Ava DuVernay: Director, screenwriter, marketer and more

Mariemaye at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Thea Voutiritsas

Director, screenwriter, film marketer and distributor Ava DuVernay  has shattered a few glass ceilings in her time. She’s covered stories from the O.J. Simpson trial with CBS News, to the documentary commissioned by ESPN, Venus Vs., which covers Venus Williams’ fight for equal prize money in ESPN’s Nine for IX Series.  DuVernay also directed Selma, which was released in 2014. The film is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. Selma was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Original Song.  In 2016 she directed the documentary 13TH, which centers on race in the US criminal justice system. 13TH has earned a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Oscars, making DuVernay the first black woman to be nominated as a director by the academy in a feature category. DuVernay’s next film, A Wrinkle in Time, reportedly has a budget exceeding $100 million, making DuVernay the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size.

Why We Celebrate Women’s History Month

by Matiara Huff


Marie Curie– A physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, she discovered Radium and Polonium.

Dorothea Lange– A documentary photographer and photojournalist who helped bring light to the realities of the great depression.

Sybil Ludington– became famous for her night ride in 1777 to alert militia forces to the approach of the British regular forces.

Sojourner Truth– After escaping slavery to freedom with her daughter, she went to court to save her son from slavery. She was the first black woman to win this type of case to a white man.

Helena Rubinstein– American businesswoman who formed one of the world’s first cosmetic companies.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee– One of the most successful female track and field athletes, she won Olympic gold in Heptathlon and Long Jump.

These are all women we either never learned about or briefly skimmed their accomplishments. All of these women lead incredible lives worth knowing about. However, as we get older and technology becomes more advanced, their stories and accomplishments become shorter and shorter. The list I have provided is just what I could find in a quick google search, but I challenge all of you this month to actually learn about one of them or any woman in history. Take the time to learn about an important women and her life instead of just her accomplishments. As a woman, the pressure to achieve greatness is stronger than ever. By looking into the lives of great women, I think you will find comfort in humanizing them.

Remember that the reason we celebrate Women’s History Month is to learn from our history, and celebrate the contributions of the women who helped us get this far.

Women’s History Month: An acknowledgement of the invisibility within

by Mirella Flores

Today marks the last day of Women’s History Month for 2016. It is pretty amazing to consider how it all began with celebrating women one day out of the year, and now has turned into a whole month. Women get thirty one days to be acknowledged for their many contributions and accomplishments. To some level this is great, but it is also very upsetting. I could use this blog to discuss the need to celebrate women during the remaining 334 days of the year, but instead I want to acknowledge some women who are still largely invisible within Women’s History Month.

Think of this: We need Women’s History Month because women are still marginalized in our society. What about women who also hold other marginalized identities? Trans women, LBQ women, women of color, women with disabilities, and women with multiple intersecting marginalized identities are all just as much women as all women with privileged identities. I will dedicate this blog to briefly acknowledge some of these women and their contributions.

Disclaimer: I will be grouping these women into trans women, LBQ women, women of color, and women with disabilities groups. However, some of them have multiple marginalized intersecting identities (i.e., trans women of color, women of color with disabilities) and should be acknowledged as such, rather just a part of their identity. 4a721dfc53ac94b28fcf52fd7776afa7

Trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were co-founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and are often erased figures of the Stonewall Riot. The Stonewall Riot went down in history as the event that set off what we now know as the LGBT movement; however, Rivera and Johnson’s contributions did not make much news. Johnson was the person credited for starting the riot and Rivera as the first bystander to throw the first bottle at the police. Other trans women like Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards were also vital in terms of their visibility. These women were open about having had gender-affirming surgeries during a time when the very concept of these surgeries was considered extremely shocking to most. Their efforts helped to advance the very simple idea that trans women should be treated equally. Lynn Conway, a trans woman, is one of the pioneers of modern computer science and an Emeritus professor at the University of Michigan. Trans actresses like Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Caroline Cossey broke major ground in the film world decades ago, and women like Laverne Cox and Alex Billings continue to do so now. The list can go on.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I always come back to this saying to remind me that I need to engage in self-care. I have to thank poet, writer, and activitist Audre Lorde for this quote, who also was a lesbian, womanist, and civil rights activist. LBQ women also take a place in entertainment history, for instance women like Josephine Baker, Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, and Ma Rainey. LBQ women have also made a part of visual art history through Frida Kahlo, Patricia Highsmith, Amrita Sher-Gill, Cristy C Road, just to name a few. How about the sciences? Yup, LBQ women have been in the history of science through women like Margaret Mead, Louise Pearce, and Sofia Kovalesvsky. Even more recently we have women like Dr. Rochelle Diamond, the Chair of National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) and a research biologist at Caltech.

