Stories of Courage & Contributions: Women’s History Month in Delaware

March is a month that shines a spotlight on the extraordinary achievements of women throughout history. This year, the United Way of Delaware is taking a moment to celebrate the courage and contributions of remarkable women across our state. As we delve into Women’s History Month 2024, the theme, “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion”, we are reminded of the importance of recognizing the roles women have played in shaping our society, our communities, and our lives.

Delaware, a state known for its rich history and diverse culture, has been home to women whose stories are not just inspiring but are pivotal chapters in the narrative of progress and resilience. From Bebe Coker’s tireless activism within the community to Edwina Kruse’s dedication to education and leadership as the principal of Howard High School for nearly four decades, these women have laid down the foundation for future generations to build upon.

Read on to dive deeper into the lives and legacies of these extraordinary women.

Edwina Kruse

Edwina Kruse (1848 – 1930)

Hailing from Puerto Rico, Edwina Kruse stands as an icon in the realm of education, particularly for her nearly forty years of service as the principal of Howard High School in Wilmington. Her dedication to fostering a nurturing and enriching educational environment has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless students. Kruse’s legacy extends beyond her role as an educator; she helped establish the state’s Industrial School for Colored Girls, helped create the Sarah Ann White Home for the Aged in Wilmington, and was one of the organizers of Wilmington’s branch of the NAACP in 1914.

Photo: Wikipedia – Edwina Kruse

Laura Gendreau, United Way of Delaware

Bebe Coker

As a dedicated community activist for over 50 years, Bebe Coker has been a tireless advocate for social justice and community empowerment. Throughout her career, she has worked towards creating positive change within her community, addressing issues such as education, healthcare, and economic inequality. Coker’s commitment to grassroots organizing has made a lasting impact, fostering a sense of unity and collective responsibility among community members. Besides her activism, Bebe is a playwright, poet, and lyricist, and her plays have appeared locally and off-Broadway.

Photo: Delaware Business Times – Bebe Coker


Laura Gendreau, United Way of Delaware

Elena Delle Donne

A powerhouse on the basketball court, Elena Delle Donne has made significant contributions to women’s sports as a basketball player. Starting her career with the University of Delaware Blue Hens, she’s earned two MVP awards in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), a WNBA Championship, and gold medals from the Olympics and World Cup. Her achievements have helped elevate the status of women’s sports, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and celebrating the excellence of female athletes on a global stage.

Photo: X – Elena Delle Donne 


Stephanie Lewis, United Way of Delaware

Ruth Ann Minner (1935 – 2021)

Breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings, Ruth Ann Minner made history as the first female governor of Delaware. Her tenure marked a significant milestone in women’s history, demonstrating that women could excel in leadership roles traditionally dominated by men. Minner’s achievements opened doors for future generations of women in politics, inspiring them to pursue their aspirations without being confined by gender-based expectations.

Photo: Wikipedia – Ruth Ann Minner

Edwin Santos, United Way of Delaware

Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935)

An influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance, Alice Dunbar-Nelson made substantial contributions as a poet, journalist, and political activist. Her work played a pivotal role in the cultural and intellectual flourishing of the African American community during this period. Dunbar-Nelson’s writings explored issues of race, gender, and social justice, contributing to a broader conversation that challenged societal norms and promoted a more inclusive and equitable society.

Photo: Smithsonian Libraries – Alice Dunbar-Nelson 


Edwin Santos, United Way of Delaware

Stephanie Kwolek (1923  – 2014)

In the world of science and innovation, Stephanie Kwolek stands out as the brilliant DuPont chemist responsible for inventing Kevlar, a lifesaving fiber widely used in bulletproof vests. Kwolek’s groundbreaking work has had a profound impact on law enforcement and military personnel, saving countless lives. Her achievements underscore the importance of women’s contributions to STEM fields and highlight the potential for groundbreaking discoveries when diverse perspectives are embraced within scientific communities.

Photo: Wikipedia – Stephanie Kwolek

Edwin Santos, United Way of Delaware

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823 – 1893)

A trailblazer in both law and activism, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a pioneering African American lawyer and anti-slavery activist. Known for her unwavering commitment to justice, she actively assisted freedom seekers and advocated for the rights of African Americans. Shadd Cary’s legacy serves as a testament to the crucial role women played in the abolitionist movement and the ongoing fight for civil rights.

Photo: National Park Service – Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Edwin Santos, United Way of Delaware

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Breaking through barriers of race and gender, Lisa Blunt Rochester made history as the first woman and African American congresswoman from Delaware. Her presence in the political arena is a testament to the progress made towards a more representative and inclusive government. Rochester’s advocacy focuses on a range of issues, including healthcare, education, and social justice, reinforcing the importance of diverse voices in shaping legislative policies that address the needs of all citizens.

Photo: – Lisa Blunt Rochester