Browse Tag

black history

4 mins read

Norma Merrick Sklarek: An Architectural Trailblazer

Norma Merrick Sklarek was a pioneering African-American architect, known for breaking barriers in a male-dominated profession and becoming the first Black woman to be licensed as an architect in both New York and California.

Her contributions to the field of architecture not only include the design of numerous high-profile buildings, but also her work as a mentor and advocate for women and minorities in the industry.

norma merrick sklarek

Born in Harlem, New York in 1926, Sklarek was one of six children in a family that valued education and hard work. She earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Barnard College and then went on to study at Columbia University, where she received a Master of Science degree in architecture. Despite her impressive credentials, Sklarek struggled to find work in the field, as few firms were willing to hire a Black woman.

In 1954, Sklarek was finally hired by the prestigious Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) firm, where she worked on projects such as the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. She then went on to work for a number of other well-known firms, including Gruen Associates and Welton Becket Associates. During this time, Sklarek faced numerous obstacles and forms of discrimination, but she persevered and continued to excel in her work.

In 1980, Sklarek co-founded Siegel Sklarek Diamond (SSD), the first female-owned architecture firm in the United States. The firm was responsible for a number of significant projects, including the renovation of the Terminal One building at JFK Airport and the design of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Washington, D.C. Sklarek’s work at SSD helped to pave the way for other women and minorities in the field of architecture, and she became a mentor and role model for many young architects.

Throughout her career, Sklarek was committed to increasing diversity in the architecture profession. She was a founding member of the Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals and was actively involved in the National Organization of Minority Architects. Sklarek also served on numerous boards and committees, including the California Architects Board and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sklarek’s impact on the field of architecture cannot be overstated. She broke down barriers for women and minorities in a profession that had long been dominated by white men, and her work paved the way for generations of architects to come. Sklarek’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the field of architecture is a legacy that continues to inspire and inform the work of architects today.

In 1985, Sklarek was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, the highest honor awarded to architects in the United States. In 2008, she was posthumously awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award by the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes architects who have made significant contributions to social justice and diversity.

Norma Merrick Sklarek was a trailblazer, a pioneer, and a visionary. Her contributions to the field of architecture have had a lasting impact, and her legacy serves as an inspiration for all who seek to break down barriers and create a more just and equitable world.

This Black History moment is brought to you by National Standard Abstract

3 mins read

Ann Lowe: The Visionary Behind Some of the Most Iconic Dresses of the 20th Century

Ann Lowe was born into a family of skilled seamstresses in Montgomery, Alabama. Her grandmother was a formerly enslaved dressmaker, while her mother was an embroidery specialist.

When Lowe was sixteen years old, her mother died suddenly, and she took over the family dressmaking business. She completed a high-profile order from the governor’s wife, which established her as the new head of the business.

Lowe left her husband and moved to Florida with her son, where she worked as a live-in dressmaker for a socialite for a decade. In 1917, she traveled to New York City to attend sewing courses. However, as the only Black student, she was segregated from her peers and had to work in a separate room. She moved to New York City permanently in 1928.

Lowe’s success was attributed to her client network. Her unique gowns, often featuring floral motifs and made of fine fabric, were sought after by the wealthy American elite. She specialized in debutante gowns and wedding dresses. Lowe’s craftsmanship was of the highest quality, with techniques such as gathered tulle and canvas to hold out hems, lace seam bindings, hand-sewn organza facings, and weights to promote proper hang.

Ann Lowe

In 1950, Lowe opened her stand-alone business, “Ann Lowe’s Gowns” in New York City. Three years later, she was chosen to create the dresses for the entire bridal party of Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding to Senator John F. Kennedy.

Ten days before the wedding, there was a flood in Lowe’s studio, destroying two months’ worth of work. However, Lowe was able to reconstruct the dresses with extra help, and despite absorbing the cost, she did not receive credit for her work at the time, as the press referred to her as “a colored dressmaker.”

ann lowe

Despite designing for an elite clientele, Lowe was paid less than white designers for her custom design work. After the death of her son and business partner in 1958, she struggled financially and ultimately declared bankruptcy in 1962.

Today, Ann Lowe is recognized as a pioneering African American couturier, and her pieces are preserved in renowned museum collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and The Museum at FIT.

She is no longer “society’s best-kept secret,” as the Saturday Evening Post once called her.

Don’t miss any articles! Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn & Twitter.

3 mins read

Anderson Hunt Brown: A Pioneer in Real Estate Development and Civil Rights

Anderson Hunt Brown (1880 – 1974) was an American businessman, real-estate developer, and civil rights activist.

