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Avery, Martha Gallison Moore (06 April 1851–08 August 1929), lecturer and lay Catholic preacher, was born in Steuben, Maine, the daughter of Albion King Paris Moore, a house builder, and Katharine Leighton. She was educated in the village public school and then in a private dame school. When Martha was thirteen years old her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, Samuel Moore, who was active in local and state politics. This atmosphere may have contributed to Martha’s future political interest. As a young woman she carried on a millinery business in Ellsworth, Maine, where she joined a Unitarian congregation. It was there that she met Millard Avery, a fellow church member. They were married in March 1880; they had one daughter. In 1888 Avery and her daughter moved to Boston to be closer to her husband, who was working as a traveling salesman. That year she joined the newly organized First Nationalist Club of Boston and wrote articles for its publication, ...

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Bacon, Alice Mabel (06 February 1858–01 May 1918), writer, educator, and lecturer, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of Leonard Bacon, a minister, and Catherine Terry. Her father served as the pastor of the Center Church in New Haven for nearly sixty years; he was also a teacher at Yale University and a local civic leader. Bacon was educated at private schools in New Haven and later took the Harvard “examinations for women” in 1880 and 1881....

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Banning, Margaret Culkin (18 March 1891–04 January 1982), writer, was born in Buffalo, Minnesota, the daughter of William Edgar Culkin, a Duluth newspaper executive, and Hannah Alice Young. She attended Vassar College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 1912. Pursuing an interest in social work, she attended Russell Sage College on a fellowship in 1912–1913, then spent the following academic year at the Chicago School of Philanthropy, which awarded her a certificate in 1914 for completion of its program. That same year she married a Duluth lawyer, Archibald T. Banning, Jr. The couple, who were divorced in 1934, had four children, two of whom survived into adulthood....

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Bernard, Jessie Shirley (8 Jun. 1903–6 Oct. 1996), sociologist and feminist scholar, was born Jessie Sarah (later changed to Shirley) Ravitch in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was the third of four children born to Bessie Kanter and David Solomon Ravitch who had emigrated separately to the United States from Transylvania (later Romania) in the 1880s. The Ravitchs, the only Jewish family living in their suburban, middle-class neighborhood, were treated as interlopers. This experience proved formative for Jessie and influenced her early scholarship....

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Couzins, Phoebe Wilson (08 September 1839?–06 December 1913), lawyer, suffragist, and lecturer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of John Edward Decker Couzins, a carpenter and builder, and Adaline Weston. Her parents were both politically active. Her father held the posts of chief of police of St. Louis and U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri. Her mother served as a nurse to the Western Sanitary Commission during the Civil War where she provided aid to wounded and sick soldiers. Both parents instilled in their daughter an activist spirit....

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de Cleyre, Voltairine (17 November 1866–20 June 1912), teacher and anarchist lecturer and writer, was born in Leslie, Michigan, the daughter of Hector De Claire, a tailor, and Harriet Elizabeth Billings, a seamstress. Despite being raised in poverty, de Cleyre received formal schooling in a Catholic convent until age seventeen. Her experience in the convent influenced her turn to free thought and anarchism. In her speech “The Making of an Anarchist” she noted that “there are white scars on my soul yet” as a result of the convent life ( ...

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Anna E. Dickenson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102148).

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Dickinson, Anna Elizabeth (28 October 1842–22 October 1932), orator and lecturer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of John Dickinson, a merchant who never recovered from the Panic of 1837, and Mary Edmondson. Devout Quakers, the Dickinsons were active members of the local antislavery society. Dickinson was two when her father died, and her mother kept the family together by teaching school and taking in boarders. Dickinson attended a series of Friends’ educational institutions, but her formal training ended by the time she was fifteen....

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Ende, Amalie von (19 June 1856–25 August 1932), German-American writer, musician, and teacher, was born Amalie Kremper in Warsaw, Poland. The names of her parents are not known. Neither of her parents was native to Poland, but they became entangled in the Polish rebellions of the early 1860s and were forced to leave Poland. At age six von Ende arrived in Milwaukee, where she received early training in music. A student of the German-American writer and activist ...

