Isabel González

By Tatiahna Turner

Isabel González was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When the island came to be under ownership of the United States through the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, González still resided on the island. One condition of the treaty was to transfer allegiance of the islanders to the United States. Under the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico was classified as “unincorporated territory” which meant that citizens of Puerto Rico did not have the protection from the United States Constitution that Americans did, including the right to United States citizenship. In short, the island belonged to the United States but was not a part of the United States. There were many factors that played a part in why the United States was not granting Puerto Ricans citizenship, one reason was the belief that the Puerto Rican population was considered to be racially and socially inferior to Americans. An 1899 letter published in the New York Times described Puerto Ricans as, “uneducated, simple-minded and harmless people who were only interested in wine, women, music and dancing.”

González’s fiancé, Juan Francisco Torres traveled to New York City in 1902, leaving her behind, pregnant and with another child from a previous marriage. He left with the intention of finding a job in a factory in Linoleumville, Staten Island. González was to join her fiancé there and they were to marry after he found a place to live. In August of 1902, González traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York. Normally the steamship she boarded would dock at the Port of New York, but during her travels the United States Treasury Department’s Immigration Commissioner, General F. P. Sargent issued new immigration guidelines that changed Puerto Ricans status to “aliens”. As a result, when González arrived on August 4, 1902 her and other passengers were taken to Ellis Island. González was detained upon arrival by the Immigration Commissioner as an “alien immigrant” with the intention of deporting her. When immigration officials learned of her pregnancy the Board of Special Inquiry opened a file on her.

The next day a hearing was held for González. Her uncle, Domingo Collazo, and her brother, Luis González joined her. During the hearing her family had to answer questions that vouched for her character and independence in a manner that would convince the court that she would not be a burden to the state’s welfare system. These attempts failed and her fiancé’s absence (due to work requirements) played a part in the court’s decision to stop González from being allowed to enter into the United States. After her loss, González appealed her case to the Supreme Court and focused on the issue that all Puerto Ricans were citizens of the United States, and as a result shouldn’t be detained, treated as aliens, or denied entry to the United States. The case, which became known as Gonzáles v. Williams, was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on December 4 and 7 of 1903. González, who was out on bond, secretly married her fiancé and thus became “a citizen of this country through marriage” and acquired the right to remain stateside. She could have ended her appeal, but she instead decided to press her claim that all Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. On January 4, 1904, the Court determined that under the immigration laws, González was not an alien, and therefore could not be denied entry into New York. The court, however declined to declare that she was a U.S. citizen. The question of the citizenship status of the inhabitants of the new island territories, and their situation remained confusing, ambiguous, and contested. Puerto Ricans came to be known as something in between: “noncitizen nationals.” However, in 1917 triggered by the efforts of Isabel González, Congress extended citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Through her determination and perseverance, Isabel González helped pave the way for the rights of Puerto Ricans. She died on June 11, 1971 and is buried with her husband at Holy Cross Cemetery in New Jersey. Her legacy continues through her great-granddaughter, Belinda Torres-Mary, who actively pursues information regarding her great-grandmother’s history and immigration struggles.

Mona Hanna-Attisha and the Flint Water Crisis

By Dasha Matthews

Mona Hanna-Attisha is a first generation Iraqi immigrant, pediatrician, and public health advocate whose research exposed the Flint Water Crisis, revealing that children were being exposed to dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. Her research began after speaking with a friend who was a former employee for the Environmental Protection Agency in the Ground Water and Drinking Water Department. He told her that his team of Flint Water Study researchers found high levels of lead in Flint residents’ homes. After learning of this Dr. Hanna-Attisha began conducting her own research. Even though she was not provided the data she sought from the state of Michigan, she used hospital electronic medical records as data for her study.

On September 24, 2015, Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed in a press conference at Hurley Medical Center that children’s lead levels doubled after the water was switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River in April of 2014. At the press conference she urged residents, particularly children, to stop drinking the water, to end Flint River as a water source as soon as possible, and urged the city of Flint to issue a health advisory. A day after Dr. Hanna-Attisha released her study, Flint issued a health advisory that suggested residents minimize exposure to Flint tap water. The water source was switched back to the Detroit river on October 16, 2015. Later, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan and the United States made emergency declarations.