He was born on April 23, 1880 in a three-room house in Dunbar, West Virginia. His parents, recently freed from slavery, took multiple jobs to make ends meet, enlisting Brown and his siblings’ help in their work as a farmer and laundress.

anderson hunt brown
A.H. Brown (third from left) stands with a group that includes Martin Luther King, Sr. at Charleston, West Virginia’s First Baptist Church in 1971.WEST VIRGINIA STATE ARCHIVES

Despite only having a fourth-grade education, Brown began his entrepreneurial journey at an early age. He would climb onto coal train cars, throw coal onto the tracks, and with his friends, sell it to local businesses for 50 cents.

As a teenager, Brown learned to play the trombone and traveled to Cincinnati and other Western cities with his brothers in their band, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” netting $10 a week (about $300 in today’s terms) for their performances.

He learned how to cut meat and opened a butcher shop and an adjoining restaurant. Several years later, he took a real estate investing course in Boston and used his earnings to buy a house at 1219 Washington Street, next to Charleston High School.

Brown’s frustration with a lack of affordable housing for Black families in Charleston inspired him to build a real estate empire, filling that need. He built commercial properties and leased office space to fellow Black entrepreneurs, creating one of the earliest Black-owned shared work spaces.

Brown also bought land around Charleston to build houses, which he rented affordably to Black community members who may have had trouble securing housing from the mostly all-white realtors at the time. By the time of his death in 1974 at the age of 94, Brown had owned and managed up to 100 properties.

In addition to developing residential and commercial properties, Brown fought for civil rights throughout his life. He was frustrated by the lack of adequate medical care for Black citizens and discrimination, which led to the opening of the Community Hospital in 1924, the city’s first state-of-the-art hospital for Black residents.

Brown used his influence and wealth to launch successful court battles that struck down segregation laws at local swimming pools, libraries, and lunch counters in his home state of West Virginia.

He instilled this passion for civil rights in his children, and his son, Willard L. Brown, became the first Black judge in West Virginia and represented the state chapter of the NAACP in a case of racial discrimination in public schools, which became part of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that banned segregation in public schools.

This Black History moment is brought to you by National Standard Abstract

4 mins read

Ann Petry: The First Black Woman to Sell Over a Million Copies of a Book

Ann Petry was an accomplished African American author and pharmacist who broke barriers in the literary world with her first novel, The Street.

Published in 1946, The Street became the first book written by an African American woman to sell over one million copies and cemented Petry’s place in history as a trailblazer in both the literary and African American communities.

Ann Petry was born on October 12, 1908, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to a family of pharmacists. Her father owned a drugstore, and Petry’s early exposure to the world of medicine and literature laid the foundation for her future career as a pharmacist and author. After graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in pharmacy, Petry worked in her family’s drugstore and eventually opened her own pharmacy in Harlem, New York.

ann petry

It was in Harlem where Petry began to see the harsh realities of poverty and racism first-hand, experiences that would later influence her writing. In the 1930s and 1940s, Harlem was a hub of cultural and political activity, with artists, writers, and activists coming together to challenge the status quo. Petry was part of this community, and her own experiences as a black woman in America, combined with her observations of the lives of others in Harlem, provided the inspiration for The Street.

The Street tells the story of Lutie Johnson, a single mother living in Harlem who is struggling to raise her son and make ends meet. The novel is a powerful depiction of the challenges faced by African Americans in the mid-20th century, including poverty, racism, and sexism. Through Lutie’s story, Petry explores the effects of these societal ills on individuals and communities, showing how they can be both oppressive and empowering at the same time.

The Street was an instant success, receiving critical acclaim and commercial success. Petry’s powerful writing style, combined with her unique perspective as an African American woman, resonated with readers, and the novel quickly became a bestseller. With its publication, Petry became the first African American woman to sell over one million copies of a book, a remarkable achievement that cemented her place in literary history.

ann holt

Petry continued to write throughout her life, producing several more novels, including Country Place (1947) and The Narrows (1953), as well as a number of short stories and essays. Although her later works did not achieve the same level of commercial success as The Street, they nonetheless earned her critical acclaim and cemented her legacy as one of the most important African American writers of the 20th century.

In addition to her writing, Petry was also a prominent activist and advocate for social justice. Throughout her life, she spoke out against racial and gender inequality, and her works continue to be relevant today, serving as powerful reminders of the ongoing struggles for justice and equality in America.

Don’t miss any articles! Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn & Twitter.

3 mins read

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton: A Visionary Leader in Black Business History

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton was a formerly enslaved man who later became a businessman and advocate for African-American migration. After the Civil War, Singleton, who was born into slavery in Tennessee in the early 1800s, was granted his freedom. Passionate about bettering the lives of African-Americans, he rose to prominence in the Black economic empowerment movement.

