On November 1, 1892, Ruth Janetta Temple was born in Natchez, Mississippi to Richard Jason Temple and Amy Morton Temple. Richard Temple was a Baptist Preacher who was a dissertation short of earning a Ph.D. in ministry. Amy Temple was an educated woman who earned a degree from Shaw University. Because both of her parents were college graduates education was of most importance in the Temple household. Richard Temple also believed that his calling was to preach in the South and help bring people of all races together. He promised his wife that he would buy a house by the side of a road and use that house to serve and unite people. Mr. Temple made good on his promise and created “Templedale”, which was a 13-acre plot that housed the Temple family home and the First Baptist Church of Natchez, Mississippi. Mr. Temple was a community leader, and Mrs. Temple would feed and nurse any person of any race that was in need. Richard Temple passed away from an illness when Ruth was 10 years old, his family was devastated. As a result of Richard’s death, Amy Temple moved her family to Los Angles, California in 1904, she was never truly fond of living in the south.
As the Temple family were settling into their home in Los Aneles, Amy Temple decided to homeschool her children. She eventually found a nursing job to support her family, her children began attending public school, and Ruth gained the responsibility of helping her mother with her siblings. At the age of 13, Ruth’s brother Walter was playing with gun powder and a hose. The gun powder blew up in his face knocking him to the ground. Ruth’s mother panicked. Ruth ran to her brother and began to help him. While caring for her brother she realized two things, her brother was not seriously injured, and she had a passion for becoming a doctor. A short time later, Ruth’s neighbor Ernie Fennell fell into an oil ditch and was carried almost a mile by the current. When he was pulled out of the ditch he was covered in oil and not breathing. Ruth performed CPR on Ernie and saved his life. This second event was further confirmation to Ruth that she was destined to become a doctor. Her belief in herself was strong even though many people told her that she couldn’t become a doctor because she was a girl and because she was black. But Ruth did not allow the opinions of others to distract her from her goal.
The Temple family became acquainted with the Troy family, Theodore and Juilette Troy. The Troy family was fond of Ruth and believed in her brilliance and grit. They knew she wanted to study medicine but could not afford to pay for college. In 1913, Ruth was an invited guest speaker for the Los Angles Forum, a political organization founded by black people in Los Angles. Ruth’s speech was spectacular, so spectacular that Theodore Troy stood up and made a motion to the organization to pay for Ruth’s education so she could become a doctor. The organization unanimously agreed with Theodore. With Ruth’s college tuition being paid for she enrolled in what is now Loma Linda University in 1913. She was one of the very few black students attending Loma Linda and became the first black woman to graduate from the university in 1918. After graduating college, Ruth began working in the underserved and poverty-stricken areas of Southeast Los Angeles. During this time, she learned much about the people she was serving, their living conditions, the culture of the people she was serving, and how to better serve them medically. With her education and working experience, she gained an internship at the Los Angeles County Health Department in 1921. During her internship, she learned the business of health care and how to operate a health clinic. She not only interned at the L.A. Health Department but she was a practicing physician at Loma Linda’s pediatric clinic. This experience piques her interest in obstetrics and gynecology.
As a practicing physician for Loma Linda’s pediatric clinic, she helped to deliver hundreds of babies and was able to serve members of L.A.’s underserved community. Los Angeles experienced an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1924, many people in the city were afraid of the plague because of how it devastated Europe in medieval times. Dr. Temple, being a levelheaded and experienced physician, developed a three-step method that was implemented to eradicate the plague. The three-step method was as follows: 1. Acquire basic health knowledge, 2. Put the knowledge to practice, 3. Share the knowledge with others. Her method helped many people learn more about the plague, which eventually eliminated the plague. The plague never resurfaced in Los Angeles again. Dr. Temple was introduced to her friend’s uncle Mr. Otis Banks, a real estate broker. The two became a couple and eventually married in 1918. Later in 1928, Dr. Temple and Otis opened the first medical clinic in the medically underserved area of Southeast Los Angeles, The Temple Health Institute. Dr. Temple and Otis were so dedicated to the mission that they lived in the medical clinic, and when there was no room to sleep in the building, they slept in their chicken coop. In addition to the health clinic, Dr. Temple founded the “Healthy Study Club,” an organization dedicated to teaching health literacy to the people of Southeast Los Angeles. She witnessed a baby die because of a lack of education and resources, so she created the “Healthy Stay Club” so no other babies or people died because of a lack of information or care.
