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Single Women Who Made History

Dr. Patricia Era Bath (1942-2019) was an American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic. She was an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery.  Patricia Bath is the first black female doctor to receive a medical patent and the first African American woman to complete a residency in ophthalmology at NYU.  In 1986, she created the Laserphaco Probe, a tool used to treat patients with cataracts with more precision and less pain.  Bath was able to help restore the sight of people who had loss their eyesight for more than 30 years.  She also became first woman member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology, and the first woman elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center.  She was also the first African-American woman to serve on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath was the holder of five patents and she also founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.

Linda Martell (1941-) was the first black woman to appear on The Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, founded in 1925. It is the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. It’ s dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, and gospel music.  It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and Internet listeners.  Martell, who was a country and blues singer went on to make 11 more appearances on the international radio program throughout her career and she landed a Top 25 song on Billboard with her 1969 single “Color Him Father.”

Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) Wilma Glodean Rudolph was an American sprinter born in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee, who became a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field following her successes in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games. Nicknamed “the black gazelle,” Rudolph was born premature and was stricken with polio as a child. Though her doctor said she would never be able to walk without her brace, she went on to become a track star. She became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics in 1960 in Rome, Italy.  Rudolph was acclaimed world-wide as the fastest woman in the world.   As an Olympic champion in the early 1960s, Rudolph was among the most highly visible black women in America and abroad. She became a role model for black and female athletes and her Olympic successes helped elevate women’s track and field in the United States. Rudolph is also regarded as a civil rights and women’s rights pioneer.

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