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Grace Abbott Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111723).

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Julie Longo and Sandra F. VanBurkleo

Abbott, Grace (17 November 1878–19 June 1939), social worker and administrator, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and politician, and Elizabeth Griffin, a high school principal. The Abbott household provided an intellectually stimulating environment, emphasizing reading, discussion, and formal education for all four children. Othman Abbott encouraged both Grace and her older sister ...

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Bella Abzug. Campaign poster. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109588).

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Abzug, Bella (24 July 1920–31 March 1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative, was born Bella Savitsky in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Emmanuel Savitsky, butcher, and Ester Tanklefsky Savitsky. She attended local schools before entering Hunter College in Manhattan, where she took part in student government and was active in the Zionist movement. She entered Columbia University Law School following her graduation in 1942 but soon left school and took a wartime job in a shipyard. She married Martin Abzug, a writer who later became a stockbroker, in 1944; the couple had two daughters. Abzug returned to Columbia and served as editor of the ...

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Addams, Jane (06 September 1860–21 May 1935), social reformer and peace activist, was the daughter of John Huy Addams, a businessman and Republican politician, and Sarah Weber. Born on the eve of the Civil War in the small farming community of Cedarville, just outside Freeport, in northern Illinois, she was the youngest of five children, four of whom were girls. Her mother died during pregnancy when Jane was two years old. The Addams family was the wealthiest, most respected family in the community. Jane’s father owned the local grain mill, was president of the Second National Bank of Freeport, had interests in a local railroad and a local insurance company, taught Sunday School, and was active in local Bible societies. A founding member of the Republican party and supporter of ...

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Jane Addams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95722).

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Albrier, Frances Mary (21 September 1898–21 August 1987), civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of her mother when Frances was three, she and her baby sister were reared by her paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their 55-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama....

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Susan B. Anthony. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-23933).

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Anthony, Susan B. (15 February 1820–13 March 1906), reformer and organizer for woman suffrage, was born Susan Brownell Anthony in Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read. Her father built the town’s first cotton mill. When Susan, the second of eight children, was six, the family moved to Battenville, New York, north of Albany, where Daniel prospered as manager of a larger mill and could send Susan and her sister to a Friends’ seminary near Philadelphia. His good fortune, however, collapsed with the financial crisis of 1837; the mill closed, Susan left boarding school, the family lost its house, and for nearly a decade the family squeaked by, assisted by Susan’s wages as a teacher. Looking for a new start in 1845, Daniel moved to a farm near Rochester, the city that would be Susan’s permanent address for the rest of her life....

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Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (05 July 1839–23 October 1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate, was born in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, the daughter of David Johnston, a tanner, and Letitia Clark. In 1853 her father moved the family to Plattekill, New York, where he became a farmer and minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She attended public school and a Friends’ boarding school and taught in rural New York from 1858 to 1867. Accompanying a female Quaker preacher on a mission to New England churches, almshouses, and prisons, Bailey met her future husband, Moses Bailey, a fellow Society member and prosperous manufacturer of oil cloth. They were married in 1868 and settled at his Winthrop, Maine, home. They had one child....

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Barnard, Kate (23 May 1875–23 February 1930), Progressive reformer and politician, was born Catherine Anna Barnard in Alexandria, Nebraska, the daughter of John P. Barnard, a lawyer and real estate speculator, and Rachael Mason Shiell. Shortly after Barnard’s birth her family moved to the small frontier town of Kirwin, Kansas, where her mother died in 1877. She attended public school in Kirwin until the early 1890s, when she and her father moved to the new territory of Oklahoma. The experiences of her early adulthood resemble those of other women Progressives in at least two ways. First, she was introduced to politics by her father, a local politician. Second, she tried several lines of work before she became a reformer. From 1896 to 1899 she taught in rural schools; then, in 1902 she exchanged teaching for stenography. Startled by the degree of poverty in her own neighborhood in Oklahoma City, she decided in the fall of 1905 to conduct a campaign to clothe the community’s poor. The crusade gained her public recognition and convinced her of the importance of volunteer associations. She resuscitated a local charity organization and was appointed its matron in December 1905. She began to realize that unionization could be another weapon with which to combat poverty and, consequently, became a deputy organizer for the International Women’s Union Label League....

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Blair, Emily Newell (09 January 1877–03 August 1951), feminist, politician, and writer, was born in Joplin, Missouri, the daughter of Anna Cynthia Gray and James Patton Newell, a mortgage broker. She enrolled in the Woman’s College of Baltimore (now Goucher College) in 1894, but her father’s death cut short her education after just one year. Returning home, she helped raise her younger siblings, taught school, and attended classes at the University of Missouri without completing a degree. In 1900 she married Harry Wallace Blair, a former classmate at Carthage High School....

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Blankenburg, Lucretia Longshore (08 May 1845–29 March 1937), suffragist and reformer, was born near New Lisbon, Ohio, the daughter of Thomas Ellwood Longshore, a Quaker schoolteacher, and Hannah E. Myers, who also was from a Quaker family and who became the first woman doctor in Philadelphia. She was named for ...

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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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Bowen, Louise deKoven (26 February 1859–09 November 1953), philanthropist, social reformer, and suffragist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of John deKoven, a successful banker, and Helen Hadduck. Louise grew up with all the pleasures and privileges of wealth and power. She graduated from the prestigious Dearborn Seminary at the age of sixteen and soon thereafter began teaching Sunday school and dabbling in charity work. She established the Huron Street Club, one of the first boys’ clubhouses in Chicago; helped to create a kitchen garden association for girls; and regularly visited the hundred families of the boys in her church class, offering help when needed. In 1886 she married Joseph Tilton Bowen, a Chicago businessman. She gave up her Sunday school class and other church-related social work so that she would have time to care for their four children. Unwilling, however, to give up all philanthropic activities when her children were very young, Bowen joined the board of managers of the Maurice Porter Memorial Hospital. She later held board positions with other hospitals and helped establish the Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago....

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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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Madeline Breckinridge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111461).

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Breckinridge, Madeline McDowell (20 May 1872–25 November 1920), woman suffragist and Progressive reformer, was born at Woodlake in Franklin County, Kentucky, the daughter of Henry Clay McDowell, a lawyer and businessman, and Anne Clay. Members from both sides of her family had been prominent since Kentucky’s earliest years. In 1882 her family moved to Ashland, the estate of her great-grandfather ...

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Sophonisba Breckinridge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99076).