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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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Anderson, Mary (27 August 1872–29 January 1964), labor leader and federal administrator, was born in Lidköping, Sweden, the daughter of Magnus Anderson and Matilda Johnson, farmers. She received her only formal education at a local Lutheran school. Inspired by letters from her older sister Anna who had moved to the United States, Mary and her sister Hilda traveled to Ludington, Michigan, in 1889. Sixteen years old when she arrived in America, Anderson struggled to learn English while she worked as a dishwasher and cook in a boardinghouse for lumber workers....

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Beyer, Clara Mortenson (13 April 1892–25 September 1990), reformer and labor law administrator, was born in Middletown, California, the daughter of Danish immigrants Morten Mortenson, a carpenter and unsuccessful chicken farmer, and Mary Frederickson. Her father died in a trolley accident when she was fifteen. As the eldest of four children remaining at home, Beyer delayed further schooling until her mother sold the farm. She then worked her way through high school and the University of California, Berkeley, gaining firsthand understanding of labor conditions and unskilled workers’ lives. At Berkeley she absorbed the institutional approach to labor economics, which emphasized the law and social institutions rather than market forces; she received a B.S. in 1915 and an M.S. in economics in 1916 with a thesis called “Organized Labor in San Francisco, from 1892–1902.”...

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Du Bois, Cora Alice (26 October 1903–07 April 1991), anthropologist and government official, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Jean Jules Philippe Du Bois, a Swiss entrepreneur, and Gertrude Martha Schreiber, a first-generation German American. When Cora was four, the Du Boises moved to St. Quentin, France, where her father managed a chemical factory and she attended French schools. She was reared in a multilingual home—English, French, and German—but her first language was French. When World War I forced her family to return to the United States (Perth Amboy, New Jersey), she had to learn English and repeat grades. These abrupt transitions in cultures, languages, and schools, combined with her mother’s preoccupation with a problematic older brother, contributed to Du Bois’s early emotional distancing from others. She became, she reported, “a distant observer of human affairs” who focused on doing well in school and engaging in outdoor sports, mostly with boys (Seymour, p. 26)....

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Elliott, Harriet Wiseman (10 July 1884–06 August 1947), educator, political organizer, and government official, was born in Carbondale, Illinois, the daughter of Allan Curtis Elliott, a merchant who extended easy credit to poor coal miners, and Elizabeth Ann White, a staunch supporter of ...

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Helen Hamilton Gardener. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92538).

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Gardener, Helen Hamilton (21 January 1853–26 July 1925), author, suffragist, and U.S. Civil Service commissioner, was born Alice Chenoweth in Winchester, Virginia, the daughter of the Reverend Alfred Griffith Chenoweth and Katherine A. Peel. A Methodist minister, Chenoweth freed his inherited slaves in 1854 and transplanted the family to Washington, D.C., so that his children would not grow up tarnished by slavery. In 1855 the family moved to Greencastle, Indiana, where Gardener went to local schools and was tutored at home. In her late teens she moved by herself to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she attended high school. She later was a student at Ohio State Normal School, where she served as a teacher and principal after her graduation in 1873....

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Hanks, Nancy (31 December 1927–07 January 1983), arts administrator and civil servant, was born in Miami Beach, Florida, the daughter of Bryan Cayce Hanks and Virginia Wooding, both farmers and entrepreneurs. Hanks received her college education at Duke University, graduating in 1947. It was there that she began her long career in public administration by working actively as a member of student government throughout her attendance and as president during her senior year. In 1951 Hanks moved to Washington, D.C., and began working as a secretary in the Office of Defense Mobilization. She worked there until 1953, when she became acquainted with ...

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Hennock, Frieda Barkin (27 September 1904–20 June 1960), attorney and federal official, was born in Kovel, Poland (now Ukraine), the daughter of Boris Hennock, a banker and real estate broker, and Sarah Barkin. In 1910 the family moved to the United States, settling in New York City. Hennock graduated from Morris High School in the Bronx and then enrolled in Brooklyn Law School, receiving her Bachelor of Laws degree in 1924. In 1926 she was admitted to the New York bar....

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Herrick, Elinore Morehouse (15 June 1895–12 October 1964), labor relations specialist and federal official, was born in New York City, the oldest of two children of Daniel Webster Morehouse, a Unitarian minister, and Martha Adelaide (Bird) Morehouse, a teacher and the first female registrar at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. While a young child her father’s health deteriorated, and the family moved to New England. At age nine her father died, and her mother returned to work as registrar at the MacDuffie School for Girls. Elinore attended the MacDuffie School and Technical High School, both in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Oveta Culp Hobby. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-122229).

