Influential Women of Kansas City

It’s International Women’s Day! Here’s to a day of celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality. A balanced world is a better world!

Join us in taking a look at women from the Kansas City area who have encouraged and empowered over the years.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan in her twenties

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan worked at NASA as a mathematician and computer programmer during the height of the space race. During this time she became the first African-American woman to be a supervisor at the Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1910, Vaughan and her family moved to Virginia soon after her birth. An ambitious woman, Vaughan would go on to graduate from Wilberforce University in 1929.

After college, Vaughan became a math teacher in the racially segregated public schools of Virginia. Vaughn lovingly aught math to underprivileged youth for fourteen years. Then, in 1943, she was hired to work at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

Vaughan worked for NACA, which would later become NASA for 28 years until 1971, when she retired. During her time at NACA and NASA Vaughn pushed ardently for women to be given more opportunities to succeed.

Besides being a trailblazer for working women everywhere, Vaughan was the mother of six children; a grandmother to ten; and a great-grandmother to twelve. She passed away at the age of 98 in 2008.

Gillian Schieber Flynn

Gillian Schieber Flynn

Gillian Schieber Flynn is an award-winning author known for her brave, strong-willed female lead characters. Flynn’s is the writer of the novels Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places–all three of which have been adapted into on-screen productions.

Flynn was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She went on to attend the University of Kansas, where she received her undergraduate degrees in English and Journalism. She then went on to receive a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago.

After finishing school, Flynn worked briefly as a freelance writer before getting hired as a featured writer for Entertainment Weekly. Flynn worked her way to a promotion to become a television critic for the publication until 2008.

Flynn now lives with her husband and children in Chicago and focuses on her own writing full-time. Her novel Gone Girl, is an international sensation and a runaway hit that has spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer and author who was known as the “Queen of the Air.” Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and she received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. She set many other records and wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences.

Among many of her advances for women’s rights, Earhart was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. She even became an associate editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, and she used the forum to promote women to enter whatever career-field they desired.

Earhart was born and raised just north of Kansas City in Atchison, Kansas in 1897. She briefly studied medicine at Columbia University before leaving to pursue her dream of being a pilot. In 1937, Earhart inexplicably disappeared during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe. Fascination with her life, career, and disappearance continues to this day.

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae is an award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, producer, and entrepreneur. Monae is best known for her grammy-nominated music as well as her roles in the films Hidden Figures and Moonlight. From Kansas City, Kansas, Monae was raised by her mother who was a janitor, and her father who was a truck driver.

Monae did not let her humble beginnings stop her from dreaming of being a famous performer. At a young age Monae moved to New York City where she studied drama at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. In 2001, Monae moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she met big name artists who helped her gain notoriety. With her incredible talent, Monae quickly blossomed into a star. Monae has also founded her own entertainment label, the Wondaland Arts Society. 

Aside from her outstanding creative talents, Monae is known for being unabrashed and a passionate supporter of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper is an award-winning actress, comedian, and writer best known for her lead role in the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and as Erin Hannon in the NBC comedy series The Office. She also briefly co-anchored The Today Show in 2015, and is a contributor to The Onion and The Huffington Post

Kemper was born in Kansas City, Missouri and was a resident until she was five years old when her family moved to St. Louis. She went on to attend Princeton University where she graduated with an English degree in 2002. There, she continued a love for improv comedy and was even a member of the 1998 women’s national champion field hockey team. 
After Princeton, kemper began her entertainment career and has gone on to make her name known. Kemper Besides her television roles, Kemper has appeared in movies such as Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street, as well as voice acting in the Secret Life of Pets films. On top of her successful career, Kemper is also a wife and mother.

These are just a few of the amazing and influential women who have come from Kansas City! Please feel free to share in the comments below about the most influential women in your life!