Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.
The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.
While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.
Singer / Actress
Singer / Actress
Pearl Mae Bailey was a rousing singer and actress, known for live performances that mixed humor and music, and for a long stage and movie career. She got her start in Black Philly nightclubs in the 1930s, performed with the U.S.O. during World War II, and then on Broadway, film and television.
Bailey won a Tony for the title role in an all-Black version of Hello Dolly!, which also starred Cab Calloway. Her best known stage roles were Maria in Porgy and Bess and Frankie in Carmen Jones, and her hit songs were plentiful: ”Two to Tango,” ”Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye,” ”That’s Good Enough for Me,” and “Fifteen Years (And I’m Still Serving Time),” to name just a few.
- Georgetown University, theology degree—at age 67
- Won a 1968 Tony Award for starring in the all-Black production of Hello, Dolly!
- Won a Daytime Emmy Award
- Recorded multiple albums for different labels
- TV, movie and voice actress
- Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan
FINAL WORDS: Her 1990 New York Times obituary quotes Bailey as having said, “I’m not a comedienne. I call myself a humorist. I tell stories to music and, thank God, in tune. I laugh at people who call me an actress.”
Photo courtesy William Morris Agency / Wikimedia Commons