This week, we take a look at three women who have influenced the lives of many around the world.
One of the richest and most influential woman in the United States, Oprah Winfrey reigns supreme in the media industry. A generous philanthropist and a media proprietor, Winfrey started off as a news anchor at the age of 19 for a local station. She started hosting a personal talk show named AM Chicago in 1984, and a year later, due to the success of the show, it was renamed to The Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the novel The Color Purple. Her performance earned her a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1998, she created Oprah’s Angel Network, a public charity formed. Some of the projects under the Angel Network included building more than 55 schools in 12 countries, and providing more than $1 million worth of school supplies to 18,000 impoverished South African children. The charity also helped in building and restoring eight communities across Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas after Hurricane Katrina and Rita. The charity closed down in 2010. In 2007, a girls-only boarding school named the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls was started in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the goal of creating leaders who will give back to the community.
African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus ride in Alabama is considered to spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery City Code required bus drivers to provide separate accommodation for white and black passengers. When the front of the bus filled up, the bus driver would ask black passengers to give up their seat. Parks’ simple act of refusal landed her in prison and set off the civil rights movement. The boycott of the municipal bus company that began on December 5, 1955 was a huge success as an estimated 40,000 African American commuters opted to walk to work. The boycott continued for several months, and on November 13, 1956, the US Supreme Court declared the Montgomery City Code as unconstitutional.
Parks was awarded the Spingarn Medal—NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) highest award, the prestigious Luther King Jr award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. She passed away at the age of 92 in her apartment in Detroit, Michigan.
A 10-minute flight at a Long Beach air show in 1920 transformed the life of the young Amelia Earhart. She knew she had to learn to fly. Earhart saved money doing odd jobs to take flying lessons. In 1922, she flew her plane—a second-hand Kinner Airster biplane nicknamed ‘The Canary’—to 14,000 feet and set a world record for female pilots. On May 15, 1923, she became the 16th woman to get the pilot’s license.
Earhart took her first solo Transatlantic flight in 1932 as she set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and landed at Culmore, Northern Ireland after 14 hours and 56 minutes of tackling icy conditions and mechanical problems. She also became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland. Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, took off on July 2, 1937, and despite ideal weather reports, the pair faced overcast skies and rain showers. The ITASCA sent regular transmissions to her, but Earhart couldn’t hear it. At 8:45 am, Earhart sent her last message, “We are running north and south.” Although a rescue mission was commenced immediately, the United States government called off the operation on July 19. The fascination around her disappearance continues even today.