Strong Women in the 1940’s

February 19, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, Social history

phtoto of Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

A huge impact was made during the civil rights era by strong women who overcame typical stereotypes of women to fight for equality. The example that will be focused on here is Mae Street Kidd, a woman who became an influential politician only after her numerous individual efforts to break down common stereotypes of women and blacks. Her individual acts of resistance were small, but full of impact. She worked for equal rights in her time as a Red Cross employee and also in her time as an insurance worker, all because she refused to do anything less than her best, despite other people’s preconceived notion of race or gender. In Passing for Black by Wade Hall, Kidd talks about her experiences as a black women in the 1950’s and says: “People ask me my secrets as  a successful salesman….first, I work hard and never give up…I’m fair tp people and expect them to be fair to me” (Hall, 136). This shows her determination to be successful despite race and allows her to be a role model. Her avant garde commentary on race relations made her a perfect role model for those in the 50’s looking to overcome racism. Not to mention her work with affordable housing also helped blacks (and poor whites) in the community find acceptable housing for themselves and their families.

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious on KET

Another example of a powerful women in this time was Audrey Grevious, who was a civil rights activist at this time as well. One glowing example of her individual efforts in this time was when she and her friends rode around to a bunch of restaurants to see where they would be let in, and then circled around and did the same thing only in nicer clothes. She claimed she was furious because she discovered on the second time around she was allowed access to many more places, all because she looked like she may have been important. (See her oral history interview on the KET website, Living the Story.) This was certainly a big influence in her work with the NAACP.

Although these women are spectacular because of their work in civil rights, to say they are more passionate than contemporary Kentucky women I think would be incorrect. In both cases, these were just women who would not be discriminated against and who had plans for their future. Although fighting different battles, Kentucky women today could easily be just a passionate about any number of issues.

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1 response to Strong Women in the 1940’s

  1. I like how you tie in the passion of these women with the passion of women fighting for rights in Kentucky today. It makes it seem much more relevant to our daily lives; it suggests that perhaps we can be great like the women we study.

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