Heroines Yesterday, Heroines Today, and Heroines Tomorrow

Bessica Raiche (1875-1932) Pioneer Pilot, Aviation Inventor, Dentist, Doctor

Bessica or Bessie Raiche was an American woman who distinguished herself shortly after the turn of the 20th century in terms of versatility.

She was not only a dentist and a doctor, but is also accredited by the Aeronautical Society as being the first woman to fly an airplane in a solo flight.  She had no flight instruction or experience before taking to the sky alone. Bessie was  a woman before her time who loved to shoot guns and drive fast cars right alongside the boys.

Her and her husband built their airplane in their living room and assembled it in the yard. She flew the biplane in 1910. Bessie would live another 22 years, most of which she devoted to women’s health care as a distinguished specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US.

Heroine Accountants

Bernadine Gines

The first Black American woman to become a CPA in New York, Bernadine Gines was a native of Charlottesville, VA. She studied for her undergraduate degree at Virginia State University.

Then Bernadine did her MBA at New York University, but she had difficulty finding a job, even after all this study. “She was a trailblazer and a history maker who has and will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come,” said Rumbi Bwerinfa-Petrozzello, the VP of the New York State Society of CPA’s Brooklyn-Queens Chapter.1

Race and gender discrimination didn’t stop Bernadine form pursuing a career as a CPA. She sent letter after letter from the YWCA in Harlem, but got no replies. When she got married and moved to Queens, she got a few more responses from her new address.

Bernadine ended up working as a bookkeeper for The New York Age, an African American newspaper. She searched and searched for the position of her dreams. When she learned that Lucas & Tucker, an African American-owned CPA firm in Manhattan, were hiring, her hope returned. But she didn’t hire women.

Two years of rejections later, Bernadine managed to get a job at a firm with a predominantly Jewish clientele. She was met with courtesy and respect. The partners send a letter to all of this clients notifying them of the new hire. One client objected, but the partner quickly dropped him!

Bernadine went on to have a long career with the City of New York Office of the Comptroller, and even volunteered with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in her retirement as a tax counselor.

Bernadine Gines died in January, 2015, aged 88, after a short illness.

Vera Di Palma

Vera Di Palma was the first female president of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, whose headquarters is in London. In 1971, she became the first female council member of the organization, and was elected ACCA’s first female president in 1980.

In 2009, Vera said: “When I qualified in 1956, the professional was heavily male dominated and there were hardly any women.”2

In 1965, after a decade as an accountant, Vera and other female ACCA members decided to found the Certified Accountants Women’s Society so there was a support network for the next generation of female accountants. Members visited schools to recommend the profession to girls.

Vera was awarded an OBE—a Queen’s honor given to an individual for a major local role in an activity in the U.K.—in 1997, for her public service.

Vera died in 2015, aged 83. She paved the way for other women to hold top positions in the ACCA and beyond. Datuk Alexandra Chin now sits at the helm of ACCA.3

Sheila Fraser

Sheila Fraser served as Auditor General of Canada for ten years from 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the McGill University Desautels Faculty of Management in 1972, and became a chartered accountant in 1974 and an FCA in 1994. Sheila was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Waterloo in 2005.

She was one of the most popular and important Canadian political figures of the decade she served as Auditor General of Canada. Sheila was prized for her “unflappability”.

In an interview about her work, she said: “When I started my career, I made a promise

to myself that I would enjoy what I did and that if I didn’t like what I was doing, I would change my job. I would give that advice to anyone.4

“I think in order to be successful and to be good at what you do, you have to like what you do. I would encourage young professionals who are starting out in the accounting profession to work hard, to stay up-to-date, and to have fun at what they are doing.”4