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Abbott, Edith (26 September 1876–28 July 1957), social reformer, social work educator, and author, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and first lieutenant governor of Nebraska, and Elizabeth Maletta Griffin, a woman suffrage advocate. Abbott grew up in a comfortable and politically progressive household on the American prairie. However, the severe economic depression that began in 1893 caused Abbott to postpone her college plans after graduation from an Omaha girls’ boarding school. Instead, at the age of seventeen she became a teacher at the Grand Island High School....

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American, Sadie (03 March 1862–03 May 1944), social welfare activist and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of German-Jewish immigrant Oscar L. American and Amelia Smith. Little is known of her childhood, but she was educated in Chicago public schools.

American became a founder in 1893 and later executive secretary of the philanthropic, middle-class reform organization the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). In her early thirties she held positions in dozens of social welfare, charitable, and educational institutions from 1893 to 1904, including that of president of the New York Section of the NCJW and of the Consumers’ League of New York State (1893–1894). She also directed the Woman’s Municipal League in New York City and was chair of its Tenement House Committee (1893–1894)....

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Bauer, Catherine Krouse (11 May 1905–22 November 1964), housing advocate and urban-planning educator, was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the daughter of Jacob Louis Bauer, a highway engineer, and Alberta Louise Krouse, a suffragist. Bauer graduated from Vassar College in 1926, having spent her junior year at Cornell University studying architecture. Following graduation she lived in Paris and wrote about contemporary architecture, including the work of the modernist Le Corbusier. In New York from 1927 to 1930, she held a variety of jobs and began a friendship with the architectural and social critic ...

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Beecher, Catharine Esther (06 September 1800–12 May 1878), educator and social reformer, was born in East Hampton, New York, the oldest child of Lyman Beecher, the most prominent Evangelical clergyman of the 1820s, and Roxana Foote. At the age of ten Catharine Beecher moved with her family from the isolated and rural tip of Long Island to class-conscious Litchfield, Connecticut. There she acquired the normal accomplishments of her well-born status. When her mother died of consumption in 1816, Catharine assumed responsibility for her younger siblings, including Harriet and ...

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Bonney, Mary Lucinda (08 June 1816–24 July 1900), educator and reformer, was born in Hamilton, New York, the daughter of Benjamin Bonney and Lucinda Wilder, farmers. Her father, a veteran of the War of 1812, was an officer in the New York State Militia. Her mother had been a schoolteacher until marriage in 1808. Bonney and her brother, Benjamin, grew up in a home marked by the characteristics of “intelligence, integrity, and piety” (Fairbanks, p. 138)....

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Brown, Josephine Chapin (20 October 1887–25 October 1976), public welfare administrator and social work educator, was born in Ogdensburg, New York, the daughter of Silas Edgar Brown, a physician and surgeon, and Mary Chapin. Josephine received her primary and secondary education in private schools at Ogdensburg and Utica and entered Bryn Mawr College in 1906. Shortly thereafter, Brown’s family, in financial difficulty, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. She dropped out of college and taught school, but, after two years, aided by gifts through the college, Brown reentered Bryn Mawr. She graduated in June 1913 with a B.A. in physics and biology....

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Clark, Septima Poinsette (03 May 1898–15 December 1987), educator and civil rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of Peter Porcher Poinsette, a caterer who was a former slave, and Victoria Warren Anderson, who took in laundry to supplement the family income. Septima’s mother, who had been raised in black-governed Haiti, instilled in her daughter a determination to succeed in spite of white racism....

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Cook, Alice (28 November 1903–07 February 1998), international labor scholar, educator, and advocate for workingwomen, was born Alice Hanson in Alexandria, Virginia, the eldest child of August Hanson, the son of Swedish immigrants, and Flora Kays, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Along with her two younger brothers, the family traveled the country following her father's work for the railroads. From her close-knit family Alice learned civic responsibility and activism at an early age, joining her mother and grandmother in a suffragists’ picket line at the White House during President ...

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Cook, Vivian E. J. (06 October 1889–28 July 1977), educator, was born Vivian Elma Johnson in Colliersville, Tennessee, the daughter of Spencer Johnson, a farmer, and Caroline Alley, a teacher. One of eight children, she grew up under the enterprising spirit of her parents, both of whom were born in slavery. The fact that her mother was the first black schoolteacher in the Tennessee community of Fayette County set a special standard of achievement for her and her seven siblings. The family moved to Memphis when she was very young and the decision was made to favor the girls with a higher education. All four were to graduate from college, but Vivian, thanks to the financial assistance of a brother, inventor and railway postal clerk Thomas W. Johnson, was able to attend Howard University and later earn a master’s degree in English from Columbia University....

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Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858?–27 February 1964), author, educator, and human rights activist, was born, probably on 10 August 1858, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Though her paternity is uncertain, she believed her mother’s master, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, to have been her father. She later described her ancestry: “The part of my ancestors that did not come over in the Mayflower in 1620 arrived … a year earlier in the fateful Dutch trader that put in at Jamestown in 1619… . I believe that the third source of my individual stream comes … from the vanishing Red Men, which … make[s] me a genuine F.F.A. (First Family of America).”...

