04/27/2015 02:40 pm ET Updated Jun 27, 2015

Kansas She-roes


A famous line in the movie The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy saying to her dog, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Recently, I was in Kansas and that got me thinking about women from the Sunflower State. As with every other state, there are women with ties to Kansas who made significant contributions throughout American history. Match the following women with her accomplishment:

____ 1. In 1932, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

____ 2. The first African-American to win an Academy Award for her performance as Mammy in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind. Due to her race, she was not able to attend the premiere of the movie when it opened in Atlanta.

____ 3. The first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize.

____ 4. The first American woman to earn a dental degree when she graduated from the Ohio College of Dentistry in 1866.

A. Lucy Hobbs Taylor
B. Gwendolyn Brooks
C. Amelia Earhart
D. Hattie McDaniel

The first American woman to graduate with a degree in dentistry, Lucy Hobbs Taylor was a school teacher before she went to dental school. Denied admission to two dental schools to which she applied, because of her gender, she initially opened a dental practice in Iowa after serving an apprenticeship with a degreed male dentist. After moving to Iowa in 1862, she reapplied and was accepted at the Ohio College of Dentistry - whose ideas about the suitability of dentistry as a profession for women had changed. She received her doctorate in dentistry in 1866. After marrying (and teaching her husband dentistry), the couple moved to Lawrence, Kansas where they created one of the most successful dentistry practices in the state. Today, the most prestigious award from the American Association of Women Dentists is the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award, named in her honor.

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (1950). The first black woman to serve as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, Brooks was also named the poet laureate for the state of Illinois. Her first poem was published when she was thirteen, and her work was frequently published by the time she was seventeen. Her work has political awareness and is said to have bridged the work of academic poets from her generation with the more militant black poets in 1960s. Brooks has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Born in Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Earhart had an unsettled childhood that led to her desire to become independent and not have anyone "take care" of her. The sixteenth women to be issued a pilot's license, Earhart decided to become a pilot during a 1920 plane ride in an air show. She worked odd jobs to pay for the flying lessons and earned her license in 1923. In 1928, she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean - but as a passenger in a plane. That steeled her determination to pilot it herself. In 1932, she successfully piloted solo across the Atlantic Ocean, the first woman to do so. Later, she was the first person to fly solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Earhart has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in the classic 1939 movie Gone with the Wind. One of the first African-American women on radio, McDaniel began performing professionally when she was still in high school. In 1925, she became the first African-American woman to sing on the radio. Work in radio and musicals followed and she was cast as Mammy. In a sign of the racial tension of the time, none of the black actors from Gone with the Wind could attend the premiere of the movie in Atlanta. Posthumously recognized for her prodigious talent, McDaniel has received many honors and been inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women.
All of these she-roes with ties to Kansas are profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We applaud their accomplishments and are proud to stand on their shoulders.

(answers: 1-C, 2-D, 3-B, 4-A)