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Cotten, Sallie Swepson Sims Southall (13 June 1846–04 May 1929), advocate of women's education and the women's club movement in North Carolina, advocate of women’s education and the women’s club movement in North Carolina, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, the daughter of Thomas Southall and Susan Sims. Because of her father’s precarious fortunes as planter and hotelkeeper, she came to Murfreesboro, North Carolina, at the age of thirteen to live with her father’s wealthy cousin. She attended Wesleyan Female College and Greensboro Female College, graduating in 1863. While teaching in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in 1864, she met Robert Randolph Cotten, a Confederate cavalryman. They were married in 1866....

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Diaz, Abby Morton (22 November 1821–01 April 1904), teacher, writer, and social reformer, was born Abigail Morton in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ichabod Morton, a shipbuilder, and Patty Weston. She descended from George Morton, author of “Mourt’s Relation,” the first printed record of the Plymouth settlement. After his wife’s early death, Abby’s father remarried and had five sons....

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Doyle, Sarah Elizabeth (23 March 1830–21 December 1922), educator and activist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Thomas Doyle, a bookbinder, and Martha Dorrance Jones. Her father died when Sarah was eleven years old. Her brother, Thomas Arthur, was mayor of Providence between 1864 and 1886, possessing a strong commitment to public schools and urban planning. Sarah Doyle attended the local public grammar school, then entered Providence High School in 1843, its first year, graduating in 1846. She began nearly four decades of teaching immediately after high school, first teaching for ten years in private schools. In 1856 Doyle joined the girls department of Providence High, serving as department principal from 1878 until her retirement in 1892. Doyle was an active and influential teacher, responsible for supervising her colleagues. She was a vice president of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction, a teachers’ continuing-education organization, and she headed the literature section of its reading circle for several years. Doyle impressed many of her women students with her skill and dedication, and several who became teachers founded the Sarah E. Doyle Club in her honor. Organized in 1894 for the “mutual assistance and culture of members,” for decades the club served hundreds of Providence teachers through lectures and classes. She became the first woman to preside over a meeting of the National Education Association when president Thomas Bicknell gave her the gavel for a single session in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1884....

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Laws, Annie (20 January 1855–01 July 1927), woman's club leader and education reformer, woman’s club leader and education reformer, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of James Hedding Laws, a businessman, and Sarah Amelia Langdon. She was educated in Cincinnati’s public schools and at Miss Appleton’s School for Girls. She also received private instruction in music, art, and literature....

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Lawson, Roberta Campbell (31 October 1878–31 December 1940), clubwoman and collector of Native-American music and artifacts, was born at Alluwe, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (now Okla.), the daughter of John Edward Campbell, a rancher and trader, and Emma Journeycake, a Delaware Indian whose parents had gone to live with the Cherokees after white settlers moved into Kansas. Her maternal grandfather was Charles Journeycake, last tribal chief of the Delawares, to whom she was especially devoted and from whom she acquired a lifelong appreciation of her Native-American heritage. Roberta and her younger brother (another brother died in infancy) spent their childhood in a remote rural setting but in a comfortable home where toys, books, musical instruments, and ponies abounded and where guests were always graciously entertained. After being instructed by her parents and a private tutor, Roberta attended a female seminary at Independence, Missouri. A lifelong interest and talent in music (Roberta reputedly assisted her mother as church organist in Alluwe at the age of ten) was complemented with specialized music studies while attending Hardin College, Mexico, Missouri....

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Slowe, Lucy Diggs (04 July 1885–21 October 1937), educator and club organizer, was born in Berryville, Virginia, the daughter of Henry Slowe and Fannie Porter. Orphaned by the age of six, Slowe was raised by her aunt, Martha Slowe Price in Lexington, Virginia, until the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, when Slowe was thirteen. In 1904 she finished second in her class at the Colored High School in Baltimore, and she entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., that same year. While enrolled at Howard, Slowe did well in her studies and became involved in many extracurricular activities, including the founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority for African-American women in the nation....

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Smith, Lucy Harth (24 January 1888–20 September 1955), racial activist and educator, was born in Roanoke, Virginia, the daughter of Daniel Washington Harth, Jr., a minister and lawyer, and Rachel Emma Brockington. In 1904 she attended the normal department of the Hampton Institute in Virginia, completing both the high school and college courses in four years. Subsequently, she accepted an elementary school teaching post in Roanoke. Two years later, following her marriage to Paul Smith, a school administrator, she left the labor force; the couple had five children....

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Mary Church Terrell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84496).

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Terrell, Mary Eliza Church (23 September 1863–24 July 1954), educator and social activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Robert Reed Church, a businessman, and Louisa Ayres, a beautician and hair salon owner. Her father, a former slave, used his business acumen to become the first black millionaire in the South....

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Williams, Fannie Barrier (12 February 1855–04 March 1944), lecturer and clubwoman, was born in Brockport, New York, the daughter of Anthony J. Barrier and Harriet Prince, free persons of color. She graduated from the State Normal School at Brockport in 1870 and attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. She then taught in southern schools and in Washington, D.C., for a short time. In 1887 Barrier retired from teaching to marry S. Laing Williams, a prominent attorney in Chicago. The couple had no children....

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Stephanie A. Carpenter

Yates, Josephine A. (15 November 1859–03 September 1912), educator, was born in Mattituck, Suffolk County, New York, the daughter of Alexander Silone and Parthemia Reeve. She attended schools in New York until she was eleven, at which time she went to live with an uncle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There she enrolled in the Institute for Colored Youth. Later Josephine moved to Newport, Rhode Island, and attended Rogers High School in that city. The only African-American student in her class, she graduated as valedictorian in 1877. She earned a teaching certificate enabling her to teach in public schools in Newport, the first African American to do so in that city. Yates then attended and graduated from the Rhode Island State Normal School in Providence in 1879, also the only African-American graduate that year. She later received an M.A. from National University in Illinois....