30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

Woman You Should Know #11

Beatrice Muse Price was born in Bessemer and moved to Greensboro in Hale County when she was three. Growing up, Price, a granddaughter of slaves, knew she wanted something different than what others may have wanted for her. The fear of being stuck in the county’s dirt served as motivation. “They told me if my grades weren’t good enough, I’d be sent back to the kitchens or the fields,” she said in this interview.

Good grades paved the way for her to study nursing in Atlanta, and she eventually served in the Army Nurses Corps from 1944 to 1948.  At one time, she was assigned to a group of Tuskegee Airmen as they trained at Lockbourne Army Airfield, near Columbus, Ohio.

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Beatrice Price (l) receives a kiss from U. S. Rep. Sewell after she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Before Price went to Lockbourne, she worked at an army hospital with only eight other black nurses. In an interview, she remembered the pressure she and the others were under to prove they were just as qualified. “It was a struggle,” she said.

After her time in the Army, Price moved to Birmingham and worked as a nurse for 34 years at the Veterans Administration hospital.

In 2012, Price was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for her service during World War II.

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

Women You Should Know #9 and #10

If you’re a bibliophile, then this story is probably one you’ve daydreamed about: throwing caution to the wind to open your own bookstore.

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Virginia and Anna Praytor

For sisters Anna Linton Praytor (1914-1989) and Frances Virginia Praytor (1899-1974), this dream became their reality when they purchased Smith and Hardwick Bookstore in the early 1950s. According to a profile featured on the Alabama Hall of Fame website (to which both sisters were inducted in 1991), Virginia, as she preferred to be called, served as the store’s president and Anna as secretary-treasurer.

Both women attended Birmingham-Southern College and taught English and Latin at various Birmingham high schools.

Virginia went back to school (to Vanderbilt) in her 40s to complete her master’s degree. Her thesis contributed to Clyde Pharr’s seminal translation of the Theodosian Code, a set of laws under the Roman Empire.

If they had a motto, I’m sure it was “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” or maybe not. But we all can agree we can learn to give caution the old heave-ho to follow our dreams, just as the sisters had.

 

 

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #8

Louise Branscomb was born in a Birmingham church parsonage during a tornado in 1901 to Louis, a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal church, and his wife Minnie.  The family was radically progressive compared to most of their neighbors.

She studied music at Huntingdon College and received a medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1928. In 1931, she started her private practice in Birmingham as an obstetrician-gynocologist, making her one of the first female physicians to practice in the city.  According to Lawton Higgs, Branscomb worked at Hillman Hospital prior to starting her practice but had been forced to quit after it was discovered she was dispensing birth control to poor patients.

branscombBranscomb was a sociology professor at Birmingham-Southern College from 1938 to 1947. During a feature on Branscomb in an issue of the school’s alumni magazine, one student remembered her as “caring and she wasn’t afraid to talk to her students, especially females, about issues that weren’t talked about very much then…like family planning.”

Branscomb left her practice from 1944 to 1945 to serve during World War II.  Her work as a major in the United States Public Health Service took her to Greece, Italy, and North Africa.

When she returned to Birmingham, Branscomb continued her activism through her church. By a number of accounts, she worked to help those who were oppressed achieve greater equality.  The United Methodist Women of the North Alabama Conference set up the “Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker of the Year” award in 1990. The award honors a United Methodist who is “willing to risk and stand up for the rights of women and ethnic minority persons,” according to this website.

Branscomb never married or had children. Upon her death in 1999, she left nearly six million dollars to Birmingham-Southern, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and First United Methodist Church of Birmingham.

 

 

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #7

Did you know a member of the Harlem Renaissance lived in Birmingham – during the height of the renaissance?

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Effie Lee Newsome

Effie Lee Newsome was a writer of mostly children’s poems and an illustrator whose work is best known within the pages of “The Crisis,” the NAACP magazine started by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1911 and the “Brownies’ Book,” the first magazine created for black children and youth. Du Bois first published this magazine in 1920.

Newsome began contributing work to “The Crisis” in 1917. In 1920, she married Henry Nesby Newsome, and they moved to Birmingham in 1923 when he was tapped to lead St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

The Bronze Legacy
(To a Brown Boy)
‘Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown
Like the strongest things that make up this earth,
Like the mountains grave and grand,
Even like the very land,
Even like the trunks of trees-
Even oaks to be like these!
God builds His strength in bronze.

