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Astor, Brooke (30 March 1902–13 August 2007), philanthropist and socialite, was born Roberta Brooke Russell in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the only child of John Henry Russell, Jr., a major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Mabel Cecile Hornby Howard. Her father, who ultimately became commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, rose in professional responsibility while serving in several important assignments after his daughter’s birth, beginning with his command of the battleship USS ...

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Bacon, Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey (05 November 1833–27 January 1906), Civil War nurse and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles William Woolsey, a merchant, and Jane Eliza Newton. Raised on fashionable Sheafe Street in Boston, “Georgy” attended Misses Murdock’s School. After her father’s death on a river steamer, the ...

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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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Clara Barton Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108567).

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Barton, Clara (25 December 1821–12 April 1912), philanthropist, was born Clarissa Harlowe Barton in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Stephen Barton, a farmer and local politician, and Sarah Stone. The childhood nickname “Clara” stuck, and throughout her life she was known to the world as Clara Barton. Her family had lived in New England for generations, and Barton grew up hearing stories of her ancestors’ escapades during the American Revolution. Despite her family’s comfortable position and local renown, however, her childhood was not happy. Her parents’ troubled marriage and erratic behavior, the insanity and early death of her favorite sister, and the questionable business dealings of her brothers made for an unstable home life. When in later life she recalled her childhood, she wrote, “I remember nothing but fear.”...

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Bennett, M. Katharine Jones (28 November 1864–11 April 1950), philanthropist and church leader, was born in Englewood, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Jones and Winifred Davies, natives of North Wales. Her father was a prosperous builder. Her first name was Mary, but she was known as Katharine and tended to use just an initial for her first name. Entering Elmira College in Elmira, New York, in 1881, she graduated four years later with an almost perfect academic record. After teaching in both public and private schools in her native Englewood, she was drawn into social and religious service. In 1894 she was named national secretary of young people’s work for the Woman’s Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), commuting to its New York City office. During this period she also became a member of the governing board of the College Settlements Association, organized in 1890 by graduates of several eastern women’s colleges in an effort to advance the growing settlement house movement....

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Bishop, Bernice Pauahi (19 December 1831–16 October 1884), native Hawaiian high chiefess and philanthropist, was born Pauahi in Honolulu, the daughter of Abner Paki and Konia (maiden name unknown), both of chiefly rank. She was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I, who united the islands under his rule in 1810. Her father was an adviser to ...

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Blaine, Anita McCormick (04 July 1866–12 February 1954), philanthropist, was born Anita Eugenie McCormick in Manchester, Vermont, the daughter of Cyrus Hall McCormick, an industrialist, and Nancy “Nettie” Fowler McCormick, a philanthropist. Cyrus McCormick had earlier invented the reaper and founded the Chicago-based McCormick Harvesting Machine, later International Harvester Company. Anita spent her early years in New York City and Chicago isolated from most children except for her four siblings and her cousins. She was educated by governesses until age twelve, after which she attended female seminaries, graduating from the Kirkland Academy in Chicago in 1884. Typical for her social class at that time, Anita did not go to college. Whereas her three brothers were sent to Princeton and groomed to take over the family business, she was prepared for the social duties of wife, mother, and hostess. Although she was always independent-minded, Anita never rebelled against social convention. She had the traditional “coming out” event in 1887 and later that year embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe....

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Bowen, Louise deKoven (26 February 1859–09 November 1953), philanthropist, social reformer, and suffragist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of John deKoven, a successful banker, and Helen Hadduck. Louise grew up with all the pleasures and privileges of wealth and power. She graduated from the prestigious Dearborn Seminary at the age of sixteen and soon thereafter began teaching Sunday school and dabbling in charity work. She established the Huron Street Club, one of the first boys’ clubhouses in Chicago; helped to create a kitchen garden association for girls; and regularly visited the hundred families of the boys in her church class, offering help when needed. In 1886 she married Joseph Tilton Bowen, a Chicago businessman. She gave up her Sunday school class and other church-related social work so that she would have time to care for their four children. Unwilling, however, to give up all philanthropic activities when her children were very young, Bowen joined the board of managers of the Maurice Porter Memorial Hospital. She later held board positions with other hospitals and helped establish the Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago....

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Brown, Margaret Tobin (18 July 1867–26 October 1932), social rights activist, philanthropist, actress, and Titanic survivor, social rights activist, philanthropist, actress, and Titanic survivor, popularly known as Molly Brown, was born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, the daughter of Irish immigrants. The real life of Margaret Tobin Brown has little to do with the myth of Molly Brown, a story created in the 1930s and 1940s that culminated in the 1960 Broadway hit ...

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Margaret Tobin Brown. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94037).

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Bruce, Catherine Wolfe (22 January 1816–13 March 1900), benefactor of astronomers and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of George Bruce, the country’s leading typographer, and Catherine Wolfe. Privately educated in New York City, Catherine Bruce resided there all her life, except for periods of travel in Europe. Besides pursuing what might be considered the traditional interests of a wealthy young woman of her time—painting, collecting art and antiquities, touring and learning languages (Latin, French, German, and Italian)—she shared her father’s interest in printing and in books, collecting fine typography along with other art....

