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Bass, Charlotta Spears ( October 1880?–12 April 1969), editor and civil rights activist, was born in Sumter, South Carolina, the daughter of Hiram Spears and Kate (maiden name unknown). Before 1900 she joined her oldest brother (one of her ten siblings) in Rhode Island and worked for a newspaper. In 1910 she went to Los Angeles, California, for her health. She remained in Los Angeles except for a brief stay in New York City. She took journalism courses at Brown University, Columbia University, and the University of California at Los Angeles....

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Daisy Bates state president of the NAACP, stands in front of metal guards on the living room window of her home in Little Rock, 13 August 1959. Associated Press

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Bates, Daisy (11 November 1914–04 November 1999), civil rights activist, newspaper founder and publisher, was born Daisy Lee Gatson in Huttig, Arkansas. Her biological father and mother, reputedly John Gatson and Millie Riley, remain shrouded in mystery, and scholars have been unable to find evidence confirming her parentage. (Thus, her reported birth date varies: the one given here is widely acknowledged.) Bates grew up hearing that several white men had raped and murdered her mother and thrown the body in a pond. Leaving his infant daughter in the care of friends Orlee and Susie Smith, who became her foster parents, her father abandoned her, never to return. This was Bates's baptism into the poverty, insecurity, and racial violence that segregation fostered....

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Blake, Lillie Devereux (12 August 1835–30 December 1913), author and feminist, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of George Pollok Devereux, a planter, and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson. Though she was christened Elizabeth Johnson, her father called her “Lilly,” and she adopted that name with altered spelling. The Devereux were prominent slaveholders, and Lillie spent her early years on her father’s cotton plantation. After George Devereux’s death in 1837, she moved with her mother and sister to Connecticut, joining her mother’s family there. She was raised in New Haven in an atmosphere of Episcopalian respectability and Whiggish political convictions. Her education at a girls’ school was supplemented by private tutoring based on courses in the Yale curriculum....

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Bloomer, Amelia Jenks (27 May 1818–30 December 1894), temperance and women's rights reformer and editor, temperance and women’s rights reformer and editor, was born in Homer, New York, the daughter of Ananias Jenks, a clothier, and Lucy Webb. She received a basic education in Homer’s district schools and by the age of seventeen was teaching in Clyde, New York. After a year of teaching, Bloomer became a governess and tutor for a Waterloo, New York, family....

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Braden, Anne (28 July 1924–06 March 2006), civil rights activist and journalist, was born Anne Gambrell McCarty in Louisville, Kentucky, to Gambrell and Anita McCarty. Because her father was a traveling salesman, she grew up in various southern states, but mostly in rigidly segregated Anniston, Alabama. Her conservative white Episcopal parents fully embraced  the norms of southern racial hierarchy, and they remained comfortable throughout the Depression years of her childhood, but the young Anne, idealistic and devoutly religious, was troubled by the suffering around her. After graduating from Anniston High School in 1941, she left home to study literature and journalism at two Virginia women’s colleges, first Stratford Junior College and then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, where she discovered the life of the mind in a serious way and first met critics of racial segregation. In 1945, upon graduation from Randolph-Macon, she returned to postwar Alabama as a newspaper reporter, first for the ...

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Bradwell, Myra Colby (12 February 1831–14 February 1894), publisher and political activist, was born in Manchester, Vermont, the daughter of Eben Colby and Abigail Willey. She spent her childhood in Vermont and western New York, and when she was twelve, her family moved to Illinois. She attended local schools in Wisconsin and Illinois and became a schoolteacher. In 1852 she married ...

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Colby, Clara Dorothy Bewick (05 August 1846–07 September 1916), woman's rights activist and publisher, woman’s rights activist and publisher, was born in Gloucester, England, the daughter of Thomas Bewick and Clara Willingham. The Bewicks immigrated to the United States in 1849, settling on a farm in Windsor, Wisconsin; Clara and her maternal grandparents joined them in 1854. She entered the University of Wisconsin in 1865, initially enrolling in the “normal department” set up for women. However, with faculty assistance, she pursued the “classical course” designed for men. In 1869 she graduated as valedictorian of Wisconsin’s first class of women to be awarded the bachelor of philosophy degree. She remained at the university until 1871, teaching Latin and history and taking graduate classes in French, Greek, and chemistry....

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Croly, Jane Cunningham (19 December 1829–23 December 1901), writer and women's club leader, writer and women’s club leader, was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England, the daughter of Joseph Howes Cunningham, a Unitarian preacher, and Jane Scott. Croly’s family emigrated to the United States from England in 1841, perhaps prompted by the unpopularity of her father’s extreme Unitarianism and his efforts to educate workers. She was twelve years old when they settled in Poughkeepsie, New York, and then in Wappinger’s Falls, New York. She kept house for her Congregationalist minister brother and acquired enough learning to teach district school and write a semimonthly newspaper for her brother’s parishioners....

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Dorothy Day. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111099).

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Day, Dorothy (08 November 1897–29 November 1980), founder of the Catholic Worker movement and Catholic Worker, a monthly newspaper, founder of the Catholic Worker movement and Catholic Worker, a monthly newspaper, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Day, a newspaperman, and Grace Satterlee. Her father was a frustrated novelist and horseracing writer whose work took the family to Oakland and Chicago. While in Chicago, Day won a scholarship to the University of Illinois in 1914. She dropped out after two years to return to New York with her family, but she had become a socialist in college and was soon estranged from her father. She lived on the Lower East Side, where she wrote for the ...

