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Abbott, Edith (26 September 1876–28 July 1957), social reformer, social work educator, and author, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and first lieutenant governor of Nebraska, and Elizabeth Maletta Griffin, a woman suffrage advocate. Abbott grew up in a comfortable and politically progressive household on the American prairie. However, the severe economic depression that began in 1893 caused Abbott to postpone her college plans after graduation from an Omaha girls’ boarding school. Instead, at the age of seventeen she became a teacher at the Grand Island High School....

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Adie, David Craig (03 September 1888–23 February 1943), social worker, was born in Hamilton, Scotland, the son of Lawrence Adie, a railway passenger agent, and Madeline Cooper. Raised in poverty, Adie attended school in Edinburgh but left at an early age to apprentice as a bookbinder. By the time he was twenty he had joined the Independent Labor Union and had begun working on the Clydeside as an organizer, campaigning from town to town on his bicycle. During these years he developed a rousing style of public speaking through both his union work and his service as a Methodist lay preacher. A voracious reader, Adie learned everything he could about America, and in 1913 he sailed for Canada....

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Bayer, Adèle Parmentier (01 July 1814–22 January 1892), pioneer Catholic social worker, was born in Enghien, Belgium, the daughter of André Parmentier, a horticulturalist, and Sylvia Marie Parmentier. (The parents were distant cousins.) In 1824 the Parmentiers moved to New York City, where André (also known as Andrew) established his Horticultural and Botanic Garden in Brooklyn. The Parmentiers were devout and generous Catholics who worshiped regularly at St. James Church. There being no nearby Catholic school, Adèle was educated privately. Fluent in French and an apt pupil of English, she assisted her father in his flourishing business until his sudden death in 1830. Adèle and her mother then managed the garden for two years, after which they sold the property....

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Billikopf, Jacob (01 June 1883–31 December 1950), social worker and leader in American Jewish philanthropy, was born in Vilna, Russia, the son of Louis Billikopf and Glika Katzenelenbogen. Billikopf immigrated to the United States in 1897 and briefly attended Richmond College. With the support of a fellowship from the National Council of Jewish Women, he studied philanthropy at the University of Chicago, from which he received a Ph.B. in 1903. He also studied at the School of Philanthropy in New York in 1905. He married Ruth Marshall, the daughter of ...

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Bissell, Emily Perkins (31 May 1861–08 March 1948), volunteer social worker and author, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Champion Aristarcus Bissell, a lawyer and banker, and Josephine Wales. Her forebears settled in Connecticut where her father, a Yale graduate, was reared. Her maternal grandfather, John Wales, served as a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1849 to 1851. Bissell was educated in Wilmington and at Miss Charlier’s School in New York City....

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Blaustein, David (05 May 1866–26 August 1912), rabbi, educator, and social worker, was born in Lida, Russian Poland, the son of Isaiah Blaustein and Sarah Natzkovsky. The family was of humble means, and David was eight years old when his father died. Nine years later he ran away from home to the Prussian town of Memel in order to obtain an education. He then journeyed to Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he enrolled in a Jewish teacher’s preparatory school under the leadership of Dr. Fabian Feilchenfeld. His intention was to be a cantor-shochet-teacher to the German Jews, but Bismarck’s ban on Russian Jews in Germany forced him to emigrate to America....

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Bremer, Edith Terry (09 October 1885–12 September 1964), social worker and reformer, was born in Hamilton, New York, the daughter of Benjamin Stiles Terry, a history professor at Colgate University and a Baptist minister, and Mary Baldwin, the daughter of a Baptist minister. The family moved west in 1892 when Benjamin Terry became a professor at the University of Chicago. Edith spent most of her youth in Chicago and received her A.B. from the University of Chicago in 1907. The following year, she furthered her education by attending the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy....

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Brown, Josephine Chapin (20 October 1887–25 October 1976), public welfare administrator and social work educator, was born in Ogdensburg, New York, the daughter of Silas Edgar Brown, a physician and surgeon, and Mary Chapin. Josephine received her primary and secondary education in private schools at Ogdensburg and Utica and entered Bryn Mawr College in 1906. Shortly thereafter, Brown’s family, in financial difficulty, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. She dropped out of college and taught school, but, after two years, aided by gifts through the college, Brown reentered Bryn Mawr. She graduated in June 1913 with a B.A. in physics and biology....

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Ruth Hutchinson Crocker

Cannon, Ida Maud (29 June 1877–09 July 1960), social worker, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of Colbert Hanchett Cannon, a traffic controller, and Sarah Wilma Denio. When she was four her mother died, and her father remarried. Her father was employed by the Great Northern Railroad, and the family’s circumstances were comfortable. Ida Cannon completed high school in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896, the same year that her brother ...

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Carr, Charlotte Elizabeth (03 May 1890–12 July 1956), social worker and reformer, was born in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Joseph Henry Carr, a successful businessman, and Frances Carver. Carr developed an early sensitivity to problems of poverty and injustice, and when her parents insisted on her becoming a debutante instead of going to college she ran away and got a job in Pittsburgh. Her parents relented and enrolled her at Vassar College. Carr later said she learned little at Vassar; her higher education began in 1915 when she graduated and started “bumming around.” After serving as a matron in an Ohio orphan asylum Carr moved to New York, where she worked for the State Charities Aid Association and then for the New York Probation and Protective Association. Next came a stint as a policewoman, doing night patrols in the Brooklyn Bridge area. She then did personnel work at the American Lithographic Company and Knox Hat Company in New York (1921–1923) and at Stark Mills in New Hampshire (1923)....

