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Laura Clay. Pencil on paper, 1912, by Wallace Morgan. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Clay, Laura (09 February 1849–29 June 1941), farm manager and women's rights leader, farm manager and women’s rights leader, was born at “White Hall,” her family’s estate, located between Lexington and Richmond, Kentucky, the daughter of Cassius M. Clay, a notable politician, emancipationist, and diplomat, and Mary Jane Warfield. Clay’s formal education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War, when the family accompanied her father to Russia, where he had been appointed U.S. minister. Returning to Kentucky in 1862, she attended Sayre School in Lexington, graduating in 1865. Aside from a year at a finishing school in New York City and brief stints of study at the Universities of Michigan and Kentucky, this completed her formal education. In 1873 she leased a 300-acre farm from her father and became its owner upon his death in 1903. Describing herself as a “practical farmer,” she skillfully managed this rich Bluegrass land, deriving from it her own livelihood and most of the finances for her long public career....

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Heaton, Hannah Cook (1721–1794), diarist and farm woman, was born in Southampton, Long Island, New York, the daughter of Jonathan Cook, a surgeon, and Temperance Rogers. Little is known of her early life or education. In 1743 she married Theophilus Heaton, Jr., of North Haven, Connecticut. They and their two sons lived on farms in North Haven for the rest of their lives....

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MacDonald, Betty (26 March 1908–07 February 1958), author and farmer, was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado, the daughter of Darsie Campbell Bard, a mining engineer, and Elsie Tholimar Sanderson, an artist. Until she was nine, when her family settled in Seattle, MacDonald moved with her family from one mining project to another in the Far West and Mexico....

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Mayo, Mary Anne Bryant (25 May 1845–21 April 1903), farmer and Grange leader, was born to James Bryant and Ann Atmore on their pioneer farm near Battle Creek, Michigan, in Convis Township of Calhoun County. She spent her entire life in that immediate vicinity. After graduating from Battle Creek High School, she taught in a district school until 1865, when she married Perry Mayo, who had just returned from fighting the Civil War. The couple shared the work of farming in Marshall Township, reared two children, and also found time to continue their own studies, which was especially important to them after Mary Mayo encountered a high school classmate who “presumed, as I had married a farmer, about all I had to do . . . was to work hard and make lots of good butter.” Unwilling to accept that stereotypical limitation, the Mayos sought intellectual opportunities in neighborhood Farmers’ Institutes, the Grange, and a Chautauqua Reading Circle....

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Wood, Carolena (21 May 1871–12 March 1936), farmer, relief worker, and reformer, was born at “Braewold,” a farm in Mount Kisco, New York, the daughter of James Wood, a farmer, and Emily Hollingsworth Morris. The farm, which Wood ran for her father and her brother, was situated on “the Woodpile,” as her extended clan of cousins called the hilltop of family homes. She took courses at the New York School of Social Work, and in 1891–1892 she wintered with her family in Dresden and traveled through Egypt and Palestine. In 1897 she was chosen to be a recorder at a quinquennial gathering of delegates from all the regional “yearly meetings” of “orthodox” Quakers (Christ- and Bible-centered, as compared with the more universalist “Hicksite” Friends). Her father presided as the conference set up the first permanent central Quaker federation, the Five Years Meeting. Wood took a keen interest in the United Society of Friends Women and coordinated its Quaker missions, also visiting and reporting on Quaker schools in Mexico in 1902....