Celebrate Women’s History Month in Ohio

Women’s History Month provides Ohioans with a chance to either revisit or to learn about all the exciting and important writers, poets, playwrights, essayists, and important female literary figures that were born in Ohio or have called Ohio home. In fact, a number of Ohio women were first in their fields!

And before you say, “What about….?!” We acknowledge this is ONLY a small selection! We encourage you to explore well beyond this list… Consider this only an enticement for you!

When you have a Nobel Prizewinner in Literature who called Ohio home, you start the list with her! The legacy of Lorain-born Toni Morrison will continue to reverberate for years to come!

Likewise, when there is a United States Poet Laureate from your state, she gets a top spot as well! Rita Dove, born in Akron, was the US Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995 and the first African American to be appointed to that post.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825 – 1911), who lived in Cincinnati, was the one of the first African American women to be published in the United States. She was a poet and author in addition to being active in the social justice causes of her day.

A selection of other notable poets includes Alice and Phoebe Cary (b. Mount Healthy near Cincinnati), Mary Oliver (b. Maple Heights); Nikki Giovanni (lived in Cincinnati); and Kari Gunter-Seymour (b. Warren), Ohio’s current Poet Laureate… to name just the very tip of the iceberg.

magazine cover
Amazing Stories, April 1928, in which Harris’s “The Miracle of the Lily” appeared.

Clare Winger Harris (1891 – 1968) was the first woman to publish stories in the popular pulp science-fiction magazines like Amazing Stories under her own name. She lived in Lakewood, OH, during her active years. She even has a connection to Ohio’s own superhero: Her last story was published in a pamphlet edited by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman.

A selection of other notable science fiction and fantasy authors who were born in or called Ohio home include Nnedi Okorafor (b. Cincinnati), Carol Kendall (b. Bucyrus); Katharine Kerr (b. Cleveland); and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Masters (SFWA) Andre Norton (b. Cleveland) and Lois McMaster Bujold (b. Columbus) as well as SFWA founder Kate Wilhelm (b. Toledo).

The “first lady of television news,” Dorothy Fuldheim (1893 – 1989), born in New Jersey, would make her mark in broadcasting history working in Cleveland. While performing regional theater in 1918, Fuldheim was discovered by Jane Addams, the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, who hired Fuldheim to give anti-war lectures due to her vocal qualities. In the 1920s, Fuldheim began her work in Cleveland at the WTAM radio station where she was the first female commentator. She then moved to The Cleveland Press and then to WEWS-TV Channel 5 in 1947 where she was the first woman to anchor a news program. Her career at WEWS would span almost four decades. An Ohio Historical Marker stands in front of WEWS to mark her life and work.

Other authors – both current and historical – that some may not realize hail from Ohio include Harriet Beecher Stowe (lived in Cincinnati), Susan Orlean (b. Cleveland), Erma Bombeck (b. Bellbrook), Margaret P. Haddix (b. Washington Court House), and Elizabeth George (b. Warren).

This again is just a small selection of the wonderful, historic, and talented female writers from Ohio… and we apologize for ALL the people who we didn’t have space to list!

We encourage you to celebrate Women’s History Month in March… and to continue to read these authors throughout the year!