Recognizing great women 

CPS celebrates Women’s History Month, honors women alumni.

March 30, 2009

Photo courtesy of NASA.


All through the month of March, this nation honors the work and achievements of women throughout history and today. Chicago Public Schools is doing its part by honoring the achievements of CPS women alumni. These women broke the barriers of race, gender and social inequality. Celebrate Women’s History Month by learning more about these notable CPS alumni below.


Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917-2000) - In 1950 Brooks won the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to an African-American woman for her book of poetry, “Annie Allen”. Brooks served as Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and was awarded a special National Book Award in 1994. Brooks attended Forrestville Elementary School, Willard Elementary School, Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., and Englewood High School, 6201 S. Stewart Ave.


Patricia Roberts Harris (May 31, 1924-1985) - Harris was a trailblazer, becoming the first African-American to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, the first African-American woman to serve the nation as an Ambassador (to Luxemburg), the first African-American woman to become dean of a law school (Howard University), and the first African-American woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet. Harris attended Englewood High School, 6201 S Stewart Ave.


Joan Higginbotham (August 3, 1964 - present) In 1987, Higginbotham joined the Kennedy Space Center where she participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her nine-year tenure. In 1996 she transferred to the Johnson Space Center as an astronaut candidate. Higginbotham was part of the crew on STS-116 Discovery (December 9-22, 2006). In November 2007, she retired from NASA after logging more than 300 hours in space. Higginbotham graduated from Whitney Young Magnet High School, 211 S. Laflin St.


Mae Jemison (October 17, 1956 - present) - As part of the space shuttle Endeavor's September 1992 mission, Dr. Jemison became the first African-American woman in space. In addition to authoring two books, Jemison started the Jemison Group in 1993 and the Biosentient Group in 1999. She taught at Cornell University and Dartmouth College and is a much sought after speaker. Jemison is a graduate of Morgan Park High School, 1744 W. Pryor Ave. (Pictured).


Ethel L. Payne (August 14, 1911 -1991) - The "First Lady of the Black Press", Payne was the first female African-American to receive accreditation as a White House correspondent and the first to serve as a commentator for a national network. CBS hired her in 1972 after Payne distinguished herself as a journalist for the Chicago Defender. Most notably, Payne is remembered for her coverage of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's tour of Africa. In 2002, Payne was selected as one of four journalists to be featured on a U.S. Stamp series - Women in Journalism. She attended Copernicus Elementary School, 6010 S. Throop St., and Lindblom High School, 6130 S Wolcott Ave.


Learn more about the accomplishments of CPS alumni.