Earlier, I mentioned Sylvia Rivera and Frida Kahlo as women who have made contributions to history. Other Latina women to acknowledge are activists Comandanta Ramona and Rigoberta Menchú. Ramona was a package of fury and revolution as she led the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the 1994 New Year’s Day uprising in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, as the Zapatistas demanded land, jobs, housing, food, health care, and justice and democracy. Menchú is an activist dedicated to bringing recognition to the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous people and promoting indigenous rights in the Guatemala. Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. Latinas have also been part of the literary history, with women like Rosario Castellanos, whose work explored the differences of being both Mexican and a woman, and Claribel Alegría whose poetry was political and encouraged women to rebel against the patriarchy. Alegría’s poem Ars Poetica is particularly poignant and hopeful. Check out this link to learn about the contribution of other Latinas.

In the antebellum period, many Black women became active abolitionists and supporters of Women’s Rights. Sojourner Truth was a former slave, abolitionist, and advocate of Women’s Suffrage. In 1851, she made her famous speech, Ain’t I A Woman? Other Black women suffragist and abolitionists from this time period included Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I mentioned the contribution of Audre Lorde as a writer, and other Black women who have made contributions to the history of literature include Alice Walker, best known for The Color Purple, and Bell Hooks. Another woman to mention is Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter (read Garza’s own words on the movement here). There is also Karen Byrd, a woman who works to combat the notion that Black hair isn’t beautiful. For this purpose, she created Natural Girls United!, a company that customizes dolls with natural hairstyles.

East and South Asian women have become powerful figures in multiple arenas. Women like Pramila Jayapal, and Kshama Sawant have won city and state elections and been active figures in U.S. politics. Radhika Coomaraswamy is an internationally well-known human rights activist and served as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Comedians Aparna Nancherla and Mindy Kaling broke barriers on prime time television shows. Comedian Margaret Cho has become well-known for her stand-up routines through which she critiques social and political problems, especially around race and sexuality. Some Asian American women who have made their mark in executive roles include Keli Lee, Vice-President of Casting for ABC Entertainment Group, and Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi CO. Social activists like Bhairavi Desai, founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and Rinku Sen, executive director of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines have become powerful voices for social change and racial justice.

I recognize I did not talk about the contributions of Native American women. This is not to say Native women have not done and continue to greatly contribute to history and society. I would encourage you to read Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and Judge Diane Humetewa‘s blogs. Furthermore, look into Native women’s fight in gaining protection against domestic violence.

March is not only Women’s History Month, it is also Disability Awareness Month. Women with disabilities have been part of history. For instance, Frida Kahlo had spina bifida and due to having polio as a child, one of her legs was thinner than the other. Kahlo drew inspiration from per pain and painted wonderful self-portraits, many of which she depicted herself in a wheelchair. Most of us maybe familiar with Helen Keller’s work. Keller, a deadblind person, made numerous contributions through her 12 published books and political activism in support of women’s rights and labor rights. Women with disabilities have also been a part of entertainment history. For instance, actress Marlee Matlin, who has been deaf since she was 18 months old, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her leading role in Children of Lesser. Dancer and actress Sudha Chandran turned to acting upon losing one of her legs in a car accident. Chandran has been in numerous Indian shows, including Kaahin Kissii Roz and K Street Pali Hill. In terms of her dancing career, Chandran still graces people with her dance and has performed in many countries. Mayuri, a Bollywood film, where Chandran plays herself. Women with disabilities have also been part of the athletic history. Marla Runyan is a track and field, road runner, and marathon runner who’s legally blind. Runyan has remained three-time national champion in the women’s 500 meters race, and she has won gold and silver medals in the Paralympics.

 There are numerous women that deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. Don’t let Women History Month end on March 31. I encourage you all to continue to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions and accomplishments of women.

Today’s Trivia: Who is the woman unanimously elected Judge for the U.S. District Court for Arizona, making her the first Native American woman Federal Judge?

You may have heard Diane Humetewa’s name recently as a possible candidate to fill the position of Supreme Court Justice after the sudden death of Antonin Scalia. Humetewa was recently appointed Federal Judge to the U.S. District Court for Arizona, a historic appointment, making her the only active Native American judge and the first female Native American judge. Humetewa’s has spent her career working as a victim advocate, prosecuted violent crime cases, and advised on Indian Country issues.

