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Inez Milholland Boissevain Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1914. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0661-B).

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Boissevain, Inez Milholland (06 August 1886–25 November 1916), lawyer, feminist, and suffrage activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Elmer Milholland, a reporter and editorial writer, and Jean Torrey. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and woman suffrage. It was probably through his influence that Inez acquired her sense of moral justice and her activist stance....

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DeCrow, Karen (18 December 1937–06 June 2014), feminist activist, author, and civil rights attorney, was born Karen Lipschultz in Chicago, the older of two daughters of businessman Samuel Meyer Lipschultz and Juliette Abt Lipschultz, a former professional ballet dancer. Educated in the city’s public schools, as a teenager she composed and submitted short stories to national magazines, and she pursued her interest in writing in college as well. She graduated from Sullivan High School in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood in 1955 and received a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1959....

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Eastman, Crystal (25 June 1881–08 July 1928), lawyer and social reformer, was born in Marlboro, Massachusetts, the daughter of Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Ford, both Congregational ministers. Her mother, ordained as one of the first women Congregational ministers in 1890, was a progressive thinker and eloquent speaker and had a great influence on her children. Eastman earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College (1903), a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University (1904), and a doctorate from New York University Law School (1907)....

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Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Seated right, with J. E. Fellows, dean of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, seated left, and, standing left to right, Thurgood Marshall and Amos T. Hall, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84479).

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Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Foltz, Clara Shortridge (16 July 1849–02 September 1934), first woman lawyer on the Pacific Coast, suffrage leader, and founder of the public defender movement, was born in Lafayette, Indiana, the only daughter of Elias Shortridge and Talitha Harwood. Trained as a lawyer, Elias Shortridge turned instead to preaching among the Disciples of Christ and in 1860 became pastor to a well-established church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. For a few years, Clara attended the progressive Howe’s Academy until her father was expelled from his congregation for unorthodoxy. She then became a teacher herself in nearby Illinois before eloping—at the age of fifteen—with a handsome Union soldier, Jeremiah Foltz. During hard years on an Iowa farm, she bore four children....

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Judith Ellen Foster. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102556).

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Foster, Judith Ellen Horton Avery (03 November 1840–11 August 1910), lawyer, temperance activist, and Republican party leader, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jotham Horton, a blacksmith and a Methodist minister, and Judith Delano. Both parents died when she was young, and Judith moved to Boston to live with her older married sister. She then lived with a relative in Lima, New York, where she attended the Genessee Wesleyan Seminary. After graduation she taught school until her first marriage to Addison Avery in 1860. They had two children, one of whom died in childhood. The marriage ended about 1866, and she moved to Chicago, supporting herself and her child by teaching music in a mission school. In Chicago she met Elijah Caleb Foster, a native of Canada and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. After their marriage in 1869, they moved to Clinton, Iowa. They had two children; one died at the age of five....

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Howorth, Lucy (01 July 1895–23 August 1997), lawyer, politician, and feminist activist, was born Lucy Somerville in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of four children and second daughter of Robert and Nellie Nugent Somerville. Many of her forefathers were legislators, lawyers, or judges. Her female ancestors were known as women of strong character who were well respected in their communities. Through homeschooling and example, Nellie Somerville passed on to her youngest child a love for learning and a concern for contemporary social issues. Nellie, a college graduate, advocated temperance and was president of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association. She was also a devout Methodist, a perspective never accepted by Lucy. Nellie began taking Lucy to community meetings, including suffrage rallies, before her first birthday. When she was older Lucy helped at suffrage conventions and met national women’s rights leaders including Dr. ...

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Kepley, Ada Harriet Miser (11 February 1847–13 June 1925), lawyer and social reformer, was born in Somerset, Ohio, to Henry Miser and Ann Knowles. The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1860 and then to the pioneer village of Effingham, Illinois, in 1866. Her parents operated a hotel, and her father served as constable in the county until he died in 1872. Her mother ran the first book store and news depot in Effingham and was the proprietor of its second circulating library until she died in 1878....

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King, Carol Weiss (24 August 1895–22 January 1952), attorney and civil rights activist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Samuel W. Weiss, a prominent attorney, and Carrie Stix, a member of a well-known mercantile family. King graduated from the Horace Mann School (1912) and Barnard College (1916) before receiving her law degree from New York University in 1920. In 1917, while attending law school, she married Gordon Congdon King, a writer, who died of pneumonia in 1930. Their one child, Jonathan, became a publisher of books for G. P. Putnam’s Sons. In 1921 King joined the law firm of Hale, Nelles & Shorr and in 1925 became a founding partner of its successor, Shorr, Brodsky & King....

