WiLS August Women Spotlight: Women Who Did Things First
This month's Women Spotlight highlights two women of color who were the first in their respective fields. Please read more below about Dr. Marie M. Daly, the first Black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and Bessie Stringfield, the first Black women to motorcycle solo across the United States. The courage and drive of these women as they followed their dreams, and made history along the way, is truly inspiring.
Have ideas for the next women we should spotlight in our spotlight series? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by our next monthly Leadership Meeting, August 20th at 4PM via Zoom.
Dr. Marie M. Daly
Dr. Daly was born in Queens, New York in 1921 to a family that greatly valued education. She exemplified this trait by receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1942 and subsequently finishing a masters degree in just one year. In 1947, Dr. Daly graduated from Columbia University, unknowingly becoming the first African American woman to graduate with a PhD in chemistry in the United States. Her research included studying histones and the foundational observation that “no bases other than adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine were present in appreciable amounts” in the nuclei of cells. She also was the first to link high cholesterol diets with clogged arteries and hypertension. In addition to these scientific achievements, she was passionate about increasing enrollment of minority groups in medical and graduate programs. In 1988 she established a scholarship fund for African American students studying science at Queens College. Check out the links below to learn more about Dr. Marie M. Daly.
Bessie Stringfield or “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami” as she later became known, was the first African American woman to ride a motorcycle solo across the United States. Although some details about her life are uncertain (where she was born and what year is disputed), her lasting legacy is unquestionable. By the age of 16 she had taught herself to ride a motorcycle and a few years later in 1930, she began her first solo trip across the country. She would go on to complete many trips across the US, some as a civilian courier for the US Army during WWII. She rode her bike her entire life, often financing these trips through performing motorcycle stunts at carnivals. Following her death in 1993 (at age 81 or 82), the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) created the “Bessie Stringfield Memorial Award” in her honor to recognize outstanding women motorcyclists. In 2002, Stringfield was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame. See additional resources below to learn more about Bessie Stringfield.