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Category: Politics, Great Women

Test Your Knowledge of History with this “First Ladies Challenge Quiz”

| February 23, 2009

African American and Women’s History Months "First Ladies Challenge Quiz" © Janus Adams 2009

Michelle Obama comes from a proud tradition of “first ladies”—women who’ve made their mark on history as “firsts.” To commemorate African American and Women’s History Months, test your knowledge of herstory with this “First Ladies Challenge Quiz” from author/historian Janus Adams.

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What historic firsts did these American women achieve?

1. In 1770, the American colonies’ first known child prodigy, Phillis Wheatley, stood trial in Boston before 18 men. Why?

2. In 1811, Jarena Lee wrestled her “demons and her gods” to become this American first. HINT: In 1990, Barbara Clementine Harris followed in Lee’s footsteps for another historic first.

3. In 1832, Maria Stewart hailed women’s rights with this first.

4. In 1853, Mary Ann Shadd brought power to the word with her first.

5. In 1863, Harriet Tubman marshaled her Underground Railroad skills for this first.

6. In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray broke the legal bar with her first.

7. In 1888, Ida B. Wells scored her first of many in publishing with this achievement.

8. In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker bankrupted the exclusion of women with this first.

9. In 1910, Mme. C. J. Walker and her mentor Annie Turbo Malone attained this historic first.

10. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm paved important ground for our new first family with this first.

And this bonus question: What is First Lady Michelle Obama’s surprising first as a first family-member?


First, the bonus question: Michelle Obama’s Harvard Law degree is well-known, but the surprising first she brings to the White House is her undergraduate degree in African American studies (Princeton).

1. Phillis Wheatley was the American colonies’ first known child prodigy. She stood “trial” before 18 of the “most respectable Characters in Boston” to successfully defend herself against fraud charges as author of her own volume of poetry (later published in England in 1773). Among her defenders, a soon-to-be Founding Father signed his true John Hancock warranting the book as authentic.

2. AME (African Methodist Episcopal Church) parishioner Jarena Lee was the first American woman ordained a minister. Reverend Barbara Clementine Harris was the first woman ordained and consecrated bishop in the 2,000-year history of the Episcopal Church and its forebears, the Church of England and the Catholic Church.

3. Boston’s Maria Stewart was the first American woman to ascend the lecture podium as a public speaker for women’s rights.

4. With her newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd—an émigré from Philadelphia—became Canada’s first woman publisher.

5. Harriet Tubman, legendary Underground Railroad conductor and Civil War scout, was the first woman to command American troops in battle when a battalion of 300 soldiers “struck terror into the heart of rebeldom” (South Carolina) and “brought off near 800 slaves… without losing a man or receiving a scratch.”

6. Attorney Charlotte E. Ray was the first woman admitted to the Washington, DC, bar.

7. Ida B. Wells was the first woman elected an officer of a national press organization. On par with Nellie Bly, Ida B. Wells marked a first in investigative journalism, later using her platform to launch an international anti-lynching campaign. She was one of only two African American women co-founders of the NAACP in 1909.

8. Maggie Lena Walker was America’s first woman bank founder and president.

9. As beauty industry pioneers, Mme. C. J. Walker is better known than her mentor and rival Annie Turbo Malone. Together they employed thousands with their potions and formula for success, but the title of first self-made woman millionaire belongs to Malone, founder of Poro Beauty Products and Poro College.

10. Shirley Chisholm, elected the first African American congresswoman, was the first woman presidential candidate nominated at a Democratic National Convention.

Tags: Politics