He was a visionary businessman who saw the potential for African Americans to build prosperous businesses and amass wealth. He established several thriving businesses, including a lumber yard, a brick-making company, and an estate agency.

In the late 1860s, while he was selling his goods, Singleton became convinced that his mission was to help his people improve their lives and convince them to purchase farmland in Tennessee. Soon after, he shifted to a new strategy, advising them to relocate west to farm and acquire federal homestead lands.

In the early 1870s, he began exploring Kansas before returning to the south to organize settlement parties. In 1873, nearly 300 African Americans followed him to Cherokee County and established “Singleton’s Colony.” Other individuals would quickly relocate to the counties of Wyandotte, Shawnee, and Lyon.

By 1874, Singleton and his associates had founded the Tennessee-based Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association, which guided over 20,000 black emigrants to Kansas between 1877 and 1879.

Benjamin “ PAP “ Singleton
These four people moved from Tennessee to Kansas as part of the Exodusters movement. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

In 1880, Singleton was called to testify before Congress regarding the alarming exodus of Blacks from the South.

In 1881, he capitalized on his reputation to establish the Colored United Links in Topeka, Kansas. The objective was to pool all African-Americans’ financial resources in order to build Black-owned businesses, factories, and trade schools.

James B. Weaver, the presidential candidate of the Greenback Party, met with the organization to discuss the possibility of a merger. After 1881, membership declined, and the organization disbanded shortly thereafter.

Singleton’s prominence in the Black community was a result of his enterprise and advocacy. Respected for his wisdom, intelligence, and business acumen, he was also well-known for his unwavering commitment to improving the lives of African-Americans.

Despite his life and legacy being largely forgotten, Singleton’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to Black economic empowerment continue to inspire generations.

He remains an important figure in the history of African-American business and a prime example of how entrepreneurship can drive economic growth and create wealth for the Black community.

Don’t miss any articles! Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn & Twitter.

3 mins read

Margaret and Roumania, The Tennis Superstars That Paved The Way For Venus And Serena

Decades before Venus and Serena Williams overpowered the sport, Margaret and Roumania Peters changed the face of women’s tennis.

Affectionately known as “Pete” and “Repeat” Peters, they made history with their doubles record from the 1930s to the 1950s. At a time when African Americans were not allowed to compete against whites, the Peters sisters played in the American Tennis Association, which was created specifically to give Blacks a forum to play tennis competitively.

Margaret and Roumania Peters
Roumania (left) and Margaret (right) Peters dominated the American Tennis Association in the 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Fannie Walker Weekes)

Margaret Peters was born in 1915 in Washington, D.C., and Roumania Peters was born two years later in the same city. The girls began playing tennis for fun when Margaret was about ten years old. They played in a park across from their home in Georgetown.

They began to play competitively when they were teenagers in the 1930s. The Peters sisters played for the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was created in 1916 to organize Negro Tennis Clubs across the country and to provide competitions for African-American tennis players.

At that time tennis, like most other sports, was segregated so African Americans were not allowed to compete against whites.

By the time tennis integrated, Margaret and Roumania Peters were in their 30’s — considered to be the retirement age for elite players. As a result, they barely missed their own opportunity to make history.

As Roumania’s daughter, Fannie Walker Weeks put it, “My father always said that they just came along at the wrong time but they were happy with their lives. They were happy with what tennis did for them.”

After retiring from the ATA in the early 1950s, Margaret and Roumania earned master’s degrees and worked in the D.C. Public Schools, while continuing to inspire and encourage the next generation of D.C. tennis players.

For twelve years, Roumania taught tennis in the Department of Recreation’s summer tennis camp at Rose Park. Many of her protégés went on to receive four-year-athletic scholarships to college.

Margaret and Roumania Peters
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson along with Peters family members, friends and officials unveil the Peters plaque for the tennis courts at Rose Park. | Photo by Robert Devaney

Years later, Margaret and Roumania Peters received overdue recognition for their athletic accomplishments. In 2003 the USTA presented the sisters with an “achievement award” and inducted them into the Mid-Atlantic Section Hall of Fame.  In 2015, the DC Government officially dedicated the Rose Park Tennis Courts to Margaret and Roumania Peters.

1 min read

Rebecca Lee Crumpler, The First African American Woman in the United States to earn an M.D. Degree

Rebecca Lee Crumpler challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine.

Crumpler was born in 1831 in Delaware, to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and may have influenced her career choice, raised her.

By 1852 she had moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years (because the first formal school for nursing only opened in 1873, she was able to perform such work without any formal training).

