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Coe, George Albert (26 March 1862–09 November 1951), psychologist of religion, religious educator, and political activist, was born in Mendon, New York, the son of the Reverend George W. Coe, a Methodist minister, and Harriet Van Voorhis. He completed the A.B. at the University of Rochester in 1884 and then enrolled in the Boston University School of Theology, where he received the S.T.B. in 1887 and the A.M. in philosophy and world religions in 1888. In 1891, after a year of study at the University of Berlin, he completed a Ph.D. at the Boston University School of All Sciences....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Coughlin, Charles Edward (25 October 1891–27 October 1979), Catholic priest, radio personality, and political insurgent, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the son of Thomas Coughlin and Amelia Mahoney, devout Catholics of Irish descent. Thomas Coughlin was the sexton of the Catholic cathedral in Hamilton; Amelia attended mass daily and dreamed of seeing her only child enter the priesthood. Throughout his youth Charles was surrounded by the institutions of the church. His family lived on the cathedral grounds, and he attended local parish schools. At age twelve he entered St. Michael’s, a secondary school and college run by the Basilian order and intended to prepare young boys to enter the clergy. Coughlin remained at St. Michael’s through college and in 1911 entered St. Basil’s Seminary to begin formal training for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1916, at the age of twenty-three. After teaching at Basilian schools in Canada for seven years, Coughlin left the order in 1923 and moved to Michigan to become a parish priest. Three years later he was assigned to a new parish in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, where he spent the rest of his life. He named his church the Shrine of the Little Flower, for the recently canonized Ste. Thérèse....

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Dembitz, Lewis Naphtali (03 February 1833–11 March 1907), attorney and activist in public affairs, was born in Zirke, Prussia. His father, Sigmund Dembitz, was a surgeon whose degree from a Prussian university precluded his practicing in Austria, which required an Austrian degree. He, his wife Fanny Wehle, and their three children therefore led a wandering existence throughout other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, particularly Poland, while Sigmund unsuccessfully sought a profitable practice in various small towns. The young Dembitz attended schools in Munchenberg, Brandenburg, Frangbord, and Sagan and graduated at age fifteen from the Gymnasium of Glogau University in Frankfort-on-the-Oder. Dembitz’s family did not observe religious rituals. A schoolmate at Glogau introduced him to Orthodox Judaism when Dembitz was thirteen, however, and as an adult he adhered strictly to its tenets and rituals. His one semester of legal studies in Prague was interrupted by the unsuccessful political uprising of 1848. Although neither he nor his family were active participants, they found that the combination of their sympathy for the uprising’s libertarian goals and their Jewishness, assimilated though it was, made life in the Empire uncomfortable. Thirty-five members of the interrelated Wehle, Dembitz, and Brandeis families therefore immigrated to the United States in 1849....

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Eddy, George Sherwood (19 January 1871–03 March 1961), lay evangelist and political activist, was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, the son of George Eddy, a prominent businessman and civic leader, and Margaret Norton. Of Puritan stock, Eddy’s forebears had come to Kansas to prevent it from becoming a slave state. Eddy studied civil engineering at Yale University, receiving a Ph.B. in 1891....

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Hirsch, Emil Gustave (22 May 1851–07 January 1923), rabbi and civic leader, was born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the son of Samuel Hirsch, a rabbi, and Louise Michols. In 1866 Hirsch immigrated with his family to Philadelphia, where his father had been called to the pulpit of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1872, he returned to Europe to pursue advanced work in philosophy and theology at the University of Berlin and then at the University of Leipzig, where he received a doctorate in 1876. At the same time, he embarked upon rabbinical training at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, studying with such prominent liberal Jewish scholars as Abraham Geiger and Moritz Lazarus. Upon completion of his studies, Hirsch briefly served congregations in Baltimore (1877–1878) and Louisville (1878–1880), before being called to the prestigious pulpit of Sinai Congregation in Chicago, a position he held until his death. In 1878 he married Mathilda Einhorn in Louisville; her father was Rabbi ...

