Believing that the life of a nation is told by the lives of its people, the American National Biography consists of over 19,000 scholarly biographies of significant, influential, or notorious figures from American history. The latest update to the American National Biography adds thirteen new essays in celebration of Women’s History Month.
New additions include Nina Allender (1872–1957), who merged art and activism to have a lasting effect on the women’s suffrage movement. Allender’s art aimed to entertain, but the imagery provided important commentary on politics, race, and gender. She also collaborated with Alice Paul to promote the National Woman’s Party’s positions in her illustrations. Allender carved out new space for professional female artists and activists within social movements and in public life. Her work challenged decades of negative anti-suffrage cartoons and advanced a new (and lasting) stereotype of suffragists as fashionable, young, white women.
Alice Coachman (1923–2014), track and field sensation who in 1948 became the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, in the high jump event. A lifelong competitor whose athleticism propelled her from poverty, segregation, and gender constraints to international triumph, Coachman is now revered as a civil rights pioneer. She presented as demurely feminine off the track and scorched competitors on it, proving her worth in elite global contests and challenging racism and sexism by virtue of her success. She set the standard in U.S. track and field for Wilma Rudolph, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Allyson Felix, and other black women athletes who, since 1948, have realized their own potential because of her leadership in American sports.
Angel De Cora (1868 or 1869–1919), Winnebago artist and educator who insisted on the inherent artistic ability of indigenous people and the distinctiveness of the art they produced. De Cora promoted an alternative to the European American aesthetic, arguing that Indian art be viewed by its own standards rather than European American ones. She simultaneously pushed for recognition of Native American productions as art rather than ethnographic artifacts and aimed to establish Native American art as a cultural category in mainstream American society
Alvenia Fulton (1906–1999), African American health food promoter and celebrity dietitian who looked to improve community health through fasting and vegetarianism. Fulton’s sought to confront racism in whatever form it took—whether by helping black athletes and celebrities overcome racial barriers in their respective fields, helping families get healthy affordable food, or creating sustainable and anti-racist techniques for reversing heart disease. Ultimately, Fulton’s pioneering work as a healer and community leader laid the groundwork for the black vegan movement of the 21st century, with its attention to issues of health and racial equality.
Rose Winslow (1899–unknown), suffragist and labor activist whose life reveals the connections forged between working-class immigrant women and women’s middle-class reform movements in the Progressive Era. Working as a hosiery knitter and then a shopgirl, Winslow became an organizer for the National Woman’s Party, the National Consumers’ League, and the Women’s Trade Union League. Jailed for picketing the White House, she also had an audience with President Woodrow Wilson, where she made the working-class case for woman suffrage.
Neith Boyce (1872–1951) feminist-anarchist novelist and playwright whose work with the Provincetown Players made them one of the twentieth century’s most influential theater groups. She was also an important forecaster of strains on the institution of marriage as it changed during the twentieth century. Her life exemplifies how modernism was more than an artistic aesthetic; it was a new way of conceptualizing human relationships.
Maria Gertrudes “La Tules” Barceló (c.1800–1852), entrepreneur who operated the most extravagant gambling halls and saloons in nineteenth-century Santa Fe. La Tules’s saloon served as the site where men of all social standings and backgrounds gathered, including soldiers, traders, businessmen, the upper-class, and immigrants, both Anglo and Spanish. Barceló actively participated in gambling and surprised men with her winning skills in the Spanish game of Monte. Her saloon served as a bridge between New Mexicans and Euro Americans, who shared and exchanged cultural and economic commodities, and it provided a place for Euro Americans to grow accustomed to the New Mexican society.