In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. She graduated in 1864 as the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College.

Dr. Crumpler married twice and had one child, Lizzie Sinclair Crumpler. She passed away in Boston in 1895 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery. Her life and work testify to her talent and determination to help other people, in the face of doubled prejudice against her gender and race.

4 mins read

Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:

My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!



Tony O. Lawson

Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram &Twitter

 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Tees and Hoodies!


6 mins read

Meet Lt. Col Merryl Tengesda, The First Black Woman Spy Plane Pilot

Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal, a Bronx native, has become the first Black woman to ever pilot the U-2 Dragon Lady — an ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft used for intelligence gathering and can fly up to altitudes of 70,000 feet.

Merryl Tengesdal
Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal

According to an article by the United States Air Force, Tengesdal, “As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.”

The article also goes on to say that she has been recommended for promotion to colonel as well.

As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.

Merryl Tengesda

A Bronx, N.Y. native, Tengesdal is  a U-2 pilot and 9th Reconnaissance Wing inspector general who was recently selected for promotion to the rank of colonel.

“Flying at more than 70,000 feet is really beautiful and peaceful. I enjoy the quiet, hearing myself breathing, and the hum of the engine. I never take it for granted.”

The U-2 first flew in 1955, in the same year the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and the Civil Rights Movement began, setting the stage for desegregation.

“Every aircraft I’ve flown has something unique,” Tengesdal said. “The U-2 is no exception. I enjoy the challenge of landing on two wheels.”

Tengesdal is no stranger to challenges. The colonel acknowledged that during her childhood, there were many opportunities for her to stray down the wrong path.

“Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in my hometown, but I was influenced to pursue other aspirations,” she said.

With guidance from her mother and teachers, she excelled in high school, particularly in math and science. After high school, she attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. Afterward, she attended Officer Candidate School in the Navy, commissioned as an ensign in September 1994, and attended flight training shortly after.

“During the mid-90s, the military had just begun opening more roles for women in combat,” Tengesdal said. “Combat pilot was one of the opportunities. There was also a massive push for more minorities into the pilot training program. I remember when I attended flight training, it was racially diverse, which I was surprised to see. It was a good feeling. However, I could tell there were a few people who did not appreciate us.”

The first aircraft she flew was the Navy’s SH-60B Seahawk helicopter, used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, anti-ship warfare and special operations. She loved the versatility of the aircraft and its capabilities.

In 2004, Tengesdal followed her dream of flying higher and cross-commissioned into the Air Force, joining less than 1,000 pilots to join the U-2 program at Beale.

The U-2 pilot training is a rigorous nine-month course. Every candidate must conduct training missions aboard the TU-2S, a duel seat trainer aircraft located only at Beale. A solo high-flight occurs as a final challenge. Upon completion, pilots are often deployed around the world.

The U-2 Dragon Lady

Tengesdal has been deployed to multiple locations and has flown missions in support of Operation Olive Harvest in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, she has also aided in preventing terrorism and piracy in the Horn of Africa. Throughout her career, she has logged more than 3,400 flight hours and more than 330 combat hours.

“I have been truly blessed to have experienced all I have during my time in the military,” Tengesdal said.

According to Tengesdal, many women have contacted her to tell her they are proud of her accomplishments and that she is an inspiration to them.

“I’m incredibly fortunate. It’s surreal.” Tengesdal said. “From my time in the Navy to my experiences in the U-2 program, I like to think I’ve played a part in helping some of the troops on the ground get home safely.”

She has flown at the edge of space and witnessed a shooting star from the inside of a cockpit. She achieved what no African American woman ever had before.

“It is very uncommon, even for this day and age, to be a female pilot, much less a female minority,” Tengesdal said. “My career field is very male dominated, but I hope I have helped other females with similar aspirations to realize this is an option. I think we are all limitless as to what we can accomplish.”


Source: Welcome2thebronx

10 mins read

Meet The World’s First Black Woman Cruise Ship Captain

Back in the not-so-good-old days of cruising, women were considered to be bad luck on ships, a distraction to the crew and an anger to the seas. Until the 1970s, many professional maritime academies didn’t admit women, and there were no female cruise ship captains until 2007.

Things are definitely getting better for women in the cruise industry: They now make up 18 to 20% of the workforce. But there’s still a long way to go. Of the more than 300 passenger cruise ships worldwide, fewer than a dozen have female captains at the helm and it’s still a rarity to find women in the upper echelons of the cruise industry, since women only account for 5.4% of officers.

