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Bagley, Sarah George (29 April 1806–?), millworker, reformer, and physician, was born in Candia, New Hampshire, the daughter of Nathan Bagley and Rhoda Witham, farmers.

Bagley grew up in a family whose economic situation became increasingly precarious during the course of the nineteenth century. Nathan Bagley originally farmed land in Candia, which he had inherited from his father, but he later moved on to farming land in Gilford, New Hampshire. After losing litigation in 1822, he sold his land in Gilford and eventually moved to Meredith Bridge, New Hampshire (now Laconia), where he became an incorporator of the Strafford Cotton Mill Company in 1833. However, Nathan Bagley did not own a home after 1824; it was Sarah Bagley who made the down payment on a house for her family in Meredith Bridge in the 1840s. She probably used money she had saved during her stints as a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts....

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S. Josephine Baker. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B02220).

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Baker, Sara Josephine (15 November 1873–22 February 1945), physician and public health administrator, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the daughter of Orlando Daniel Mosher Baker, an eminent lawyer, and Jenny Harwood Brown, one of the first Vassar College graduates. In her autobiography Baker described her father, who came from Quaker stock, as a sober, quiet man who “never uttered an unnecessary word,” while her mother, “gay, social and ambitious,” traced her ancestry back to Samuel Danforth, one of the founders of Harvard College. A happy child, Baker drew inspiration from both parents. Wishing to make it up to her father for not being born a boy, she became an enthusiastic baseball player and trout-fisher and read ...

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Barringer, Emily Dunning (27 September 1876–08 April 1961), physician, was born in Scarsdale, New York, the daughter of Edwin James Dunning, a broker, and Frances Gore Lang. Her father left her mother with five children while he tried to recoup the family fortune in Europe. They moved to New York City before the birth of Emily’s youngest brother, and while caring for her mother during his difficult birth, she developed a desire to enter the medical field....

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Clara Barrus. At Woodchuck Lodge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103953).

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Barrus, Clara (08 August 1864–04 April 1931), physician and author, was born in Port Byron, New York, the daughter of John William Barrus, a traveling salesman, and Sarah Randall, a schoolteacher. She began her education at the Port Byron Academy, where three years before her graduation she decided to become a physician. She felt women physicians were scarce and were needed to “treat modest girls who refused treatment from a man” ( ...

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Mary E. Bass. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B02453).

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Bass, Mary Elizabeth (05 April 1876–26 January 1956), physician, medical educator, and historian, was born in Carley, Mississippi, the daughter of Isaac Esau Bass and Mary Eliza Wilkes. She grew up in Marion County, where her father operated a gristmill and dry goods store. The 1890s economic depression bankrupted Isaac Bass, and the family moved to Lumberton, Mississippi, to invest in pecan orchards. The Basses were pious Baptists and active in civic concerns....

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Bennett, Alice (31 January 1851–31 May 1925), physician and hospital administrator, was born in Wrentham, Massachusetts, the daughter of Isaac Francis Bennett, a blacksmith, and Lydia Hayden. She taught in the district schools of her hometown for four years to earn tuition for medical school, receiving her medical degree from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1876. Following graduation, Bennett worked at a dispensary in a Philadelphia working-class neighborhood, taught anatomy at her alma mater, and maintained a private medical practice while continuing her study of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1880 she became the first woman to receive a doctor of philosophy degree from that university....

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Blackwell, Elizabeth (03 February 1821–31 May 1910), physician, reformer, and medical educator, was born in Bristol, England, daughter of Samuel Blackwell, a prosperous sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane. Her father’s interest in abolitionism and in “perfectionist reform,” the belief that through education and spiritual regeneration human beings could achieve a just society on earth, coupled with a series of financial reversals, prompted a move to the United States in 1832 when Elizabeth was eleven....

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Blackwell, Emily (08 October 1826–07 September 1910), physician and medical educator, was born in Bristol, England, the daughter of Samuel Blackwell, a prosperous sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane. Her father moved his family to the United States when Emily was five, primarily because of his interest in abolitionism, perfectionism, and reform. Although Samuel died in 1838, his children inherited his activist legacy: ...

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Blunt, Katharine (28 May 1876–29 July 1954), college administrator, educator, and nutritionist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Stanhope English Blunt, an army officer and technical writer, and Fanny Smyth. Little is know about her childhood except that she was first educated at a preparatory school before attending Miss Porter’s School in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1894 she enrolled at Vassar, where she studied chemistry. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in 1898, then returned home to her family and engaged in service to her church and community for four years....