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Corson, Juliet (13 January 1841?–18 June 1897), founder of the New York Cooking School and pioneer in the scientific cookery movement, was born in Mount Pleasant, Massachusetts, the daughter of Peter Ross Corson, a prosperous produce merchant, and Mary Ann Henderson. (Although most obituaries and biographical sources give Corson’s birth date as 1842, the Vital Records of Roxbury, Massachusetts, give the date as 1841.) Corson’s family moved to New York City when she was six years old. In New York her uncle, Alfred Upham, helped to raise her and provided her with a classical education. She began to support herself in her late teens after her mother’s death....

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Cowles, Betsey Mix (09 February 1810–25 July 1876), educator and reformer, was born in Bristol, Connecticut, the daughter of Giles Hooker Cowles, a Congregationalist minister, and Sally White. To support their family of eight children, Cowles’s parents moved the family to the fledgling town of Austinburg in Ohio’s western reserve shortly after her birth. Two more children came along later. Cowles’s early education took place in subscription schools. Before the spread of state-funded public schools, parents who wished to educate their children had to make arrangements with traveling schoolmasters. Cowles herself joined the ranks of such teachers at age sixteen and taught in many communities throughout northeastern Ohio and western New York....

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Craft, Ellen (1826?–1891), abolitionist and educator, was born on a plantation in Clinton, Georgia, the daughter of Major James Smith, a wealthy cotton planter, and Maria, his slave. At the age of eleven Ellen was given by her mistress (whose “incessant cruelty” Craft was later to recall) as a wedding present to Ellen’s half sister Eliza on the young woman’s marriage to Robert Collins of Macon, Georgia. Ellen became a skilled seamstress and ladies’ maid, esteemed for her grace, intelligence, and sweetness of temper. In Macon she met another slave two years her senior, ...

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Crandall, Prudence (03 September 1803–28 January 1890), abolitionist and teacher, was born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, the daughter of Pardon Crandall, a Quaker farmer, and Esther Carpenter. When Crandall was ten her family moved to another farm in Canterbury, Connecticut. As a young woman she spent a few years (1825–1826, 1827–1830) at the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence and also taught school for a time in Plainfield, Connecticut....

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Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-37939).

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Davis, Paulina Kellogg Wright (07 August 1813–24 August 1876), abolitionist, suffragist, and educator, was born in Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Kellogg and Polly Saxton. In 1817 the family moved to an undeveloped area near Niagara Falls. Davis’s enjoyment of the frontier’s exhilirating freedom ended with the deaths of her parents. In 1820 she went to live with a strict orthodox Presbyterian aunt in LeRoy, New York, where she was educated and attended church regularly....

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Dewey, Alice Chipman (07 September 1858–14 July 1927), educator and feminist, was born in Fenton, Michigan, the daughter of Gordon Orlen Chipman, a cabinetmaker, and Lucy Riggs. Orphaned at an early age, Alice and her younger sister were raised by their maternal grandparents Fred and Evalina Riggs. The Riggses were freethinkers who raised the sisters to be socially responsible and self-reliant. After finishing high school in Fenton, Alice attended for a year the Fenton Baptist Seminary, where she studied music. She taught school for several years in Flushing, Michigan, before a desire for further education and a growing interest in women’s rights spurred her to leave Fenton and enroll at the University of Michigan in 1882....

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Diaz, Abby Morton (22 November 1821–01 April 1904), teacher, writer, and social reformer, was born Abigail Morton in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ichabod Morton, a shipbuilder, and Patty Weston. She descended from George Morton, author of “Mourt’s Relation,” the first printed record of the Plymouth settlement. After his wife’s early death, Abby’s father remarried and had five sons....

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Douglass, Sarah Mapps (09 September 1806–08 September 1882), abolitionist and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Douglass, Sr., a prosperous hairdresser from the island of St. Kitts, and Grace Bustill, a milliner. Her mother was the daughter of Cyrus Bustill, a prominent member of Philadelphia’s African-American community. Raised as a Quaker by her mother, Douglass was alienated by the blatant racial prejudice of many white Quakers. Although she adopted Quaker dress and enjoyed the friendship of Quaker antislavery advocates like ...

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Doyle, Sarah Elizabeth (23 March 1830–21 December 1922), educator and activist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Thomas Doyle, a bookbinder, and Martha Dorrance Jones. Her father died when Sarah was eleven years old. Her brother, Thomas Arthur, was mayor of Providence between 1864 and 1886, possessing a strong commitment to public schools and urban planning. Sarah Doyle attended the local public grammar school, then entered Providence High School in 1843, its first year, graduating in 1846. She began nearly four decades of teaching immediately after high school, first teaching for ten years in private schools. In 1856 Doyle joined the girls department of Providence High, serving as department principal from 1878 until her retirement in 1892. Doyle was an active and influential teacher, responsible for supervising her colleagues. She was a vice president of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction, a teachers’ continuing-education organization, and she headed the literature section of its reading circle for several years. Doyle impressed many of her women students with her skill and dedication, and several who became teachers founded the Sarah E. Doyle Club in her honor. Organized in 1894 for the “mutual assistance and culture of members,” for decades the club served hundreds of Providence teachers through lectures and classes. She became the first woman to preside over a meeting of the National Education Association when president Thomas Bicknell gave her the gavel for a single session in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1884....