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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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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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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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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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Waisbrooker, Lois (21 February 1826–03 October 1909), author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women's rights, and free love, author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women’s rights, and free love, was born Adeline Eliza Nichols in Catherine, New York, the daughter of Grandissen Nichols and Caroline Reed. Waisbrooker remembered her parents as “poor, uneducated, hard-working people,” her father supporting the family as a day laborer and her mother dying prematurely after bearing seven children. Her early education was meager as the family moved frequently among the rural districts of western New York. She married at a young age to a man named Fuller (first name unknown), and upon his death in the late 1840s she was left the sole support of their two small children. After an unsuccessful attempt to support them through domestic service, poverty and illness forced her to give up her children to other families. “Finally,” she recalled, “I added enough to the little store of education I received in childhood to enable me to meet the requirements of a country school” ( ...

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Williams, Fannie Barrier (12 February 1855–04 March 1944), lecturer and clubwoman, was born in Brockport, New York, the daughter of Anthony J. Barrier and Harriet Prince, free persons of color. She graduated from the State Normal School at Brockport in 1870 and attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. She then taught in southern schools and in Washington, D.C., for a short time. In 1887 Barrier retired from teaching to marry S. Laing Williams, a prominent attorney in Chicago. The couple had no children....