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Husband, Herman (03 October 1724– June 1795), backcountry planter and radical millennialist, was born in Cecil County, Maryland, the son of William Husband and Mary Kinkey, slaveholders and members of the local planter gentry. Husband’s early education included tutoring by his grandfather, Herman Kinkey; he also read on his own. Religion played an important part in his youth. William Husband demanded that the family attend Anglican services. Herman Kinkey emphasized the need for personal salvation, and Mary Husband concurred, following a strict moral code of behavior that clashed with her husband’s and son’s gambling, dancing, and other pastimes....

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Jasper, John (04 July 1812–30 March 1901), Baptist preacher and orator, was born in Fluvanna County, Virginia, the son of slave parents, Philip Jasper, a slave preacher, and Nina, head servant of the Peachy family. (His father served as a preacher at slave funerals.) John worked as a cart boy accompanying the plantation ox cart and on errands around the Peachy “great house.” In 1825 his master hired him out to Peter McHenry, for whom he worked one year in Richmond before returning to the Peachy plantation. He later labored in the coal mines of Chesterfield County. Jasper’s master sent him to Richmond a third time to work at Samuel Hargrove’s tobacco warehouse. Jasper led a life he later confessed to have been irreligious and riotous. A fellow slave taught him to read and spell....

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Kimball, Heber Chase (14 June 1801–22 June 1868), religious leader and businessman, was born near Sheldon Village, Franklin County, Vermont, the son of Solomon F. Kimball, a blacksmith and farmer, and Anna Spaulding. Poorly educated, he farmed, herded sheep, blacksmithed, and manufactured potash during his youth. Crushed by the Jeffersonian embargo and the War of 1812, Kimball’s father resettled the family in West Bloomfield, New York. In 1820 Kimball moved to nearby Mendon to work in his older brother’s pottery business. In November 1822 he married Vilate Murray; they had ten children. Revivalism in Western New York led Kimball and his wife to join the Baptists in 1831....

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Maffitt, John Newland (28 December 1794–28 May 1850), Methodist preacher, was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle-class family that belonged to the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church. Information about Maffitt’s family background and early life is decidedly spotty: his parents’ names are unknown, although we do know that his father died when Maffitt was twelve and that his mother shortly thereafter attempted to establish him in a mercantile establishment devoted to tailoring. One account claims he graduated from Trinity College. The teenage Maffitt indulged a love of reading novels and historical romances, however, until a conversion experience in a Methodist meeting at age eighteen or nineteen—accounts conflict on this score—convinced him to become a preacher. The Irish Methodist church did not recognize him as a licensed preacher, and his sporadic attempts at evangelical work both in and beyond Dublin were a mixed success at best. Even so, he displayed a highly melodramatic style, which would personify his later career in the United States. He married Ann Carnic at age twenty. They had seven children; the oldest son, ...

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Malone, Sylvester (08 May 1821–29 December 1899), Catholic priest and community activist, was born in Trim, County Meath, Ireland, the son of Laurence Malone, a civil engineer and surveyor, and Marcella Martin. He received his early education in a classical academy directed by two Protestant schoolmasters who catered to a mixed clientele of Catholic and Protestant students. As a result, Malone later boasted that, in contrast to many Irish Catholics of his generation, his “early life was toned by [congenial] associations with non-Catholics.” In 1838 Malone met the Reverend ...

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Montgomery, Helen Barrett (31 July 1861–19 October 1934), Baptist church leader, civic reformer, and educator, was born in Kingsville, Ohio, the daughter of A. Judson Barrett and Emily Barrows, teachers. Her school years were spent in upstate New York, first in Lowville, then in Rochester. Her father, who she later said was a dominant influence in her life, left his teaching career to attend Rochester Theological Seminary, later assuming the pastorate of the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester....

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Morris, John Gottlieb (14 November 1803–10 October 1895), Lutheran pastor, entomologist, and Baltimore cultural leader, was born in York, Pennsylvania, the son of John Samuel Gottlieb Morris, a physician, and Barbara Myers. Raised in a pious middle-class household, Gottlieb, following his father’s death in 1808, lived much of his life in unusually close relationship to his mother and his brother, Charles. After studying at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduating from Dickinson College in 1823, he studied theology at Princeton Seminary and at the infant Gettysburg Seminary. He married Eliza Hay in 1827; they had three children....

