Celebrating Innovative Women: Week 2

Women's History Month 2022

In celebration of Women's History Month, this blog will be featuring innovative women who have made incredible impacts for a happier, healthier and more equitable world thorough sustainability, environmental conservation and energy progress.

Margie Richard

Twenty-five percent of petrochemical production in the US - as well as over 150 plants and refineries - can be found in along a short stretch of the Mississippi River. The residents of this region suffer from higher rates of health issues, especially asthma, birth defects, and cancer. For this reason, the 85-mile track of land has become known as "Cancer Alley". In

Born and Raised in the Old Diamond neighborhood of Norco, Louisiana, in the heart of Cancer Alley, Margie Richard and her "Concerned Citizens of Norco" coalition understood better than anyone the long-term effects of the toxic conditions caused by petro production.

Following a devastating Shell pipeline explosion in 1973, Margie dedicated herself to fighting enviornmental racism. In 1988, an industrial accident in Norco resulted in the deaths of 7 people and 159 million pounds of harmful toxins into the air.

Richard fought to hold Shell accountable for causing so many health issues in her community. In 1989 she founded ‘Concerned Citizens of Norco’, which demanded Shell provide the community with resettlement costs. For 13 years, Richard campaigned to seek justice by holding press conferences, collaborating with researchers, and holding workshops to empower her neighbors. In the year 2000, Shell agreed to reduce its emissions by 30% and pay for the relocation of residents who lived on the two streets closest to it. Richard and the ‘Concerned Citizens’ were not satisfied and continued to fight until they secured a $5 million community development fund and funds to relocate all four Old Diamond streets. After securing this, Richard continued to work with Shell to create an initiative that improved the environmental health and safety in Norco. However, Richard did not stop there - she also became an advisor for other communities fighting for justice against corporate pollution, and traveled abroad to speak at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. (Our City Forest)

Marie Curie

Women have, for most of our history, been denied access to scientific endeavors. Marie Curie, born Marie Sklodowska in Warsaw Poland (1867), did not have access to University education due to her gender.

Marie Curie at her workstation

Did she let that stop her? Hell no! Marie moved to Paris, attended University, met her husband Pierre, and earned her Ph.D.

Marie and Pierre significantly advanced our understanding of radioactivity and radioactive materials. It was Marie who discovered that radioactivity does not depend on the arrangement of atoms into molecules (as was previously believed) but that radioactivity is active within the atoms themselves (atomic heritage)

The deeply bonded duo were awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The pair would go on to make groundbreaking discoveries of both radium and polonium.

Pierre and Marie

After Pierre passed in 1906, Marie stepped into his position at the Sarbonne, becoming the first woman in France to achieve professorial rank. Five years later, Marie would go on to achieve her second Novel Prize in Chemistry for isolating pure radium.

Being a pioneer sometimes means facing unknown dangers. This is something Marie would come to learn later in life, as her early years of radiation study culminated in radiation-induced leukemia. She passed in 1934, and in 1995 became the first woman honored on her own merit to rest in the Pantheon, alongside Pierre.

JoAnn Tall

The Lakota tribe, like many Native American tribes, have been brushed aside, traditions tread upon and sacred lands desecrated in the name of progress.

JoAnn Tall, of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota, has protected the Pine Ridge Reservation and the sacred Black Hills of North Dakota from unjust uranium mining, nuclear weapon testing and hazardous landfills.

Joann Tall

She began her journey as an environmental warrior by using her Native American owned and operated radio station to raise awareness of the health effects of uranium mining and the plans to use the Black Hills as a Honeywell nuclear testing site.

JoAnn amassed a passionate following and established a camp at the proposed Honeywell site, leading to the abandonment of the testing site.

Reservations regularly receive complex offers for use of their land, but many are not equipped to fully understand the gravity of these proposals. Knowing this, JoAnn co-founded the Native Resource Coalition to educate the Lakota people on the issues of health, land and the environment, equipping them and other tribes to make informed decisions.

In 1993 JoAnn Tall was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Today, she serves as a spiritual guide, an elder, and an educator of environmental protection.

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