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Caldwell, Mary Gwendolin Byrd (21 October 1863–05 October 1909), philanthropist and socialite, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of William Shakespeare Caldwell, a plant operator, and Mary Eliza Breckenridge. Soon after the death of Caldwell’s mother, her father, who had made a fortune constructing and operating gas plants in the Midwest, moved the family to New York City where, shortly before his death in 1874, he converted to Roman Catholicism and enrolled his two daughters in the Academy of the Sacred Heart, their primary source of education. Under the terms of his will, Caldwell and her sister, Mary Elizabeth, were made wards of Catholic friends and, on their twenty-first birthdays, were to donate a third of their vast inheritance to the Catholic church....

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Carnegie, Louise Whitfield (07 March 1857–24 June 1946), philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of John William Whitfield, a wholesale merchant, and Fannie Davis. Louise enjoyed a nurturing, upper-class home life, where her parents stressed industry and public spirit. Her playmates in Gramercy Park included ...

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Cole, Anna Virginia Russell (16 January 1846–06 June 1926), philanthropist, was born in Augusta, Georgia, the daughter of Henry F. Russell, a cotton merchant and commodities speculator, and Martha Danforth. Henry Russell was a civic leader, restoring local control of the municipal government while serving as mayor of Augusta in 1868 and 1869. The Russells were devout Methodists. The great tragedy in Anna’s life was the death of her brother, Whitefoord, the only male of nine children, killed fighting for the Confederacy in 1864....

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Coolidge, Elizabeth Sprague (30 October 1864–04 November 1953), music philanthropist, was born in Chicago, the oldest child of Albert Arnold Sprague, a successful businessman, and Nancy Atwood. She was educated privately and in her youth made several trips abroad in company with her affluent parents, visiting such places as Bayreuth, Egypt, and Russia. At age eleven she began piano lessons with Regina Watson at her School for the Higher Art of Piano Playing in North Chicago and quickly became her “show-pupil,” appearing regularly on recital programs from age twelve in performances of music by Joseph Joachim Raff, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Frédéric Chopin. In 1882, at age eighteen, Coolidge presented her first solo recital....

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Delano, Jane Arminda (12 March 1858–15 April 1919), nurse and administrator, was born in Townsend, New York, the daughter of George Delano, a Union soldier who died of yellow fever in 1864, and Mary Ann Wright. Some sources list the year of her birth as 1862. Her mother later married Samuel Thomson, and Delano grew up in their home in Montour Falls, New York, where she attended a country school and Cook Academy. Delano taught in a country school for two terms; then, influenced by a friend preparing for missionary nursing in India, she enrolled in 1884 in the Bellevue Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York City, graduating in 1886....

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Dodge, Grace Hoadley (21 May 1856–27 December 1914), social welfare worker and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of William Earl Dodge, Jr., a wealthy businessman and active supporter of evangelical causes, and Sarah Hoadley. She was educated at home, except for an unhappy year spent at Miss Porter’s School. Perhaps because she was unusually tall and heavy-set, she suffered throughout her life from feelings of awkwardness. She shied away from intimacy; some friends thought that she was the loneliest person they had ever known. For many years she fulfilled what she termed her “sacred” duties of nurse-companion for her chronically ill mother, and of hostess for her father. She never married. To be an “old maid,” she wrote, was to have the opportunity to “bring cheer or gladness into many a home instead of only one.”...

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Draper, Mary Anna Palmer (11 September 1839–08 December 1914), philanthropist, was born in Stonington, Connecticut, the daughter of Courtlandt Palmer and Mary Ann Suydam. Her father had been a successful hardware merchant in New York City but lost most of his money in the panic of 1837. He invested what little capital he had left in real estate in New York City and became very wealthy, leaving a large fortune to his three sons and daughter when he died in 1874. Relatively little is known about Mary Anna Palmer’s education and early life. It is evident that she and her brother Courtlandt, who was educated at Williams College and Columbia University Law School, shared an interest in liberal causes, salon discussions, and philanthropy toward technical activities, which may indicate the influence of their parents and teachers as well as the connections they had with other patrons of science, art, and education in New York City....

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Drexel, Katharine (26 November 1858–03 March 1955), philanthropist and mother superior, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and Hannah Jane Langstroth. When Drexel was an infant her mother died. In 1860, sixteen months after her mother’s death, her father married Emma Bouvier, who thereafter raised Katharine and her two sisters. Drexel lived in luxury, receiving the benefits of private tutoring in her home and the ease that immense wealth could bring in the second half of the nineteenth century. As a young woman she traveled extensively with her parents in the United States and in Europe. In 1883 her stepmother, who was known for her generous aid to Philadelphia’s poor, died. Two years later her father died, leaving his daughters an inheritance of more than $14 million that he had put in a trust fund for them and was to be distributed to various Philadelphia charities after they died....