LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16:  Documentary subject Grace Lee Boggs speaks on stage at the "American Revolutionary" premiere during the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival at American Airlines Theater on June 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage) 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival - "American Revolutionary" Premiere
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16: Documentary subject Grace Lee Boggs speaks on stage at the "American Revolutionary" premiere during the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival at American Airlines Theater on June 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Through activism, sports, astronautics, and monumental court cases, these five trailblazers made history in the Mitten. 

March is Women’s History Month, and The ‘Gander is highlighting trailblazing women native to Michigan or who played a pivotal role in the state’s history.

Aimee Stephens

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Transgender activist Aimee Stephens, sits in her wheelchair outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, October 8, 2019, as the Court holds oral arguments in three cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. – Thomas Rost, owner of RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes in Garden City, Michigan, is at the center of a US Supreme Court case involving allegations of transgender discrimination by a former employee. Born a boy 58 years ago, Aimee Stephens worked for the Detroit funeral home for six years before telling her employer she wanted to be issued a female uniform. Two weeks later, she was fired by her boss, Thomas Rost, who said: “This is not going to work.” In defending his decision, Rost cited his Christian values and the need to avoid upsetting customers in mourning. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

A former funeral director, Aimee Stephens was fired from her job in 2013 after she announced to her colleagues that she was transgender via a written letter. Upon being fired, Stephens filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the funeral home, stating her employer had violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, a district court ruled in the employer’s favor. Fortunately for Stephens, she won her appeal of that ruling at the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. The funeral home challenged the Sixth Circuit’s decision, and in June 2020 the US Supreme Court ruled that the landmark civil rights law protects LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination. Stephens, who died last May, hailed from Redford.

Christina Koch

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NASA Astronaut Christina Koch answers questions during a postflight news conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on February 12, 2020. – NASA’s Christina Koch returned to Earth safely on February 6, 2020, after shattering the spaceflight record for female astronauts with a stay of almost 11 months aboard the International Space Station. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Christina Koch, a native of Grand Rapids, became a NASA astronaut in 2013. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Koch holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and physics and a Master of Science in electrical engineering. The electrical engineer recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expeditions 59, 60, and 61.With a total of 328 days in space​, she also set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. 

Claressa Shields 

The Titan Games – Season 2
THE TITAN GAMES — Season: 2 — Pictured: Claressa Shields — (Photo by: Art Streiber/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Two-time Olympic champion, three-time division world champion, Claressa Shields is an unprecedented boxer. The Flint native made history as the first American woman to win gold in boxing while also becoming the first American boxer (male or female) ever to win gold in back-to-back Olympic games. Affectionately called T-Rex, Shields is now a two-division undisputed champion and ESPN’s new No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter. The “Greatest Woman of All Time (GWOAT),” who is inspired by Laila Ali and Serena Williams, dominated Marie-Eve Dicaire in a ten-round unanimous division victory, unifying all four major junior middleweight belts, on March 6. In 2019,  Shields had already collected all four middleweight world titles with a decision victory over Christina Hammer. 

Grace Lee Boggs

2013 Los Angeles Film Festival – “American Revolutionary” Premiere
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 16: Documentary subject Grace Lee Boggs speaks on stage at the “American Revolutionary” premiere during the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival at American Airlines Theater on June 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, the late Grace Lee Boggs was a prominent intersectional feminist, activist, writer, and speaker. Boggs studied at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, and received her PhD in philosophy in 1940. Influenced by Marx, Hegel, and Margaret Mead, Boggs was dedicated to a life of social activism rather than academia. Her activism started in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights and the Workers Party, which was an offset group of the Socialist Workers Party. During her activism, Boggs’ focus was on marginalized groups such as people of color and women. Although Boggs was originally from Providence, Rhode Island, she dedicated her life to Detroit activism. In 1992, she co-founded Detroit Summer with her husband, James Boggs. They also created the Boggs School,which was centered around nurturing young critical thinkers. She died in Detroit at the age of 100 in October 2015. 

Viola Liuzzo 

Viola Luizzo’S Children On Couch
(Original Caption) 3/29/1965-Detroit, MI- Huddled together on a couch in their home are four of slain Viola Luizzo’s five children, after learning of their mother’s death (3/26). The children (L-R) Anthony Jr., 10, Sally, 6, Penny, 18, and Tommy, 13, will be supported and educated with the aid of a foundation being set up by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Anthony Luizzo, husband of the Civil Rights Worker who was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Alabama, is an agent for Teamster Local 247 in Detroit.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Liuzzo left her family in Detroit and headed south to march for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. Liuzzo’s intentions were to assist with registering Black voters in Selma. However, shortly after her arrival, Liuzzo was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members while driving a Black man from Montgomery to Selma. Liuzzo is known as the only white woman killed during the civil rights movement. Before relocating to the Motor City, Liuzzo spent her childhood in rural Georgia and Tennessee, where she witnessed the racism that Black communities endured. Prior to her death, Liuzzo trained as a medical laboratory assistant, and enrolled at Wayne State University in 1963.