Cheyney University Blog

Women’s History Month—Celebrating the Many Unsung Heroines

March 04, 2011

On February 11, 2011, my mother Dolores Elizabeth Howard, who was born Dolores Batiest in New Orleans’ Charity Hospital in 1930, died months before her 81st birthday. While I sat by her hospital bed with my sister and brother the day before she passed, I realized that there was much I still did not know about my mom’s life struggles and eventual triumphs over what must have seemed as nearly overwhelming obstacles in a significant period of American history.

What was clear to me in the last hours of my mom’s life was that she was not afraid, as her body finally surrendered to a force greater than herself—death . As we, her children, sat by her hospital bed, Mom demonstrated she was indeed our greatest teacher, giving us one final and most important lesson about life—we can end our journey with dignity and peace, satisfied that we have made the most of our time here with others.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month 2011, it is absolutely an enormous understatement to affirm that there have been millions of unsung heroines that have helped to develop the America that we share today. As the congregation of The Faith Community of St. Sabina Church in Chicago, IL celebrated the life of Dolores Elizabeth Howard, they affirmed that we may “close the book, but remember the story.”

Women’s History Month helps us to focus on remembering, retelling, and analyzing the stories of the known and unknown heroines who have helped to build our shared reality. For me, another of these heroines is Fannie Jackson Coppin (1837-1913), the first African American principal in the United States who served as a teacher and principal of the Institute of Colored Youth, the precursor of Cheyney University, for nearly forty years. It was under her leadership that the Institute gained its fame and established itself as one of the best institutions for educating persons of African descent in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

On February 25, 2012, Cheyney University will celebrate its 175th Anniversary. In celebrating this momentous anniversary, we will be celebrating the contributions, commitments, sacrifices, and the connected lives of so many women who are often not highlighted in the stories of the region.

These women include:

  • Rebecca Cole, the second African-American woman in America to earn a medical degree, who was a 1863 graduate of the Institute of Colored and practiced medicine for over 50 years in Philadelphia;
  • Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948), the famous portrait painter and Cheyney University faculty member;
  • Basketball Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer who earned one of the most winning records in college basketball history including leading the Cheyney Wolves to the NCAA Final Four in 1982;
  • Alumna Gladys Styles Johnston who served as the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney from 1993 to 2002, and who currently leads the Millennium Leadership Institute to train future college presidents;
  • Bishop Audrey Brunson, Cheyney University Alumna and faculty member for 17 years, and the first woman to be elected president of the Black Clergy.
  • Shirley Scott (1934-2002), a jazz organist, Cheyney University Alumna, known as the “Queen of the Organ,” faculty member at Cheyney University (1980’s), and donor for an endowment for future music majors;
  • Reba Dickerson-Hill, Alumna, public school teacher, and Cheyney University Faculty member who was known for her artwork in the ancient style of Sumi-e;.
  • Edythe Scott Bagley, a faculty member at Cheyney University who helped to breathe life into the Theatre Arts, and the sister and confidant of Coretta Scott King.

As the campus community of Cheyney University begins preparations for its 175th anniversary year, it is important to note that the history of the institution is a story of, and celebration of, the connected lives of many heroines and heroes. During this year, we intend to focus on the individual stories of the women and men who helped to shape the legacy of Cheyney University. As we know, it is extremely important to acknowledge our history, as we attempt to inspire more young men and women to pursue a college education, so that they can transform the Nation and the world.


Tags: heroines , women history month

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I am glad to be a visitor of this utter web blog !
nisa nur 3:57AM 05/22/11
People remembering their history start building happy future today, especially our women need to be honored. Bishop Bronson, along with the support of its members, plans to take Black Clergy to a new and expanded level of spirituality, of service to the African American community, communications and expanded membership. I think women in our world have special mission.
Melanie MBA holder 3:24PM 04/28/11
This is my first time reading your Blog. I appreciated and enjoyed every word. The reflection of your Mother was BEAUTIFUL. Professor Emerita, Katherine Russell Wilson"33" was the FABRIC of the Education Department at Cheyney Unversity of PA. for the Baby Boomers & Before.
car insurance quotes 12:18PM 04/22/11
It is good to know that we celebrate Women's History month. These women greatly deserve to be remembered and known for their kind acts and courage.
relationship psychology 11:48AM 03/30/11
The reflection on your mother's life and passing was touching. It caused me to think about the life and legacy of my own mother, who is now 92. Cheyney alumnae were influenced and shaped by the women cited above, and many unamed others, who taught, mentored and guided us during formative years in our lives. I am so grateful for them, and for all that my Cheyney years have added to my life.
Adrienne Nolan Owens 9:50PM 03/08/11
I was taught at least two psychology courses by the now Bishop Brunson........simply awesome.
Glenn Wilson 11:50AM 03/08/11
The power in Dr. Vital's language is essential for the younger generation as we lead by example how lives are connected. And the fact that Dr. Vital observed her mother transition and the lesson learned in her transition are so valuable to living. Life is a previous journey. The secret to life is to awaken before death and then realize there is no death.
Dr. Lenetta Raysha Lee 8:48AM 03/05/11
This is my first time reading your Blog. I appreciated and enjoyed every word. The reflection of your Mother was BEAUTIFUL. Professor Emerita, Katherine Russell Wilson"33" was the FABRIC of the Education Department at Cheyney Unversity of PA. for the Baby Boomers & Before. She was the first Woman of Color to earn a Masters Degree in _______from the Universty of Pittsbugh. Will research the blank & follow up
Vicki Edwards Redmond 3:30PM 03/04/11



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