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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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India Edwards Right, at a television broadcast of "Meet the Press." Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91083).

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Edwards, India (16 June 1895–14 January 1990), politician and women's advocate, politician and women’s advocate, was born India Walker in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Archibald Walker and India Thomas Walker. Her father left home when she was four, and her mother married John A. Gillespie, a Canadian, whom India considered to be her real father. She attended public schools in Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis....

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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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Luscomb, Florence Hope (06 February 1887–27 October 1985), white social and political activist, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Otis Luscomb, an artist, and Hannah Skinner Knox. Luscomb’s mother left her husband and son before Florence was two. A small inheritance enabled Hannah Luscomb to raise Florence alone and to contribute time and money to labor and woman suffrage organizations. By accompanying her mother to meetings and rallies, young Luscomb received an education in activist philosophies and techniques that she would put to use in a career that spanned seventy years....

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Miller, Emma Guffey (06 July 1874–23 February 1970), Democratic party activist and feminist, was born Mary Emma Guffey in Guffey Station, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Guffey, a developer of coal, oil, and gas land, and Barbaretta Hough. Her early education was in the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, public schools and at the Alinda Academy in Pittsburgh, where the family lived after 1891. In 1899 she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, whose president, ...

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Montemayor, Alice Dickerson (6 Aug. 1902–13 May 1989), Mexican American feminist and civil rights activist, was born Alice Dickerson Barrera in Laredo, Texas to John Randolph, a railroad engineer of Irish descent, and Manuela Barrera Dickerson, a housewife of Mexican descent. As a child she was called Alicia and grew up in a bilingual household. She attended the private Catholic school Colegio de Guadalupe (later called Ursuline Academy) in Laredo and graduated from Laredo High School in ...

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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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Cornelia Bryce Pinchot As hostess to a Society of American Foresters' baked apple party, 1950. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100622).

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Pinchot, Cornelia Bryce (26 August 1881–09 September 1960), politician and advocate of progressive causes, was born Cornelia Elizabeth Bryce in Newport, Rhode Island, the youngest daughter of Lloyd Stephens Bryce and Edith Cooper. Her father had been a Democratic congressman, a novelist, an intimate and political confidante of ...

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Putnam, Elizabeth Lowell (02 February 1862–05 June 1935), pioneer in prenatal care, antisuffragist, and conservative political activist, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the daughter of Augustus Lowell and Katharine Lawrence. From early childhood until age five she lived with her family in France. In 1888 she married a noted Boston lawyer and a distant cousin, William Lowell Putnam. The Putnams had five children. Their daughter Harriet died of impure milk at age two, and her death was probably the catalyst for Putnam’s long commitment to infant and maternal health and welfare....

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Eleanor Roosevelt Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-25812 DLC).

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Roosevelt, Eleanor (11 October 1884–07 November 1962), first lady of the United States, social reformer, politician, diplomat, was born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in New York City, the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall. Her childhood was materially comfortable—both sides of her family were wealthy and prominent in New York society—but it was also emotionally arid. Her mother, beautiful but distant and so disappointed in the looks of her daughter that she called her “granny,” died when Eleanor was eight. Her youngest brother died the following year. She clung to her father, the younger brother of ...

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Thompson Patterson, Louise (09 September 1901–27 August 1999), cultural and political radical, activist, and feminist, was born Louise Alone Toles in Chicago, the daughter of William Toles, a bartender, and Lula Brown Toles. In 1904, her parents separated, and in the next ten years she lived throughout the Northwest with her mother and her stepfather, William Thompson. Often the only black child in town, she was the target of vicious racial insults. In an effort to maintain her self-respect, she strove to excel in school. In 1919, she enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. There she attended a lecture by ...

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Tillmon, Johnnie (10 April 1926–22 November 1995), welfare rights leader and community activist, was born Johnnie Lee Percy in Scott, Arkansas, the eldest child of John Percy, a sharecropper, and Gussie Danforth, a field hand. When Johnnie was five years old, her mother died during childbirth, and her father remarried a family friend who helped raise her and her two younger brothers. Like many black families in the pre–civil rights South, hers was poor. They moved to several towns in rural Arkansas as her father pursued more profitable sharecropping arrangements. At the age of seven, she began picking cotton to earn extra money....

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Weil, Gertrude (11 Dec. 1879–30 May 1971), activist for women’s suffrage, social welfare, Zionism, and civil rights, was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Henry Weil and Mina Rosenthal. Weil’s father and grandparents were antebellum Jewish immigrants from rural Württemberg and Bavaria. Settling in a southern mill and market town, they rose from peddlers to prosperous storekeepers to prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Family wealth allowed Weil the autonomy to pursue a career of public service. Weil’s parents set examples of civic engagement, notably her mother who joined women emerging from domesticity and religious societies into civic organizations. After attending local public schools, the sixteen-year-old Weil was sent by her progressive parents to the coeducational Horace Mann School in New York. In ...

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Whitney, Charlotte Anita (07 July 1867–04 February 1955), social worker and political activist, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of George Whitney, an attorney and a California state legislator, and Mary Lewis Swearingen. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field was an uncle. Whitney’s socially prominent, affluent parents, who originally were from the East, sent her to Wellesley College in 1885. She graduated in 1889 with a B.S. degree but no clear vision of her future. After several unsettled years, in 1893 Whitney trained in the new profession of social work at the College Settlement in New York City. There, among New York City’s poor immigrants, she developed a firsthand understanding of class differences and poverty. Returning to California in 1893 Whitney taught in private schools and opened a Boy’s Club in the slums of West Oakland. For several years she worked as the first probation officer of Alameda County, California, and later was secretary of the Associated Charities of Oakland. Whitney’s commitment to racial justice and woman suffrage emerged in the years after 1910: she became a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and headed the California College Equal Suffrage League. When women won the vote in California, Whitney was instrumental in refashioning the league into the California Civic League, an organization through which women voters sought to make their influence felt....

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Yard, Molly (6 July 1912–20 Sept. 2005), political activist and feminist leader, was born Mary Alexander Yard in Shanghai, China. She was the third of four daughters of Methodist missionaries James M. and Mabel Yard. Although she later claimed to have been “born a feminist,” Yard’s activist career was shaped by the particular restrictions and relative freedoms she encountered as a girl raised in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province. A family friend gave Molly’s parents a decorative brass bowl after her birth that was meant to console them for bearing another daughter. As a child, Yard witnessed the pain of other girls’ bound feet. She recalled, “I grew up with that whole devaluation of myself because I was female. It's outrageous, and it stays with you all your life.” But Yard also found that girls in China had opportunities to participate in organized sports that did not exist in the United States....