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Single Women Who Made History

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.   Ella Fitzgerald was also the first woman to win multiple Grammys.  The first Grammy Awards took place in 1958, and women were among the first crop of recipients. Ella Fitzgerald took home two statues that night for Best Vocal Performance, Female and Best Jazz Performance, Individual.  In 1967, she was the first woman to receive Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Patti LaBelle (born Patricia Louise Holte; May 24, 1944) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. LaBelle began her career in the early 1960s as the lead singer and frontwoman of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Following the group’s name change to LaBelle in the early 1970s, they released the iconic disco song “Lady Marmalade” and in 1975 the group later became the first African-American vocal group to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. LaBelle is commonly identified as the “Godmother of Soul”

Cicely L. Tyson (born December 19, 1924) is an American actress and former fashion model. In a career spanning more than seven decades, she became known for her portrayal of strong African-American women. Tyson is the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actor Guild Award, one Tony Award and she was the first black woman to receive an Oscar after being presented with an Honorary Academy Award. Tyson garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance in Sounder (1972); she was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work in the film. Tyson’s portrayal of the title role in the 1974 television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman won her further praise; among other accolades, the role won her two Emmy Awards.

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison, known as Toni Morrison (1931- 2019) was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award.  In 1988, Morrison was the first black woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987) and she gained worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Also that year, she was honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

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