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Julie Longo and Sandra F. VanBurkleo

Abbott, Grace (17 November 1878–19 June 1939), social worker and administrator, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and politician, and Elizabeth Griffin, a high school principal. The Abbott household provided an intellectually stimulating environment, emphasizing reading, discussion, and formal education for all four children. Othman Abbott encouraged both Grace and her older sister ...

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Abzug, Bella (24 July 1920–31 March 1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative, was born Bella Savitsky in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Emmanuel Savitsky, butcher, and Ester Tanklefsky Savitsky. She attended local schools before entering Hunter College in Manhattan, where she took part in student government and was active in the Zionist movement. She entered Columbia University Law School following her graduation in 1942 but soon left school and took a wartime job in a shipyard. She married Martin Abzug, a writer who later became a stockbroker, in 1944; the couple had two daughters. Abzug returned to Columbia and served as editor of the ...

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Adams, Abigail (11 November 1744–28 October 1818), first lady and woman of intellect, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Smith, a Congregational minister, and Elizabeth Quincy. Abigail grew up in a prominent and wealthy family, descended from Puritan leaders and successful merchants. She had no formal schooling, both because of her recurrent illnesses and the limited options available to girls. Yet neither obstacle prevented her from achieving a remarkably broad and sophisticated education. She enjoyed the family’s well-stocked library, the stimulating company of educated relatives and parsonage visitors, and the attentive tutelage of her grandmother. Her studies ranged from Shakespeare to Locke, from Plato to French. She also began two lifelong habits: letter-writing to distant relatives and friends, and the practice of a deep Congregational faith....

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Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson (12 February 1775–15 May 1852), first lady, was born in London, England, the daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American merchant, and Catherine Nuth (or Young). Though it is known that her father was a prominent businessman and that her uncle ...

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Chisholm, Shirley (30 November 1924–01 January 2005), first African-American congresswoman and educator, was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles Christopher St. Hill, a factory worker, and Ruby Seale, a seamstress and domestic worker. She was sent to Barbados for economic reasons at the age of three, where she lived on her maternal grandmother's farm and attended elementary school. Upon returning to New York seven years later she attended local public schools and graduated from Girls' High School in 1942. Despite scholarship offers her family lacked the funds to help her attend a more distant college, so she entered nearby (and tuition-free) Brooklyn College with the intent of becoming a teacher. She became interested in politics while earning her B.A....

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Clark, Georgia Neese (27 January 1898–26 October 1995), U.S. treasurer, was born Georgia Neese in Richland, Kansas, the daughter of Albert Neese, a farmer and businessman, and Ellen O'Sullivan Neese. Her father, a self-made man, had prospered in the years before her birth and become the town's leading citizen, owning much of its property as well as the bank and general store. Although a Presbyterian, Georgia Neese briefly attended a small Catholic college in nearby Topeka after graduating from high school in 1917, then transferred to Washburn University in that city. She majored in economics at Washburn and was also active on campus, serving as president of several student organizations, including the drama club. Determined to become an actress, she moved to New York City following graduation in 1921 and enrolled at Sargent's Dramatic School....

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Cleveland, Frances Folsom (21 July 1864–29 October 1947), wife of Grover Cleveland, wife of Grover Cleveland, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Oscar Folsom, an attorney, and Emma Harmon. Frances Folsom knew Grover Cleveland as her father’s law partner. When Oscar Folsom died in an accident in 1875, his law partner took over management of his estate and became in effect, although not in fact, Frances Folsom’s guardian. Twenty-seven years her senior, he played the part of doting uncle to “Frankie” while piling up remarkable political victories, rising from mayor of Buffalo to governor of the state....

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Coolidge, Grace Anna Goodhue (03 January 1879–08 July 1957), first lady of the United States, was born in Burlington, Vermont, the daughter of Andrew Issachar Goodhue, a steamboat inspector and a mechanical engineer, and Lemira Barrett. Coolidge graduated from the University of Vermont in 1902. After earning her degree, she took additional training for a teaching position at Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts. During her three years at Clarke she met ...

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Eisenhower, Mamie Doud (14 November 1896–01 November 1979), first lady of the United States, was born Mary Geneva Doud in Boone, Iowa, the daughter of John Sheldon Doud, a meatpacker, and Elivera Carlson. Tremendously successful in business, John Doud retired at the age of thirty-six and moved his family to Denver, Colorado; at that time he also purchased a vacation home in San Antonio, Texas. One of four daughters, “Mamie” enjoyed a well-to-do upbringing in Denver. She attended private elementary school and completed her education at Denver’s fashionable finishing school, Miss Woolcott’s....

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Fenwick, Millicent (25 February 1910–16 September 1992), politician, was born Millicent Vernon Hammond in New York City, the daughter of financier Ogden Haggerty Hammond and Mary Picton Stevens. She was the great-granddaughter of Edwin Augustus Stevens, founder of the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1915 Fenwick's mother perished on the ...

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Ford, Betty (08 April 1918–08 July 2011), first lady of the United States and public health advocate, was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of three children of William S. Bloomer, a traveling salesman, and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. She was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1934; at his funeral Betty learned from her mother that he had been an alcoholic. Starting dance lessons at age eight, Betty briefly thought of becoming a ballerina. However, she soon gravitated toward modern dance, which, after her 1936 graduation from high school, she studied at the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont. One of her instructors, the influential ...