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Moulton, Ebenezer (25 December 1709– March 1783), Baptist minister and political activist, was born in Windham, Connecticut, the son of Robert Moulton and Hannah Grove, farmers. He had no formal education. Early in his life he developed an interest in religious work. In 1736 he joined his parents in starting a new Baptist congregation in South Brimfield, Massachusetts, for which he was later ordained a regular Baptist minister (1741). He was ordained to the ministry by John Callendar of Newport, an old-order Baptist, which for the time defined Moulton’s theological position as Five Principle Calvinistic, emphasizing redemption for the elect of God. One of Moulton’s first official actions in South Brimfield was to organize a congregational petition to the Massachusetts General Assembly for exemption from the religious tax....

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Niebuhr, Reinhold (21 June 1892–01 June 1971), theologian and political journalist, was born Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr in Wright City, Missouri, the son of Gustav Niebuhr, a German immigrant preacher, and Lydia Hosto, his parish assistant and organist. Reinhold grew up in Missouri and Illinois, where his father, a minister of the German Evangelical Synod of North America, had a series of parishes. From age ten he lived in Lincoln, Illinois, a heavily first- and second-generation German-American town, where his family lived, he later recalled, in “genteel poverty.” One of four children (and three sons), he was the apple of his father’s eye and decided as a boy to follow his father into the ministry. At age fifteen, having finished the ninth grade at Lincoln High School, he left for three years of boarding school at the Synod’s proseminary, Elmhurst College, outside of Chicago. In later years he much regretted having missed a solid high school education. Neither did he ever attend an undergraduate college. His lack of a B.A. degree, and his poor schooling in English, modern history, and the sciences, led him to condemn his church for giving only lip service to education. At age eighteen he enrolled at the Synod’s Eden Theological Seminary, outside of St. Louis, where he starred in debate and worked hard on his English writing skills. In 1913 he received the bachelor of divinity degree and was ordained a minister....

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Ogden, John Cosens (15 November 1751–26 September 1800), clergyman and Jeffersonian Republican propagandist, was born near Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Moses Ogden and Mary Cozzens (also spelled Cosens and Cosins), artisans. Having graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1770, Ogden moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he was employed by the collector of the port of New Haven, ...

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Paul, Thomas (03 September 1773–13 April 1831), Baptist minister and African-American community leader, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. The names of his parents are unknown. Converted and baptized at age sixteen, Paul began preaching when he was about twenty-eight and conducted an itinerant ministry. In 1804 he settled in Boston. He was ordained on 1 May 1805 at Nottingham West, New Hampshire, and later the same year married Catherine Waterhouse. The couple had three children....

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Pelley, William Dudley (12 March 1890–01 July 1965), novelist, religious and political leader, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the son of William George Apsey Pelley, a Methodist minister and printer, and Grace Goodale. Pelley's family lived in several Massachusetts communities during Dudley's childhood. He dropped out of Springfield Technical High School during his sophomore year at the behest of his father, who needed his son to help him in a toilet paper factory he co-owned....

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Russell, Clayton (1910–1981), minister and political activist, was born in Los Angeles, California. Primarily educated in Los Angeles area schools, Russell also studied theology in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the early 1930s at the nation’s International College. Russell later remarked that his experiences studying abroad profoundly influenced his thinking about the plight of fellow African Americans in the United States. Foremost among his overseas memories was a visit to prewar Germany, where the Los Angeles cleric witnessed firsthand the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) party and its racist ideology. The eventual Nazi political triumph in Germany made him keenly aware of what a German victory in the Second World War would mean for American blacks....

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Simpson, Matthew (21 June 1811–18 June 1884), Methodist bishop and orator, was born in Cadiz, Ohio, the son of James Simpson, a manufacturer and storekeeper, and Sarah Tingley. While growing up in western Pennsylvania, Simpson had little formal schooling, but he read widely and acquired knowledge of history, mathematics, literature, and religion under the tutelage of his uncle Matthew Simpson. As a boy, Simpson helped his family in the manufacturing of weaver’s reeds. He learned about the law by attending the county court with another uncle who was clerk. A third uncle published a weekly newspaper; by assisting him, Simpson learned much about publishing and the world beyond Cadiz. At age fifteen, he helped his uncle Matthew teach at a private academy. Two years later he attended Madison College in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, for two months before returning to Cadiz. In 1830, desiring a more stable career, Simpson began the study of medicine under a local doctor; three years later he qualified to practice on his own....