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Frances Gage Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92766).

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Gage, Frances Dana Barker (12 October 1808–10 November 1884), reformer, lecturer, and author, was born on a farm in Union Township, Washington County, Ohio, the daughter of Joseph Barker and Elizabeth Dana, farmers. The rugged conditions of farm life bred in her a hardiness and resourcefulness that served her well as an adult....

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Gestefeld, Ursula Newell (22 April 1845–22 October 1921), metaphysical writer and lecturer, was born in Augusta, Maine. Few details are known of her early life. She spent most of her career in Chicago.

Apparently not plagued by poverty, Gestefeld’s childhood household seemed preoccupied with illness. Ursula, like her mother a chronically sickly person, was given little hope of living beyond childhood. Yet, like so many eventually affiliated with New Thought and Christian Science, Gestefeld healed herself through “mind cure,” a term that emerged in the United States partly to describe the pioneering work of visionary farmer and healer ...

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Gougar, Helen Mar Jackson (18 July 1843–06 June 1907), suffragist, temperance reformer, and lecturer, was born near Litchfield in Hillsdale County, Michigan, the daughter of William Jackson and Clarissa Dresser, farmers. After attending the preparatory department of Hillsdale College from 1855 to 1859, she moved to Lafayette, Indiana, to teach in the public schools in order to help support her family. There she joined the Second Presbyterian Church, where she met John D. Gougar, a promising young lawyer, whom she married in 1863. The couple, who had no children, made their home in Lafayette for the rest of their lives....

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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Jones, Jane Elizabeth (13 March 1813–13 January 1896), antislavery and women's rights lecturer, antislavery and women’s rights lecturer, was born Jane Elizabeth Hitchcock at Vernon, Oneida County, New York, the daughter of Reuben Hitchcock and Electa Spaulding. Although there is little record of her early years, accounts suggest that the family was financially comfortable and that she had a “pampered and protected” childhood....

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Helen Keller Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112513).

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Keller, Helen (27 June 1880–01 June 1968), author, reformer, and symbol of personal courage, was born Helen Adams Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the daughter of former Confederate captain Arthur H. Keller, a publisher and business entrepreneur, and Kate Adams. She was an unexceptional child until struck in her nineteenth month by an illness that was, possibly, scarlet fever. The event, she later recalled, “closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a newborn baby.” Profoundly and permanently deaf and blind, she was to carve out a life that astonished nearly everyone....

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Lowell, Amy (09 February 1874–12 May 1925), poet, critic, and lecturer, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the daughter of Augustus Lowell and Katherine Bigelow Lawrence. Both sides of the family were New England aristocrats, wealthy and prominent members of society. Augustus Lowell was a businessman, civic leader, and horticulturalist, Katherine Lowell an accomplished musician and linguist. Although considered as “almost disreputable,” poets were part of the Lowell family, including ...

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Newman, Angelia French (04 December 1837–15 April 1910), church worker, reformer, and lecturer, was born Angelia Louise French Thurston in Montpelier, Vermont, the daughter of Daniel Sylvester Thurston, a farmer and tanner, and Matilda Benjamin. When “Angie,” as she was commonly known, was about age seven, her mother died. Her father remarried shortly thereafter. Angie attended the local academy and later briefly taught school until around 1852, when her family moved to Wisconsin. In 1856, soon after her eighteenth birthday, she married Frank Kilgore, the son of a Methodist minister from Madison. The marriage was childless, and he died within a year. She subsequently worked as a teacher at Central Public School in Madison and spent one term (1857–1858) at Lawrence University in Appleton. In 1859 she married David Newman, a dry goods merchant; they would have two children....

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Ruth Bryan Owen Taking the oath of office as the first woman envoy of the U.S. Foreign Service, administered by P. F. Allen of the State Department, 1933. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108591).