Hanna-Attisha’s role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis has been broadcasted nationwide with appearances on CNN, The New York Times, and other media outlets. She also gave a TEDMED talk, entitled “Flint’s Fight for America’s Children” on November 1, 2016. She was also named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2016, stating, “Edwards and Hanna-Attisha were right, they were brave, and they were insistent. Flint is still a crime scene, but these two caring, tough researchers are the detectives who cracked the case.”

Ava DuVernay: Director, Producer, and Screenwriter

By: Korrien Hopkins

There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a reflection as opposed to an interpretation.

Ava DuVernay is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972 in Long Beach, California. She was raised by her mother, Darlene, an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye. She grew up in Lynwood, California near Compton and graduated in 1990 from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and double majored in English Literature and African-American studies. During her summer vacations, she would travel to the childhood home of her stepfather, which was not far from Selma, Alabama. DuVernay said that these summers influenced the making of Selma and her successful career in film.

Prior to her filmmaking career, DuVernay worked as a publicist and marketer for 14 years. The award-winning firm she worked with provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors. These included directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, and Bill Condon. DuVernay is also the founder of ARRAY, a grassroots distribution and advocacy collective dedicated to strengthening films by people of color and women. DuVernay sits on the boards of both Sundance Institute and Film Independent and in 2017, DuVernay was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the U.S. Directing Award Dramatic for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and was the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma in 2014, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th in 2016. DuVernay’s latest film premiered March 9, 2018. The groundbreaking fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, had a budget exceeding 100 million dollars, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size. DuVernay was the first of many, setting the bar high and opening the door for future women of color filmmakers like myself. She continues to inspire many and displays what it is to be a phenomenal woman of history by using her power to share stories of those like us.

Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist

By Tatiahna Turner

You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.

The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. From the age of 6 Fannie picked cotton with her family. She was allowed to attend the plantations’ one-room school house where she discovered her love for reading and poetry. However, at the age of 12 Fannie had to leave school to support her parents. She continued picking cotton and it said that at the age of 13 she could pick 200-300 pounds of cotton daily despite having a disfigured leg as a result of polio. She continued to develop her reading skills in Bible Study at her church, and in 1944, when her plantation owner found out that she was able to read and write, he selected her as the plantations’ time and record keeper. That same year, Fannie married a tractor driver on the plantation. Perry “Pap” Hamer and Fannie remained married for the next 18 years. Later, In 1961, while having surgery to remove a tumor Hamer was given a hysterectomy without consent by a white doctor. This was part of the state’s compulsory sterilization plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state and blacks in general. She is credited soon after for coining the phrase, “Mississippi appendectomy”.

Hamer became interested in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s when she heard leaders in a local movement speak at the annual Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In 1962, Hamer learned about the right to vote from volunteers at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting. After this meeting, she began taking action in the civil rights movement. On August 31, Hamer traveled to Indianola, Mississippi to attempt to register to vote. She was not successful in this endeavor and when she returned home to the plantation she was fired by the plantation owner who had warned her against trying to register. Hamer’s husband was required to stay on the plantation until the end of the harvest season. On September 10, while staying with a friend, Hamer was shot at 16 times by the Ku Klux Klan. In fear of further retaliation, Hamer and her family moved to Tallahatchie County the next day where they stayed for three months. On December 4, Hamer returned to her hometown to take the literacy test but failed and was turned away. It is said that she told the registrar, “You’ll see me every 30 days till’ I pass.” Fannie said about the event, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

After being hired as a field secretary by the SNCC in 1963, Hamer attended a citizenship conference in Charleston, South Carolina. On the way, the party stopped in Winona, Mississippi where they were refused service inside of a local café. Shortly after, a highway patrol man came into the establishment with a bat and intimidated the activists to leave. As one of the members of the group was jotting down the license plate number of the officer’s car, a police chief entered and began arresting anyone that was with the party. Hamer and her colleagues were arrested and taken to a local jail where they were beaten and brutalized. Hamer was taken to a cell where the inmates were instructed to beat her with a baton. The police made sure that she was held down during this almost fatal attack. Hamer was released on June 12, 1963. It took her more than a month to recover, and she was still left with injuries. She sustained a blood clot over her left eye and permanent damage to one of her kidneys. When Fannie returned to Mississippi she organized a voter registration drive.

