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15 Badass Traiblazers in STEM

Dear Badass Black Girl,

Let's celebrate the badass Black women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)— Black women who plowed through whatever obstacles may have stood in their path, Black women who have also put in a great deal of extremely hard work.

The STEM fields should be open to all. Yet, across the US there is a lack of gender and racial diversity in STEM fields. Although women make up 57.2 percent of all professional workers, they comprise only 46.6 percent of science professionals, 24.7 percent of computer and math professionals, and 15.1 percent of engineering and architecture professionals. The scarcity of women (particularly Black women) in STEM fields is a long-standing and persistent problem.

I want to honor the legacy of 15 badass Black trailblazers in STEM and encourage more Black girls to pursue a career in science. Because it can be done: If a young Black woman has a taste and a talent for STEM—and a capacity to stick with it to accomplish her goals—that is really all she needs.


1864 Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler was the first Black woman in the United States to earn a Medical Degree and practice medicine. She is also believed to be the first Black American and the first American woman to write a medical book. Her Book of Medical Discourses was published in 1883.

1879 Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first Black woman in the United States to formally study nursing, earn a degree, and practice nursing as a licensed nurse.

1884 Judy W. Reed was the first Black woman to file and receive a US patent. Her invention is

called a “Dough Kneader and Roller.” No other information exists about her in historical records.

1933 Ruth Ella Moore became the first Black American woman to earn a PhD in natural science. She studied bacteriology and taught at Howard University.

1940 Roger Arliner Young became the first Black American woman to earn a PhD in zoology.

1943 Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first Black American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics.

1948 Dorothy Lavinia Brown became the first Black American female surgeon in the South.

1950 Helen Octavia Dickens became the first Black American female to be admitted to the American College of Surgeons.

1971 Jane Cooke Wright became the first Black American woman to become President of the New York Cancer Society.

1973 Shirley Ann Jackson is the first Black American woman to earn a PhD from MIT and the second Black American woman to earn a doctorate in physics in the United States.

1981 Alexa Canady became the first Black American female to practice neurosurgery.

1986 Patricia Bath invented the laserphaco probe for cataract treatment in 1986. She is the first Black American to complete a residency in ophthalmology at New York University and the first Black American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Her device enabled surgeons to restore sight to many people who were blind for as long as thirty years.

1992 Mae Carol Jemison is an engineer, physician, children’s author, and NASA astronaut. She became the first Black American woman to travel into space in 1992 when she served as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Endeavor. Since retiring from NASA, she has written several children’s books and made an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation among other television appearances.

1993 Joycelyn Elders, appointed by President Bill Clinton, became the first Black female to serve as US Surgeon General.

2019 Dr. Venita Simpson became the first Black woman to complete a Neurosurgery residency at Baylor College of Medicine since the program began in 1956. She’s also a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy.


Publishers Weekly Select Title for Young Readers ─ A Daily Dose of Inspiration for Badass Black Girls

Explore the many facets of your identity through hundreds of big and small questions. MJ Fievre tackles topics such as family and friends, school and careers, body image, and stereotypes in this journal designed for teenage girls. By reflecting on these topics, readers confront the issues that can hold them back from living their lives.

Embrace authenticity and celebrate who you are. Finding the courage to live as you are is not easy, so here’s a journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, self-motivation, and positive self-awareness. This journal celebrates girl power and honors the strength and spirit of black girls.

Change the way you view the world. This journal provides words of encouragement that seek not just to inspire, but to ignite discussion and debate about the world. Girls, especially, are growing up in a world that tries to tell them how to look and act. MJ Fievre encourages readers to fight the flow and determine for themselves who they want to be.

  • Build and boost your self-esteem with powerful affirmations.

  • Learn more about yourself through intensive and insightful journaling.

  • Resist the mold that outside opinions have put into place, and become comfortable and confident in embracing your authentic self.

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