Making Their Mark: Mississippi Women Leading the Way

From sports to entertainment, civil activists to authors, chefs to restauranteurs, there is no way to list all the women from Mississippi who have made, and continue to make, their mark in history.   Many are featured in the Mississippi Tour Guide, which by the way is a great resource in general, and also includes information on visiting the places their legacies live.  Highlighted here are a few long-term legacies as well as those more recently blazing the trail.

ACTIVIST – Fannie Lou Hammer
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” said civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, who made it her life’s work to ensure freedom for all. Her list of accomplishments included organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, co-founding both the Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus and helping thousands of Black Mississippians become registered voters. Visit the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden and see a statue of the activist at her burial place in the city of Ruleville. 

SPORTS – Sara Thomas
Sarah Thomas, a Pascagoula native and Brandon resident, was the first woman to officiate a college bowl game and the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. In 2015, Thomas was the first woman to be hired as a full-time NFL official.

MEDIA – Erin Napier
Erin Napier and her husband Ben have shown the country what Southern hospitality, an appreciation for history and hard work can do for their hometown of Laurel on HGTV’s hit show Home Town. This talented couple wowed viewers with their magical renovations of historic homes, sparking a new passion for revitalization from the minute they aired on HGTV. Home Town was the network’s highest rated pilot ever and is now in its sixth season.

CULINARY – Cat Cora
Jackson native Cat Cora trained at the Culinary Institute of America before becoming a foodie TV fixture on shows including Melting Pot, Date Plate and Around the World in 80 Plates. She is best known as the first woman Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. She has opened more than 18 restaurants around the world.  Cora is the founder and president of the nonprofit Chefs for Humanity, aimed at reducing global hunger.

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