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Boas, Franziska Marie (08 January 1902–22 December 1988), dancer, percussionist, and dance teacher and therapist, was born in New York City, the daughter and youngest of six children of noted anthropologist Franz Boas and Marie Krackowizer. Educated in public schools in Englewood, New Jersey, Boas received a B.A. degree in zoology and chemistry from Barnard College in 1923. Her undergraduate studies also included dance with Bird Larson, with whom she continued to study from time to time after graduation. Other formal study included drawing and sculpture with ...

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Brown, Charlotte Amanda Blake (22 December 1846–19 April 1904), physician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Charles Morris Blake, a teacher who directed a private boys’ school and at the time of her birth was studying medicine, and Charlotte A. Farrington. In 1849 her father moved to San Francisco, where he edited the ...

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Buckel, C. Annette (25 August 1833–17 August 1912), physician, Civil War nurse, and mental health activist, was born Cloe Annette Buckel in Warsaw, New York, the daughter of Thomas Buckel and his wife (given name unknown), whose surname was Bartlett. Both parents died when Buckel, an only child, was three months old. Until the age of four she lived with her grandparents, and after they died she lived with two young aunts, neither of whom exhibited much warmth toward her. By age four Buckel had learned to read and write. Quickly outgrowing the local district school, she moved on to a more advanced one in a neighboring town. At age fourteen she started teaching school, boarding with her students’ parents, both in New York State and in Canada. While a youth she decided to become a physician. Financially unable to immediately begin formal medical school, she worked in a burnishing factory in Connecticut, living with her employer’s family, and studied Latin as she worked. By living simply and borrowing on a life insurance policy she had purchased, Buckel was able to enter the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1856. She later demonstrated the high regard she felt for the school by leaving it a bequest in her will....

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Chace, Marian (31 October 1896–19 July 1970), dancer and dance therapist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Daniel Chace, a journalist, and Harriet Edgaretta Northrop, a teacher and writer. Chace was encouraged by her parents to attend Pembroke College and did so for one year starting in the fall of 1914. Dissatisfied, she moved with her family to the Washington, D.C., area and went to the Corcoran School of Art in 1915. She hurt her back in a diving accident, making it painful for her to paint or draw. Her physician suggested she take dance classes to strengthen her back and from that time she focused all her attention on dance. This became her “natural means of communication.” Now in her late twenties, she made the decision to attend the Denishawn School of Dance in New York City. She began her studies in the summer of 1923, greatly broadening her learning and developing a philosophy of movement. Chace came to believe that there are infinite ways of moving related to cultural, religious, and philosophical motivation. Her studies of the body and how it functions led to correct body use parallel to sensing that all movement emerges from the center so that, used correctly, the dance emerged with clear structure and integration of the dancer....

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Chinn, May Edward (15 April 1896–01 December 1980), physician and cancer researcher, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Lafayette Chinn, a former slave who had escaped to the North from a Virginia plantation and had unsteady employment as a result of race discrimination, and Lulu Ann Evans, a domestic worker. Occasionally William Chinn worked at odd jobs and as a porter. Raised in New York City, May Chinn was educated in the city’s public schools and at the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School (N.J.), and she attended Morris High School in New York. A severe bout with osteomyelitis of the jaw plagued her as a child and required extensive medical treatment. Her family’s poverty forced her to drop out of high school in the eleventh grade for a factory job. A year later she scored high enough on the entrance examination for Teachers’ College at Columbia University to be admitted to the class of 1921 without a high school diploma....

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Margaret A. Cleaves. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B04751).

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Cleaves, Margaret Abigail (25 November 1848–13 November 1917), physician, was born in Columbus City, Iowa, the daughter of John Trow Cleaves, a and Elizabeth Stronach. As a child, Margaret often accompanied her father on his rounds. She attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City but was unable to complete her baccalaureate degree for financial reasons. Alternately, she taught school and attended classes until she began reading medicine and entered the medical department of the University of Iowa in 1870. She received her medical degree in 1873, graduating at the head of her class....

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Cordero, Ana Livia (4 July 1931–21 Feb. 1992), political activist, physician, and public health advocate, was born Ana Livia Cordero Garcés in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the elder of two daughters of Rafael de J. Cordero and Ana Livia Garcés. Rafael de J. Cordero was an economist and University of Puerto Rico professor who served as auditor and then comptroller of Puerto Rico under governors ...