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Barrett, Janie Porter (09 August 1865–27 August 1948), educator and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Janie’s parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Janie resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother’s marriage to a railway worker, Janie remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education....

Article

Cook, Vivian E. J. (06 October 1889–28 July 1977), educator, was born Vivian Elma Johnson in Colliersville, Tennessee, the daughter of Spencer Johnson, a farmer, and Caroline Alley, a teacher. One of eight children, she grew up under the enterprising spirit of her parents, both of whom were born in slavery. The fact that her mother was the first black schoolteacher in the Tennessee community of Fayette County set a special standard of achievement for her and her seven siblings. The family moved to Memphis when she was very young and the decision was made to favor the girls with a higher education. All four were to graduate from college, but Vivian, thanks to the financial assistance of a brother, inventor and railway postal clerk Thomas W. Johnson, was able to attend Howard University and later earn a master’s degree in English from Columbia University....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Morgan, Agnes Fay (04 May 1884–20 July 1968), nutrition scientist and home economics administrator, was born Jane Agnes Fay in Peoria, Illinois, the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick John Fay, a laborer and builder, and his second wife, Mary Josephine Dooley. Morgan graduated as an outstanding student from Peoria High School and with financial aid from a local citizen briefly attended Vassar College and then the University of Chicago, from which she received the B.S. (1904) and M.S. (1905) in chemistry....

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Talbot, Marion (31 July 1858–20 October 1948), university administrator and home economics pioneer, was born in Thun, Switzerland, the daughter of Emily Fairbanks Talbot, a champion of women’s education, and Israel Tisdale Talbot, a proponent of homeopathic medicine and dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. Born in Switzerland while her parents were on vacation, she was raised in Boston. Growing up at a time when no college preparatory school was open to girls in Boston, Marion studied Greek and Latin with tutors, attended the private Chauncy Hall School and the nonclassical Girls’ High School, and studied modern languages in Europe. Though lacking some of the courses usually required for college entrance, she won acceptance to Boston University and graduated in 1880....

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Emma Hart Willard. Brown-toned platinum print, c. 1900. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dr. and Mrs. R. Ted Steinbock.

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Willard, Emma Hart (23 February 1787–15 April 1870), educator and historian, was born in Berlin, Connecticut, the daughter of Samuel Hart and Lydia Hinsdale, farmers. She attended a district school and a new academy in Berlin, then two schools in Hartford to study art and fine needlework. Her father, a Jeffersonian and a Universalist, introduced her to dissent and began her education in philosophy. She also found mentors outside the family....