A Woman to Know: Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

I knew well that the only way to get that door open was to knock it down; because I knocked all of them down. — Sadie T.M. Alexander

(image via Wikimedia Commons)


Sadie started at university before women had even won the right to vote. As the only black woman in her class -- and, once she graduated in 1917, the first black woman in America with a PhD in economics -- Sadie later wrote she felt lonely and isolated at school, battling microaggressions and outright prejudice from her classmates and even her professors. She joined Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority, and rose to the rank of president, offering support for other women experiencing discrimination in their college classrooms. Once she passed the Pennsylvania bar -- again, the first black woman in America to do so -- Sadie began a decades-long career in civil service. Today DST honors her with an annual conference and a scholarship. Her advice to the sisters breaking barriers: "I never looked for anybody to hold the door open for me."

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