New Orleans as Inspiration

The exceptional vibe of this southern city enables a perfect ground for creativity, which is well proven by a long line of extraordinary women who acted and created in New Orleans since its beginning. The list below is a small sample of some of those inspiring personas in various fields.

Activism and Feminism: The suffragist and leading civic activist, Kate M. Gordon; Sophie B Wright, a feminist, an educator, and an activist for prison reform; The suffragists Elizabeth Lyle Saxon and Caroline E. Merrick; and The Junior League of New Orleans founded in 1924 by 40 women who created an organization with a mission to support and develop the community.

Journalism: Eliza Jane Nicholson, the editor of the Daily Picayune 1876-1896.

Culinary: As a famous city for its culinary field, New Orleans is proud to be the home for female chefs and restaurant owners, such as Leah Chase who was the main chef in Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for many years, Nina Compton, an award-winning chef who owns several restaurants in the city, Cynthia Vu Tran in her Vietnamese restaurant Cafe Minh, Lenora Chong who added Korean twists to the local food in her restaurant Morrow’s, Kelly Fields in her restaurant Willa Jean, and many more.

Jazz and Gospel: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel; Emma Barrett, a jazz pianist and singer; Lizzie Miles, a Creole blues singer; Doreen Ketchens, the famous jazz clarinetist and bandleader; Irma Thomas known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans with a 50-year career as a singer, and Allison Miner who was a music promoter in New Orleans and one of the first producers of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Religious and Ethnic Leaders: Margaret Haughery, known as “Mother of Orphans”, who dedicated her life to support orphans and widows, Marie Laveau, the spiritual community leader, and admired Voodoo Queen, and The Ursuline nuns.

Arts: The famous self-taught painter, Clementine Hunter, who was described as a “folk art legend”, the painter Alberta Kinsey, and the novelist Anne Rice.

Health and Science: Fannie R. Glover, in 1911, graduated from a New Orleans nursing school, the physician Elizabeth Magnus Cohen, and Dr. Linda Coleman.

The inspiration of the city is also reflected in movies made there; some are related to women empowerment and strong leading female characters, such as:

  • Buccaneer’s Girl (1950), starring Yvonne De Carlo
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) starring Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, and Marlon Brando
  • Pretty Baby (1978), starring Brooke Shields, Keith Carradine, and Susan Sarandon (about a teenage prostitute in the red-light district of New Orleans)
  • The Big Easy (1986), starring Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid
  • Steel Magnolias (1989), starring Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, and Sally Field
  • Girls Trip (2017) starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Land of Opportunity, documentary about New Orleans tracking the life after Hurricane Katerina, directed by Luisa Dantas
  • Trouble the Water, another documentary co-produced and co-directed by Tia Lessin about a couple living in the city during and after the Hurricane

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