Anna Arnold Hedgeman and Ethel Ray Nance both grew up in rural Minnesota. Both were involved in human services. And both contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. Here are 10 things to know about these two Minnesota renaissance women:


  1. First Black woman to graduate from Hamline University (1922) – the University now has a scholarship named for her.
  2. First African-American woman to serve on a New York City mayoral cabinet (1954-1958).
  3. First African-American person to hold a Federal Security Agency position.
  4. Founding member of NOW – the National Organization for Women.
  5. Helped organize the 1964 March on Washington.


  1. The Duluth native worked with the Minnesota Forest Fires Relief Commission after the devastating fires of 1918.
  2. First African-American female clerk at the Minnesota Legislature.
  3. First African-American female police officer in Minneapolis.
  4. Was a leader with the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House in North Minneapolis.
  5. A longtime friend and colleague of WEB DuBois who collaborated with him as part of his work founding the United Nations.

Craving more inspiration from local movers and shakers of the female persuasion? Check out these Minnesota artists that will light your creative match.

Discover more local history from Minnesota Experience.


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.