Dorothy Layne McIntyre – One of the First Female Pilots

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Dorothy Layne McIntyre enrolled in West Virginia State College where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program offered by the college where she received a pilot’s license from the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) in 1940, becoming one of the first black licensed pilots among American women. This accomplishment fulfilled a lifelong dream that began as a child.


Mrs. McIntyre was born on January 27, 1917 in LeRoy, New York to Lena Hart Layne and Clyde Edward Layne. When she was young her mother passed away, leaving Dorothy and her older sister, Ruth, to be raised by their father. The two girls lived with their grandparents until their father was remarried to Mae Alexander. Together, the new couple had a son, Clyde Edward.
Growing up in what Mrs. McIntyre described as an area that “wasn’t as segregated as the South,” she would attend annual air shows at the LeRoy Airport, which began her love for flying and aviation. On occasion, she would take flights with aviators in the area.

During the 1939-1940 school year, the CAA introduced a cadet flying program at the her college that permitted one woman to train with each group of 10 male students.Mrs. McIntyre eagerly applied and was accepted for the program which was being conducted at Wertz Airport in Charleston, West Virginia.


“When they brought the flying course to the school, a lot of people applied. You had to be strong in math and science skills and you had to pass the physical, which was very strenuous,” said Mrs. McIntyre.


After graduating from college in 1941, Mrs. McIntyre logged additional flight hours in Rochester, New York and Cleveland, Ohio. During World War II she taught aircraft mechanics at the War Production Training School No. 453 while working full-time as a secretary for the Baltimore Urban League in Baltimore, Maryland. She applied for admission to WASP, a program staffed by women pilots who ferried bombers during the war, but was denied because of her race.


Upon graduation from college, Mrs. McIntyre was hired to work as a bookkeeper in Cleveland, Ohio. She soon met and married Francis Benjamin McIntyre. It was during her husband’s tour of duty overseas in World War II that Mrs. McIntyre moved to Baltimore to live with her sister. During her lifetime, she had successful careers as an independent accountant, bookkeeper, social worker and a Cleveland Public School teacher, from which she retired in 1979.


Mrs. McIntyre is a member of the Tuskegee Airman’s Alumni Association and was profiled in the 2001 publication of the book Distinguished African Americans in Aviation. She was also the subject of the dance production, Take-Off From a Forced Landing, created by her daughter, award-winning choreographer, Dianne McIntyre. Among her many awards and honors is the Bessie Coleman Award, inclusion in the International Women’s Air and Space Museum at the Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport, induction into the Cleveland Educators and Alumni Hall of Fame, and recognition by the Tuskegee Airmen North Coast Chapter 17. Mrs. McIntyre has two daughters, Dianne and Donna, two granddaughters and three great grandchildren. Her husband passed away in 2006. She currently makes a few appearances at functions and gives informal, impromptu speeches. She continues to live in Cleveland, Ohio.




Mary Ann Shadd Cary – Abolitionist, Editor, Lawyer

Contributed by Tammy Denease

This is one of the Women that I have added to my “Obscure Women” series. Mrs. Cary was a true champion for human rights, regardless of race or gender. A perfect example of someone who was of the elite class using their wealth, and status for the good of the people!

Today in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born in Wilmington, DE. She was a Black educator and administrator. The eldest of 13 children of free Black parents, she received an education from the Pennsylvania Quakers. Cary devoted the first part of her life to being an abolition, working with fugitive slaves, and becoming the first African-American woman in North America to edit a weekly newspaper, the Provincial Freeman. This newspaper was devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada. She then became a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for Negroes in Wilmington; West Chester, PA; New York; Morristown, NJ; and Canada. She was also the first woman to speak at a national African American convention.

Before and during the Civil War Mrs. Cary battled with her male counterparts over her right to have an authoritative voice as well as insisted on a role in black community politics. Also during the Civil War, Cary helped recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army. In Washington, D.C., she established a school for Black children. She would embark on her second career, when she attended Howard University Law School. She became the first Black female lawyer in the United States when she graduated in 1870.
She fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. As a lawyer, she worked for the right to vote and was one of the few women to receive the right to vote in federal elections. She organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise in 1880, which was dedicated to women’s rights. As an educator, abolitionist, editor, attorney, and feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for everyone black, white, male and female. Truly a woman before her time!

Tammy Denease


Wangari Maathai – The Power of One

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940–2011): Nobel Peace Laureate; environmentalist; scientist; parliamentarian; founder of the Green Belt Movement; advocate for social justice, human rights, and democracy; elder; and peacemaker. She lived and worked in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.”

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”
Wangari Maathai was born in the village of Ihithe, near Nyeri, in the Central Highlands of Kenya on April 1, 1940. At a time when most Kenyan girls were not educated, she went to school at the instigation of her elder brother, Nderitu. Principally taught by Catholic missionary nuns, she graduated from Loreto Girls’ High School in 1959. The following year she came to the United States through a scholarship program of the African American Students Foundation—what became known as Kennedy “Airlift,” because a Kennedy family foundation helped fund the effort. Professor Maathai studied at Mount St. Scholastica (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, Kansas, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.