Humetewa is a graduate of Arizona State University, earning her B.A. in 1987 and her J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in 1993. She served as victim-witness advocate for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona in 1986, prior to earning her law degree. Following her graduation from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, shNational_5e served as counsel to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, before returning to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona in 1996, where she worked as a Special Assistant then Assistant U.S. Attorney. In 2001, she worked as an appeals judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court, where she fostered relationships between the office and Arizona’s Indian tribes. At the same time, she supervised the U.S. Attorney’s victim Witness program.

In 2007, she was appointed to U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona by President George W. Bush, where she served until he left office. Then-Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) described her as “the first Native American woman and, as far as I know, the first victim advocate, to serve our nation in this important office.”

Humetewa left office at the end of Bush’s Presidency, where she returned to the Arizona State University where she worked as a special advisor on American Indian affairs until Senator McCain nominated her for federal judge in 2013. Humetewa was unanimously elected to the position, and was sworn in in 2014. McCain described her as having “an impressive legal background, ranging from work as prosecutor and an appellate court judge to the Hopi Nation to service as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.”

Today’s Trivia: Who was the first Hispanic woman to serve as Supreme Court Justice?

Sonia Sotomayor

by Logan Snook

Fearless. Role model. Trail blazer. Committed. All four of these has been used to describe Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor went straight to work upon her appointment as Associate Judge in 2009 by President Barack Obama, “skipping the shy period of settling into the job and beginning to fire questions during oral arguments immediately.” Throughout her career, Sotomayor has been known for her fiery-attitude and commitment to her work, traits that she has exhibited her entire life.

Sotomayor was born to a Puerto Rican family, and grew up in a public housing project in the Bronx in New York. Her mother was a nurse, and her father worked in manual labor until he passed away when Sotomayor was only 9. Her mother worked tirelessly to support her family and send her children to private Catholic school, where Sotomayor graduated valedictorian. It was her mother that instilled in Sotomayor a strong work ethic and a belief in the power of education.

Sotomayor received a scholarship to attend Princeton University, where she earned her B.A. in History, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor in 1976. She went on to earn her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979. Both at Princeton and Yale, Sotomayor worked with Latin American student groups and wrote and published pieces centered on Puerto Rican subjects.

After graduating from Yale, Sotomayor served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for 5 years. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, where she served from 1992-1998. It was here that Sotomayor became known as the judge who “saved” Major League Baseball during a tempestuous 1995 strike. From 1998–2009, she served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at the appointment of President Bill Clinton.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, taking the seat of David Souter after his retirement. This appointment was widely celebrated, making Sotomayor the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court, as well as the first person to serve from the working-class Bronx. Sotomayor’s voice in the Supreme Court has been firm and just, often leaning to the liberal side. She has worked to prohibit state universities from considering race in the admissions process, voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Sotomayor is strongly connected to the community and helping youths of America. She has recruited judges to invite young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day to introduce them to Government, mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods, and has created the Development School for Youth program, working with inner city high school students to teach them how to function in a work setting, and opening possibilities for them they did not know were possible.

Incase this isn’t enough, in 2012, Sotomayor stopped by Sesame Street to talk about careers and being a Supreme Court Justice for children, and it is the sweetest, most empowering video.


Today’s Trivia: Who was the first African-American woman appointed to Surgeon General of the United States?

Joycelyn Elders, 16th Surgeon General of U.S.

by Logan Snook

When Joycelyn Elders was appointed the first African-American woman appointed as the U.S. Surgeon General, she took the bull by the horns. Elders controversial views on sexual education and drug legalization caused for a tempestuous time in office, and she resigned from the post after only 15 months. While the controversy of her viewpoints severely affected her political career, Elder’s told CNN in a 2005 interview: “If I had to do it all over again today, I would do it the same way.”National_3

Elders was born in rural Arkansas in 1933. She was one of 8 children who lived in a home with no running water, and from the age of 5, split her time working picking cotton with her siblings and attending a segregated school 13 miles away. Elder’s never met a doctor until she attended college, which inspired her to study Biology. This is where everything took off.

After graduating from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1952, she worked as a nurse’s aid in a Veterans Administration hospital in Milwaukee. In 1953, she joined the Army, where she spent 3 years training as a physical therapist. After leaving the army, Elder’s enrolled at the University of Arkansas Medical School, where she earned her M.D. degree in 1960, completed an internship at the University of Minnesota Hospital, and held her residency in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical Center. She later went back and completed an M.S. in Biochemistry in 1967.

