Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – that’s the Philly way. Award-winning chefs, musicians, entrepreneurs, and every day dreamers alike call this city home. Philadelphia’s five counties encompass cultural, historical, and spirited people, along with passions that evolve by the day. For International Women’s Day, we’re taking a beat to remember the iconic women who paved the way – and once that’s sunk in, we’ve curated brilliant women-owned businesses to put on your shopping radar for your next visit (this is also for you locals).
Although she doesn’t originally hail from the city, Harriet deserves all the statues, tributes, and celebrations as a bonafide American hero. After successfully escaping slavery and finding refuge in Philadelphia, the abolitionist tapped the Underground Railroad to bring in dozens of slaves across multiple harrowing missions. While the Civil War was raging, Harriet joined Union forces to recruit the liberated into service and tend to the wounded. Her energy never waned and even in her 70s, she was speaking up for the women’s suffrage movement. We bow down.
During a time where women were barred from medical school, Ann Preston found a way in and stayed there. Quakers founded the first Female (Women’s) Medical College where she graduated and then became their first woman dean teaching physiology and hygiene. Here, Anne advocated tirelessly for graduates to be accepted into the city’s clinics and published op-eds on the virtues of employing women physicians. She eventually founded the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia to focus on hands-on clinical experience for female students and specialized care for women and children.
When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Barbara Gittings was a pioneer. After figuring out her true identity, she struggled to find resources for lesbians (this was the late 1940s). She joined the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the U.S., and became an editor for their magazine, The Ladder. She marched in the country’s first LGBTQ protests, held press conferences, and became a prominent public speaker to dispel untruths about homosexuality – specifically, that it was not an illness. We’re happy to say she found a lifelong partner in Kay Tobin for nearly 50 years and a block in Philly’s gayborhood is named “Barbara Gittings Way” as tribute to her decades of advocacy.
In the 1970s, Patti LaBelle cemented her icon status as one of the defining voices of gospel, soul, and R&B as the “Godmother of Soul.” Patti has always lauded Philly as her home – born and raised in the Eastwick neighborhood, music gave her an escape. Starting off as soloist in her local church choir, she joined the Bluebelles quartet making the circuit across Southeast clubs and theater spaces that welcomed and celebrated Black music. In the decades since, she’s become a Grammy award winning soloist and humanitarian – advocating for a variety of causes, including raising awareness and funds for diabetes, after being diagnosed herself.
Women-Owned Businesses to Check Out in Philadelphia
Girls Auto Clinic – Patrice Banks
Founded in 2015, Girls Auto Clinic is Black woman-owned and operated, providing tools and apprenticeships for women to gain confidence in purchasing and managing their cars. Patrice graduated with a BS in materials engineering and decided to focus on automotive care to disrupt the male dominated industry. She’s now a TEDx speaker, author of a car care book for women, and has rolled out services like free manicures from her on-site Clutch Beauty Bar and Lounge to elevate the auto repair shop experience for women. We love to see it.
Plant & People – Cherron Perry-Thomas + Amma Thomas
You know what makes a woman owned business even better? When it’s a mother daughter powerhouse. This Black-owned nursery has a robust selection of house plants, supplies, wellness products, and gifts for all your green thumb needs. The shop also hosts regular community events and workshops like “Plant Swap Record Shop” and “Headwraps and Pot Covers,” – for the latter, attendees go home with matching headwraps and plant accessories!
Wine Garden Philly – Nazaret + Favian
Okay, we couldn’t resist sharing another mother daughter duo. The Wine Garden blossomed during the pandemic when Nazaret and Favian dreamed up a vibrant urban oasis for wine lovers. Now the only Black women owned wine garden in the city, the venue is available for private events and photoshoots in addition to a merry menu of brunch and bubbly.
Freedom Apothecary – Morrisa Jenkins
This holistic beauty and wellness shop is all about self-care and offers clean products made for and by women. In addition to soothing customized facials, Freedom Apothecary also carries a line of in-house products. Their Blend Bar is perfect for a group celebration – you’ll get the chance to use their non-toxic ingredients to DIY body oil, bath tea, face masks, or face steam.
Harriet’s Bookshop – Jeannine Cook
Named for Harriet Tubman, this independent bookstore uplifts women authors, artists, and activists in its collection. Jeannine’s mission is to create connection and community through the power of books, first opening the store at the onset of the pandemic and having to pivot to an online model and a GoFundMe to keep it going. She also has a sister bookstore, Ida’s Bookshop, named after Ida B. Wells in New Jersey, and sponsors a Youth Conductors internship for budding young authors, artists, and activists.
Check out our full series celebrating International Women’s Day by following the tag below.