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Gardener, Helen Hamilton (21 January 1853–26 July 1925), author, suffragist, and U.S. Civil Service commissioner, was born Alice Chenoweth in Winchester, Virginia, the daughter of the Reverend Alfred Griffith Chenoweth and Katherine A. Peel. A Methodist minister, Chenoweth freed his inherited slaves in 1854 and transplanted the family to Washington, D.C., so that his children would not grow up tarnished by slavery. In 1855 the family moved to Greencastle, Indiana, where Gardener went to local schools and was tutored at home. In her late teens she moved by herself to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she attended high school. She later was a student at Ohio State Normal School, where she served as a teacher and principal after her graduation in 1873....

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Garfield, Lucretia Rudolph (19 April 1832–13 March 1918), first lady, was born in Garrettsville, Ohio, the daughter of Zebulon Rudolph and Arabella Mason, farmers. Sickly as a child, demure as an adolescent, and reared in a dutiful but unaffectionate family, Lucretia (or “Crete” as friends called her) grew into a bright, attractive but solemn young woman. At the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in nearby Hiram, Ohio, a semicollegiate Disciples of Christ institution that her father had helped found, she pursued a formal education somewhat beyond that customary for her time and gender. She also displayed a surprising degree of intellectual independence, not only by obtaining a job as a schoolteacher but by asking, in a college essay, “Is it equitable that a woman who teaches school equally well should receive a smaller compensation than man?”...

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Grant, Julia Dent (26 January 1826–14 December 1902), wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was born at White Haven, near St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Frederick Dent, a planter, and Ellen Wrenshall. The fifth of eight children, she enjoyed a privileged childhood on her father’s plantation and attended the Misses Mauros’ boarding school in St. Louis. When she was seventeen, her brother Frederick introduced her to his former West Point roommate Ulysses S. Grant. After a two-year courtship and a four-year engagement, Julia Dent and Ulysses S. Grant were married in 1848 and began married life in the army posted to Sackets Harbor, New York. Over the next decade, they had four children....

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Green, Edith (17 January 1910–21 April 1987), teacher and congresswoman, was born in Trent, South Dakota, the daughter of James Vaughn and Julia Hunt Starrett, schoolteachers. When she was six her family moved to Oregon. She attended public schools and Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. After marrying businessman Arthur N. Green in 1933, she continued to teach and to further her own education. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1939 and took graduate courses at Stanford. Edith and Arthur Green had two sons and were later divorced....

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Griffiths, Martha (29 January 1912–22 April 2003), U.S. congresswoman, lawyer, and women's rights advocate, U.S. congresswoman, lawyer, and women’s rights advocate, was born in Pierce City, Missouri, to Nell Sullinger Wright and Charles Elbridge Wright, a mail carrier. Her mother took in boarders so that Martha could attend the University of Missouri at Columbia, where she majored in political science and met her future husband, Hicks G. Griffiths, on the debating team. They married in 1933, eloping before she earned her A.B. in 1934; they had no children. Both Griffiths earned law degrees from the University of Michigan in 1940, and during World War II she negotiated contracts for the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department in the Detroit area. After the war the Griffiths established a law practice with ...

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Harding, Florence Mabel Kling DeWolfe (15 August 1860–21 November 1924), first lady of the United States, was born in Marion, Ohio, the daughter of Amos Kling, a banker, and Louisa Bouton. Florence grew up in an affluent atmosphere, attending the best school in Marion. When she demonstrated a flair for the piano, she was sent to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. At the age of nineteen, Florence eloped with Henry “Pete” DeWolfe, the ne’er-do-well son of a prominent Ohio family. The quick marriage was necessitated by Florence’s pregnancy; a son was born six months later. Florence sought and was granted a divorce from DeWolfe in 1886. In 1891, she was remarried to ...

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Harrison, Caroline Lavinia Scott (01 October 1832–25 October 1892), first wife of Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), the twenty-third president of the United States, first wife of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901), the twenty-third president of the United States, was born in Oxford, Ohio, the daughter of John Witherspoon Scott, an ordained Presbyterian minister and college professor, and Mary Potts Neal. She attended the Oxford Female Institute, a school her father had helped found, and she briefly taught piano there (1851–1852). In 1853 she married Benjamin Harrison, whom she had met while he was attending Miami University, and the next year she moved with him to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he practiced law. Although he was a grandson of the ninth president of the United States, Benjamin Harrison earned little the first years of their marriage, and acquaintances commented on how cheerfully his wife accepted her reduced circumstances. Records of the First Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis (where the Harrisons were members) referred to her “artistic tastes” and “charming vitality.” She gave birth to two children before her husband’s law practice was well established. A third child died at birth....

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Hayes, Lucy Ware Webb (28 August 1831–25 June 1889), wife of the nineteenth president of the United States, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of James Webb, a medical doctor, and Maria Cook. When Lucy was two, her father died during a cholera epidemic in Kentucky, where he had gone to free slaves he had recently inherited. Until Lucy and her two older brothers needed better schools, they lived with their mother in Chillicothe. In 1844 the family moved to Delaware, Ohio, where Lucy entered the preparatory department of what is now Ohio Wesleyan University. Later she took courses in the college department, where her brothers were enrolled, even though young women were not usually allowed to study there. It was near the popular sulphur spring on the school’s campus that visiting ...

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Hedgeman, Anna Arnold (05 July 1899–17 January 1990), educator, policy consultant, and political activist, was born Anna Marie Arnold in Marshalltown, Iowa, the daughter and eldest child of William James Arnold II, an entrepreneur, and Marie Ellen Parker Arnold. The Arnolds subsequently moved to Anoka, Minnesota, becoming the only black family in that town. Young Anna graduated from high school in 1918 and went on to attend Hamline University in nearby Saint Paul, becoming the college's first black graduate in 1922....