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Barnard, Kate (23 May 1875–23 February 1930), Progressive reformer and politician, was born Catherine Anna Barnard in Alexandria, Nebraska, the daughter of John P. Barnard, a lawyer and real estate speculator, and Rachael Mason Shiell. Shortly after Barnard’s birth her family moved to the small frontier town of Kirwin, Kansas, where her mother died in 1877. She attended public school in Kirwin until the early 1890s, when she and her father moved to the new territory of Oklahoma. The experiences of her early adulthood resemble those of other women Progressives in at least two ways. First, she was introduced to politics by her father, a local politician. Second, she tried several lines of work before she became a reformer. From 1896 to 1899 she taught in rural schools; then, in 1902 she exchanged teaching for stenography. Startled by the degree of poverty in her own neighborhood in Oklahoma City, she decided in the fall of 1905 to conduct a campaign to clothe the community’s poor. The crusade gained her public recognition and convinced her of the importance of volunteer associations. She resuscitated a local charity organization and was appointed its matron in December 1905. She began to realize that unionization could be another weapon with which to combat poverty and, consequently, became a deputy organizer for the International Women’s Union Label League....

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Blair, Emily Newell (09 January 1877–03 August 1951), feminist, politician, and writer, was born in Joplin, Missouri, the daughter of Anna Cynthia Gray and James Patton Newell, a mortgage broker. She enrolled in the Woman’s College of Baltimore (now Goucher College) in 1894, but her father’s death cut short her education after just one year. Returning home, she helped raise her younger siblings, taught school, and attended classes at the University of Missouri without completing a degree. In 1900 she married Harry Wallace Blair, a former classmate at Carthage High School....

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Crisp, Mary Dent (05 November 1923–24 March 2007), Republican Party leader and women's rights advocate, Republican Party leader and women’s rights advocate, was born Mary Dent in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the seventh child of Harry Dent and Elizabeth Patch Dent. After graduating from Allentown High School, she attended Oberlin College, receiving a degree in botany in 1946. She would later trace her interest in politics to Oberlin’s emphasis on an individual’s responsibility to engage with pressing social issues. She married William Crisp, a doctor, in 1948; the couple had three children and resided in Phoenix, Arizona. There, she took graduate courses in political science at Arizona State University....

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Dewson, Molly (18 February 1874–21 October 1962), politician and social reformer, was born Mary Williams Dewson in Quincy, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Henry Dewson, a Boston leather merchant, and Elizabeth Weld. Molly (as she was always known) attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1897. After college she joined the staff of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union in Boston, where she conducted research on domestic service and the professionalization of housework. In 1900 she became the superintendent of the parole department for the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls at Lancaster. In 1912 she resigned that post to join Boston reformer ...

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Haynes, Elizabeth Ross (30 July 1883–26 October 1953), social scientist, politician, and community leader, was born in Mount Willing, Lowndes County, Alabama, the daughter of Henry Ross and Mary Carnes. Elizabeth Ross’s parents were hard workers who amassed some wealth through the purchase of land that eventually grew to become a 1,500-acre plantation. Little is known about her parents beyond their commitment to their only child’s well-being and success. Elizabeth attended the State Normal School in Montgomery and later won a scholarship to Fisk University, where she was awarded an A.B. degree in 1903. She taught school in Alabama and Texas for several years after graduation, and during 1905 and 1907 she attended summer school at the University of Chicago....

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Peterson, Elly (05 June 1914–09 June 2008), Republican Party leader and women's rights activist, was born Ella Maude McMillan in New Berlin, Illinois, the youngest child of John Charles McMillan, a physician, and Maude Ella Carpenter, a teacher. She attended William Woods College in Fulton, Missouri, then left in 1933 and completed secretarial studies at Suburban Business College in Oak Park, Illinois. She married W. Merritt “Pete” Peterson on 11 October 1935. They divorced in 1943. Elly Peterson served with the American Red Cross in England, France, and Germany during World War II, and then remarried her ex-husband on 5 February 1948. The couple had no children....

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Smith, Mary Louise (06 October 1914–22 August 1997), political party leader, feminist, and federal appointee, was born Mary Louise Epperson in Eddyville, Iowa, the younger daughter of Frank Epperson, a banker, and Louisa Anna Jager. As an elementary school student, Mary Louise began giving dramatic readings for her mother’s social groups and in school performances. A self-described “ham,” she developed the public speaking skills that served her throughout the rest of her life. Both her paternal grandfather and her father were Republican politicians and both attended the party’s national conventions....

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Alexis de Tocqueville. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116351).

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Tocqueville, Alexis de (29 July 1805–16 April 1859), French political theorist, historian, and statesman, was born Alexis-Charles-Henri-Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville in Paris, the son of Hervé-Louis-François-Jean Bonaventure Clérel and Louise-Madeleine Le Peletier Rosanbo, from an aristocratic and politically active Norman family. Tocqueville’s father became a prefect with the restored Bourbon government after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Charles X made him a peer of France in 1827. His family furnished the requisite background for Tocqueville’s own government service. Having studied law, Tocqueville became an assistant magistrate....

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Woodhull, Victoria Claflin (23 September 1838–09 June 1927), reformer and first female presidential candidate, was born in Homer, Ohio, the daughter of Reuben Buckman Claflin, a mill owner, and Roxanna Hummel. Woodhull’s education was limited to three years of erratic instruction in Homer’s Methodist church school. Her childhood was marked by financial and domestic instability, culminating in the destruction by fire of the family’s mill. Townspeople, suspecting the impecunious and alcoholic Buck Claflin of arson for insurance fraud, drove the family from Homer and into several years of drifting from town to town....