During an STD outbreak in 1941, Dr. Temple’s Healthy Study Club implemented STD testing and education at the two of the local nightclubs where most of the people with the STDs frequented. The Healthy Study Club was so successful that chapters of the club spread throughout Los Angeles, helping to improve the education and health of the people of Los Angeles. 1941 is also the year that Los Angeles appointed Dr. Temple as its first public health officer, and the Los Angeles County Health Department paid for Dr. Temple to earn a Master’s degree in public health from Yale University. Dr. Temple graduated with her Master’s degree and was an honors student. She was also fortunate to learn from one of the founders of the public health field, C.E.A. Winslow. The Healthy Study Club became the Total Health Program, and Dr. Temple was armed with much more knowledge and experience. Because of her excellent work, Dr. Temple became the director of the Division of Public Health for the city of Los Angeles in 1948. She also became one of the founders and the medical director of the Community Health Week for Los Angeles. Dr. Ruth Temple became a medical icon in Los Angeles. She received several commendations from Ronald Regan, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. One of the biggest acknowledgments of her iconic career was the renaming of the East Los Angeles Health Center to the Dr. Ruth temple Health Center. During a polio outbreak in the 1950s, Dr. Temple’s three-step method was once again used, which suppressed the polio outbreak.
Dr. Temple retired from her public health work in 1962. In 1963, she became the first black woman director of the Health Education Department for the Pacific Union. Dr. Ruth Temple is a true trailblazer and a real example of determination. Despite many people telling her what she could not do, she not only became a physician, but she became a public health and medical icon in the city of Los Angeles. She saw that her community lacked the proper medical resources. Instead of complaining and expecting others the help her community, she stepped up and built a medical clinic for her people. If we do not take care of ourselves, no one else will. To the iconic Dr. Ruth Janetta Temple, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
J. A. Ward.
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On February 12, 1855, Frances “Fannie” Barrier was born to Anthony and Harriett Barrier in Brockport, New York. Fannie was the youngest of Anthony and Harriett’s three children. Anthony worked as a barber, coal salesman, and church leader who was well respected in his community. Harriett was a housewife who taught classes at her church and played the piano. The Barrier family was one of a handful of black families living in Brockport. Fannie was a very smart child, she excelled in her academics, playing instruments, and creating art. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Fannie excelled as a pianist. Because the Barrier family lived in an all-white town, their children attended an all-white school, but Fannie and her siblings were excellent and popular students. In 1970, as a college student, Fannie became the first black person to graduate from the Brockport, New York State Normal School, which is now the SUNY-College at Brockport. Fannie’s professional career began as a teacher in Missouri where she experienced extreme racism and segregation for the first time. Even though her family was one of the few black families in Brockport, they did not experience Southern American racism. Disheartened by the racism she experienced, Fannie left Missouri for Boston, Massachusetts, to study piano at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Fannie left Missouri because of the racism but had no idea racism would be waiting for her in Boston. White students did not want Fannie to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, so she was forced to leave the school. Upset and hurt because she was dismissed from the school, Fannie moved to Washington D.C. and resumed her teaching career. She also enrolled in Washington D.C.’s School of Fine Arts to study portrait painting. Fannie used her social skills to network with educated and prominent blacks in D.C. which helped her make the proper connections she needed. She was also able to meet a black lawyer named Mr. Samuel Laing Williams who became her husband in 1887. Fannie and Samuel moved to Chigaco and quickly became a notable family within the city. They were excellent at networking with black and white people in important positions. Their connections were essential in helping them fight racism. Samuel and Fannie were able to use their talents to give back to their communities. Fannie was a teacher who taught undereducated blacks, and blacks newly freed from slavery, Samuel created a club for black elites called the Prudence Crandall Study Club. Fannie and Samuel also used their connections to help establish the Providence Hospital in 1891. The hospital was created to be led by black people, it hired and admitted black people, it also offered a training school for black nurses who couldn’t study at white schools. The Williamses became members of the Unitarian Church in Chicago, where the pastor and the congregation fought for the rights of blacks and women.