Elder’s has remained close to the University of Arkansas Medical Center for most of her career. In 1967 she joined faculty as an assistant professor in pediatrics, where she was promoted to professor in 1976. During her time here, she became increasingly interested in endocrinology, and became the first person in the state of Arkansas to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology in 1978, and became an expert on childhood sexual development.

In 1987, then-Governor of Arkansas bill Clinton appointed her as head of the Arkansas Department of Health, where she mandated a K-12 curriculum covering sexual education, substance-abuse awareness, and promoting self-esteem in children and teenagers. She nearly expanded sexual education, doubled the rate of immunizations for toddlers, and dramatically increased the number of early childhood screenings. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her as Surgeon General, where she continued to advocate for health and sexual education in schools, and promoted universal health coverage.

Because of these outspoken and controversial views, primarily on sex education, Elder’s was highly criticized by conservatives which led to her resignation after only 15 months in office. She returned to the University of Arkansas Medical Center as professor of pediatrics.

Now retired from University of Arkansas Medical Center, Elder’s is still working to improve public health education in the U.S. You can learn more about her in her autobiography, Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper’s Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.

Today’s Trivia: Who was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri in 2006?


by Logan Snook

We may be on the national level, but we’re bringing things back to Missouri this week!
Claire McCaskill was the first woman National_2elected the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, but that’s not the only “first” in her book. You may be noticing that many of the women featured throughout our Women’s History Month Trivia Contest have been the first of something – paving the way and creating new opportunities for the next generation, and showing young women to follow their aspirations. McCaskill has disproved stereotypes and bias throughout her career, showing her strength and commitment to public service and government.
Born in rural Missouri, McCaskill comes from a family of devoted public servants. From an early age, McCaskill was encouraged to participate in politics by her parents. Her father, a World War II veteran, served as Missouri State Insurance Commissioner, and her mother was the first woman on the Columbia City Council.
McCaskill attended the University of Missouri for her bachelors and J.D. degrees. Upon graduation, McCaskill began working in the public sector, a place she has spent most of her career. In 1982, McCaskill was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, where she served until 1988. She was elected Jackson County Prosecutor in 1992, becoming the first woman ever elected to the position, raising 3 children under the age of 4 simultaneously. While in this position, she worked to end violent crimes in the county, establishing a domestic violence unit to help prevent domestic violence, sex violence, and child abuse, and created one of the first drug courts in the nation. She served as Jackson County Prosecutor until 1999, when she was appointed Missouri State Auditor.
In 2004, McCaskill ran for Missouri Governor, and was the first person to defeat a sitting governor in a primary. In 2006, McCaskill was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, a position she still holds today.
McCaskill is a proponent of a wide array of issues, ranging from military and veteran’s issues, to sexual assault, to middle-class economics. During her first term as Senator, she “waged a successful six-year effort to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan, ” and has tirelessly worked to help those who have face sexual assault, including reforms to the way the military handles sexual assaults, on top of finding ways to help military veterans. This term, she has launched investigations involving fraud and waste in an Army National Guard recruiting program, financial management at the U.S. Energy Department, and continued her work in preventing sexual violence in higher education.
One of the favorite stories I read about McCaskill involved her joining with Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in her movement to encourage young women to be more assertive in professional interactions. McCaskill strongly believes “that ambition and taking risks should be part of our feminine personality.” She recounted a story when she first began running for state legislature, and it goes as follows.
McCaskill was campaigning door to door, and a man answered the door. After hearing her campaign pitch, this is what happened:

“He looked me up and down and then said, ‘Well, you’re too pretty, you’re too young, your hair’s too long. They’ll eat you alive in Jefferson City. You should not be in politics. Go find yourself a husband.’ ” And slammed the door in her face.
“That slammed door has been a huge motivation in my life,” McCaskill said, urging her audience to “find your own slammed door that will push you to achieve great things.”

McCaskill was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and spent the last few weeks receiving treatment in her home base in St. Louis. She returned back to the Senate last week, tweeting: “Back in DC. Feeling strong. Ready to work. Thank you all for your support! #fightlikeagirl #beatcancer.”

Today’s Trivia: Who was the first woman appointed Justice to the US Supreme Court?

by Logan Snook

Let’s start off the final week of Women’s History Month a woman who was a staple to the U.S. Supreme Court – Sandra Day O’Connor!

