Breaking Barriers: The Diverse Women Who Shaped History and Inspired Change

Each year during Women’s History Month, The Council takes time to recognize the many contributions of women and highlights some lesser-known figures who made a big impact on history. This year resonates even more with The Council, as the official theme for this month is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” 

Our daily work at The Council is to ensure that regardless of ethnicity or sex, you are offered the same opportunities as others to succeed. We urge you to take time this month to reflect on influential women that have been in your life–and to learn a little bit more about the women we’ve highlighted here. 

Nanye-hi, known in American as Nancy Ward, was born into a powerful Cherokee Wolf clan in the territory that is now Tennessee. While her childhood was filled with violence from battles with Europeans and other tribes, she believed all people should live together in peace. After picking up her husband’s rifle after he was killed in battle she was given the name Ghighau, or Beloved Woman, by the Cherokee. Nanye-hi went on to become a powerful member of her tribe and in 1781 had an influential role in the peace talks with an American delegation, where she expressed dismay that the Americans had no female negotiators, stating: “you know that women are always looked upon as nothing; but we are your mothers; you are our sons. Our cry is all for peace; let it continue. This peace must last forever. Let your women’s sons be ours; our sons be yours. Let your women hear our words.”

Shirley Chisholm broke through political barriers during the tumultuous times around the Civil Rights movement to become the first black woman elected to Congress. Then, in 1972, Chisholm became the first woman to run for president of the United States, ultimately garnering nearly 10% of the delegate votes despite a lack of support from the predominantly male Congressional Black Caucus.  Her motto “Unbought and Unbossed” perfectly summarizes her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She said she wanted to be remembered as “a woman who dared to be the catalyst of change.”

Dorothy Height, nicknamed the “godmother of the women’s rights movement” by President Barack Obama, used her background in education and social work to relentlessly advance the rights of women and minorities. For more than 40 years Height served as the President of the National Council of Negro Women and was a prominent leader at the Young Women’s Christain Association (YWCA). In 1994, she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her many contributions to the advancement of women and minorities. 

Bessie Coleman, a woman of African American and Indigenous heritage, etched her name in history as the first woman to obtain a pilot’s license in the United States. Reverently dubbed “Brave Bessie” for her daring aerial maneuvers, she not only soared through the skies but also fearlessly confronted the prevailing societal norms of segregation. Her unwavering commitment to justice was evident as she steadfastly declined engagements at venues that endorsed discrimination or segregation against African Americans. Coleman’s legacy extends beyond her remarkable aviation achievements, embodying resilience and advocacy for equality in the face of adversity.

These are only a few of the inspiring women who have worked to break through barriers of oppression for minorities. We recognize and applaud their bravery and dedication to improving the world for those who come after them. 

At The Council, our goal is to help foster more opportunities for minority women-owned businesses to find success, regardless of the time of year. We invite you to check out our list of Council-certified women-owned businesses and reach out to those listed to create new business relationships. 

If you are looking for more information on upcoming events to help network your business, visit our News & Events page for more. 

Rounded T. Clark Headshot


Terrence Clark