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Hobby, Oveta Culp (19 January 1905–16 August 1995), publisher and government official, was born Oveta Culp in Killeen, Texas, the daughter of Isaac William Culp, a lawyer, and Emma Hoover Culp. As a child, Oveta was close to her father and with his encouragement developed an early interest in law. She was educated in the local schools as well as tutored at home, and after graduation from high school she studied at Mary Hardin Baylor College in Belton, Texas, and at the University of Texas Law School in Austin. As a law student she became parliamentarian of the Texas House of Representatives, serving in that post from 1925 until 1931 and later from 1939 to 1941. In her early twenties she also served as a legal clerk in the Texas State Banking Department, and in that capacity she helped to codify Texas banking laws. In addition, in 1930 she served as an assistant to the Houston city attorney....

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Jane M. Hoey. Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-9232-002).

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Hoey, Jane Margueretta (15 January 1892–06 October 1968), social worker, was born in Greeley County, Nebraska, the daughter of John Hoey and Catherine Mullen, who had immigrated to New York City from Ireland shortly after the Civil War. Twenty years later the family moved west, where John Hoey tried his hand at ranching. When this proved unsuccessful, the Hoeys returned to New York City around 1898. Hoey claimed that growing up in this urban environment she learned about poverty from her mother who “had a deep concern for people, especially those in trouble.” Although John Hoey worked as a laborer, the eight older children quickly found jobs that greatly improved the economic status of the family and ensured Jane’s education....

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Kirlin, Florence Katharine (06 October 1903–25 July 1987), government official, was born in Kendallville, Indiana, the daughter of Edmond S. Kirlin, a factory foreman, and Nellie Vesta Latson, a former schoolteacher. She entered Indiana University in 1920 as a business major and received her bachelor’s degree in 1924. In 1926 she received an M.A. in psychology from the same institution....

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Patterson, Hannah Jane (05 November 1879–21 August 1937), suffragist and defense official in World War I, was born in Smithton, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Gilfillan Patterson, a prominent banker, and Harriet McCune. She received an A.B. from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where she was enrolled from 1897 to 1901, and then studied finance at Columbia University in 1902 and law at the University of Pennsylvania from 1903 to 1905. A product of the Progressive era and the women’s organizations of that time, which were largely aimed at self-improvement, Patterson embarked on a career as an activist when she joined the Civic Club of Allegheny County. Instrumental in the establishment of a juvenile court for Allegheny County, she was also well known for her work in the local consumer’s league....

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Rosenberg, Anna Marie Lederer (19 June 1902–09 May 1983), labor and personnel consultant and assistant secretary of defense, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of Albert Lederer, a furniture manufacturer, and Charlotte Bacskai, a children’s author and illustrator. Her father was prosperous until Emperor Franz Joseph canceled a furniture order, causing the family to go bankrupt, close down the factory, and move to the United States in 1912. Albert Lederer never forgot that experience, and, no longer at the whim of an emperor and appreciative of his newly found freedoms, he encouraged his daughter to be a patriotic American. She entered New York City’s Wadleigh High School in 1914 and organized the Future Voters League to encourage woman suffrage. While in high school in 1919 she settled a strike by students protesting compulsory military training, and that same year she served as a volunteer nurse and sold Liberty Bonds financing World War I. In 1919 she married an American soldier, Julius Rosenberg; they had one son. Later that year she became a naturalized citizen....

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Simonson, Joy R. (16 January 1919–24 June 2007), government official, District of Columbia activist, and feminist, was born Joy Rosenheim in New York City to Sidney Teller Rosenheim, a stockbroker, and Rosalie Frank Spiegel, a suffragist who was later active in the League of Women Voters. The family, which was Jewish but not especially observant and included a younger brother, moved to Westchester County when Joy was young. After her father’s death in 1931, her mother had enough resources to remain in Scarsdale, where Joy graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1936. After a brush with anti-Semitism during her interview at Swarthmore College, Joy chose Bryn Mawr College instead, where she majored in social economy. With papers on topics such as “Problems of the Professional Woman,” she was already demonstrating her lifelong commitment to women’s issues....

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Smith, Hilda Jane Worthington (1888–13 March 1984), educator and government official, was born in New York City, the daughter of a well connected and established family. Smith received her education at private schools and at Bryn Mawr College, where she obtained an M.A. As part of her volunteer fieldwork, she worked with community suffrage groups and factory women at a Philadelphia settlement house....