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Addams, Jane (06 September 1860–21 May 1935), social reformer and peace activist, was the daughter of John Huy Addams, a businessman and Republican politician, and Sarah Weber. Born on the eve of the Civil War in the small farming community of Cedarville, just outside Freeport, in northern Illinois, she was the youngest of five children, four of whom were girls. Her mother died during pregnancy when Jane was two years old. The Addams family was the wealthiest, most respected family in the community. Jane’s father owned the local grain mill, was president of the Second National Bank of Freeport, had interests in a local railroad and a local insurance company, taught Sunday School, and was active in local Bible societies. A founding member of the Republican party and supporter of ...

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Jane Addams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95722).

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Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (05 July 1839–23 October 1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate, was born in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, the daughter of David Johnston, a tanner, and Letitia Clark. In 1853 her father moved the family to Plattekill, New York, where he became a farmer and minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She attended public school and a Friends’ boarding school and taught in rural New York from 1858 to 1867. Accompanying a female Quaker preacher on a mission to New England churches, almshouses, and prisons, Bailey met her future husband, Moses Bailey, a fellow Society member and prosperous manufacturer of oil cloth. They were married in 1868 and settled at his Winthrop, Maine, home. They had one child....

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Deming, Barbara (23 July 1917–02 August 1984), writer and activist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Katherine Burritt, who gave up her career as a singer to marry, and Harold Deming, a lawyer. Deming was born into a family that was influenced by her mother’s association with an artistic group of friends in Greenwich Village and her father’s association with Republican politics. She was educated at the Friends School of the Fifteenth Street Meeting in New York until she left for Bennington College in 1934....

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Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware (04 April 1872–25 July 1947), birth control and sex education reformer and pacifist, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of George Whitefield, a wool merchant, and Livonia Coffin Ware. When Dennett was ten her father died and the family moved to Boston, where she attended public schools and went on to Miss Capen’s School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dennett then studied at the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where she displayed a great talent for tapestry and leather design. From 1894 to 1897 she headed the Department of Design and Decoration at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia. After a trip to Europe with her sister, during which they collected gilded Cordovan leather wall hangings, the sisters opened a handicraft shop in Boston. Dennett helped organize the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in 1897. She served on the council of the society until 1905, when her interest in politics and social welfare began to supersede her interest in the arts. In 1900 she married William Hartley Dennett, a Boston architect with whom she had two sons. The marriage ended in divorce in 1913 with Dennett receiving custody of their children....

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Dudley, Helena Stuart (31 August 1858–29 September 1932), settlement house worker and peace activist, was born in Florence, Nebraska, the daughter of Judson H. Dudley, a land developer, and Caroline Bates. Her early life was rather unsettled as the Dudley family moved about the West in pursuit of her father’s real estate ventures. Helena Dudley did not attend college until the age of twenty-six when she spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then went on to Bryn Mawr college, graduating with the first class in 1889 with a degree in biology. Like so many other college-educated women of her generation, she became a teacher, first at the Pratt Institute and, a year later, at the Packer Institute, both in Brooklyn, New York....

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King, Coretta Scott (27 April 1927–30 January 2006), human rights advocate and peace activist, was born Coretta Scott in Heiberger, Alabama, the third daughter of Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott, small farmers. Coretta’s siblings included two older sisters, one who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother; like many farm children, in her youth Coretta helped to tend crops and pick cotton. She credited the early influence of her family, who encouraged her to question not only racial and economic injustice but gender inequality as well, for her commitment to social justice. Bernice Scott admonished Coretta and older sister Edythe to “get an education and try to be somebody” so that “you won’t have to depend on anyone for your livelihood—not even on a man”; both parents understood the constraints placed on young black women in the Jim Crow South and were unwilling to allow their children to let such limitations define them (Scott King, p. 34). Heeding her mother’s advice, as her sister had before her, Coretta entered Lincoln School, a private black school in Marion, Alabama, with an integrated faculty. In 1945 she graduated as class valedictorian and again followed Edythe’s lead by enrolling in Antioch College, a predominantly white school in Yellow Springs, Ohio, committed to the principles of integration....

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Schwimmer, Rosika (11 September 1877–03 August 1948), pacifist and feminist, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of Max Schwimmer, an experimental farmer who raised seed corn, produce, and horses, and Bertha Katscher. Schwimmer’s upper-middle-class, secularized Jewish family had a history of involvement in progressive political and social movements....

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Fanny Garrison Villard. Albumen silver print, c. 1865, by Black & Case. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Peter and Marlene Northey.

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Villard, Fanny Garrison (16 December 1844–05 July 1928), social reformer, suffragist, and pacifist, was born Helen Frances Garrison in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Helen Eliza Benson and William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist leader and editor/publisher of the Liberator. Fanny and her four surviving brothers were raised in a political household. As the only surviving daughter in the leading abolitionist family in the United States, young Fanny was taught to incorporate certain political beliefs into her personal life. She was to oppose slavery and racism, embrace feminism in the public sphere, but accept fairly traditional Victorian ideas about women’s domestic role, and preach and practice nonviolence and conflict resolution in both her personal and political worlds. This mandate extended from never striking a child or animal to campaigning against war....

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Wood, Carolena (21 May 1871–12 March 1936), farmer, relief worker, and reformer, was born at “Braewold,” a farm in Mount Kisco, New York, the daughter of James Wood, a farmer, and Emily Hollingsworth Morris. The farm, which Wood ran for her father and her brother, was situated on “the Woodpile,” as her extended clan of cousins called the hilltop of family homes. She took courses at the New York School of Social Work, and in 1891–1892 she wintered with her family in Dresden and traveled through Egypt and Palestine. In 1897 she was chosen to be a recorder at a quinquennial gathering of delegates from all the regional “yearly meetings” of “orthodox” Quakers (Christ- and Bible-centered, as compared with the more universalist “Hicksite” Friends). Her father presided as the conference set up the first permanent central Quaker federation, the Five Years Meeting. Wood took a keen interest in the United Society of Friends Women and coordinated its Quaker missions, also visiting and reporting on Quaker schools in Mexico in 1902....

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Mary Emma Woolley Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111858).

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Woolley, Mary Emma (13 July 1863–05 September 1947), educator, feminist, and peace activist, was born in South Norwalk, Connecticut, the daughter of Joseph Judah Woolley, a Congregational minister, and his second wife, Mary Augusta Ferris. May, as she was called, spent a happy, nurturing childhood in New England, first in Meriden, Connecticut, and then, beginning in 1871, at her father’s new pastorate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Reverend Woolley’s attempts to combine religious and social work—whether in reaching out to factory workers or in challenging St. Paul’s injunction of silence for women—profoundly influenced his daughter....