Where Women Made History: Trailblazing Black Women

As part of the commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the National Trust has been working to tell the full history—to uncover and uplift women across the centuries whose vision, passion, and determination have shaped the country we are today. Our goal: discover 1,000 places connected to women’s history, and elevate their stories for everyone to learn and celebrate.

Drawing from the incredible submissions we've received, we're using this guide to highlight the lives of five Black women who shaped history by breaking new ground in their respective fields.

Have you encountered a place where women made history? They can be famous or unknown, protected or threatened, existing or lost. No matter their condition or status, we encourage you to share these important places with the world.

  1. Black and white photo of artist Augusta Savage with a small clay sculpture.

    Augusta Savage's Home and Studio

    Augusta Savage was a prominent artist and educator. Born in Florida in 1892, she studied art at the Cooper Union in New York City, and later traveled to France to study sculpture. She launched her own studio in Harlem when she returned to the United States, and became the first Black woman inducted into the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Savage became a sought-after artist and instructor, praised for her empathetic works (which often featured Black Americans). Savage’s pieces are now housed in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2001 her home and studio were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  2. Exterior photo of the house Eliza Seymour Lee lived and worked in during the mid-1800s. Photo depicts an olive-colored town house with a black iron fence.

    Eliza Seymour Lee's Charleston Home

    Born in 1800 to the famous Charleston cook Sally Seymour, Eliza Seymour Lee was a pastry chef and businesswoman. During her lifetime, Lee and her husband operated four upscale hotels in Charleston, South Carolina. Their residence on Tradd Street also doubled as a boardinghouse and a bakery, both of which Lee ran (and which enabled her to continue her work as a pâtissier). She was one of the most successful businesswomen in Charleston in the mid-1800s, but her success was cut short due to the culmination of the American Civil War. Today, she is remembered as a trailblazer and entrepreneur who paved the way for future Black businesswomen.

  3. Black and white photo of Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Oscar.

    Hattie McDaniel's Hollywood Home

    Hattie McDaniel was the first Black actor to win an Oscar. She was born in 1893 to a freedman and freedwoman, and though she began acting at an early age she did not find success until her thirties. Movies such as “Judge Priest” (1934) and “Show Boat” (1936) catapulted her career, and in 1940 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Gone With the Wind” (1939). Despite her success, her career was fraught with racism and roles that propagated racial stereotypes. In 1975 McDaniel was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and today she has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to film and radio.

  4. Black and white photo of Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans, who was the first black woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina.

    Dr. Matila Arabella Evan's Home

    Born in 1872, Evans became the first Black woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina. She attended Oberlin College, but left before graduating as she realized she wanted to pursue medicine, instead graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1897. Armed with her medical license, she returned to South Carolina and established a medical practice there, where she treated both Black and white patients. Devoted to educating her community about health and safety, Evans founded her own weekly newspaper, entitled the "Negro Health Journal of South Carolina," and was later elected regional vice president of the National Medical Association.

  5. Black and white photo of Dr. Jane Ellen McAllister superimposed before a building and tree.

    Dr. Jane Ellen McAllister (Jackson State University)

    Born in 1899, Jane McAllister was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Education in the United States. She flourished in high school and college, earning her degree from Talladega College when she was only 19 years old. She then enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Columbia University, and earned her diploma in 1929 with the completion of her thesis, entitled "The Training of Negro Teachers in Louisiana" (1929). McAllister spent the next forty years teaching students at a variety of colleges and universities, and has since been memorialized at Jackson State University, where a dormitory and lecture series are named in her honor.

Emma Peters is the marketing assistant at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A history graduate, she is constantly humbled by the way past lives and societies can alter the way we consume the present.

Every place has a woman's story to tell. Through Where Women Made History, we are identifying, honoring, and elevating places across the country where women have changed their communities and the world.

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