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We are celebrating Black History Month by honoring Black Pioneers

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We are celebrating Black History Month by honoring Black Pioneers who have and had a significant impact on parenting, education, and health care. Join us as we dive into the achievements of a few honorable women whose legacies live on.

The first Honorable Pioneer we are featuring is Selena Sloan Butler.
Selena Sloan Butler, born in Atlanta, GA in 1872, was a Black educator, advocate and community leader. Her interest in education became prominent once she had her first son and noticed the absence of Kindergarten for Black children in her community. With a commitment to providing education to her son and other Black children, Butler founded the nation’s first Black Parent-Teacher Association in 1920 and the National Colored Congress of Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) in 1926. She was later appointed to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection by President Herbert Hoover in 1929. When congress merged the NCCPT with the National PTA (after Butler’s death in 1964), Butler was recognized as a key founding member of the organization. Selena Butler Park remains in Atlanta, GA in honor of Butler's contributions and achievements.
The second Honorable Pioneer we are featuring is Margaret Charles Smith.
Margaret Charles Smith, born in rural Alabama in 1906, was a Black midwife who made incredible contributions to the field of midwifery. Her first experience as a midwife took place when she was only 5 years old while assisting delivery for her cousin’s wife. Throughout grade school, she continued to learn about midwifery. She later became one of the first midwives in Greene County, Alabama. Smith was a midwife for 35 years and delivered over 3000 babies, most of which were to mothers who were malnourished or in poor health. Throughout her career, she never lost a mother during childbirth and lost very few infants. Due to her passion for helping others, Smith would provide services to mothers who could not afford to pay her at all. She even traveled 200 miles if one of her patients was in need of emergency treatment. Before she passed in 2004, she received many honors for her incredible work as a midwife.
The third Honorable Pioneer we are featuring is Byllye Avery
Byllye Avery is a health care activist and the founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative and the Avery Institute for Social Change. Her work began in the 1970s with her fight for women’s health care rights. Avery and several other feminists co-founded both the Gainesville Women’s Health Center and Birthplace, midwifery and birthing center in the mid 1970s. She saw that Black women, especially those who were lower income, lacked knowledge about their own bodies. She believed that education was key. In 1983, Avery founded The National Black Women’s Health Project, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to defining, promoting and maintaining the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of Black women. The Avery Institute for Social Change, organized in 2002, focuses its work on health care reform. She has combined activism and social responsibility to develop a national forum for the exploration of the health issues of Black women. To this day, she gathers, documents, and speaks on Black women’s health experiences in America. Avery has received a number of honorary awards for her amazing work. She and her partner, Ngina Lythcott, live in Provincetown, MA.
The final Honorable Pioneer we are featuring is Jane Cooke Wright
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was a surgeon and pioneer in cancer research. She was the first Black woman to be named associate dean of a nationally recognized medical institution and was the highest ranking Black woman at a U.S. medical school. Her father, Louis Wright, was one of the first Black American graduates from Harvard Medical School. Following his footsteps, Jane Cooke Wright attended medical school at New York Medical College and did residencies at multiple hospitals, including Harlem Hospital, where she was chief resident. She later worked with her father at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Center, which he founded. The duo researched chemotherapy drugs that led to remission in patients with leukemia and lymphoma. Following her father’s death in 1952, Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was appointed head of the Cancer Research Foundation, at age 33. She went on to work as the director of cancer chemotherapy at New York University Medical Center and became an associate dean at New York Medical College. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Wright to the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. In 1971, she became the first woman president of The New York Cancer Society. Dr. Wright made enormous contributions to the field of cancer medicine, with invaluable impacts both for humans and for animals.

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