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20 inspiring Pittsburgh women you need to know

Past and present, these Pittsburgh women have made incredible contributions here in Pittsburgh and across the country.

by Amanda Reed
March 19, 2021

This story comes from Amanda Reed – you can see Amanda’s other stories for Very Local Pittsburgh here and follow her on Twitter @reedkat_.

March is a month of many things. There’s St. Patrick’s Day; There’s Pi Day and the Ides of March back-to-back; and, there’s tons of random things to celebrate. But, most importantly, March is Women’s History Month.

To celebrate, here are 20 inspirational Pittsburgh women that you should Google ASAP. Think of it this way: Appreciating and sharing their stories is way more enjoyable (and impactful) than drinking cheap, bad beer dyed green.

 

Sue Morris

Morris is former therapist turned local historian and writer who is behind the “The Historical Dilettante,” a local blog unearthing lost gems of Pittsburgh’s past. From posts about a three-legged dog in the Northside to the only woman associated with the Homestead Strike, you’re sure to learn something new.

 

Nicole Young

Young, a local tech freelancer and YouTuber, uses her platform to help her followers — including Black women — break into the tech industry. With an incredibly low number of people in the tech industry who identify as a person of color, Young is an inspiration and provides a valuable resource for science, technology, engineering and math careers.

 

Zoje Stage

Stage, based in Squirrel Hill, is a horror author, whose work has been described as “Shirley Jackson meets ‘The Shining.’” With a background in film, her work fills the spooky hole in our souls year-round.

 

Julie Zaichuk-Ryan

The owner of the South Atlantic Stitching Company gives new meaning to what is a “women’s work” with her modern take on traditional needlecraft. Take a listen to our interview with Julie here.

 

Nisha Blackwell

Blackwell is the founder and CEO of Knotzland, which creates and sells sustainably-made, snazzy, chic bowties. What’s not to love?

  • Nisha Blackwell and Knotzland were recently featured on The Verge.

 

Casey Renee

Renee, a local pastry chef, was named a James Beard award semifinalist twice and was a contestant on the Food Network’s “Best Baker in America.” Sounds pretty sweet to us.

  • Check out our interview with Casey here and don’t miss our video where Casey shows us how to make a classic local dessert, strawberry pretzel salad.

 

Quelcy Kogel

Kogel is a recipe developer, stylist, photographer and longtime blogger via her website, With The Grains. She became an author in 2019 with “The Gluten Free Grains Cookbook,” filled with gluten-free recipes that will leave you feeling full and fulfilled. In her words, “Think of me as your gluten translator who won’t bullshit you and wants to go halfsies on brunch.”

 

Tereneh Idia

A fashion designer, writer, curator, Idia can do it all, from writing about Star Trek uniforms to making an entire clothing line inspired by the animals of Pittsburgh. She even co-hosts a podcast. Tereneh, any time management recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

 

Sara Innamorato

Innamorato represents District 21 in Pittsburgh in the state House of Representatives, serving nearly 60,000 residents in Pittsburgh with a progressive platform, including women’s rights.

 

Summer Lee

In 2018, Lee became the first Black Woman from Southwestern Pennsylvania to hold the office of State Representative and won with more than 60 percent of the vote in a race against a 20-year incumbent. Along with backing progressive ideals, like ending mass incarceration and universal healthcare, her GIF game is also fire.

 

Jess Semler

Semler is an Etna councilwoman and columnist for the Pittsburgh Current. On council, she represents Etna’s younger population and supports many green initiatives.

 

Tamara Tunie

Tamara Tunie is a Pittsburgh-born actress, starring in movies, television and theater. Tunie has plenty of Pittsburgh connections. She grew up in McKeesport, graduated from CMU and has returned to the area to perform with local theaters.

  • Tunie most recently starred in the movie “Irreplaceable You” which is currently streaming on Netflix.

 

Geri Allen

Allen was the former director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. A renowned jazz pianist, she was nominated in 2015 for a Grammy for Best Historical Album for co-producing “The Complete Concert by the Sea,” an expanded version of jazz pianist Erroll Garner’s “Concert by the Sea.”

 

Nellie Bly

As a local outlet, it would be remiss of us to not mention Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist who paved the way for women in the industry through her reporting on mental illness and the women’s movement.

 

Vanessa German

German is a sculptor, painter, writer, activist, performer and poet based in Homewood. Her art has been featured in galleries, museums and traveling exhibits, including the 2012 “African American Art 1950–present” touring exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute. She also runs the ARThouse in Homewood.

 

Deesha Philyaw

Philyaw’s debut short story collection, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” won the 2020-21 Story Prize, was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, a finalist for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing.

 

Dawn Lundy Martin

Dawn Lundy Martin is an American poet, essayist and activist. She is the co-founder and director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the few poetry centers in the country focused on the topic.

 

Alison Falk

Falk is the founder Women In Tech Pittsburgh and Sex Tech Space, as well as the managing director of Women of Sex Tech. In 2019, she was recognized in BiTCH Media’s BiTCH 50 for Science and Technology.

 

Yona Harvey

Harvey is a poet and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She is also an author of Marvel Comics’ “World of Wakanda,” one of the first two Black women writing for Marvel.

 

Sloane Davidson 

Davidson is the founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor, a mentoring program founded in 2017 that matches post-resettlement refugee families with dedicated neighbors to help them acclimate to the United States and make new friends.

  • Check out our interview with Sloane here.

📸 Header photos: Gabrianna Dacko, Paul Vladuchick., Boaz Frankel

Amanda Reed is a Pittsburgh-based journalist who mostly makes dumb jokes on Twitter @reedkat_ . Her work has appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh City Paper, the Riveter Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and the Pittsburgh Current. She proudly owns multiple faux fur coats and really loves opossums.

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