The Past is Female Too: Kentucky Edition

Here at Sistory we hold this truth to be self-evident: The Future Is Female. Women are smashing glass ceilings, dismantling the patriarchy, and laying the groundwork for the next generation of lady leaders – and all we got was this darn t-shirt.

We also hold this truth to be less evident yet equally true: The Past Is Female Too. Women of yesteryear often didn’t get ample credit in their own day or in history books, but ladies have been hustling for centuries, even with the odds stacked against them. We’re here to help set the historical record straight.

We’re launching a new series in which we introduce you to 20 women from the past who changed the world  and never got their due until now. Ideally, they’ll all get statues one day, but for now, we hope you’ll consider honoring them with, well, yeah, a t-shirt. (Order here).

Welcome to #ThePastIsFemaleToo, week one: Kentucky.

Caroline Burnam Taylor, 1855-1917, started one of the most successful dressmaking businesses in the world from her home in Bowling Green. She was one of the most financially successful women in Kentucky at the time, with her business bringing in over $50,000 a year. She was also the largest employer of women in the commonwealth. When she died, she left an estate worth $250,000 — the equivalent of $5 million today.

Fun Caroline Burnam Taylor fact: while in France, she skipped her ship home to see one more fashion show. That ship was the Titanic.  Hashtag Blessed.

Anna Mac Clarke

Anna Mac Clarke, 1919-1944, was the first African-American woman to enlist in World War II. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp and enrolled in Officer Candidate School two weeks after it was desegregated. First Lieutenant Clarke was the first African-American to lead an otherwise all-white WAAC unit. She died at age 24 of complications from appendicitis.

Fun Anna Mac Clarke fact: Though the army was integrated, the movie theater on base was still segregated. When Clarke refused to sit in the colored section, the base’s Colonel sided with her, saying, “Every consideration, respect, courtesy and toleration will be afforded every colored WAC. No discrimination will be condoned.”


Delia Webster, girl with the curls

Delia Webster, 1817-1904, was an active conductor on the Underground Railroad, ferrying slaves through Kentucky and Indiana and northward to freedom. She faced death threats and imprisonment for her work, which was discovered by local slaveholders once their slaves started to disappear off of their farms.

Fun Delia Webster fact: the first time she was convicted of helping slaves escape, Webster was sentenced to two years in prison. She only served four weeks because of community outrage over imprisoning a woman.

Alice Allison Dunnigan

Alice Allison Dunnigan, 1906-1983, was the first African-American woman to serve as a White House correspondent, gain access to the House and Senate press galleries and travel with a presidential candidate. Known for her challenging questions on race and Civil Rights, President Eisenhower asked Dunnigan to submit her questions for review before press briefings. Since no one else had to do that, she politely declined.

Fun Alice Allison Dunnigan fact: She got her start as a teacher in Kentucky’s segregated school system. When she realized her students weren’t be taught about the contributions of African-Americans to U.S. history, she wrote her own textbook on the subject. YGG.

Mary Millicent Miller

Mary Millicent Miller, 1848-1894, was the first female steamboat master in the country. She was operating without a license for years with her husband, a steamboat captain. When she tried to get a license, it sparked national debate. Eventually, the Secretary of the Treasury said she could have a license if she passed the test “with no allowances for her sex.” She got the license and opened the door for other female steamboat masters.

Fun Mary Millicent Miller fact: Louisville’s newest riverboat is named after Captain Miller, the city’s most famous steamboat master.

Ready to tell the world THE PAST IS FEMALE TOO? Get the shirt.



The Concise History of Kentucky

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