But those statistics didn’t let Belinda Bennett — the world’s first black female cruise ship captain— hold her back. Bennett has worked for the small ship line Windstar Cruises for 14 years and sails the MSY Wind Star through the Caribbean in winter and Europe in summer. She recently won the U.K.’s prestigious Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service. With International Women’s Day and Women’s History month just around the corner, we caught up with this trailblazing woman who is making history and helping create a sea change in her industry.

Belinda Bennett

Starting Out: I originally came from a small island called St. Helena, which is in the South Atlantic Ocean between South America and South Africa, smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic, miles from anywhere. Growing up on a small island, from the age that I could walk I was in the water. I loved the ocean. It used to be that the only way off the island was by ship. So when I was 17, I took a job on the RMS St. Helena, the ship that supported the island. That’s when my adventures started.

Overcoming Challenges: Unfortunately, I had a rough start. When I was training as a cadet, I sailed with chief officers who made me work harder than the other guys. During your cadetship you’re starting out as a sailor, so you do every job that they do. I had a chief officer, unfortunately, who made me work later than the sailors, so they would knock off for the day, and I would be left outside continuing to work until it got dark. It really was a make-or-break-you time, and me being me, I refused to be broken.

Breaking Barriers: After working on a private yacht off of Monaco for over two years, I did a stint on the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferries. Then I went back to school for my masters. After that, I tried to go back into yachts, but I was unsuccessful. The yachting industry wasn’t quite ready for me at that time. I remember being sat down by an agent in Antibes and being told that finding a job in the yachting industry would be very hard because of three things: 1) I had a higher education than most captains at the time; 2) I was a woman; 3) I was black. So I had to reevaluate my options, and Windstar, here I came. I got a job with Windstar Cruises in 2005.

Rising Through The Ranks: I came to Windstar as a second officer. Eventually, I went to chief officer. And then in January 2016, I was made captain of the MSY Wind Star, a four-masted sailing ship with 148 guests and 101 crew.

Captain Bennett and her senior staff.PHOTO COURTESY OF WINDSTAR CRUISES

On Success: I had goals in life, which I’ve succeeded at, and I’m a very strong woman. Being a woman, you have to work extra hard to prove yourself — even more than a man. Some men might not like that, but that’s the way it is. I’m driven. I wanted to be captain, and so, I am.

Meeting Guests: The Wind Star is a small ship, and we have an open bridge policy, which means you can stop by at almost any time and visit me on the bridge. This is a rarity in the cruise industry. The hotel manager and I also like to greet our guests on the gangway when they arrive. Some people say to the hotel manager, “You’re the captain?” And the hotel manager loves to say, “No, she is.” You get all different reactions. It’s quite fun to watch. I think the women love it. Some men are in awe, and some are slightly “What, you’re the captain?”

Role Model: I like to think that I’m a role model for other women. When I first came to sea, there were only five of us in a class of seventy-something. Over 20 years later, out of the five of us, I’m the only one still at sea. I do like to encourage women to come to sea.  There’s been an increase in women working at sea, but it’s not happening fast enough — or as fast as I’d like to see it, anyway.

Inspiring Women Staffers: To the women on my staff, I tell them, “When you put your mind to something and you really want something, you will work for it. And if you really really want it, no matter what obstacles come in your way, you can overcome those obstacles.”

Being A Woman Leader: As a woman, you can get away with a little more. You can be more direct and you can pretty much tell the guys how it is. If I don’t like something, I’m going to say it. I think men-to-men can be more confrontational. I never have that situation. Whenever I have constructive feedback to give, I like to end on a high note. Open communication is key in this job. If you can talk to your team and get them to talk to you, life is a lot easier.

Favorite Places: Any Italian port with leather bags and leather shoes, I am there. Bequia — a tiny island in the Caribbean — has the best lobster pizza in the world. The best gelato is in Portoferraio on the Italian island of Elba. I’ve been lucky enough to transit the Panama Canal, and the ingenuity is amazing. I recommend you see it at least once in your lifetime.

Inspiring The Next Generation: Every time I go back to St. Helena, I go to a high school and I talk to the kids. I tell them, “Look, I was once in your chair. I was schooling just like you, and then after so many years, I am now captain on a cruise ship that travels throughout the world. I love traveling. Being paid to travel? Bonus! ”

On Determination: When I first came to sea, the more someone said, “You will never make it,” the more determined I was to make it. I’m very headstrong. My parents will definitely agree with that. You need to be determined, you have to be a strong person. You will have a lot of challenges along the way. Doing this job, you will meet people who will not accept you being a woman. But the world is changing, it’s getting better.

Advice For Other Women Who Want To Do This: Work hard, be strong and don’t let anything deter you. I’ve done it. You can do it, too.


Source: FORBES