Hamer died of complications of hypertension and breast cancer on March 14, 1977. She was buried in Ruleville, Mississippi. Her tombstone was engraved with one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Upcoming Event: Feminist Film Friday

By Megan Schwindler

The Event

End your week watching a movie and enjoying some free pizza and snacks with the staff at the Women’s Center. The event will be held on Friday, March 9 from 12-2 p.m. at the UMKC Women’s Center, 105 Haag Hall.

Make sure to RSVP to or 816-235-1638 by March 7.

About Battle of the Sexes

After the sexual revolution and rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was coined, “Battle of the Sexes” and “became one of the most televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world.”

“As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.  The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett developed.  And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla. Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today.” You can follow this link to watch the trailer.

This movie shows that equality can only be achieved by men and women working together. It also serves as a reminder that feminism is not about beating or hating men, it’s about having the same opportunities and respect as men. As Billie Jean King put it, “That’s the way I want the world to look: men and women working together, championing each other, helping each other, promoting each other—we’re all in this world together.” After retiring in 1990, she was named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, and served as captain of the U.S. Olypmic team at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. She also earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

March: Women’s History Month

By Ann Varner

March has officially arrived and with it comes Women’s History Month! Since 1987 the United States has observed March as Women’s History Month. During the month we recognize the achievements of women throughout history and today. When we remember these women we can become inspired, empowered, and enlightened. History helps us to learn about ourselves and remind us to continue to strive for greatness.

“Each time a girl opens a book and reads about a womanless history, she learns she is worthless” –Myra Pollack Sadker. As women of today we will eventually become women of history, and my personal goal is that no girl in the future opens a womanless history book.

To find out more about the origins of Women’s History Month and why we celebrate check out the National Women’s History Project.

Upcoming Event: Feminist Open Mic

By Megan Schwindler

The Event

Join us for an afternoon of spoken word and activism about ending gender-based violence and creating a safer campus community for everyone. Even if you don’t have an original song or poem to perform, consider reading a piece from an artist who inspires you. We will also provide free cookies!

The event will be held this Friday, March 2 from 12-1:30 pm at Jazzman’s Café at the Student Union, 5100 Cherry St. The event is sponsored by the UMKC Women’s Center and is co-sponsored by the Violence Prevention and Response Program.

What is One Billion Rising?

According to their website, One Billion Rising is “the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.” The campaign was launched in 2012 on Valentine’s Day and “began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.” Their 2018 campaign focuses on the theme of solidarity in light of the “fierce escalation of fascist, imperialist, neo-liberal attacks on the lives of people around the world.” They also advocate for Artistic Uprisings from February 14 to March 8. These Artistic Uprisings,  “use art forms from storytelling to theatre, poetry and music, and dance and film as radical calls to action [that] will bring together women from the marginalized and most oppressed sectors of each community to tell their stories through monologues, spoken word, song, music, and dancing.” Our event, One Billion Rising: Feminist Open Mic, will give a voice to those who need it and educate those on campus about ways they can help create a safe campus community for everyone.

Questions? Email us at or give us a call at 816-235-1638.

We hope to see you there!

One Billion Rising shows us that women play a crucial role in this resistance, creating solidarity movements, as they lead from the forefront of local, national and international struggles. It shows us that women are continuing to organize everywhere, harnessing collective energy, building hope and solidarity, and using creativity and vision as they raise political consciousness in their unwavering and fierce determination towards a future of freedom, equality, respect and dignity. -OBR

Marsha P. Johnson: The Pioneer

By Korrien Hopkins

Marsha P. Johnson was a leader during the standoff that culminated in the infamous Stonewall Riots, a rallying cry against police surveillance and harassment of people in New York’s LGBTQ community during the 1960s. Johnson was a black transgender activist who did many things to enact change in her community. She mentored and helped provide housing for homeless LGBTQ youth, served as an activist for AIDS with the organization Act Up, and founded organizations to serve trans communities. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, and she co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organization, STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside her close friend, Sylvia Rivera.

Sadly, the activist tragically died in 1992 at the age of 46. Her body was found in the Hudson River. The circumstances surrounding her death are still being examined. It was first ruled a suicide, but the case has since been reopened. Despite the loss of a pioneer in the LGBTQ community she lives on through her legacy. Today, we still fight against hate and discrimination of the LGBTQ community. We continue to push for peace and equality and we wouldn’t be nearly as far as we are without strong women like Johnson.

