You may remember “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” a children’s book about a delightfully grouchy kid who has to endure a string of indignities in one dreadful day.
Like Alexander, millions of people across the world have collectively had a terrible, horrible year (but unlike him, the difficulties we’ve faced are far worse than sitting in the middle of the back seat or having to eat lima beans). Here’s the thing, though, 2020 wasn’t entirely bad. There were happy developments. While some are obvious (coronavirus vaccines), others may have been easier to overlook.
Here are 10 pieces of women-focused good news you might have missed this year.
A professional women’s soccer team is coming to Los Angeles
The City of Angels will soon welcome Angel City, a placeholder name for the National Women’s Soccer League team that aims to start playing in 2022. The team, which was announced in July, was founded almost entirely by women. Investors include Serena Williams; her husband, Alexis Ohanian; their 3-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.; and actresses Uzo Aduba, America Ferrera and Jennifer Garner.
An animated show about a girl detective was voiced entirely by actors of Asian descent
“Mira, Royal Detective,” a Disney cartoon series that premiered in March, features a fearless girl who is appointed to the role of royal detective by the queen. The show is set in Jalpur, a fictional land inspired by India, and all the characters are voiced by actors of South Asian descent, including Jameela Jamil, Kal Penn, Freida Pinto, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Maulik Pancholy, Hari Kondabolu and Sarayu Blue. “We have a Disney girl who isn’t waiting for a prince to save her. She is saving the day. That’s important not just for South Asian girls but for all girls — and all boys — to see,” said Jamil, who is known for her role as Tahani on “The Good Place,” in an interview with The Lily.
Pastry chefs fighting racism possibly created the world’s biggest bake sale
In June, after the police killing of George Floyd, three D.C. chefs launched Bakers Against Racism with the goal of raising money for Black Lives Matter. Through the project, professional chefs and home bakers made and sold desserts, then donated the profits to groups that promote social justice and support communities of color. Thousands of bakers across hundreds of cities in several countries have participated. The group has raised more than $2 million.
NASA renamed its headquarters for Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first Black female engineer
NASA announced in late June that it would rename its headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, who navigated racism and sexism to advance in the field. Jackson’s career began in the 1950s; she worked in a segregated computing unit at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. (The unit was depicted on the silver screen in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” and Jackson was portrayed by Janelle Monáe.) She progressed from accomplished mathematician to aerospace engineer. In 1979, she became an administrator in the Equal Opportunity Specialist field — taking a pay cut in the process — to help women and people of color advance. She died in 2005. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Molly Seidel qualified for the Olympics — despite never having run a marathon before
Boston-based runner Molly Seidel, 26, was a top distance runner in high school and college. Still, she had never run 26.2 miles until March, when Seidel (then 25) decided to participate in the Olympic trials in Atlanta. She finished second, with a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 31 seconds, thereby landing a marathon spot on the U.S. women’s 2020 Olympic team. The Summer Games, set to take place in Tokyo in July, have been postponed until 2021.
A 9-year-old and her friends raised $40,000 for Black-owned businesses
Kamryn Johnson, 9, and her family live in a Minnesota neighborhood that’s about a 20-minute drive from where George Floyd was killed. In June, amid protests in Minneapolis and across the country, Kamryn wanted to help. She and five of her friends, all of whom live nearby, started making colorful string bracelets to sell to raise money. Former NFL player Ron Johnson, Kamryn’s dad, never expected his daughter to earn more than a couple hundred dollars; still, he mentioned her initiative on air at the local radio station where he works as a sports analyst. Word spread. The girls raised about $40,000, most of which was donated to support Black-owned businesses whose bottom lines had been affected by the pandemic and the protests.
Dana Canedy became the first Black person to be named publisher of Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster was founded in 1924. In July, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Dana Canedy became the first Black person and third woman to assume the role of publisher of the flagship Simon & Schuster imprint, making her one of the most powerful people in publishing. Canedy, 55, was previously the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, and before that, she worked at the New York Times. “I have three lists,” Canedy, who increased the diversity in the juries and the board during her stint as the Pulitzer administrator, told The Lily. “I have a list of authors that I’d love to cultivate. I have a list of books that I’d like to commission. And then I also have a list of emerging authors.”
Anika Chebrolu, 14, discovered a potential coronavirus treatment
Before Pfizer or Moderna announced the efficacy their coronavirus vaccines, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu, a freshman at Independence High School in Frisco, Tex., won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge (and $25,000) in October for discovering a compound that can bind to the coronavirus, blocking its ability to infect people. She was named America’s top young scientist, beating out nine other finalists. “For all the girls out there who want to go into STEM, who want to go into science, just know that you’re no different than any other person. … Take on any opportunity that you see, because you never know where you’re going to end up,” Chebrolu told The Lily.
A record number of LGBTQ candidates ran for office this year
The 2020 election season brought a record-breaking number of LGBTQ candidates — 574 — and led to several historic wins. For instance, in Delaware, Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender state senator in the United States. In Florida, Michele Rayner-Goolsby became the state’s first openly queer Black female state legislator. And in Oklahoma, Mauree Turner, who is Black and Muslim, became the first gender nonbinary person to be elected to a state legislature.
Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free pads and tampons
In Scotland’s public bathrooms, menstrual products will be treated like toilet paper: readily available and always free. Scotland was far ahead of the curve even in 2018, when the country required all schools and universities to offer free pads and tampons. “It just feels as if you’re valued as a woman,” Inga Dale, a 30-year-old writing coach who lives in Edinburgh, told The Lily. “You are free to have your period, and it’s not something you should be ashamed of.”