Sophie Germain (1776)

Growing up during the French Revolution, a young Germain turned to her father’s library for entertainment and discovered a passion for mathematics. Despite facing opposition due to her gender, the self-taught Germain was eventually able to attend the lectures of the French Academy of Sciences. She corresponded by mail with a number of prominent mentors, including mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, by using a male pseudonym. How did Gauss discover that Germain was a woman? Discuss
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César Chávez (1927)

As the child of Mexican-American migrant laborers, Chávez spent his childhood in a succession of migrant camps, attending 65 different elementary schools. After a two-year stint in the Navy, he returned to migrant farm work and, in 1962, began organizing the largely Latino farmworkers of Arizona and California. A charismatic figure, he used strikes and nationwide boycotts to win union recognition and contracts from California grape and lettuce growers. How long did the first strike last? Discuss
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Naomi Sims (1948)

Often considered the first black supermodel, Sims was teased as an adolescent for her unusual height. While attending college, she attempted to earn money by securing modeling work but was frustrated by the racism of established agencies. Instead, she forged her own connections, achieving wide success and recognition in the 1960s and 70s before retiring to found a beauty-product empire. What film role did she turn down in 1972 due to the film’s exploitative portrayal of African Americans? Discuss
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Sam Walton (1918)

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Missouri during the Great Depression, Walton opened his first five-and-dime franchise in Arkansas in 1945. Seventeen years later, he opened his first Wal-Mart and began developing the Wal-Mart company into a national chain of massive, centrally controlled discount stores in small towns. By the time Walton died in 1992, his family was the wealthiest in the US, and Wal-Mart had become the country’s largest retailer. How was Walton forced out of his first store? Discuss
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Henry Schoolcraft (1793)

Schoolcraft was a geologist, geographer, and ethnologist noted for his studies of Native American cultures as well as for his discovery of the source of the Mississippi River in 1832. His extensive relations with Native Americans—including his marriage to an Ojibwa woman—led to his appointment as an Indian agent, and he negotiated a treaty with the Ojibwa in 1836 that ceded much of their land to the US. Upon discovering the lake that feeds the Mississippi River, what did Schoolcraft name it? Discuss
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