The Activism of Josephine Baker

By Dasha Matthews

Born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, Baker is known as an extremely popular singer and dancer from the 1920-1940’s. As a child, Baker worked as a live-in housekeeper for white families in St. Louis. She dropped out of school at age 12 and began waitressing at the ‘Old Chauffeur’s Club’. At this time, Baker was living on the streets due to complications with her mother, Carrie McDonald, who did not encourage her dreams of becoming an entertainer. In 1921, at age 15, Josephine had a brief marriage to Willie Baker whom she divorced in that same year. Shortly after her divorce, Baker found work with a street performance group called the ‘Jones Family Band’. During her time with Willie Baker her career began to gain traction, and although they were divorced, she kept the last name. Baker’s career began with blackface “comedy” at local clubs, and these performances led to opportunities for her to tour in Paris. In 1925, Baker moved to Paris where she became an instant success for her erotic dancing. In the early 1930’s Josephine starred in two movies, Zou-Zou and Princesse Tam-Tam, and moved her family from St. Louis to Les Milandes, an estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, France.

Although she was living in France, Baker supported the 1950’s Civil Rights Movement. During a trip to New York with her husband Jo Bouillon, they were refused service at 36 different hotels due to racial discrimination. Josephine was so upset by this treatment that she wrote articles about the segregation of the United States. She also traveled south and gave speeches at different HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities). Baker also refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. She often got calls from people claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan, but she made public announcements that she was not afraid of them. Baker also worked closely with the NAACP. The organization honored her work by having Sunday, May 20 declared as “Josephine Baker Day”. In 1963 she spoke at the March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., she was the only official female speaker. After the assassination of Dr. King, his widow Coretta Scott King approached Baker and asked her to consider taking her husband’s place as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Baker refused, saying that her children were “too young to lose their mother.”

Josephine Baker died on April 12, 1975 at the age of 68. She left behind her 12 children, longtime boyfriend Robert Brady, and a legacy that will carry on for decades

Ida B. Wells: Suffragist, Feminist, and Leader

By Dasha Matthews

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, better known as Ida B. Wells was born on July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She is known to the world as a prominent African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, and early leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She is also one of the 60 founders of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Wells was born a slave. Just a few months before sitting President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, her parents James and Elizabeth Wells were both enslaved by an architect. The family stayed in what is now known as the “Boiling-Gatewood House”. Wells’ parents were both advocates for the rights of black people. Her father was educated at Rust College, where she also attended but was expelled for starting a dispute with the university president. In 1878, at the age of 16, Ms. Wells went to visit her grandmother in Mississippi Valley. While there, she learned that a yellow fever epidemic had struck her hometown and claimed the lives of her parents and her youngest brother. Left to care for five other siblings, Wells left school and took up a job as a teacher in a black elementary school. Along with the influence of her parents, her teaching job sparked interest in politics of race. In the segregated school system white teachers were paid $80 per month, while black teachers were paid $30 per month. Later on in the 1880’s Wells moved with her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee and continued teaching, but for higher wages.

In 1884 Wells filed a lawsuit against a train car company in Memphis for unfair treatment. She had been forcibly removed from her first class seat and moved to a “colored only” car, despite having a ticket. Wells won the lawsuit and was awarded $500, but the decision was then overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1887. As a result of this injustice Wells turned to journalism and began having articles published in black newspapers under the alias ‘Iola’. She eventually became the owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

After the lynching of three of her friends in 1892, Wells turned her attention to white mob violence and became a well-known anti-lynching activist. She began investigative journalism and raised money to investigate lynchings and publish her results. She found very little basis for the frequent claim that black men were lynched due to sexual advancement towards white women. She recorded her finding in a pamphlet entitled Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases”.

Wells was involved in many different groups focused on the equality of African-Americans and women. She was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, which dealt with issues around civil rights and women’s suffrage. In 1913, she founded what was possibly the first black women suffrage group, the Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club. She was also a part of the founding of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but later distanced herself from the group due to its “white and elite black leadership” along with the fact that she felt the group lacked action-based initiatives.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931 just a few days after the passing of her husband Ferdinand Barnett. She left behind four children and quite a remarkable legacy. She will always be remembered in history for her fearless battles against discrimination and her influence during the civil rights movement.