While looking up info on the web today, I caught a glimpse of today’s Google Doodle. Wondering what it was about, I clicked on the image to learn more. And boy, am I glad I did! Because I found today’s kick-a woman for Her’s Day Thursday, Ida B. Wells!
Ida B. Wells was born July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi just before Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. Her parents were slaves but recently freed from the proclamation. Ida’s father was very interested in politics and campaigned for black candidates. This spurred Ida’s passion to fight for civil rights.
Her parents and little brother died during a yellow fever outbreak when she was just 16 years old, leaving her and her other five siblings orphaned with nowhere to go. Ida’s relatives wanted to split the children up between foster homes, but Ida wouldn’t stand for that. She started working as a teacher to provide for her family. She saw discrimination first hand in the segregated school when she realized her white counterparts were paid $80 a month, while she only made $30.
Lit with a fire of indignation at the social systems in place, she started working as an investigative journalist to uncover cruelties against African Americans. Ida uncovered the ugly truth about lynchings, after three of her friends were brutally murdered for crimes they didn’t commit. She wrote many articles about injustices against the black community and fought hard for civil rights. Her activism ruffled feathers, causing the newspaper she worked out to be destroyed. But she didn’t let ignorance from others stop her; she kept going! She worked with many notable leaders of the day, including Frederick Douglass, to promote civil rights for blacks and voting rights for women.
Remember today’s “doodle” isn’t just about a neat picture, its about a great woman who fought hard for the rights of her people and her gender.
Today’s HDT gal is actually one of my personal faves: Hattie McDaniel.
The name may not ring a bell, but the face surely will.
Hattie McDaniel was born in Kansas in 1895 to Henry, a Baptist preacher and Susan, a religious singer. Hattie was a natural performer and sang and danced with her older brother’s minstrel show. In 1925, Hattie got her big break by joinging the Melody Hounds—a touring ensemble—which turned into a career in radio.
In 1931, Hattie made her way to L.A. and got a few acting gigs here and there, but not enough to pay the bills. She made her way as a maid or washroom attendant.
Eventually, Hattie gained more and more roles in movies, acting alongside big names like Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart. She also became good friends with the leading man in the film Saratoga—the dashing Clark Gable.
In 1939, Hattie saw Mr. Gable again on the set of Gone With the Wind. Though some were against Hattie playing the character of “Mammy” in the David O. Selznick classic, she took on the role with fierce determination and, in this blogger’s opinion, lit up the screen.
The Academy of Motion Pictures also took notice, awarding McDaniel the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Because of unjust laws at the time, Hattie and her escort were sat far in the back of the ballroom, far from her Gone With the Wind costars. When Hattie accepted her award, however, she did so with grace and dignity:
“Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.”
Hattie’s victories were not only limited to the Oscars. She also organized a group of African-Americans to fight against a homeowner’s group that were trying to keep blacks out of a prestigious Pasadena neighborhood. Hattie and her organization took their fight to the Supreme Court and won! In 1942, she purchased a beautiful two-story home in the Sugar Hill neighborhood and had yearly parties which her friend, Clark Gable, always attended.
Hattie volunteered for the USO, the American Women’s Voluntary Services, and organized a radio broadcast to raise money for the Red Cross.
Hattie’s acting career and philanthropic activities continued until her death in 1952. She leaves behind an amazing legacy and is a credit to her race and her gender.