For International Women’s Day, we recognize the women in the Triangle and North Carolina who stand out.
For International Women’s Day, we recognize the women in the Triangle and North Carolina who stand out.


For International Women’s Day, we cheer the women making a difference in our community

By Jessica Banov

March 08, 2018 04:44 PM

It’s International Women’s Day, a time to give the fierce, smart and strong women a big round of applause.

We celebrate these women year-round in our stories, photos and videos. Here are some who are worth revisiting.

1. Ashley Christensen

Christensen is an award-winning chef, business woman, activist and community leader who has been recognized nationally. She won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast and is up this year for Best Chef in the entire country. That’s why we named her one of our Tar Heels of the Year in December.

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“The thing about food so often is not just how it tastes and how it makes you feel in that moment, but what it represents about how it got there in the first place, or how it brought the people there who are experiencing it,” Christensen said.

Read our profile here.

Over the past decade, Ashley Christensen has made her mark on Raleigh through fine dining experiences that evoke a sense of comfort and community. She continues to use her platform as a local restaurateur to foster a food community and to convey t Julia Wall and Travis /

2. Vivian Howard

Howard was our other Tar Heel of the Year, thanks to her restaurants, award-winning PBS documentary series “A Chef’s Life” and the way she has used her voice to shine a light on Eastern North Carolina. The show explores the past and present of Southern cooking but also Howard’s daily life and her evolution as a chef balancing the roles of wife, mother of twins, and business owner. Howard’s food has made her an influential voice in modern Southern cooking, highlighting relationships with farmers and the African roots and home cooking traditions of the regional cuisine. She’s been a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast five of the last six years, only missing out the year of the fire, and has filled downtown Kinston parking lots with out-of-state license plates.

“What we try to do on the show and what I try to do on the show and what I try to do with my cooking is exalt the mundane. To celebrate those things in hopes it will give the people who grew up witht hose things, those people will look at those things and find pride in them,” Howard said.

Read our profile here.

Vivian Howard never thought she’d move back to eastern North Carolina. But when her parents offered to help her and her husband Ben open a restaurant in Kinston, they packed up their New York City lives and came back to the south. Twelve years lat Julia Wall and Travis /

3. Rhiannon Giddens

The Greensboro singer has had quite a year. She won a MacArthur Fellowship worth $625,000, has appeared on CMT’s “Nashville” and has a tour in the works, which includes stops in Raleigh and at MerleFest. Her widely acclaimed keynote speech at September’s International Bluegrass Music Association convention caught our eye and is worth revisiting.

“The question is not, ‘How do we get diversity into bluegrass?’ but, ‘How do we get diversity back into bluegrass?’” she said, to cheers from the audience, which gave her a standing ovation.

Read our story here.

American musician Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, delivered a powerful keynote speech at the Raleigh Convention Center to kick off IBMA's World of Bluegrass on Tuesday Sept. 26, 2017. She declared that the question toda McClatchy

4. Raleigh City Council

For only the second time in Raleigh’s history, half of the eight seats on the City Council are filled by women. Nicole Stewart and fellow newcomer Stef Mendell were elected to the board last year, along with incumbent member Kay Crowder and incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane. Raleigh’s shift to an evenly divided male-female council reflects a larger trend in which more women are running for office – and winning.

“What’s really positive about Raleigh now is that there will be more role models for young people, and not only young women,” Mendell said. “I think it’s important for young women, but I think it’s important for young men and boys to see women in positions of power and understand that everyone can participate in society.”

Read our story here.

5. Trailblazing Police Chiefs

There are a record number of black women police chiefs in North Carolina – six. And three are in the Triangle: Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, Morrisville Police Chief Patrice Andrews. Davis, Deck-Brown and Andrews were joined by Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” in September. Other chiefs are in Winston-Salem and Littleton. They spoke about why they decided to become police chiefs, talking with their children about how to respond to police, and how they face racial profiling. Growing up, Davis told Kelly, she television made policing look glamorous, but real life posed challenges.

“I was ready for policing, but policing was not ready for me,” Davis said, adding that couldn’t just shoot “OK.” “We had to push ourselves that much more,” Davis said.

Read our story here.

Megyn Kelly, right, talks to North Carolina police chiefs on “Megyn Kelly Today” Tuesday, September 26, 2017. Kelly brought four of the six African-American women police chiefs in North Carolina on her nationally televised show. From left, Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins, Morrisville Police Chief Patrice Andrews, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown and Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis.

