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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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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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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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Ottendorfer, Anna Behr Uhl (13 February 1815–01 April 1884), newspaper owner and philanthropist, was born in Würzburg, Bavaria, the daughter of Eduard Behr, a storekeeper of modest background, and a mother whose name is unknown. Little is known of Anna Behr’s early life in Germany. She immigrated in 1837 to the United States, where she joined her brother on a farm in Niagara County, New York....

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Scripps, Ellen Browning (18 October 1836–03 August 1932), journalist and philanthropist, was born in London, England, the daughter of James Mogg Scripps, a bookbinder, and his second wife, Ellen Mary Saunders. After the death of his wife in 1841, James Mogg Scripps and their five children immigrated to the United States, eventually settling on a farm near Rushville, Illinois. In 1859 Scripps graduated from the Female Department of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She worked briefly as a teacher and played an important role in raising the five children from her father’s third marriage (to Julia Osborne). She was particularly close to the youngest of those children, ...

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Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm. Albumen silver print, c. 1865, by Joel Emmons Whitney. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Swisshelm, Jane Grey Cannon (06 December 1815–22 July 1884), journalist and reformer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Cannon, a merchant and real estate speculator, and Mary Scott. Reared in a strict Presbyterian family, she attended local schools and at age fourteen became a schoolteacher. In her spare time she painted....

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Waisbrooker, Lois (21 February 1826–03 October 1909), author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women's rights, and free love, author, editor, and lecturer on Spiritualism, women’s rights, and free love, was born Adeline Eliza Nichols in Catherine, New York, the daughter of Grandissen Nichols and Caroline Reed. Waisbrooker remembered her parents as “poor, uneducated, hard-working people,” her father supporting the family as a day laborer and her mother dying prematurely after bearing seven children. Her early education was meager as the family moved frequently among the rural districts of western New York. She married at a young age to a man named Fuller (first name unknown), and upon his death in the late 1840s she was left the sole support of their two small children. After an unsuccessful attempt to support them through domestic service, poverty and illness forced her to give up her children to other families. “Finally,” she recalled, “I added enough to the little store of education I received in childhood to enable me to meet the requirements of a country school” ( ...

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Ida B. Wells. Illustration in The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, by I. Garland Penn, 1891. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107756).

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Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell (16 July 1862–25 March 1931), editor and antilynching activist, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the daughter of James Wells and Elizabeth Warrenton, slaves. Son of his master, James Wells was a carpenter’s apprentice and opened his own shop after emancipation. The eldest of eight children, Ida attended Rust College in Holly Springs until 1878, when a yellow fever epidemic killed her parents and one of her six siblings (another had died some years before). Determined to keep her family together, Wells began teaching in surrounding areas. In 1881 she moved her youngest siblings to Memphis to live with an aunt and took a job as a schoolteacher in nearby Woodstock....