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Adamson, Joy (20 January 1910–03 January 1980), writer and conservationist, was born Friederike Viktoria Gessner in Troppau, Austria, the daughter of Victor Gessner, a civil servant, and Traute Greipel. Before her first marriage, to automobile company official Viktor von Klarwill in 1935, Adamson studied piano and took courses in other arts, including sculpture. She made her first trip to Kenya in 1936, to investigate that country as a possible new home for herself and her husband, whose Jewish background made him eager to leave Austria at this time of Nazi advance. During this trip she became involved with Peter Bally, a Swiss botanist whom she married in 1938 after becoming divorced from von Klarwill in 1937....

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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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Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Seated right, with J. E. Fellows, dean of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, seated left, and, standing left to right, Thurgood Marshall and Amos T. Hall, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84479).

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Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Fossey, Dian (16 January 1932– December 1985), naturalist and zoologist, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of George Fossey, an insurance agent, and Kitty Kidd, a fashion model. Her alcoholic father left the family when Fossey was three years old, and her stepfather, Richard Price, was unloving and discouraging. Her uncle Albert Chapin helped take care of Fossey and financed her schooling....

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Freeman, Elizabeth (1742–28 December 1829), slave, nurse, and slavery lawsuit plaintiff, was born either in New York or Massachusetts, the daughter of parents probably born in Africa. She apparently became the slave of Pieter Hogeboom of New York quite early. The only trace of her parents is Freeman’s bequest to her daughter of two articles of clothing—a black silk gown given to Freeman by her father as a gift, and another gown that supposedly belonged to Freeman’s mother. During her lifetime and even after her death, she was known as “Mum Bett” or “Mumbet,” a name derived from “Elizabeth.” Lacking a surname for most of her life, she sued for freedom under the name “Bett” and adopted the name “Elizabeth Freeman” after winning her lawsuit in 1781....

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Gaines, Myra Clark ( June 1805–09 January 1885), celebrated litigant, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Daniel Clark, a prominent merchant, real estate speculator, and first territorial representative from Louisiana to the U.S. Congress, and Marie Julie “Zulime” Carrière. Born in Sligo, Ireland, Daniel Clark emigrated to New Orleans, where he inherited his uncle’s extensive property holdings in Louisiana in 1799. A reputed bachelor, it is unclear whether Clark was ever legally married to Zulime Carrière, who was married to another man, but the couple did have two daughters, the second of whom was Myra. Clark failed to acknowledge his children publicly, and he placed Myra in the home of his close friend, Samuel Boyer Davis. She became known as Myra Davis and in 1812 moved with the Davises from New Orleans to Lewes, Delaware. She was educated at a selective female academy in Philadelphia....

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King, Ada Copeland (23 December 1860?–14 April 1964), wife of the eminent geologist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, wife of the eminent geologist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, was born in or around West Point, Georgia. Though little is known of her early life, she was almost certainly born a slave, acquiring the name of Ada Copeland as a young girl. The names of her parents are unknown. In the mid-1880s, Copeland moved to New York City and found work as a nursemaid. In late 1887 or 1888 she met a man who introduced himself as a Pullman porter named James Todd. They were married in September 1888 by the Reverend James H. Cook, a prominent minister with the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. Although Todd represented himself to Copeland as a Marylander of African American descent, this was a false identity. He was in fact Clarence King (1842–1901), a socially and politically prominent white man from Newport, Rhode Island, educated at Yale, who had led the Fortieth Parallel Survey across the western United States, written a popular book called ...

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Virginia Louise Minor. Engraving, second half of the nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95372).

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Minor, Virginia Louise (27 March 1824–14 August 1894), suffragist and reformer, was born in Goochland County or Caroline County, Virginia, the daughter of Warner Minor, a landowner, and Maria Timberlake. When she was two years old the family moved to Charlottesville, where her father took a supervisory position in the dormitories of the University of Virginia. She spent a short time in a local female academy but otherwise was educated at home. In 1843 Minor married an attorney and distant cousin, Francis Minor; they had one child. She went to live with him in Mississippi, and a year later the couple moved to St. Louis....

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Penn, Hannah Callowhill (11 February 1671–20 December 1726), wife and executor of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and English Quaker leader, wife and executor of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and English Quaker leader, was born in Bristol, England, the daughter of Thomas Callowhill, a wealthy merchant and linen draper, and Hannah (or Anna) Hollister, both Quakers. As the only child of nine to reach adulthood, Hannah remained close to her parents even after her marriage, becoming their executor when they died in 1712. She received instruction, probably at home, in reading, writing, arithmetic, and accounting....

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Quinlan, Karen Ann (29 March 1954–11 June 1985), subject of a legal battle concerning the right to terminate hospital life support, was born Mary Ann Monahan in Scranton, Pennsylvania; her birth mother immediately gave her up for adoption by Joseph Quinlan, an accountant, and Julia Duane, a church secretary. Julia Quinlan had previously suffered three miscarriages and one stillbirth on account of an undetected Rh-negative condition, and the Quinlans had given up on the prospect of conceiving children on their own. The Quinlans adopted Karen through Catholic Charities. Karen grew up in the small town of Landing, New Jersey. She graduated from Morris Catholic High School in 1972; her graduation portrait was later used to illustrate many of the news stories about her case. She worked at a series of service and manufacturing jobs while considering earning a living through music. In 1975 she moved out of her parents’ house for the first time. A few months later, she rented a room from two acquaintances; eight days later, she lost consciousness....

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Sojourner Truth. From a carte de visite, possibly made in 1864, with an inscription below the picture: "I sell the shadow to support the substance." Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-119343).

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Truth, Sojourner (1799–26 November 1883), black abolitionist and women's rights advocate, black abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, was born in Hurley, Ulster County, New York, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, who were slaves. Named Isabella by her parents, she took the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. As a child, Isabella belonged to a series of owners, the most memorable of whom were the John Dumont family of Esopus, Ulster County, to whom she belonged for approximately seventeen years and with whom she remained close until their migration to the West in 1849. About 1815 she married another of Dumont’s slaves, Thomas, who was much older than she; they had five children. Isabella left Thomas in Ulster County after their emancipation under New York state law in 1827, but she did not marry again....