We’re highlighting six Black women from the past and present who are number one! They accomplished inspiring and historic feats that may be unknown, but certainly deserve to be celebrated.
They deserve their flowers!
Howard University alumna and dentist Dr. Bobbi Peterson was the first Black woman to design an electric toothbrush. When Dr. Peterson designed the “Big Mouth” toothbrush, she became not only the first Black woman to design an electronic, battery-operated toothbrush, but she’s also the first woman in history to ever do so. On top of his historic feat, Dr. Peterson owns her own dental practice, offers internships, free orthodontic evaluations and is the author of the children's book, Tanner’s Teeth. She hopes to inspire other young Black children the way her father, who was also a dentist, inspired her.
In 1970, Barbara Gardner became the first Black woman to own an ad agency. Gardner was born to a teen mother and was raised by her grandparents in a shack that had no electricity or running water. She grew up and went on to earn a scholarship to Talladega College in Alabama. After college, Proctor worked for the Urban League, DownBeat magazine, and Vee-Jay Records. During her time at Vee-Jay Records, she closed a deal that helped introduce the Beatles to America. After working for different advertising firms, she took out a $80,000 Small Business Administration loan and started her own advertising business, Proctor & Gardner Advertising. Within six years, it grew into the nation's largest Black-owned agency. By 1983, her company had $12 million in billing and an extensive client list. In the course of her life, she served as president of the League of Black Women and became a lifetime member of the NAACP.
In 2019, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was appointed as California’s first-ever Black Surgeon General. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996, Harris went on to obtain her medical degree from the University of California Davis School of Medicine. She then earned a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University and completed her residency in pediatrics at Stanford University. In her role as Surgeon General, Dr. Burke helped underserved communities and worked towards improving the health of children who are exposed to traumatic experiences.
Mariya Russell is an Ohio native making culinary history as the first Black woman to earn a michelin star. Russell performed proficiently throughout her culinary education and moved on to become a line cook. While working at the restaurant, Green Zebra, she became close with coworker Noah Sandoval. Sandoval began opening restaurants in the Chicago area and brought Russell onboard to run one of his bars. She then became responsible for the restaurant, Kikko; she was in charge of crafting menus, picking ingredients, greeting guests and ensuring they had a great experience. The Michelin Guide is one of the oldest guide books that rates restaurants and hotels, and has become the highest honor a chef can receive. Russell became the first Black woman to earn a Michelin star in the Guide’s 94-year history!
Pamela Uba made history with her international feat as the first Black Miss Ireland. When she was young, her parents moved her family from South Africa to Ireland where she then lived in direct provision for 10 years. Despite how she grew up, her mom helped her raise money to attend university. Uba eventually got her master’s degree from Trinity College in clinical chemistry and began a career working at Galway University Hospital. While working a Miss Galway event, she was accidentally mistaken for a contestant, and that's when she became inspired to start beauty pageants. After 6 years of working towards her goal of becoming Miss Ireland, she entered the Miss Galway competition and won. She held the Miss Galaway title for 18 months before the COVID-19 pandemic put her dreams on hold. She then started working on the frontlines helping combat the virus and a cyber attack. After the country returned to normalcy, pageants resumed and Uba was able to compete again. At 26 years old, she entered the Miss Ireland competition and won! She became the first Black woman to become Miss Ireland since the contest was established in 1947.
Visionary filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, is one of many Black queens producing and directing behind the scenes. She's graced the cover of InStyle Magazine and made box office history. But her historic first came from becoming the first Black woman to win an award for Best Dramatic directing at Sundance Film Festival for her critically-acclaimed film, Middle of Nowhere. She’s also the first Black woman to win a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director for a Motion Picture. DuVernay continues to inspire young filmmakers all over the world with her creative films.
This article was originally published on BOTWC