6. #MeToo Mobilizer

After multiple women accused Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, of sexual misconduct when they were teens and he was in his 30s, a Raleigh woman’s response took off on social media. The #MeAt14 campaign, started by Raleigh lawyer Catherine Lawson in November, was meant to remind people that 14-year-olds are innocent, vulnerable and unable to consent to sex or sexual contact. Others joined the conversation by sharing photos and stories of their lives when they were teens.

“I hoped people would share their pictures, but many went on to show powerful vulnerability,” Lawson said. “I’ve been incredibly moved by stories of innocence and of exploitation that remind us every child deserves a community that protects them.”

Read our story here.

7. A grassroots movement

A year after the Women’s March in DC, and one in Raleigh that attracted 17,000 people, an anniversary rally was held on Halifax Mall in Raleigh. Organizers of what they like to call “the resistance” say there has been a surge in left-leaning grassroots activism, with new groups sprouting up across the Triangle and state and existing ones gaining new support.

“We want people to see us,” said Winston-Salem resident Lois Roewade. “We’re still here. We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to back down.”

Read our story here.

Carly Jones chants during the Women’s March on Raleigh in downtown Raleigh on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.
Adam Jennings

8. Brooke Simpson

When Brooke Mills Simpson competed on NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice,” she was more than one young woman trying to be a star. Simpson, who finished in the final 3, was a symbol of pride for her hometown community of Hollister (in Halifax County), her Haliwa-Saponi tribe and Native American groups across the country.

“Just the support of my tribe has been insane,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive in letting me know they’re behind me 100 percent. But then on top of that, I have so many other tribes across the country messaging me, emailing me, figuring out ways to contact me and let me know I’m representing them as well, and how proud they are of me.”

Read our story here.

When Brooke Mills Simpson competed on NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice,” she was more than one young woman trying to be a star. Simpson, who finished in the final 3, was a symbol of pride for her hometown community of Hollister (in Halifax County), her Haliwa-Saponi tribe and Native American groups across the country.
NBC Tyler Golden/NBC

9. Rapsody

Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, has been working for years. But last year the Raleigh resident broke big, getting her first solo Grammy nominations, including one for Best Rap Album. She was the only woman nominated in the category, going up against collaborator Kendrick Lamar and rap mogul Jay-Z. But Jay-Z, the head of her record label, was quick to congratulate the Snow Hill native. “From this email to a Grammy nomination, congratulations. This is what it’s all about.” he emailed her. The fact that the nominations were for Rapsody’s own album felt like vindication.

“That it’s my own body of work just makes it that much more enjoyable and special this time,” she said. “The love has been overwhelming. I’ve worked so hard for seven years now to reach this point, and it feels like a defining moment. I’m already kind of ready to go back in and make another one! So you stop a minute, live in the moment – but don’t live in it too long, either.”

Read our story here.

Rapsody, born Marlanna Evans, was nominated for two Grammy nominations this year: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song.

10. The educators

There are thousands of teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and counselors who work every day to educate our kids and keep them safe. In Wake County, we turn to our current Wake County Teacher of the Year: Betsy Graves, the dance director at Broughton High School in Raleigh. (The new Teacher of the Year will be named in May.)

Graves has taught at Broughton since 2013 after having been a student teacher at Panther Creek High School in Cary. Graves developed Broughton’s first Dance Boosters organization to build support for the dance program. She brings in guest choreographers and also coordinates the school’s food pantry.

“I just want my students to find some sort of passion,” Graves said. “It doesn’t have to be dance but something, because to go through life and to not have something that you care about, I can’t imagine. ... I care so much about this art form and my profession, and I feel very fortunate that I get to do it every day, because I’m never bored.”

Read our story here.

Video: Broughton High School dance teacher Betsy Graves works with her classes on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Graves was named the 2017-18 Wake County Teacher of the Year. Robert

11. The Olympian

Thelma Jarvis was a diver for the Canadian team in 1936 and met Adolf Hitler, whom she dismisses as a “little Napoleon.”
Josh Shaffer

In 1936, Thelma Jarvis was a 17-year-old girl competing in the Olympics in Berlin as a diver on the Canadian National team. There, she saw Adolf Hitler, who rose from his seat to welcome her team in English. She experienced the pressure, the spectacle, the politics and the Nazi salutes. After 80 years, she still resents how a German dentist rubbed arsenic on her gums while treating a cavity, leaving her sick throughout the games and eventually costing her three teeth, she told us in 2016, about a year before she died.

“I’m a diver,” she told me, “and I went to the Olympics. And that’s one of the proudest things that I did in my life.”

Read our story here.

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov