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Category: Women’s History Month

Dr. Kishana Taylor

When talking about women making history, not every story is set in the past. As an inspiring female making history now, Dr. Kishana Taylor is a true role model.

Dr. Taylor is an alumna of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UD CANR), graduating in 2011 with a major in animal science. While at UD she was named a Woman of Promise and had been an EPSCoR and Summer Institute Research Scholar.

Taylor continued her education at George Washington University, earning a Master’s degree in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious where her work on the effects of concentrated poultry operation on the presence of antibiotic-resistant E. Coli in Chesapeake Bay watersheds was supported by the Smithsonian Institute. Dr. Taylor earned her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in Interdisciplinary Biomedical sciences in 2018.

A virologist and postdoctoral researcher at Rutgers University, Tayor is a scientist who studies viruses of any kind, typically focusing on one group in particular. Taylor’s specialty is vector-borne diseases, which are transmitted to humans via animals and insects, such as Lyme disease and malaria, among many others.

She advocates for others through the Black Microbiologists Association, a non-profit she founded to connect Black scientists worldwide. Kishana Taylor notes that she often was one of few — and in some cases the only — Black microbiology students in her classes, and she earned three degrees without ever having had a Black professor. Through the Black Microbiologists Association, she has built a network that allows young Black professionals to engage with a diverse group of educators and scientists.

“After the first Black Microbiology Week, we got so many emails about how important the week had been to people. We got the message that this was a needed thing, so we moved to make ‘Black in Microbiology’ a non-profit and became the Black Microbiologists Association.”

Dr. Kishana Taylor
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Harriet Williams Russell Strong

Harriet Williams Russell Strong was a pioneer of water conservation and dry land irrigation, women’s rights activist and inventor.

In 1883, Harriet Williams Russell Strong—a graduate of Miss Mary Atkin’s Young Ladies Seminary, and mother of four became a young widow after her husband lost money in a business venture and took his own life. She had been away from home due to spine-related health issues. Once able to return home, Harriest was determined to defend the family’s 220-acre Rancho del Fuerte—the ranch of the strong—from creditors.

I had the courage of ignorance and plenty of determination to back it up.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong

Harriet threw herself into learning all she could about the business of agriculture. She read through scientific books and journals while enlisting the help of other local ranchers who could answer her questions about water, soil, crops, and marketing. “I had the courage of ignorance and plenty of determination to back it up,” she would later say.

In 1887, she began to develop multiple patents for water irrigation and storage that helped save her estate of walnuts (a notoriously difficult crop), oranges, and pampas grass. Her success in growing walnuts in California even won her the title “Queen of Walnuts of Whittier.”

Her inventions, including a multi-dam process, would continue to be used in many projects like the Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal. Harriet’s innovations became increasingly important for water source conservation, ensuring flood mitigation and dry land irrigation and generating electricity with hydropower dams.

Before women had the right to vote, Harriet Williams Russel Strong was a prolific member of local governments; she was a driving force for the Los Angeles Flood Control Act of 1915 and held the first female delegate’s seat at the US Chamber of Commerce convention.

Her now-profitable farm, which she had successfully defended from foreclosure, made Harriet a wealthy woman, but her drive for self-preservation had strengthened into a force for social change. During the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, she spoke at a business training for women, urging them to learn all they could.

“When the majority of women understand the business methods of the world,” she said, “they will be asked to assist in the affairs of government.”

Harriet Williams Russell Strong
Harriet Strong’s patent for “Dam and Reservoir Construction,” issued in 1887. Strong ultimately became the named inventor on five U.S. patents.
Harriet Strong’s patent for “Dam and Reservoir Construction,” issued in 1887. Strong ultimately became the named inventor on five U.S. patents.
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March celebrates Women’s History Month

The 2023 theme for Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”

Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. 

Since 1988, U.S. presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month. We spend the month of March commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the often-overlooked vital role of women in history.

In March 2011, the Obama administration released a report, Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, showing women’s status in the US in 2011 and how it had changed over time. This report was the first comprehensive federal report on women since the report produced by the Commission on the Status of Women in 1963. There have not been any updated reports since 2011.

The CANR DEI Committee will be spending the month of March highlighting women connected to agriculture and natural resources or environmental science fields.

Additional resources

  • For other information about women in these fields, follow the USDA Blog or Twitter by joining the discussion using #womeninag.
  • Cooperative Extension has a special community dedicated to connecting women in agriculture.
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