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Coyle, Grace Longwell (22 March 1892–10 March 1962), social work theorist, was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Patterson Coyle, a Congregationalist minister, and Mary Allerton Cushman. She attended Wellesley College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 1914 with an A.B. Coyle later cited the writings of ...

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Davis, Katharine Bement (15 January 1860–10 December 1935), social worker, prison reformer, and sex researcher, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Frances Bement and Oscar Bill Davis, a manager for the Bradstreet Company, precursor of Dun and Bradstreet, the credit rating firm. When her father suffered business reversals following the panic of 1873, Davis had to postpone plans for college and work as a public school teacher for ten years. She continued her studies independently and in 1890 entered Vassar College at the age of thirty, graduating two years later with honors....

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de Schweinitz, Karl (26 November 1887–20 April 1975), social worker and educator, was born in Northfield, Minnesota, the son of Paul Robert de Schweinitz, a clergyman, and Mary Catherine Daniel. After attending Nazareth Hall and the Moravian Parochial School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, de Schweinitz received bachelor’s degrees from Moravian College in 1906 and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907. He spent two years as a reporter, first for the ...

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DeBerry, William Nelson (29 August 1870–20 January 1948), Congregational clergyman and social service worker, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Caswell DeBerry and Charlotte Mayfield, former slaves. His father was a railroad shop worker and a lay preacher in a local Baptist church; his mother’s occupation is unknown. DeBerry was educated in Nashville schools and entered Fisk University in 1886, graduating ten years later with a B.S. degree. DeBerry then went to Oberlin College in Ohio where he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1899. In that same year, he was ordained in the Congregational ministry, became the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, and married Amanda McKissack of Pulaski, Tennessee; they had two children. After the death of his first wife (date unknown), DeBerry married Louise Scott in 1943....

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Devine, Edward Thomas (06 May 1867–27 February 1948), social worker, writer, and lecturer, was born near Union, Iowa, the son of John Devine and Laura Hall, farmers. He attended Cornell College in Iowa where in 1887 he obtained his A.M.

After graduation and until 1890, Devine was a teacher and the principal of public schools in three Iowa towns, and in 1889 he married Harriet Scovel; they had two children. During these years, he met Simon Patten, an original economic theorist, who emphasized that the United States should focus on wealth distribution to alleviate social problems. In 1890 Devine traveled to the University of Pennsylvania to study under Patten, who soon became his mentor and friend. That same year, he journeyed to Halle, Germany, to study economics, as had Patten. By 1893 Devine had earned his Ph.D. and had begun lecturing on economics for the American Society for the Extension of University Teaching. For this organization, which he later served as executive secretary, he taught courses in Oxford, England, Edinburgh, Scotland, and in several American cities....

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Dinwiddie, Emily Wayland (14 August 1879–11 March 1949), social worker and housing reformer, was born in Greenwood, Virginia, the daughter of William Dinwiddie, a Presbyterian evangelical minister, and Emily Albertine Bledsoe. Emily grew up on a farm where she developed a love for the outdoors, participated in climbing, hiking, and swimming, and studied plant life. She graduated with a B.A. from Peace Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1898 and remained at the school for two years as a Latin teacher. She never married....

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Falconer, Martha Platt (17 March 1862–26 November 1941), pioneer social worker, was born in Delaware, Ohio, the daughter of Cyrus Platt, an optician and jeweler, and Jeanette Hulme. Martha, along with three sisters and three brothers, was raised in comfortable surroundings, but with strict discipline by her Quaker-turned-Episcopalian mother. For a time after her mother’s death, when Martha was fifteen years old, she lived with a sister in Philadelphia and attended a Quaker school. After an illness she moved to Kansas to live with another sister while recovering her health. Influenced by the pioneering spirit of Kansas women as Kansas sought statehood, Martha later came to identify with the suffrage movement and the need for women to express their abilities and strive for their rights....

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Ferguson, Katy (1779?–11 July 1854), child welfare worker and school founder, was born a slave on board a schooner en route from Virginia to New York City. Her formal name was Catherine Williams, but she was known as “Katy.” Separated from her mother at the age of eight after the woman was sold by their master, a Presbyterian elder, Katy never saw her mother again. Although she never learned to read or write, Katy was allowed to attend church services, and before she was sold, her mother taught her the Scriptures from memory. Katy was deeply religious and a strong adherent of the Presbyterian faith. At the age of ten she promised her master that she would dedicate her life to God’s service if given her freedom. This request was denied, but Katy eventually obtained her freedom; she was purchased for $200 by an abolitionist sympathizer when she was fifteen or sixteen years old. Originally she was given six years to repay this debt, but eventually her benefactor accepted eleven months of service and $100 from a New York merchant for her freedom. Thereafter, as a free woman, Katy supported herself by catering parties for wealthy white families and by cleaning linens and other delicate fabrics....

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Gaines, Irene McCoy (25 October 1892–30 March 1964), social worker and clubwoman, was born in Ocala, Florida, the daughter of Charles McCoy and Mamie Ellis. She grew up in Chicago where her mother moved after her parents divorced in 1903. From 1905 she attended the Fisk University Normal School in Nashville, Tennessee, from which she graduated in 1910....

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Glenn, Mary Willcox Brown (14 December 1869–03 November 1940), social worker, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of John Willcox Brown, a Confederate colonel and banker, and Ellen Turner Macfarland. She was raised in a devout Episcopalian family. While the men in her family distinguished themselves in business—two brothers were executives in the Du Pont and General Motors corporations—the women were active contributors to social reform. Her sister, Eleanor Brown Merrill, served as executive head of the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness....