Klingensmith, Florence “Tree Tops” (1904–1933)

The first licensed female pilot in North Dakota and a pioneer of aviation, Florence “Tree Tops” Klingensmith made a name for herself in air racing circuits, winning several prizes and setting records. At a time when women were expected to stay at home, Klingensmith followed her own path.

Renville, Gabriel (1825–1892)

Gabriel Renville was a fur trader, a farmer, and the leader of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota from 1867 until 1892. Related by blood to multiple Dakota bands and mixed-ancestry families, he opposed Ta Oyate Duta (His Red Nation, also known as Little Crow) and other Dakota who fought against whites in the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862. His choice angered some of his relatives, who saw him as serving the interests of whites. After the war, he was one of many who worked to reacquire land for the Sisseton-Wahpeton people.

Comstock, Solomon (1842–1933)

Solomon Comstock earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1869 but worked with railroads when prospects of finding a job in his chosen career path seemed dim. In Moorhead, he began a law partnership and traded in real estate with the Northwest Land Company. In the 1880s, he worked with James J. Hill’s Northern Pacific Railway to plat townships across Minnesota.

McMillan, Helen E. (1909–1984)

As a legislator, Helen E. McMillan served Mower County for twelve years. She was also involved in the Red Cross, the Women’s League of Voters, the Human Rights Commission, and the United Council for Church Women.

Voth, Heinrich (1851–1918)

Heinrich Voth, the first lay minister of Mennonite Brethren Church in Delft, baptized over 700 parishioners during his nearly forty years of ministry. Respected as an educator, he shared leadership with members of the congregation, freeing himself for evangelistic visits and travels to places in northern Minnesota and Canada.

Nance, Ethel Ray (1899–1992)

Ethel Ray Nance was an African American activist and writer. During the 1920s, she broke various racial and gender barriers in Minnesota, participated in the Harlem Renaissance movement, worked as a secretary for the National Urban League, and contributed to Opportunity magazine. In later decades, she went on to work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society.

Spear, Allan Henry (1937–2008)

Allan Henry Spear was the first openly gay man in the United States to serve as a state legislator. In 1993, he won a twenty-year fight to include the LGBT community in Minnesota's Human Rights Act. He served as president of the Minnesota Senate for nearly a decade, taught history at the University of Minnesota for thirty-five years, and was a lifelong lover of travel, food, music, and literature.

Pfaender, Wilhelm (William), 1826–1905

As an active member of the Turner movement, Wilhelm Pfaender proposed creating a town in Minnesota Territory specifically for German Americans. Together with other immigrants, he helped to found the town of New Ulm in 1857.

Francis, Nellie (1874–1969)

Nellie Francis pressed the limits of what an African American woman was permitted to achieve in early twentieth-century Minnesota. She was a churchwoman, clubwoman, suffragist, organizer, singer, civil rights worker, patriot, and wife to Minnesota’s first African American diplomat, William T. Francis.

Warren, Gouverneur Kemble (1830–1883)

Gouverneur Kemble Warren, topographer, Civil War veteran, and accomplished engineer, served his entire career with the U.S. Army. During his service, he mapped the tributaries of the Mississippi River and transcontinental railroad routes. As the first district engineer in St. Paul, he worked to preserve St. Anthony Falls and designed the nation’s first reservoir system. Glacial River Warren, which carved the Pleistocene channel now followed by the Minnesota River, is named for him.

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