Women’s History Month: 8 Pioneering Women of the Capstone

Women’s History Month: 8 Pioneering Women of the Capstone

This Women’s History Month, get to know some of the women of the Capstone who have blazed a trail for generations to come. These women are just a few of the many who made their mark on campus and the world.

black and white images of the first two female Ua students
Anna Adams and Bessie Parker.

Anna Adams and Bessie Parker

In 1893, Anna Adams and Bessie Parker enrolled as The University of Alabama’s first female students. Adams’ and Parker’s enrollments were due in large part to the successful lobbying of the UA board of trustees by Julia S. Tutwiler, then president of the Livingston Normal College for Girls.

Maude McLure Kelly

Maude McLure Kelly became a stenographer in her father’s law office and began to study law after her family moved to Birmingham. Her score on the entrance exam to The University of Alabama Law School allowed her to enter as a senior in 1907. She graduated with honors a year later and, after a change in the Code of Alabama, she became the first woman to practice law in Alabama.

Vivian Malone Jones

Vivian Malone Jones

Vivian Malone Jones was The University of Alabama’s first Black graduate. In 1963, she and James Hood arrived on campus with the intention to enroll. Waiting for them and blocking the entrance to Foster Auditorium was Gov. George Wallace. President John F. Kennedy eventually forced Wallace to permit their entry to the University. Malone was accepted as a junior and graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She later worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Veterans Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and she became executive director of the Voter Education Project. In 2000, The University of Alabama bestowed on her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Dr. Lena Prewitt

In 1970, Dr. Lena Prewitt became the first Black female professor to be appointed at The University of Alabama. Before making her mark at the Capstone, Prewitt received a fellowship to work with rocket scientist Werner von Braun at NASA in Huntsville. Prewitt served as the only African American on the team working on Saturn V. In addition to teaching in what is now known as the Culverhouse College of Business, Prewitt also held teaching and administrative positions at Stillman College, her alma mater. She has been a noted speaker on manufacturing, education, equal rights, and international relations and has served on advisory commissions in various countries.

Betsy Plank

UA graduate Betsy Plank was known as a public relations pioneer, a champion of PR education and the first lady of public relations. Throughout her career, Plank achieved multiple firsts for women, winning many top awards in the field. The Public Relations Society of America Foundation established its first scholarship endowment fund in her name. Since then, the Betsy Plank Scholarship Endowment Fund has helped ensure the availability of public relations education funds for students at more than 40 colleges nationwide. In 2005, The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees established the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

Sonequa Martin Green smiles and holds up the vulcan hand singal to a crowd at Comic Con
Sonequa Martin Green

Sonequa Martin-Green

Best known for her role as Sasha Williams in the television hit show “The Walking Dead,” Sonequa Martin-Green graduated from The University of Alabama in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre. In 2016, she was awarded a role as a lead actress in the television series “Star Trek: The Discovery,” making her the first African American woman to lead the cast of a Star Trek ensemble.

Vicki Hollub

UA graduate Vicki Hollub became the first female CEO of a major U.S. oil and gas company when she was named president and CEO of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Hollub has worked for Occidental Petroleum Corporation since earning her bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering in 1981.

More Women’s History Month Spotlights

UA Female Trailblazers

UA Women in Arts, Entertainment and Literature

UA Women Leading in Business and Innovation

UA Women in Media and Communications

Women in Leadership at UA