March is Women's History Month. All month long we will be featuring prominent women from North Carolina that made history, and a difference in our communities.
Mary Semans was the granddaughter of Benjamin N. Duke and the great-granddaughter of Washington Duke, both tobacco and energy tycoons who helped start Duke University.
"Mary Duke Semans played an active role in the Durham City Government, although she never served in a post higher than a local office. In 1951 she ran alongside of Kathrine Everett for seats on the city council. They were both elected and together became the first two women ever on the board.
From 1953-55 she then served as Durham's mayor pro tempore, again Durham's first woman elected to such a post. While in office, she spent much of her time pushing for civil rights, funding for the arts, and affordable housing and healthcare.
Dr. Semans helped start the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem (now the University of North Carolina School of the Arts) in the 1960s, and chaired the school’s Board of Trustees for its first 17 years. Mary Semans established the school’s International Music Program in 1967. She and Dr. Semans regularly traveled across the world to support performances by School of the Arts students."
Mary D. B. T. Semans, Philanthropist and Activist", And Justice for All: Durham County Courthouse Art Wall;