Celebrating Women's History Month Archives - StoryCorps

Volunteering at the US-Mexico Border Helped This Nurse Find New Meaning in her Work

Content Warning: This story includes mentions of rape and sexual violence.

Angelina McCall found nursing later in life, and quickly discovered she felt called to helping save people’s lives.. She graduated from nursing school in spring 2020—the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angelina and Matt McCall at their StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona on April 17, 2023. By Chapin Montague for StoryCorps.

She got her first job at a busy emergency room in Tucson, Arizona, but left after a little over a year and questioned whether she was cut out for nursing. “I was very embarrassed and ashamed,” Angelina says.

She stayed home to recuperate and care for her young daughter, but soon after she began to ask herself if there was a way she could continue to help. As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, Angelina is fluent in Spanish and knew that a humanitarian crisis was unfolding just over an hour away from her home.

“So I thought, ‘I can maybe help these migrants that are stuck at the border right now?’

Angelina McCall volunteering at the Kino Border Initiative clinic for migrants in Nogales, Mexico. Photo courtesy the participants. 

She came to StoryCorps with her husband, Matt, to share her inspiring experience volunteering at a clinic near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Top Photo: Angelina McCall after graduating from nursing school in the spring of 2020. Photo courtesy the participants. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Originally aired May 19, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Sign Me Up

The U.S. Coast Guard has been around since 1790, but Black women weren’t allowed to join until 1945, when Dr. Olivia Hooker signed up and became the first. We’ll hear from Dr. Hooker, who recorded a StoryCorps interview before she died in 2018, at the age of 103.

Photo: Dr. Olivia J. Hooker (right) and her goddaughter, Janis Porter. Photo by Afi Yellow-Duke for StoryCorps.

Dr. Hooker was part of the first class of Black women to join; there were five of them. Decades later, another group of five women changed history, again. 

Photo: From the original caption for the extra photo: Olivia Hooker (in front) and fellow SPAR Aileen Anita Cooks, pause on the ladder of the dry-land ship ‘U.S.S. Neversail’ during their ‘boot’ training at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Station, Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, NY, 1945.

The Coast Guard’s main function is to protect U.S. shorelines, and there’s an elite crew of 800 pilots, who perform crucial search and rescue missions, often in adverse weather situations. For 215 years, not a single one of them was a Black woman. That was, until Jeanine Menze joined in 2005.

Photo: Cmdr. Jeanine Menze, stationed at Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, Hawaii in 2006. USCG photo by PA2 Jennifer Johnson.

Jeanine fell in love with flying as a child in Jamaica, growing up near a flight path. Watching the planes fly overhead always filled her with joy, so she decided to pursue a career in aviation. 

While she achieved her dream and became a pilot for the Coast Guard, she was the only Black woman in that role for several years. At StoryCorps, she talked about how lonely her journey was, and how that changed when she met La’Shanda Holmes: her mentee and the second Black woman to become a Coast Guard pilot.

Unlike Jeanine, La’Shanda Holmes didn’t fall in love with flying as a child. Her mom died when she was young, and as a teenager she was placed into the foster care system. One night, she decided to make a list of things she wanted for her life, and after visiting a Coast Guard booth at a career fair, she had a plan.

Photo: La’Shanda Holmes at Air Station Los Angeles. U.S, in 2010. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers.

When La’Shanda met Jeanine, and was introduced to the world of flight, the two of them quickly decided they would continue to make history together. La’Shanda would then go on to earn her own wings, becoming the second Black woman to become a pilot for the U.S. Coast Guard.

They sat down for StoryCorps to talk about what led them to the military, and ultimately, to each other.

Photo: From left to right, Jeanine Menze and La’Shanda Holmes, at La’Shanda’s flight school graduation at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL, in 2010. Courtesy of La’Shanda Holmes.

By 2014, there were five Black women pilots in the Coast Guard. They nicknamed themselves “The Fab Five”. Since then, that number has grown to six, with more waiting in the wings.

Photo: From left to right are Cmdr. Jeanine Menze, MH-65 helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. La’Shanda Holmes, HC-144 fixed wing pilot Lt. Angel Hughes, MH-60 helicopter pilot Lt. Chanel Lee, HC-144 fixed wing pilot Lt. Ronaqua Russell. 2019. Photo by Lt.Cmdr. Ryan P Kelley.
Top photo: Artwork by Lyne Lucien.

Released on January 4th, 2021.

“I Never Let Anything Stop Me”: One Woman Recalls Her Determination To Go To Space

When Wally Funk was 8 years old, she jumped off the roof of her barn while wearing a Superman cape, hoping to fly. That desire never left her, and as an adult she became a pilot and flight instructor. But for Wally, the ultimate destination was always outer space.

She almost got the chance to go in 1961. That year, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine if women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts. The women, who became known as the Mercury 13, passed many of the same tests as the men, but never got to go to space. 

More than half a century later, Wally Funk hasn’t given up and at the age of 82, she’ll be joining the crew on the New Shepard rocket, which will be launching on July 20th, 2021. She’s expected to become the oldest person to reach space, beating John Glenn’s record set in 1998.

In 2017, she came to StoryCorps with one of her flight students, Mary Holsenbeck, to talk about her time training to be an astronaut.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWally and Mary, circa 1993. Photo courtesy of Mary Holsenbeck.
Top photo:  Wally, circa 1960. Photo courtesy of Wally Funk.

Originally aired August 4, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on July 9th, 2021 on the same program.

A Woman Providing Life-Saving Aid at the Mexico-Arizona Border Shares Her Story

Maria Ochoa is a 70-year-old grandmother who has walked the Arizona desert well over 100 times providing water and aid to migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico. The humanitarian aid she and other Tucson Samaritans provide is legal, as long as they don’t transport migrants or venture onto private land.

She came to StoryCorps in Tucson with her friend and fellow volunteer, Alma Schlor, to share her connection to the work.


This summer, Maria will have been doing this work with the Tucson Samaritans for seventeen years. She was one of the founders of the organization in 2002.


Top photo: Maria Ochoa poses by the Arizona/Mexico border wall, south of Tucson, Arizona. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Alma Schlor and Maria Ochoa at their StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona on April 20, 2016. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Maria Ochoa walks one of the trails she monitors with the Tucson Samaritans. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 21, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Olivia Fite and Barbara Moore

barbara1Barbara Moore spent more than 40 years working as a bricklayer in Baltimore. She helped lay the foundation for some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play.

When she started, she was only 21 years old and was the first woman to join her local bricklayers union.

Barbara retired in 2013. At StoryCorps, she told her daughter, Olivia Fite (above left), how she first got into the trade.

Originally aired August 1, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Fite.