To be brown like thrush and lark!
Like the subtle wren so dark!
Nay, the king of beasts wears brown;
Eagles are of this same hue.
I thank God, then, I am brown.
Brown has mighty things to do.
– Effie Lee Newsome

(The poem appeared in “The Crisis” in October 1922.)

Mary Effie Lee was born in Philadelphia on January 19, 1885, to Benjamin Franklin Lee and his wife Mary Elizabeth Ashe Lee. Her father was a bishop in the AME church. Newsome studied at Wilberforce, Oberlin, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the “Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature,” Effie “decried the dearth of African and African American images in children’s books and dedicated herself to giving youngsters two great gifts: a keen sense of their own inestimable value and an avid appreciation of the natural world.”

Du Bois promoted Effie to editor of the children’s section of “The Crisis” in 1925. Over 100 of her poems appeared in the magazine from 1917 to 1934.

The Newsomes left Birmingham in the late 1920s/early 1930s to live in Wilberforce, Ohio. Effie continued to write; her work was included in anthologies by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps in the ’30s. Her volume of poetry, “Gladiola Gardens,” was published in 1940. Effie died in 1979.

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #6

helen-sellers-davisHelen Sellers Davis was the first licensed female architect in Alabama. Davis trained at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University). She married one of her instructors, Charles Davis, and after her 1935 graduation, the couple moved to Birmingham. Helen received her state registration in 1936.

She first practiced at Miller, Martin, and Lewis, Architects with her husband; they both moved on to Van Kueren, Davis & Company  (now known as Davis Architects). Helen left the practice in the ’60s to start her own firm.

Helen was given the Distinguished Architect Award in 2004 by the Alabama Council of the American Institute of Architects.

She died April 10, 2008, 10 days prior to her 96th birthday.

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #5

carrie-tuggle

Carrie Tuggle

Carrie Tuggle, a married mother of four and welfare officer, stood in the courtroom as two destitute black boys went before a judge. The boys were about to be sentenced for some petty crime, but Tuggle stepped in and offered to take the boys home to live with her. The judge agreed with her plea. Not long after, the idea to start a home and school for youthful offenders and orphans was birthed.

Carrie A. Greggs was born into slavery in Eufaula, Ala., in 1858. She married John Tuggle there and had four children. She and her family moved to Birmingham in 1900 for greater opportunities. The Tuggle Institute, after much struggle to raise funds, was opened September 3, 1903.

Nestled in the black middle-class neighborhood of Enon Ridge, the school grew quickly and soon began to take in neighborhood students as well. Some of the school’s students included successful businessman A.G. Gaston,  influential jazz musician John “Fess” Whatley and Big Band composer and musician Erskine Hawkins.

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Tuggle Institute (as shown in 1906)

The school adopted the Tuskegee Institute’s philosophy of industrial education, emphasizing the importance of a skilled trade over classical learning.

Tuggle remained the school’s headmistress until her death on this day in 1924. It became affiliated with the Birmingham school system in 1926, and the school’s name was changed to Enon Ridge School in 1934 when the Birmingham Board of Education purchased it. Two years later the school was renamed Tuggle Elementary School.

30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #4

When Nina Miglionico graduated from the University of Alabama’s law school in 1936, with a stellar record, she received only one job offer from a law firm – as a secretary.

But Miglionico did not let that deter her dreams; she opened up her own law firm.

Born in 1913 in Birmingham to Italian immigrant parents, Miglionico refused to be limited by the expectation of others.

For decades she worked on behalf of women’s rights. Miglionico worked tirelessly to overturn the law that barred women from serving on juries. In 1966, 30 years after she earned her law degree, women were allowed to serve.

nina-miglionicoThree years earlier, Miglionico was elected to the newly-formed city council, becoming the first woman to sit on the council. In addition to fighting for women’s rights, Miglionico was also a vocal critic of the treatment of blacks in the city.  Because of this she became a target of white supremacists who placed a bomb under her porch in 1965. (Her 80-year old father was able to defuse it.) Crosses were burned in her yard as late as 1974.

Miglionico retired from politics in 1985, but before doing so she served as president of the city council.  Miglionico practiced law for 73 years, making her the longest-practicing female lawyer in Alabama. She died in 2009.

Want to learn more about Miss Nina (as her friends called her)? Click here.