“Who was the first girl chemist?” When a then 7-year-old Georgia asked this question in 2017, her mother, Shauna, a photographer and homeschooler, seized the opportunity to dive into a research project that led them to learn about Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, the first African-American woman to receive a Chemistry PhD in the United States. Daly’s story inspired Georgia to pretend to be the history-maker, “playing” chemistry all day. It was an empowering moment that evolved into a powerful mother-daughter photography project called She Made History, which features Georgia as different black women she learns about, accompanied by each of their inspiring stories.
In an email interview, Shauna told WYSK, “It was clear that Georgia had made a personal connection with Dr. Daly’s accomplishments and life story. It was such a great opportunity to bring history to life and empower her as a young black girl. I took a few pictures, printed them with a little summary for her to keep. And just like that, we had the beginning of a personal homeschool curriculum for our daughter. Focusing on black women who have made history gave us an exciting direction.”
Shauna and Georgia, now 9, have been on their journey of discovery through black women’s history since March 2017. The very first photo Shauna posted to their She Made History blog was a shot she took of Georgia as Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb, the first African-American woman to graduate from veterinary school (1949) in the United States. Georgia has since transformed into over 40 past and present barrier-breakers and trailblazers, including Mae Jemison, Molly Wiliams, Jane Matilda Bolin, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Mildred Blount, Vernice Armour, Brehanna Daniels, and Toni Morrison.
“There are so many amazing African-American women, both past and present, that hold important stories,” Shauna said. “They are strong, intelligent, brave, resourceful, talented women who have shaped the world around them.” So deciding which women to feature is the most challenging part of the mother-daughter duo’s She Made History adventure.
Ultimately, the subject is Georgia’s choice, and she usually picks the women she portrays “based on something in her world that triggers an interest.” When it comes to costuming their photo shoots, Shauna quipped that she and Georgia, “generally raid everyone’s closets, or we knock on neighbors doors, or we send frantic texts to friends asking for help.” As for props, they’re made “by printing paper microphones, earrings, Oscar Awards, etc. and pretending they are real.”
Through their She Made History project, Shauna and Georgia never set out to “make photographs that are exact copies of the women we find.” She noted, “Our goal is to discover and connect with their lives. Our goal is to highlight their contributions to this world, to make their stories accessible to all women and girls that are in the process of creating their own history.”
In continuing to expand the scope their She Made History project this year, Shauna and Georgia have been honoring a different woman every day this month for Black History Month. And their committment to their mission is truly inspiring. “Imagine if every little girl grew up learning about these extraordinary women, they would never doubt their place in the world or their own limitless possibilities.”
Cheers to that Shauna, and brava to you and Georgia for sharing what you learn about black women everyone should know in such a creative and meaning-filled way.
Lead Photo: left – Georgia as Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784), the first African-American woman to publish a book; right – Georgia as Simone Manuel (born August 2, 1996), who made history in 2016 when she became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold metal in swimming for the United States during the Rio games and set an Olympic record (52.70) in the process.
“We have a multi ethnic family with kids ranging from age 24 to 9, five girls and one trans-son. Most of our children are adopted and are people of color.” – Shauna (pictured far left and Georgia lower right)