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A. Bronson Alcott. At age fifty-three. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54729).

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Alcott, A. Bronson (29 November 1799–04 March 1888), Transcendentalist and reformer, was born Amos Bronson Alcox in Wolcott, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Chatfield Alcox and Anna Bronson, farmers. Farming the rocky Connecticut soil was not lucrative, and Alcott worked hard with his parents to help support seven younger siblings, thereby limiting his opportunities for a formal education. He attended the local district school until age ten, but thereafter his intellectual growth largely depended on his own reading and discussions with friends of a similar scholarly bent, the first being his cousin William Andrus Alcott. William later attended Yale College and established a career as a physician and popular author of health manuals, but continuing poverty prevented Bronson from obtaining a college education. At age fifteen he, like many of his young Connecticut contemporaries, began peddling small manufactured goods, first in Massachusetts and New York, then in Virginia and the Carolinas....

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Bardin, Shlomo ( December 1898–16 May 1976), Jewish educator, was born Shlomo Bardinstein in Zhitomir, Ukraine, the son of Haim Israel Bardinstein and Menia Weissburd, members of Zhitomir’s Jewish bourgeoisie. After completing his secondary education at the Zhitomir School of Commerce in 1918, he left Russia for Palestine, which was probably when he shortened his name to “Bardin.” From 1920 he worked as an administrative assistant at the Hebrew Secondary School in Haifa before leaving in 1923 for the University of Berlin, where he studied history and economics. Two years later he entered University College in London for a year’s study of English. Bardin returned to Haifa in 1926 and spent two years teaching at the Hebrew Boarding School. He went to New York City in 1928 and was accepted as a graduate student at Columbia University’s Teachers College. At Columbia he studied comparative education with progressive educators who urged him to research the Danish Folk High School to examine its creative use of music to reach disaffected youth. He received his M.A. in 1930. In 1931 Bardin married a sculptor, Ruth Jonas, daughter of a wealthy Brooklyn lawyer; the couple would have two children....

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Blum, Virgil Clarence (27 March 1913–05 April 1993), educator, author, activist, and clergyman, was born in Defiance, Iowa, one of twelve children of John Peter and Elizabeth (Rushenberg) Blum, both farmers. His grade school and high school years were spent at St. Peter's school in Defiance. In 1932 he began college at Dowling College, Des Moines, Iowa, and the next year transferred to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. On 31 Aug. 1934 he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary at Florissant, Missouri, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Latin and English in 1938. (A brother, Victor Joseph, also became a Jesuit and became a professor of geophysics and seismology at St. Louis University). Virgil studied philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, continuing studies in the summer until he earned a master's degree in history and political science in 1945....

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Fahs, Sophia Lyon (02 August 1876–17 April 1978), religious educator, was born in Hangchow, China, the daughter of David Nelson Lyon and Mandana Doolittle, missionaries. The Lyon family returned to the United States on furlough in 1880, and poor health kept Mr. Lyons from returning to China. Sophia grew up in Wooster, Ohio, where she attended public schools and graduated from the Presbyterian University of Wooster in 1897. After two years of teaching high school, she spent two years traveling for the Student Volunteer Movement in the interest of foreign missions. She also took Old and New Testament courses at the University of Chicago, where higher criticism was revolutionizing scriptural studies with its concentration on establishing dates, authorship, and sources of the biblical writings in the spirit of scientific analysis. Dr. ...

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Fee, John Gregg (09 September 1816–11 January 1901), minister, abolitionist, and educational reformer, was born in Bracken County, Kentucky, the son of John Fee and Sarah Gregg, farmers and middle-class slaveholders. Fee’s parents inculcated in their son a belief in the value of education. After attending a subscription school, Fee pursued a classical education at both Augusta College in Bracken County and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, eventually receiving his B.A. degree in 1840 from Augusta College. Having been converted to evangelical Christianity at age fourteen, he decided on the ministry as his profession. During 1842 and 1843 he studied at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he embraced an egalitarian abolitionism that assumed the equality of races. In September 1844 Fee married one of his converts, Matilda Hamilton, convinced that she alone possessed the qualities needed to withstand the hostility he expected from the “Slave Power.” They had six children....

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Knox, Samuel (1756–31 August 1832), Presbyterian minister and educator., Although little is known of his early years, Knox was the son of a poor farm family in County Armagh, Ireland. By 1786 he had emigrated to Bladensburg, Maryland, where he taught in the grammar school (1788–1789). He returned to Europe in 1789, and received an M.A. from the University of Glasgow in 1792. After the Presbytery of Belfast licensed him for the ministry, he returned to the United States and was assigned by the Baltimore Presbytery to the Bladensburg pastorate (1795–1797). Thereafter he continued in the dual capacities, common then for rural Presbyterian ministers, of schoolteacher and supply pastor of Frederick (1797–1803) and Soldier’s Delight (1804–1809), both in Maryland. He served again as principal of the Frederick Academy from 1823 to 1827, but his main teaching post was as principal of a private academy in Baltimore which merged with Baltimore College (1808–1820). Following a dispute with the trustees of Frederick Academy over retention of the Lancastrian method of instruction, which he had been using, Knox retired in 1827 and lived in Frederick until his death....

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Ruffner, William Henry (11 February 1824–24 November 1908), educational reformer, clergyman, and geologist, was born in Lexington, Virginia, the son of Henry Ruffner, an educator and clergyman, and Sarah Lyle. Ruffner spent much of his childhood on the campus of Washington College in Lexington, where his father was president and where he earned a bachelor’s degree (1842) and a master’s degree (1845). The elder Ruffner, a Presbyterian minister and an outspoken opponent of slavery, stimulated his son’s lifelong interest in religion and the education of African Americans....

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Rushdoony, R. J. (25 Apr. 1916–8 Feb. 2001), theologian, Presbyterian minister, political activist, and education reformer, was born Rousas John Rushdoony in New York City to Armenian refugees fleeing Turkish persecution during World War I. Presbyterian minister Yeghiazar Khachadour and Vartanoush (Gazarian) Rushdouni’s first son, George, perished in the Turkish siege of Van, and the family immigrated to the United States via Russia. The Rushdoonys anglicized their names—Yeghiazar opting for an abbreviated Y. K. and Vartanoush adopting Rose, the English translation of her name—and settled in a growing Armenian community in Kingsburg, California. Y. K. took his family with him as he served as a pastor to Armenian communities in California and Michigan during the 1920s and 1930s. As the family moved about the United States, R. J. Rushdoony learned English and resolved to follow his father into the ministry....

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Smith, Benjamin Mosby (30 June 1811–14 March 1893), minister and educator, was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, the son of Josiah Smith, a tobacco planter, and Judith Micheau Mosby. In 1819 Josiah Smith’s death left Benjamin fatherless. Like other planter sons, Benjamin was educated by hired tutors, at a school on the plantation, and at various neighborhood “old field” schools. In 1825 Smith entered Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College, where he was active in one of the college’s two debating societies, the Union Society. In September 1829 he shared the college’s highest graduating honors with one of his classmates....

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Stowe, Calvin Ellis (26 April 1802–22 August 1886), biblical scholar, promoter of common schools, and husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe, biblical scholar, promoter of common schools, and husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe, was born in Natick, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Stow, a baker, and Hephzibah Bigelow, a seamstress and practical nurse. His father died in 1808, reducing a family of already limited means to near penury. At the age of twelve he began working in a paper mill. A local patron paid for his attendance at Bradford Academy. His academic performance attracted the attention of additional benefactors, who agreed to finance further education on condition that he prepare for the ministry....