In 1966 she earned a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. That year she returned to a newly independent Kenya, and soon after joined the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nairobi. In 1971 she received a Ph.D., the first woman in east and central Africa to do so. She became the first woman to chair a department at the University and the first to be appointed a professor.

In the 1970s Professor Maathai became active in a number of environmental and humanitarian organizations in Nairobi, including the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). Through her work representing women academics in the NCWK, she spoke to rural women and learned from them about the deteriorating environmental and social conditions affecting poor, rural Kenyans—especially women. The women told her that they lacked firewood for cooking and heating, that clean water was scarce, and nutritious food was limited.

Telling the Stories of “Obscure” Women

Tammy Denease Richardson is a living, breathing storyteller.  Not the kind that sits down and reads stories to children, but the kind that becomes the living embodiment of the person she is portraying.  She dresses the part and uses tools and language from the time period of the women she portrays.
Here’s her story:

Your interest in stories began in childhood by listening to your grandmother, right?  Tell us about that.

I grew up in Mississippi. My Great Grandmother (we called her Muddea) was an enslaved woman who lived to be 125 years of age. She accomplished many things in her “short” life :-}

After she was given her freedom during the Surrender, she would go on to become well known in the community as a shrewd business woman. She purchased 40 acres of land from her earnings. That land is still in the family to this day.  I was but 7 years of age when Muddea or Dear died. But I remember sitting with her and her sharing recipes and telling me family history. She instilled in me a sense of family and the need to tell “our” history.

Telling “our” history.  You’ve listened to these stories and you’ve got this direction,  what do you do with it all after that?

When I think of the time spent with my great grandmother and grandmother (she lived to be 100 years of age) I feel a sense of pride to know that I come from a people who are intelligent, resilient, resourceful, strong – a people to be proud of.  I feel the need to share these stories of positivity and to help tear down the walls of stereotypical rhetoric.

Talking about your journey a little more, you used to sing in a band.  What was that like for you, why did you leave it and how did that bring you into or support your goal to be a storyteller?

Yes, many moons ago I sang with two sisters. It was fun to have the crowds enjoy what we were sharing. I also did the solo thing for a while.  However, I decided not to pursue singing for several reasons. The main reason was at the time I had a 2 year old and I did not want to be away from her for extended periods of time. I also walked away because I needed to do it on my terms. I wanted to play a more creative role. Not to mention there is a shady side to the business that I did not care for.  (That’s a different conversation:-)

I always knew I would do something by way of entertaining people. When I was younger I would do school plays, sing, dance, etc. After several years of the corporate world, I had enough and decided to be an entrepreneur. I thought about where I came from and what I wanted to accomplish. I decided to go the historical path. I decided I can entertain and educate, become an Edutainer:-}

You portray “obscure women” – women who in their time were very well known but whose stories were later lost, forgotten and buried in american history.  How did you find out about them?

Growing up in the South, you are told about your heritage –  where you come from. So I have known of these women and other women like them. Sadly though in some parts of the country The African American legacies are not known. So I decided to bring these women to the fore. I do extensive research through reading, visiting the areas of my ladies, connecting with experts in fields that I have little knowledge (i.e. clothing experts, experts on the time period).  I also belong to different organizations that promote storytelling.

Why have you chosen the women that you chose to portray?  Is there something about their content and character that you personally relate to?  Or is it merely telling their story?

I connect with the women I portray. What I mean–if I lived at the time of these women I would be them. For instance my latest lady, Elizabeth “Mum Bett ” Freeman, although a slave, she was well respected and admired. She is the mother of the Civil Rights. She stood up for those who could not stand for themselves. This is me.

How important is it that we know about these women?

It is very important. We all need to know where we come from. Who we are. There is a saying, “If you do not know from where you came, you can’t possibly know where you are going.” I truly believe this.

Where are your most frequent venues for your portrayals or story telling?

I perform at convention centers, schools, corporations, senior centers, women clubs, museums. The only venues I do not do are political or religious organizations.

What venues would you like to be in?  Where do see that you and your historical art fit?  In other words, who should hear these stories and where should they hear them?

I would like to do documentaries or a film even. I have written a program on acceptance and I would love to see that used in schools, homes, the workplace – where ever diversity is needed. Everyone can benefit from what I do. We are never too old or too young to learn.

On the commercial side, do you plan to post more videos and eventually sell products related to this art that you do or are you geared more toward just live story telling?

I have a few videos in the can –  just waiting for editing to be done. More videos will be posted soon. I plan to do both. I will continue live performances.

I started a non profit called Historical Firsts Cultural Foundation. I hope to take what I do to another level. Books, dolls, educational material will someday be available. But as with anything it is about the finances.

If someone else wanted to do this, how would you suggest that they get started?

First know what it is you want to share. Then search for all the information you can (libraries, people, museums, experts on that person, etc). Then write your own material or work with someone who will write for you, if you are not a writer. Then make the story your own. Become that person while still being yourself. I would suggest contacting local storytelling guilds for guidance on how to get out there.

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