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Burgos, Julia de (17 February 1914–04 August 1953), poet and activist, was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the daughter of Francisco Burgos Hans, a member of the National Guard, and Paula García. The family was extremely poor, which may explain the death of six of the twelve siblings. Despite their poverty, for Julia, a bright and studious child, the Burgos family found the means for an education. In 1933 she received a teaching degree from the University of Puerto Rico....

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Casal, Lourdes (5 Apr. 1938–1 Feb. 1981), poet, literary critic, social psychologist, and political activist, was born Lourdes Emilia Irene de la Caridad Casal y Valdés in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of two professional parents, Pedro Casal, a doctor in medicine and a dentist, and Emilia Valdés, an elementary school teacher. Of mixed heritage, Casal’s family included black, white, and Chinese ancestry....

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Dunbar-Nelson, Alice (19 July 1875–18 September 1935), poet, journalist, and political activist, was born Alice Ruth Moore in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Joseph Moore, a seaman, and Patricia Wright, a seamstress. Dunbar-Nelson graduated from Straight College (now Dillard University) and began her teaching career at a New Orleans elementary school in 1892....

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Sara Bard Field. Gelatin silver print, 1927, by Johan Hagemeyer. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Field, Sara Bard (01 September 1882–15 June 1974), suffragist, social reformer, and poet, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of George Bard Field, a purchasing agent for a wholesale food company, and Annie Jenkins. In an interview, Field recalled her father as a staunch Baptist whose “puritanism spread like a cloak over everybody, a dark cloak” (Fry, 1979). While in high school, Field attended classes at the University of Michigan with an older sister. She hoped to enroll after her high school graduation, but her father, afraid that further education would damage her faith, refused to support her through college. Field married Albert Ehrgott, an older Baptist minister and family friend, in 1900; they had two children....

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825–20 February 1911), political activist and author, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of free parents. She was orphaned at an early age and raised by an aunt. She attended a school for free blacks, which was run by her uncle, the Reverend William Watkins. Her formal education ended at age thirteen. Harper became a nursemaid and found additional employment as a seamstress, needlecraft teacher, and traveling abolitionist lecturer. She also lectured in support of woman suffrage. She later became a schoolteacher in Ohio and Pennsylvania....

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Julia Ward Howe Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-53518).

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Howe, Julia Ward (27 May 1819–17 October 1910), poet, author, and woman suffrage leader, was born in New York City, the daughter of Samuel Ward, Jr., a Wall Street stockbroker, and Julia Rush, a poet. Julia was five when her mother died of tuberculosis. She was educated both by tutors at home and at schools for young ladies until the age of sixteen. Her father died in 1839. Visiting Boston in 1841, she met Dr. ...

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Lebron, Lolita (19 November 1919–01 August 2010), Puerto Rican nationalist, political activist, and poet, was born Dolores Lebrón Soto in Lares, Puerto Rico, one of five children of Gonzalo Lebrón Bernal and Rafaela Soto Luciano. Gonzalo Lebrón worked as a coffee plantation foreman. He and his family were ...

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Paley, Grace (11 Dec. 1922–22 Aug. 2007), short story writer, poet, antiwar activist, and feminist, was born Grace Goodside in the Bronx, the third child of Isaac Goodside and Manya Ridnyik. Grace was the baby of the family; her sister Jeanne and brother Victor were respectively fourteen and sixteen years older. Her parents, both Socialist activists, anglicized their name from Gutseit when they emigrated from the Ukraine in ...

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Ramírez, Sara Estela (1881–21 August 1910), poet, radical journalist, and political organizer, was born in Villa Progreso, Coahuila, Mexico. Little is known about her parents except that her mother died when Ramírez was two years old, and her father eventually immigrated to Laredo, Texas, to live with her. Ramírez attended public school in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and at seventeen years of age graduated from the teachers’ college, Ateneo Fuentes, in her home state of Coahuila. Upon receiving her teaching certificate, she immediately immigrated to Laredo to teach Spanish to Tex-Mex schoolchildren at the Seminario de Laredo. Although Ramírez studied English while in Laredo, she wrote in Spanish, and it was the Mexican proletariat to whom she remained devoted....

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Sampter, Jessie Ethel (22 March 1883–11 November 1938), Zionist poet and educator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Rudolph Sampter, a lawyer, and Virginia Kohlberg. Her mother came from a traditional German-Jewish household, and her father, the son of East European Jewish immigrants, was an atheist affiliated with the Ethical Culture Society. Her father was a strong and supportive influence, reading and encouraging Sampter’s early writing....

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Turner, Eliza L. Sproat (1826–20 June 1903), poet, suffragist, and women's club leader, poet, suffragist, and women’s club leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of a Vermont farmer who was later engaged in literary work, and Maria Lutwyche, who had immigrated to Philadelphia from Birmingham, England, around 1818. Very few details are known about her childhood, but her father apparently died when she was still a girl, and Eliza lived with her mother and brother. Though details of her education are unknown, she seems to have been well educated. She taught in the Philadelphia public schools for several years and at Girard College from 1850 to 1852....