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"Great Girls in Michigan History" shares stories of young girls who made history

The U.S. National Archives on Flickr

Patricia Majher's book Great Girls in Michigan History profiles 20 girls in Michigan who accomplished great feats before the age of 20.

Majher says while the girls were from all over the state with different areas of expertise, they all shared some personality traits. She describes them as precocious, self-driven, and not allowing obstacles to stand in their way.

The book includes stories of Betty Ford's dedication to dance at a young age. Ford founded her own dance studio in Grand Rapids at the age of 15, where she taught little girls and their mothers too.  Her career eventually led her to dance at Carnegie Hall.

Majher also profiles females who excelled at sports, including Serena Williams who was born in Saginaw, and Marilyn Jenkins, who was a star in the all-women’s baseball league during World War II.

Michigan native Ella May Wilson also made a mark in American history. Her family moved from Kalamazoo to Virginia as her father fought in the Civil War. Surrounded by the deaths of Confederate and Union soldiers, Wilson and her sister began to place flowers on the graves of the fallen from both sides.

The custom began to travel throughout the country and led to what we now know as Memorial Day.

Worker Geraldine Hoff Doyle had her own  impact on the U.S. efforts during World War II. Her picture was used as the model for the infamous "Rosie the Riveter" poster. The photo was taken during her time working in a plant in Ann Arbor and she didn't know how it would be used until she saw the poster.

The book also includes profiles of Michigan entertainers, including Julie Harris who has won more Tony's than any other performer, and Joan Leslie Caldwell who was starring opposite Fred Astaire when she was just 18.

While Majher says her target audience is girls 8 to 12 years of age, she hopes that young boys will read it as well.

"I think this book shows that even young people can make an impact," Majher says.

Majher will be in Lansing at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 28 for a discussion and book signing. For information about the book and about upcoming events click here

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