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Emily Green Balch Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114732).

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Balch, Emily Greene (08 January 1867–09 January 1961), peace activist, sociologist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, the daughter of Francis Vergnies Balch, a lawyer, and Ellen Maria Noyes. She was in the first graduating class at Bryn Mawr College, earning her degree in 1889. After studying privately for a year with sociologist ...

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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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Davis, Katharine Bement (15 January 1860–10 December 1935), social worker, prison reformer, and sex researcher, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Frances Bement and Oscar Bill Davis, a manager for the Bradstreet Company, precursor of Dun and Bradstreet, the credit rating firm. When her father suffered business reversals following the panic of 1873, Davis had to postpone plans for college and work as a public school teacher for ten years. She continued her studies independently and in 1890 entered Vassar College at the age of thirty, graduating two years later with honors....

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Hagood, Margaret Loyd Jarman (26 October 1907–13 August 1963), sociologist and demographer, was born in Newton County, Georgia, the daughter of Lewis Jarman, who became president of Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Laura Harris. Hagood was the second of four daughters and two sons, and she was one of two daughters to earn a doctorate. In 1926 she stopped attending Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, to marry her childhood sweetheart Middleton Howard Hagood. One year later she had her only child, a daughter also named Margaret. In 1929, at the age of twenty-two, Hagood earned an A.B. at Queens College. One year later she earned an M.A. in mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1936 she was divorced from her husband, and the following year she completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill....

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Lee, Rose Hum (20 August 1904–25 March 1964), sociologist, was born in Butte, Montana, the daughter of Hum Wah-Lung, a Chinese immigrant laborer, and Lin Fong. Her father died while Rose was still young. Her mother encouraged Rose and her six siblings to pursue their educations. This early encouragement was an unusual and formative influence in Lee’s life, for the idea of a daughter pursuing an American education violated the norms of the small, tightly knit Chinese community in which she was raised....

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Lumpkin, Katharine Du Pre (22 December 1897–05 May 1988), reformer and author, was born in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of William Wallace Lumpkin, a railroad employee, and Annette Caroline Morris. Both parents were the offspring of planters who lost their fortunes in the Civil War. Annette Lumpkin had taught school briefly before she married, and her learning, Katharine wrote later in ...

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Lynd, Helen Merrell (17 March 1896–30 January 1982), sociologist and social philosopher, was born in LaGrange, Illinois, the daughter of Edward Tracey Merrell and Mabel Waite. After serving briefly as the editor of a small Congregationalist journal, her father moved from one nondescript job to another, while her mother supplemented his meager income by taking in boarders. Raised a strict Congregationalist, Lynd rebelled against her parents’ narrow provincialism, especially concerning sexual behavior. Throughout her later work, a former colleague later commented, Lynd ran a protest against “cautious … Protestant forebears, who interpreted Christianity as a restraint on her vitality.” But Lynd herself also remembered her parent’s opposition to social injustice in their small midwestern town. Their vision of humanity, without regard to race, class, or nation, laid a basis for a holistic vision of human behavior that profoundly shaped her later thought. After the family moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, Lynd attended nearby Wellesley College (B.A. 1919), where she was especially influenced by Mary S. Case, who introduced her to philosophy, particularly Hegel. “Miss Case with my father,” she later reminisced in an interview, “were the great influences in my life.”...

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Parsons, Elsie Clews (27 November 1874–19 December 1941), sociologist and anthropologist, was born Elsie Worthington Clews in New York City, the daughter of Henry Clews, a Wall Street broker, and Lucy Madison Worthington. Declining to take up the society life for which she was destined by her family’s wealth and position, she overcame parental opposition to enroll in Barnard College, graduating in 1896, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia University in 1899. The following year she married Herbert Parsons, a public-spirited lawyer who served as a Republican congressman from New York City from 1905 to 1911. They had six children, four of whom survived infancy....

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Rossi , Alice S. (24 September 1922–03 November 2009), sociologist and feminist scholar, was born Alice Emma Schaerr in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in a neighborhood of immigrants like her German American family. Her mother, Emma, worked at a variety of jobs including seamstress and department store clerk; her father, William, was a metal machinist and craftsman. She graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in 1940 and enrolled at Brooklyn College; the next year she married Max Kitt, her former teacher. After withdrawing from college during World War II to work for government agencies in Washington, DC she returned to Brooklyn College and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947. Divorced in 1951, later that year she married sociologist Peter Rossi, with whom she had three children. In 1957 she earned a Ph. D. in sociology from Columbia University, where her dissertation was entitled “Generational Differences in the Soviet Union.”...

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Taft, Jessie (24 June 1882–07 June 1960), sociologist, social worker, and educator, was born Julia Taft in Dubuque, Iowa, the daughter of Charles Chester Taft and Amanda May Farwell. Her parents came from Vermont but moved to rural Iowa, where her father became a prosperous merchant. Her mother was deaf, and this disability plus personality differences created a barrier between them. Jessie enjoyed school and music, graduating from West Des Moines High School, and independently chose to become a Unitarian....

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Thomas, Dorothy Swaine (24 October 1899–01 May 1977), sociologist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of John Knight Thomas, a salesman, and Sarah Elizabeth Swaine. Her father left the family when Dorothy was twelve, and her mother began work as a paid companion. Thomas then lived with an uncle she did not particularly like and took refuge in voracious reading. She enjoyed and excelled in school. As a senior, she won a citywide essay contest and a scholarship to a local college. After she unwittingly broke a school rule, however, the high school authorities decided that she could not graduate or receive her award. Seeking other funds for college, she applied for and was awarded a scholarship to Barnard College, where her intellectual career flourished....

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van Kleeck, Mary (26 June 1883–08 June 1972), industrial sociologist, Christian radical, and champion of the planned society, was born Mary Abby Van Kleeck in Glenham, New York, the daughter of Eliza Mayer and Robert Boyd Van Kleeck, an Episcopal minister. (In the 1920s, van Kleeck would change the capitalization of her last name.) Little survives indicating the nature of van Kleeck’s first few years in Glenham, a mill town on a tributary of the Hudson River. After her father’s death in 1892, her mother moved the family to Flushing, New York. An accomplished student and debater at Flushing High School, she entered Smith College in September 1900 and graduated with an A.B. in 1904....