Gertrude Berg (born Tilly Edelstein) was one of the most successful women in radio and television between the 1920s through to the 1950s. In 1929, she wrote a semi-autobiographical script for a radio show that revolved around the fictional Goldberg family—and it became a huge hit. It was titled The Rise of the Goldbergs. The show revolved around the Jewish immigrant experience in America. Gertrude not only created the show but also wrote, produced, and acted in it. The show eventually made a successful leap to television in 1949 (and became The Goldbergs), and Gertrude won an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. This long-running series also spawned a play, a film, and a broadway musical.
After the show was cancelled in 1956, Gertrude went on to win a Tony in 1959 for her performance in the play A Majority of One. She died in 1966.
Edith Head, born on this day in 1897, is one of the most famous costume designers in film history. She received a BA from UC Berkeley in 1919 and earned a master of arts in romance languages from Stanford University in 1920. She was teaching French before she got her start in the wardrobe department at Paramount studios in 1923. She then went on to become the first woman to head the costume department in 1938. Head stayed at Paramount for 44 years. She then moved to Universal, where she worked until her death in 1981. Head designed costumes for many famous actresses, including Mae West, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and more. Some of the most famous films she worked on included She Done Him Wrong (1933), The Lady Eve (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Roman Holiday (1953), and Rear Window (1954). She worked on over 700 films, won 8 academy awards (she was nominated 35 times), and wrote two books.
Marian Anderson was an incredibly popular contralto who found success in America and abroad. She toured America and Europe; performed for presidents, kings and queens; and was the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She was awarded the American Medal of Freedom in 1963, amongst other accolades.
Born in 1897, Anderson dealt with the effects of racism through most of her career. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution denied Anderson the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC because of her skin color. People were outraged by the slight. Supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and others, Anderson was given permission to give a free concert on the steps of the Lincoln memorial. On Easter Sunday, 75,000 people filled the Mall to hear her sing and millions more listened to her on the radio.
Listen to some of her stunning performance above. I dare you not to get chills!
Jane Addams was born on this day in 1860. She founded the Hull-House with Ellen Gates Starr. Hull-House was the first social settlement in Chicago and the most well-known. Addams also founded the Chicago Federation of Settlements in 1894, and, in 1911, she helped establish the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers. She was involved in the fight for women’s suffrage and the peace movement and was the first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which she helped to found. For her work, in 1931, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman to do so.
There’s much, much more to learn about Addams’ incredible life. Read more here.
Original caption: “Calm about it. At Fifty-sixth and Lexington Avenue, the women voters showed no ignorance or trepidation, but cast their ballots in a businesslike way that bespoke study of suffrage.”
Margaret Bourke-White was a famous American photographer. In 1929, she was the first photographer for Fortune Magazine. In 1930, she was the first Western photographer allowed to take pictures of Soviet industry. In 1935, she was the first female photojournalist for Life magazine. And to top it all off, she was the first female war correspondent during World War II and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones. She traveled through Germany with Patton and was one of the first to photograph the horrors of the concentration camps.
Margaret Bourke-White working atop the Chrysler Building, New York, NY; photographed by her assistant, Oscar Graubner, 1934