Not only was O’Connor the first woman appointed as Justice to the Supreme Court, but she was known for holding the deciding vote on many court cases. O’Connor was nominated for by President Ronald Regan in 1981, after promising to appoint the first woman to the highest Supreme Court during his campaign.

O’Connor’s early childhood years were spent on her family’s cattle ranch in Texas – living in a house with no running water, electricity, or indoor plumbing. She credits these formative years of her life to her success, teaching her the importance of simplicity, practicality, hard work, and independence. It was here her aspirations to become a lawyer began, fueled by encouragement from her father.

She attended Stanford University for her undergraduate, as well as her LL.B, completing her schooling in 1951. Following her graduation, O’Connor was relentless in applying for positions. She was denied interviews with 40 law firms – all on the basis that she was a woman. Not to be deterred, O’Connor continued to send out applications, and was hired as the Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California from 1952–1953, and Civilian Attorney for the Quartermaster Market Center in Frankfurt, Germany from 1954–1957. O’Connor returned from Germany in 1958 to Arizona, where she worked in private practice before being appointed Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965–1969. From 1969-1975, she served two terms in the Arizona State Senate. In 1973, she was elected the first female state majority leader for the Republican party. From 1975-1979, O’Connor was appointed Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, and from here she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals from 1979-1981.

Anyone else blown away? Did I almost mention that O’Connor is also a mother of 3 sons, and married to a fellow lawyer?

At the time of her nomination, O’Connor was 51 years old, receiving unanimous approval from the Senate. Despite this, and despite her incredible career, she did not feel was fit for the position – a notion she soon proved to be false. She held this position for a quarter of a century, retiring in 2006. During her tenure, O’Connor was known for being a decisive swing vote on many occasions, providing the deciding vote for many cases.

O’Connor created an incredible legacy for women, and inspired many to pursue their goals. When she appointed to the Supreme Court, 36% of students attending law school were woman. By her retirement in 2006, that number rose to 48%. She is still active today, lecturing on the government and legal issues across the country.



O’Connor’s life goal is: “Work at work worth doing.” Safe to safe she has lived up that.

#Roos4WHM Week 2 Grand Prize Winner!

Image-1.pngBy Logan Snook

Congrats, Armando Contreras, for winning week 2 of Women’s History Month trivia contest! Armando is completing his Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the UMKC Conservatory. When he’s not singing opera, you can find Armando on the basketball court.

Armando won a Skyscraper Party from Winstead’s, an awesome Starbuck’s tumbler, and some Women’s Center swag. He’s planning on taking his fellow opera singers to Winstead’s for their giant milkshakes after their opera next week.

Thanks for answering all 5 questions during week 2!

Today’s Trivia: Who serves as the Chief Judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District?

Judge Angela Turner Quigless is Chief Judge of Missouri Court of Appeals. Judge Quigless holds a Bachelors in Sociology from the University of Missouri- Columbia, and a J.D. from Saint Louis University of Law.

Angela Turner Quigless_3.17.2016Before becoming Chief Judge of Missouri Court of Appeals, Judge Quigless served as a Trial De Novo Attorney for the Missouri Department of Revenue, an Assistant General Counselor for the Missouri Public Service Commission, an Assistant Circuit Attorney and City Counselor for the City of St. Louis, and as an Associate Circuit Judge in the 22nd Circuit Court. In her years on the bench, she has presided over numerous civil and criminal trials, hundreds of non-jury trials, domestic matters, support cases, debt collections, child support cases, Department of Revenue cases, and adult abuse matters.

Judge Quigless served as Associate Circuit Judge in the 22nd Circuit Court for nine years before joining the Appellate Court. On April 2012, she was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals by Governor Jay Nixon. As such, Judge Quigless became Chief Jude of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. She retained this position in 2014, and we can expect her to hold this position until December 31, 2016.

Judge Quigless is a remarkable person not only because of her career achievements, she has also been involved in mentorship. She is a mentor for new women lawyers in the Women’s Lawyers Association. She is also on the advisory board for the Sherwood Forest Camp, and serves as a faculty affiliate in the Sue Shear Institute for Women’s in Public Life (click here for the 2016 application, deadline March 18, 2016).

Judge Quigless’s has been actively involved in public service. For her efforts and contributions, she has been awarded with the Gwen B. Giles’ Public Service Award and the Women’s Justice Public Office Award, just to name a few.