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Brown, Olympia (05 January 1835–23 October 1926), Universalist minister and suffragist, was born in Prairie Ronde, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, the daughter of Asa B. Brown and Lephia Olympia, farmers. Her parents were Universalists with a strong commitment to education for their children. She first attended school with her two younger sisters and brother in a building on her family’s farm and later in Schoolcraft, Michigan. In 1854 she went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts. She disliked the stultifying rules and religious orthodoxy there and transferred in 1856 to the newly organized coeducational Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio....

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May, Samuel Joseph (12 September 1797–01 July 1871), Unitarian minister and radical reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph May, a merchant, and Dorothy Sewall. May graduated from Harvard College (1817) and Harvard Divinity School (1820) and filled pulpits in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In 1825 he married Lucretia Flagge Coffin, the daughter of a Boston merchant. Rearing their four children preoccupied his wife, but it also allowed her time to improve her French and learn Italian and promote the temperance cause....

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Nathan, Maud (20 October 1862–15 December 1946), activist in Jewish and community organizations, was born in New York City, the daughter of Robert Weeks Nathan, a businessman, and Anne Augusta Florance. Maud grew up in an orthodox Sephardic Jewish environment. Prominent members of New York City’s Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community, her father’s family proudly dated its arrival to the colonies in 1773. Maud was educated in private schools until, at the age of twelve, her father suffered business reverses and the family moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she completed public high school. In 1880 she married her cousin Frederick Nathan, a stockbroker; they had one child, who died at age eight. The couple settled in New York City....

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Anna Howard Shaw. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-20177).

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Shaw, Anna Howard (14 February 1847–02 July 1919), minister and woman suffragist, was born at Newcastle upon Tyne, England, the daughter of Thomas Shaw, a wallpaper maker, and Nicolas Stott. The family moved to Massachusetts in 1851. In 1859 Thomas Shaw settled his wife and younger children in an unfinished cabin on Michigan’s frontier while he returned east. Anna’s bitter recollections of the responsibilities that fell to her in the next decade make up the most powerful section of the memoirs she published as ...

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Emmeline B. Wells. Photograph by C. R. Savage. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111862).

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Wells, Emmeline B. (29 February 1828–25 April 1921), suffragist and Mormon feminist activist, was born Emmeline Blanche Woodward in Petersham, Massachusetts, the daughter of David Woodward and Diadama Hare, farmers. Marital relations were a defining characteristic of Emmeline’s life. As a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), she married at age fifteen fellow church member James Harris, also fifteen. By the next year, she had buried her first child and had been deserted by her teenage husband. Thereafter, Emmeline chose father figures as husbands. In 1845 she married Newel K. Whitney, a prominent Mormon bishop thirty-three years her senior, who was already the husband of two living wives. She wrote Whitney in 1847: “Like as a vine entwineth itself around an ...