be in paintings, film, exhibitions, music, or performances.  One piece she was famous for was entitled, “Cut Piece.” In this performance Ono wore her favorite suit and allowed viewers to cut off the suit with a pair of scissors.  Another work Ono is famous for is a video called “Four,” which was a five minute long video that consisted of close up shots of people’s butts as they walked on a treadmill.  Ono’s work often challenged what was conventional in whatever medium she was working in; she did not like to stick to ano bounds or formulas. She also was active in anti-war and feminist activism and would use her art to sometimes reflect these values.  To this day, Ono is still producing art and music and is an active member of the contemporary art scene.


Princess Nokia

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Princess Nokia, otherwise known as Destiny Frasqueri, is a rapper and activist originally from New York.  From a young age, she has dealt with tragedy and oppression.  Her mother passed away from AIDS when Frasqueri was only ten years old, leaving her in the hands of the foster care system.  The system did not fare Frasqueri well and left her in the care of an abusive foster mom.  At the age of sixteen Frasqueri started to write rhymes and post tracks onto SoundCloud, which gained her notoriety.  She eventually worked her way up from posting music on YouTube and SoundCloud to touring and finding a more mainstream platform.  With her new platform, she supports causes that are close to her heart, such as LGBT rights and feminism.  She also has a podcast called Smart Girls Club that focuses on such topics.  

Frasqueri is openly bisexual and found much of her roots performing at queer bars and nightclubs in New York City.  These performances inspired the beginning of her musical career. They gave her experience in live performance and aided her in finding a community where she felt she could express herself freely.  She finds empowerment in her sexuality, race, and gender rather than burden.  She takes the things that are supposed to weigh her down and uses them to create a platform that aims to create awareness for those who identify in a similar manner.  

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Faith Ringgold

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Faith Ringgold, an American artist and activist, was born in Harlem, New York in 1930.  Having a mother who designed clothing and a father who was a great storyteller, she was introduced to her creative side early on.  She grew up in the midst of the Harlem renaissance, finding inspiration in icons such as Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington.  She had a pleasant childhood and remained in New York to continue her studies at the City College of New York, where she studied art education.  After receiving a masters degree, she left with her mother and sisters to branch out and explore more of the world.  They toured around major art centers in Europe, where Ringgold found inspiration for one of her most iconic art pieces, Dancing at the Louvre.  

Ringgold's most renowned medium in art was quilting; she would put together elaborate quilts to tell a story or put forth a general message.  Something that made her quilting stand out was her mixing the medium of painting in with her quilts.  With her work, she took something that was seen as simple woman’s work and turned it into a fine art.  At the time, art was a field almost completely dominated by men, and by being not only a woman, but a woman of color, the odds of her success were nowhere near in her favor.  She took something that was seen as simply a chore of the women and turned it into her claim to fame.  

In one of the museums she visited on her trip with her family, she saw a Nepali painting that was framed in cloth, which is what originally inspired her quilt making.  Her first series was a focus on what it would be like for her if she was alive during the apex of slavery in the United States.  In another work, called Change: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pounds Weight Loss Story Performance Camp, Ringgold discusses how women feel pressured to fall into standard beauty norms and the struggle to accept that it truly is okay to be not perfect.  By using the seemingly soft and non confrontational medium of quilting, she was able to address social issues such as these in a way that almost sneaks up on the viewer.  

Aside from being an artist, Ringgold is an avid activist.  She was in many feminist and anti-racist organizations, and even started a foundation with her daughter that worked to help women and people of color find representation in galleries.  She aided in organizing galleries that showcased the artwork of black women and finding notoriety for black art.  She is devoted to helping others find ways to overcome the social bounds in the art world just as she herself managed to do.  


Maya Angelou

Digital graphic by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Maya Angelou, born as Marguerite Johnson, was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928.  Her childhood was rocky, causing her to move around frequently and go back and forth between different homes. After a brief stint of living with her grandmother, she was returned to St. Louis to live with her mother, where she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend.  She told her brother in privacy and he told the rest of her family, resulting in the murder of her abuser. This was an extremely pivotal moment in Angelou’s life. After the murder, she was mute for nearly three years, because she felt her words that caused a death could cause another.  In this time of silence, Angelou immersed herself in literature and practiced constant observation of herself and her surroundings. This was the beginning of her interest in writing, activism, and the arts.  

As time went on, Angelou continued to move around, living in Oakland, San Francisco, and New York. She went through a brief marriage, which left her alone with her single son. In order to support herself, she started dancing and singing to earn money.  She gained moderate success as a dancer and ended up touring Europe, making it a goal to learn the language of each country she visited. Through this, she became proficient in many languages and submerged herself in many different cultures. As time passed, her interests shifted from dancing more to writing. Through the urging of her friend, author John Oliver Killens, she moved to New York to further pursue writing.  

