10 Local Women in History You Should Know

March is Women’s History Month, and this area of Michigan is rich with history. But we haven’t been celebrating women’s accomplishments for that long of a time. In 1981, Week-long Women’s History celebrations started. Then, in 1987 after being lobbied by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a law designating March as “Women’s History Month.” I am here to help you learn about and celebrate some local women you might not know about! These local women who had an impact, and I’m excited to share this list of amazing women with you to celebrate Women’s History Month!

Ella Merriman Sharp

Ella Merriman Sharp was a woman ahead of her time who resided in Jackson, Michigan. You may know her as the namesake of the Ella Sharp Museum and Park, but Sharp’s foresight to will her estate to the City of Jackson to create this space is astounding! Sharp was known for her work in forestry and civic improvement and traveled the globe with her mother at a time when women didn’t typically do so. I encourage you to visit Historic Farmlane and tour Ella Sharp’s house to learn more about this progressive woman!

Ella Merriman Sharp Image Credit: https://jtv.tv/true-story-life-legacy-ella-sharp/

Marion “Babe” Weyant Ruth

Marion “Babe” Weyant Ruth was one of the Midwest’s most famous pilots and authorities on aviation. Ruth grew up in Lansing and spent a lot of her childhood at the Lansing airport taking in the sights and sounds of departing planes. She went on to be a flight instructor during World War II (one of only five civilian women to do so!) and was a great competitor in the racing field. To learn more about Babe Ruth, click here.

Ginger Sharp

Ginger Sharp photographed many notorious people, including presidents, but her first published photo was of a man holding a dead fish. Sharp was the first female full-time photographer for the Lansing State Journal. True to most photographers, Sharp felt uncomfortable on the other side of the camera but worked her way up through the ranks from running a plastic engraving machine to a full-time press photographer. For more about Ginger Sharp and her accomplishments, click here.

Mabel White Holmes

Mabel White Holmes might not be a name that you recognize in a jiffy, but the products this inventor had a hand in creating definitely would. Holmes was the proud inventor of Jiffy Mix! Even better, “She wanted to save homemakers time in the kitchen and make a mix so easy that even a man could make it.” You’ll definitely want to check out this story on Mabel Holme’s inspiration for this now-famous mix, made right here in Chelsea, Michigan.

Mabel White Holmes Image Credit: https://site.jiffymix.com/about/mabel-white-holmes/

Abigail Rogers

Abigail Rogers is the perfect woman to celebrate during Women’s History Month, as she dedicated her life to helping women get admitted to university! This champion for the education of women worked with her sister, and together they opened The Michigan Female College in 1855. Rogers helped to educate over two thousand women from Michigan and nine other states. You can read more about Abigail Rogers here.

Edna Ferber

Edna Ferber is a must-include woman on this list. Not only was she a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and playwright, but she was also thought to be one of the greatest writers of her day. Ferber was born in Kalamazoo and spent much of her life in the Midwest before moving to New York. She also spent time as a political reporter before writing her popular novels. Check out more information about Edna Ferber here.

Lucy Simpson Thurman

Lucy Simpson Thurman was a women’s rights activist and social reformer, and she spent the latter years of her life in Jackson, Michigan. Thurman was the only black founding member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She later co-founded the Michigan Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. She dedicated her life to the welfare, rights, and education of black women and their families. Lucy Simpson Thurman’s legacy lives on, and she has a building in Detroit named in her honor. 

Lucy Thurman
Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Thurman

Sojourner Truth

Chances are you have heard of crusader Sojourner Truth, but did you know she resided in a small area outside of Battle Creek? Sojourner Truth devoted her life to being a crusader for human rights. She was born into slavery, later escaping and residing with a Quaker Family in New York until the Emancipation Act was enacted. You can visit Sojourner Truth’s grave at Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery. To learn more about this extraordinary woman, click here.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks is famous for refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, but her ability to say “NO” led the way for civil rights reform in our country. While she is notorious for her act, many people might not know that she moved to Detroit in 1957. She spent years working for Congressman John Conyer at his Detroit office. To this day, people can visit the infamous bus that Parks rode at the Henry Ford Museum. To read more about Rosa Parks, click here.

Rosa Parks
Image Credit: https://centerforblackliterature.org/rosa-parks-bus-boycott-civil-rights-facts/

Serena Williams

Tennis great Serena Williams is quite possibly the greatest athlete of our time, but did you know she was born in Saginaw, Michigan? Residing in our state until she was nine years old, her family then moved to Los Angeles. During her tennis career, she won more than 29 Grand Slams and multiple Olympic medals. Williams’ accomplishments in the sport of tennis are innumerable, and she has also established herself as a philanthropist. Check out more about Serena Williams here.

Lansing Mom will be celebrating Women’s History Month throughout the month of March. For more information on the origins of Women’s History Month, visit the Library of Congress

Elizabeth Spisich
Elizabeth lives in Jackson, Michigan, with her husband and two sons. She has worn many hats throughout the years: Elementary school teacher (so.many.apples), photographer (bride and baby wrangler), mother of two boys (more coffee, please!), and proud MSU alum (GO GREEN!). Elizabeth currently balances being a stay-at-home mom while growing her small business, Wonder and Wander - Jackson. When she's not encouraging her children to put the screens away to go outside, you can find her trying to make others laugh and doing what she can to make the world a more beautiful place.


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