Fannie and Samuel were among the black Elite of Chicago after moving from Washington D.C., they used their prominence to give back to the blacks who were less fortunate. Fannie taught music to black women and even became very active in fighting for the rights of women. Fannie, along with a woman named Mary Jones created a women's rights organization called the Cultured Negro Women. Fannie became a member of the Illinois Women’s Alliance (IWA), which opened the door for other black women to join the organization. The IWA was known for bringing public attention to the issues of women in the U.S. In 1889, Fannie became the vice president of the IWA, she focused on serving poor women who suffered from health and hygiene issues. Fannie became acquainted with Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington, who helped her better represent black people and fight for black issues. She became a traveling lecturer who often spoke on behalf of the rights of black people and black women. In 1893, Fannie was selected to speak at the Chicago Columbian Expose. Black women were not permitted to have positions in the planning of the expose and hosting exhibitions. Fannie fought for black women to be represented in the expose. As a result of the efforts of Fannie and other black women, two positions were given to black women to shut them up and make them feel better. Fannie was given the position of clerk of colored interest, she was also allowed to address the audience at the expose. Fannie spoke to the World's Congress of Representative Women, she dispelled the idea of black women being inferior to white women because they were slaves. She then called for all women to unite and fight for the rights of all women. Next, she addressed the World's Parliament of Religions, calling for all churches to embrace people because of who they were and not because of their race. These two speeches made Fannie an American household name and notable women's rights activist.
Fannie’s prominence was growing and she was earning the respect of her peers. Her oratorical skills were so loved that she was selected as the only black woman to eulogize Susan B. Anthony in 1907. Fannie was involved in the founding of the National League of Colored Women, the National Association of Colored Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Federation of Afro-American Women. Fannie and Samuel's activism seemed to never stop. They became active in the Hyde Park Colored Republican Voters Club and Taft League, encouraging blacks to vote and helping them learn the voting process. She also helped to develop the Frederick Douglas Center and the Phyllis Wheatly Home for girls in Chicago. In 1896, Fannie was inducted into the Chicago Women’s Club. Fannie became a supporter of Booker T. Washington’s message in 1900 and became the first black woman to be a part of the Chicago Library Board in 1924. After Samuel Williams’ death in 1921, Fannie moved back to Brockport, New York in 1926 to live with her sister until her death in 1944. Fannie was adamant about black people and black women gaining their rights and being treated as human beings by white Americas. Fannie and her husband were financially comfortable and well-connected in the cities they lived in, but they still understood the obligation to help their people fight oppression, and live better lives. To Mrs. Fannie Barrier Williams, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, Charlie and Dorothy Jemison welcomed their third
child Mae Jemison who would change the world. When Mae was three years old her family moved to Chicago to find better educational opportunities for their children. Early in her school years, Mae was known to spend an enormous amount of time in the school library reading about science, specifically Astronomy.
While attending Morgan Park High School, Mae found her passion. She began pursuing a career in biomedical engineering. Upon graduating from high school in 1973 with consistent honors, she became a student at Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship.
Jemison double majored at Stanford receiving bachelor's degrees in Chemical Engineering and
African American studies in 1977. After graduation, she entered Cornell University pursuing a medical degree. Mae Jemison traveled extensively while at Cornell.
She visited Cuba, Kenya, and Thailand, where she worked at a Cambodian refugee camp. She
graduated from Cornell in 1981 before attending Los Angeles County/University of Southern
California Medical Center where she received hands-on training to become a doctor. Using all of
her talents and education, Mae Jemison established a general practice.
She later worked as a Peace Corps Officer in Sierra Leone. She used her time there to teach and conduct medical research. In 1985, Mae Jemison returned to the United States and applied for the NASA astronaut training program, but faced a roadblock when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.
In 1987, she reapplied for the program and was one of fifteen chosen out of a field of two
thousand applicants. She was the first African American woman chosen to be a part of the
training program. Mae spent more than a year in the training program and became an astronaut,
which was accompanied by the title of science mission specialist.
This title garnered the responsibility of conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle. In 1992, Mae Jemison flew into space aboard the Endeavour on mission STS-47. She and her crew spent eight days in space conducting experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness. Mae used herself and the crew as guinea pigs for the experiments.
On September 20, 1992, they returned and Mae became very famous for her achievements as the first African American woman in space. Following her return from space Mae received a plethora of awards and recognitions. In 1998, she received the Essence Science and Technology Award.
In 1990, she was named the Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year. In 1992, she won
the Ebony Black Achievement Award and The Mae C. Jemison Academy was named after her.
Between the years 1990 and 1992, she became a member of the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
She served on the Board of Directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation. She also became a
committee member of the American Express Geography Competition as well as a board
member of the center for the Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition. In 1993, she received a
Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College.
She also left the astronaut corps to establish the Jemison Group, a company that researches,
develops, and markets advanced technologies. Mae Jemison became a professor at Dartmouth College and started the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. She later created The Earth We Share program, a science camp for girls ages twelve to sixteen, helping to improve problem-solving skills. Mae Jemison is a
trailblazer. She used her imagination to dream of a future that she later made a reality. By becoming the first African-American woman in space, Dr. Jemison opened doors for women of color at NASA forever. Dr. Mae C. Jemison, we stand on your shoulders.
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