As her career as an author developed, she moved to Ghana with her son to support his education. There, she eventually became an administrator at the University of Ghana and met Malcolm X. She moved back to the United States with Malcolm X to build a civil rights organization, but he was assassinated shortly after. While devastated, Angelou continued to work in anti-apartheid activism. During this period, she wrote her critically-acclaimed autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She also moved into acting and wrote the first screenplay written by a black woman.  

Angelou was an outstanding woman who was proactive in creating the best of her situation, whether that be as an outstanding figure in literature and activism, or as a child with seemingly no control over her own life.  She fought to overcome the social bindings that she was given and turn her sufferings and insights into ways for other people to find meaning.  Her tireless work in social activism and the arts paid off, as she left a legacy from which many people find inspiration and encouragement.  


Michelle Obama

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Michelle Obama, widely known as the wife of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a lawyer, writer and philanthropist. She works closely with causes she believes are important, such as healthy eating, finding education for girls in countries where gender inequality is pervasive, and finding support for service members and their families.  She attended Princeton, where she studied sociology and African-American studies.  From there, she went to Harvard Law School and eventually ended up working at a Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, where she met Barack Obama. She found true passion in working with people and serving her local community. She soon became the founding executive director of the Chicago Center of Public Allies where she helped youth prepare for public service.  

As the first lady, her platform in helping others grew exponentially.  She worked tirelessly helping working women balance their work lives and family lives, started a nationwide campaign to spread health awareness, and supported the arts and arts education.  She also started a campaign to free kidnapped girls in Nigeria, spreading awareness by creating the hashtag #bringbackourgirls on Twitter. Another of her major projects involves the campaign “Let’s Move,” which focused on one of her main initiatives of promoting health and fitness.  She particularly focused on nutrition in schools and youth in an effort to prevent childhood obesity.  One more major advocacy of hers was for that of LGBTQ+ rights.  In her national military families initiative she included same sex couples and worked in accordance with her husband in making gay marriage finally legal nationwide.  

Since her step down as the first lady of the United States, she still works to bring light to these issues that she believes needs to be improved upon.  Her dedication to helping others is something that has made her an exceptionally remarkable and involved first lady.  She is an inspiration to all, using her platform for good for her community and truly putting forth an effort to make the world a better place.  


Laverne Cox

Illustration by Brenna Fox, words by Carson Scott

Laverne Cox is an award winning actress and activist, widely known for bringing awareness and attention to the LGBTQA+ community and playing Sophia Burset in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.  Her role as a trans woman in an all woman prison brings light to social issues regarding trans rights when it comes to incarceration assignment based off of one's gender.  This role was also extremely important because trans people as a whole are largely underrepresented in popular media, and having such a large character in such a well known show be a trans woman was a huge step for media as a whole.  Another major impact she had on popular media was her appearance on the cover of Time, becoming the first ever trans person to be on the cover.  

Cox grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where she felt ostracized and out of place on account of her not relating to the gender she was assigned at birth.  She spent the majority of her youth there and eventually went to university at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.  She ultimately ended up in New York at Marymount Manhattan College.  There, she was scouted by a teacher and offered a part in a school play, where she discovered her love for acting.  Once provided with an outlet for self expression, she became slowly more and more comfortable with herself and began her transition.  

Later in her life she was given an honorary doctorate from The New School in New York for her work as an activist for transgender rights and equality.  Her work in bringing light to issues that are largely untouched and underrepresented is what makes her so outstanding.  She turned her struggles into a triumph by using her notoriety to spread awareness about issues that she holds close to her heart and believes strongly in supporting.   



Oprah Winfrey

words by Amy Garay-Azucena

“I have a strong interest — and now background experience — in helping girls become who they were meant to be." 

At the 2018 Golden Globes Awards, Oprah Winfrey became the first African-American woman to  be awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. In her moving speech, she referenced the importance of representation of People of Color in the media, and commends the strength and bravery of the women who have shared their personal stories and experiences surrounding sexual harassment and assault. Oprah is a deeply inspirational figure for many women. Her philanthropy work includes women's issues such as advocating for female education.

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Woman of the Week

Words by Abbie O’Hara and Illustration by Daisy Rain

Each week Abbie and Daisy feature a woman and write an explaination about her work.

Rachel Carson

In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson was the first to challenge the heavy synthetic chemical use, or more specifically DDT usage, by the Department of Agriculture. Carson published a book examining the detrimental effect on the environment by the use of pesticides and her book raised public awareness on the issue and her braveness initiated the contemporary environmental movement in America. In 1972, only 10 years later, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT. Today Carson’s lasting impact can be seen within the growing field of environmental research and reshaped public perceptions surrounding human connection and the environment.