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Laughlin, Gail (07 May 1868–13 March 1952), feminist, lawyer, and state legislator, was born Abbie Hill “Gail” Laughlin in Robbinston, Maine, the daughter of Robert Clark Laughlin, an ironworker, and Elizabeth Porter Stuart. After the death of her father, Laughlin’s indigent family moved to Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, where her mother’s family resided. In 1880 the family settled in Portland, Maine, where Laughlin graduated from Portland High School in 1886, receiving a medal for the highest marks....

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Belva Lockwood. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-BH834-55).

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Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (24 October 1830–19 May 1917), teacher, lawyer, and social activist, was born on a farm in Royalton, Niagara County, New York, the second child of Hannah Green and Lewis Johnson Bennett. Lockwood began teaching in the rural one-room schools of Niagara County at age fifteen. She made her first public comments against gender discrimination after learning that male teachers were earning twice as much for similar work. In 1848 she married Uriah H. McNall, a local farmer and sawmill operator. McNall’s death in 1853 left his 22-year-old widow with the responsibility of raising their young daughter. Lockwood enrolled at Genesee College (now Syracuse University), receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1857. In September of that year she accepted a position as principal of the Lockport Union School, again experiencing wage discrimination because she was a woman. After listening to woman’s rights activist ...

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Margolin, Bessie (24 February 1909–19 June 1996), federal government attorney, Supreme Court advocate, and feminist, was born in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the second (and first American-born) child of Russian Jewish immigrants Harry Margolin, a carpenter and peddler, and Rebecca Goldschmidt. The Margolins soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Rebecca died a year after giving birth to her third child. A poor widower, Harry sent Bessie and her siblings to the Jewish Orphans Home in New Orleans. There Margolin lived for twelve years, flourishing under the home’s regimen of self-government and rigorous secular education at the Isidore Newman School, which the home founded for its wards and for children from the broader community. In 1925 sixteen-year-old Margolin, an adept writer and debater, delivered Newman’s commencement address and won a scholarship to attend Newcomb College, Tulane University’s coordinate college for women....

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McCulloch, Catharine Gouger Waugh (04 June 1862–20 April 1945), lawyer and social reformer, was born in Ransomville, New York, the daughter of Abraham Miller Waugh and Susan Gouger, farmers. The family moved to New Milford, Illinois, when Catharine was five years old. At the age of sixteen, she declined an offer to work as a schoolteacher in a nearby district. Instead, she entered the Rockford (Illinois) Female Seminary, graduating in 1882. For the next year and a half, she traveled throughout Illinois speaking on behalf of temperance. In 1884 she began to study law in the Rockford law firm of Marshall and Taggart, and the following year she entered Union College of Law in Chicago, forerunner of the law school of Northwestern University. She graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois state bar in 1886....

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Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (2 Jan. 1913–7 July 1992), civil rights activist and lawyer, was born to Lillie Carroll Jackson, a schoolteacher, and Kieffer Albert Jackson, a traveling salesman, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As the daughter of civil rights activists, Jackson was greatly influenced by her parents’ avocation of social justice and racial equality. By the 1920s the family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. Jackson received her early education in the Baltimore public schools. After graduating from Fredrick Douglass High School in ...

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Mussey, Ellen Spencer (13 May 1850–21 April 1936), social reformer and attorney, was born in Geneva, Ohio, the daughter of Platt Rogers Spencer, an abolitionist, farmer and temperance advocate, and Persis Duty. Mussey’s father volunteered time to the underground railroad and was the inventor of Spencerian script, the standard form of handwriting employed in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century....

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Phillips, Lena Madesin (15 September 1881–21 May 1955), lawyer, feminist, and founder of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, was born Anna Lena Phillips in Nicholasville, Kentucky, the daughter of William Henry Phillips, a judge, and Alice Shook, a musician. At age eleven Phillips changed her name to Madesin in honor of her older brother who was studying medicine, “medecin,” in Paris. Phillips’s mother was a gifted musician and a staunch Methodist who impressed upon her daughter a high regard for education, music, and religion. Her father was the more easygoing of her parents and the one whose disposition Phillips felt she had inherited. Madesin and her father “were made of the same stuff,” Phillips wrote, “alike in temperament and taste” (Sergio, p. 10)....