May 4th: A Popular Birthday For Some Extraordinary Women

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May 4th is day filled with several birthdays of extraordinary women, some you may know, others you should know.


Agnes Fay Morgan (1884–1968)

morgan_agnes_fayA biochemist and nutritionist, born in Peoria, Illinois, Agnes Morgan studied at the University of Chicago (BS, MS, PhD), and taught at the University of California, Berkeley (1915–54), where she helped organize (1919) what was to become a nationally outstanding home economics department.

A founder of the science of nutrition, her research focused on the analysis of nutrients in foods, the stability of vitamins and proteins during food processing, and the physiological effects of vitamin deficiencies. Her work for government and private agencies included the development of improved methods of dehydrating foods.

Despite the importance of Morgan’s research, much of her efforts remained unrecognized until late in her career. In 1949 she was awarded the prestigious Garvan Medal by the American Chemical Society for her groundbreaking research in nutrition. In 1950 she became the first woman to receive the status of faculty research lecturer at the University of California.

Source: Chemistry Explained


Joy Bright Hancock (1898 – 1986)

joy_brightA U.S. military officer and one of the first women to hold a regular commission in the U.S. Navy. Joy Hancock enlisted in the Naval Reserve after graduating from the Pierce School of Business Administration in Philadelphia in 1918. From 1919 she worked as a civilian for the U.S. Navy at various stations and at the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Hancock took a civil pilot’s license in 1928 and soon joined the navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics. She joined the women’s naval reserve, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), shortly after its creation in July 1942, rising to the rank of commander in 1945. In 1946 she was named assistant director of the WAVES, and later that year she became director with the rank of captain.

The women’s reserve was discontinued in October 1948, but under provisions passed (thanks to Captain Hancock), of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of June 12, 1948, the navy was authorized to offer regular commissions to women. In October Captain Hancock was among the first eight women so commissioned, taking rank of permanent lieutenant commander and temporary captain, which made her the navy’s highest-ranking woman.

She was appointed assistant chief for women of the Bureau of Personnel and continued as ex officio director of the WAVES until her retirement in June 1953. In 1972 she published an autobiography, Lady in the Navy. Captain Hancock received the Legion of Merit award for her wartime service.

Sources: Arlington Cemetery, United States Naval Academy


Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)

audrey_hep_renderingThe actress and humanitarian would have been 86 today, but her life was cut short at the age of 63 when she died of cancer. Although most people know many things about this iconic movie star, Biography has put together “6 Lesser-Known Facts About Audrey Hepburn.” Here are a few we didn’t know:

  • Audrey Hepburn Helped The Resistance During World War II, But Her Parents Were Nazi Sympathizers
  • Walt Disney Prevented Hepburn from Starring in a Live-Action Film of Peter Pan
  • A Tulip Breed Was Named After Audrey Hepburn

To read the full story, visit Biography


Miriam Makeba (1932–2008)

mm_27Known as “Mama Africa,” Miriam Makeba was a South-African singer who introduced Xhosa and Zulu songs to Western audiences. Her singing appearance in the documentary film Come Back, Africa (1959) attracted the interest of Harry Belafonte. With his help, Makeba settled in the United States, where she embarked on a successful singing and recording career. In 1965, she and Belafonte won a Grammy Award for best folk recording.

She received renewed attention in the mid-1980s, after she met Paul Simon and joined Simon’s history-making Graceland tour. Makeba is best known for the songs “Pata Pata,” “The Click Song” and “Malaika.”

In addition to her music career, Makeba was a prominent civil rights activist, speaking out against apartheid in South Africa. She continued making music and working as a civil rights activist until her death in 2008.

Source: Biography


Dawn Staley (1970 – )

Staley_0.previewAmerican basketball hall of fame player, olympian and coach. As a student at the University of Virginia, Dawn led her team to three Final Fours, and in 1991 was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Year and the 1991 Honda-Broderick Cup Award for Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year.

Staley is a three-time Olympian and was elected to carry the United States flag at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics. After winning the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics, she went to play professionally in the American Basketball League and the WNBA.

She was a five time WNBA All-Star and was named to the WNBA All-Decade Team. In 2008, was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and In 2011, Staley was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history. Currently, Staley is the head women’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina.

Source: Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame

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