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Dorr, Rheta Childe (02 November 1866–08 August 1948), journalist and feminist, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Edward Payson Child, a druggist, and Lucie Mitchell. Christened Reta Louise Child, Dorr later adopted the “Rheta Childe” spelling. In 1884 her father enrolled her at the University of Nebraska, where she took the “opportunity to loaf to my heart’s content.” Finding her “soul’s reflection” in Henrik Ibsen’s play ...

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Douglas, Marjory Stoneman (07 April 1890–14 May 1998), author and environmentalist, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Florence Lillian Trefethen Stoneman, who went by the name of Lillian, and Frank Bryant Stoneman, a businessman and newspaper editor. When Marjory was three her father's business failed, and the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Further business reverses took a toll on Lillian Stoneman's mental health and resulted in a nervous breakdown. Not long thereafter, Lillian separated from her husband and, with her six-year-old daughter, traveled to Taunton, Massachusetts, to live with her parents and unmarried sister....

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Firestone, Shulamith (07 January 1945–28 August 2012), feminist, author, and activist, was born Shulamith Bath Shmuel Ben Ari Feuerstein in Ottawa, Canada, the second child and oldest daughter of six children born to Kate Weiss and Sol Feuerstein. The family Americanized its surname to Firestone when it moved to the United States. Shulie Firestone, as she was known, grew up in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, where she and her two sisters and three brothers were raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Firestone attended the Rabbinical College of Telshe, near Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington University in St. Louis before transferring in 1964 to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a B.F.A. in painting three years later. Throughout college Firestone supported herself by working as a mail sorter at the post office. In 1967 four male students at the Art Institute made a film about Firestone, entitled ...

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Fuller, Margaret (23 May 1810–19 July 1850), author and feminist, was born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, the daughter of Timothy Fuller, a lawyer, and Margaret Crane. Her father taught his oldest child reading at age three and Latin at age six, but Fuller’s education grew eclectic in later childhood when she was left largely to her own resources. “To excel in all things should be your constant aim; mediocrity is obscurity,” her father wrote to Margaret when she was ten. Under such pressures, Fuller suffered periodically throughout her life from depression and headaches. Timothy Fuller was often away, serving four terms in Congress (1817–1825). Margaret’s mother, a devout Unitarian, was subdued by sickly health. In Fuller’s fictional ...

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Hasbrouck, Lydia Sayer (20 December 1827–24 August 1910), dress reformer and editor, was born in Warwick, New York, the daughter of Benjamin Sayer, a farmer and distiller, and Rebecca Forshee, a farmer. Lydia grew up in comfortable surroundings as the farm prospered and the family grew in social prominence. The spirited and daring Lydia developed into a skilled horsewoman who had a penchant for reading. Her desire for a superior education led her to leave the Warwick district school and enter Miss Galatian’s Select School. She then attended high school and Central College in Elmira, New York....

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Jacobs, Jane (04 May 1916–25 April 2006), writer, community organizer, and urban advocate, was born Jane Butzner in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Dr. John Butzner, a physician, and Bess Robison, a nurse. She was raised with three siblings in nearby Dunmore, a middle-class suburb. Dr. Butzner, among the first in the city to own an automobile, took his daughter along on rides downtown, where she was captivated by the spectacle of urban life. As a teenager, she also spent summer months working at her aunt’s Presbyterian charity for impoverished Appalachian communities in rural North Carolina. A key influence was her great-aunt Hannah Breece, who, beginning at age forty-five in 1904, spent fourteen years traversing the Alaska territory as a schoolteacher for indigenous pupils. Likewise Jane Jacobs would assume the posture of urban political activist and critic only after age forty, and at seventy-six, she would retrace the trans-Alaskan journey of her familial role model and edit Breece’s memoir, published in 1996....

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Jemison, Alice Mae Lee (09 October 1901–06 March 1964), American Indian political activist and journalist, was born at Silver Creek, New York, near the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois. She was the daughter of Daniel A. Lee, a cabinetmaker of Cherokee descent, and Elnora E. Seneca, a member of a prominent Seneca family. Lee’s uncle, Cornelius Seneca, was one of the most prominent and respected Seneca leaders of the twentieth century. The tradition among the matrilineal Seneca of women exercising significant, if not formal, political influence undoubtedly shaped Lee’s character and career....

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Jones, Claudia (21 February 1915–25 December 1964), Communist, journalist, and feminist, was born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch in Trinidad, the daughter of Sybil Cumberbatch and Charles Bertram Cumberbatch. Jones's mother came from a family of landowners, while her father's family owned hotels. Claudia spent her first eight years in Trinidad while the colony experienced major political, social, and economic upheavals. In 1922 Claudia's parents migrated to New York, and she and her sisters arrived in February 1924. They came, Claudia explained three decades later in a letter to American Communist Party head ...

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La Follette, Suzanne (1893–23 April 1983), feminist, writer, and editor, was born Clara La Follette on her family’s 1,000-acre ranch near Pullman, Washington, the daughter of William LeRoy La Follette, a rancher, and Mary Tabor. La Follette “grew up on horseback,” roaming the unfenced ranges of the Snake River Canyon, an unspoiled area where Jeffersonian lifestyles and values still held sway. A product of this environment, from an early age she placed great value on individual liberty and feared the intrusive power of the state....