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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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Butler, Selena Sloan (04 January 1872?–07 October 1964), community leader and child-welfare activist, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the daughter of Winnie Williams, a woman of African- and Native-American descent, and William Sloan, a Caucasian man who reportedly supported her and her older sister but lived apart from the family. Even after her mother died, presumably at a fairly young age, she kept quiet about her father’s identity. Communication between them was minimal. At age ten, having been schooled by missionaries in Thomas County, she was admitted, on scholarship, to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta and received her high school diploma in 1888 as a member of the school’s second graduating class. After graduation she taught English and elocution in the public schools in Atlanta until around 1891, when she took a position at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical State University)....

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Cass, Melnea Agnes Jones (16 June 1896–16 December 1978), civic leader and civil rights activist, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Albert Jones, a janitor, and Mary Drew, a domestic worker. Seeking broader employment and educational opportunities, the Jones family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, when Melnea was five years old. Her mother died when she was eight, and she and her two sisters were entrusted to the care of an aunt, Ella Drew. After one year at Girls’ High School in Boston, she was sent to St. Francis de Sales Convent School, a Roman Catholic school for black and Indian girls in Rock Castle, Virginia. There household management was taught in addition to the academic curriculum; she graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1914....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Sarah Platt Decker. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111458).

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Decker, Sarah Sophia Chase Platt (01 October 1855–07 July 1912), clubwoman, suffragist, and community activist, was born in McIndoe Falls, Vermont, the daughter of Edwin Chase, a lumber dealer, paper manufacturer, and Baptist abolitionist known as the “Fighting Deacon,” and Lydia Maria Adams. The family moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, when Sarah was quite young. She graduated from high school in Holyoke and while still in her teens became active in community work as a trustee of a fund to aid the poor. In 1875 she married a Holyoke merchant, Charles B. Harris....

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Follett, Mary Parker (03 September 1868–18 December 1933), theorist of social organization and civic leader, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, the daughter of Charles Allen Follett and Elizabeth Curtis Baxter. Follett’s father attempted a variety of jobs and her mother took in boarders before the family finally moved in with Follett’s wealthy maternal grandfather. In 1888 Follett enrolled at the Harvard Annex, the precursor of Radcliffe College, and graduated summa cum laude in 1898. During this ten-year period she also spent a year at Newnham College, Cambridge University, and worked for a few years as a schoolteacher at Mrs. Shaw’s School in Boston. Follett’s perceptiveness as an observer of social and political phenomena was evident even before her college graduation when Longmans, Green published her book ...

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Gilbert, Helen Homans (29 October 1913–26 September 1989), college trustee and community volunteer, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, the daughter of Robert Homans, a lawyer, and Abigail Adams. True to her Adams and Homans antecedents, she carried on a tradition of public service that dated back to the beginnings of the republic. She was, she said, “a New Englander with a family conscience who inherited community responsibility.” Robert Homans decided that both his daughters should attend college to prepare for careers as teachers “since no Homans woman in living memory had ever married.”...

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Gordon, Kate M. (14 July 1861–24 August 1932), suffragist and civic leader, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of George Hume Gordon, an educator, and Margaret Galiece. Both parents supported equal rights for women and instilled feminist principles in their children. Gordon enjoyed an affluent upbringing in New Orleans, where she received her early education and graduated from Miss Shaw’s finishing school, a private institution for young women....

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Greenway, Isabella (22 March 1886–18 December 1953), congresswoman, businesswoman, and community activist, was born Isabella Selmes in Boone County, Kentucky, the daughter of Martha Macomb Flandrau and Tilden Russell Selmes, a rancher and lawyer. After Isabella’s birth, her mother took her to join Tilden Selmes in North Dakota, where ...

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Hallowell, Anna (01 November 1831–06 April 1905), civic leader and education reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Morris Longstreth Hallowell, a prominent Quaker merchant, and Hannah Smith Penrose. She was reared in a family that grappled with religious and social concerns. In 1827 Anna’s parents had allied themselves with the liberal Hicksite (“heterodox”) branch of the Society of Friends. Within their social circle were Hicksite activists like abolitionist ...

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Haynes, Elizabeth Ross (30 July 1883–26 October 1953), social scientist, politician, and community leader, was born in Mount Willing, Lowndes County, Alabama, the daughter of Henry Ross and Mary Carnes. Elizabeth Ross’s parents were hard workers who amassed some wealth through the purchase of land that eventually grew to become a 1,500-acre plantation. Little is known about her parents beyond their commitment to their only child’s well-being and success. Elizabeth attended the State Normal School in Montgomery and later won a scholarship to Fisk University, where she was awarded an A.B. degree in 1903. She taught school in Alabama and Texas for several years after graduation, and during 1905 and 1907 she attended summer school at the University of Chicago....

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Hogg, Ima (10 July 1882–19 August 1975), civic leader, collector, and philanthropist, was born in Mineola, Texas, the daughter of James Stephen Hogg and Sarah Ann “Sallie” Stinson. Her father was governor of Texas in the 1890s and later a wealthy oilman. He named Ima after a character in a poem by his late brother Thomas....

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Hope, Lugenia D. Burns (19 February 1871–14 August 1947), community organizer and educator, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Ferdinand Burns, a well-to-do carpenter, and Louisa M. Bertha. Lugenia was raised in a Grace Presbyterian, middle-class family. Her father’s sudden death forced her mother to move the family to Chicago to maintain their class standing and provide Lugenia, or “Genie” as she was called, with educational opportunities lacking in St. Louis. From 1890 to 1893, while her older siblings worked to support the family, Lugenia attended high school and special classes, the Chicago School of Design, the Chicago Business College, and the Chicago Art Institute....

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Jennings, May Elizabeth Mann (25 April 1872–24 April 1963), civic leader and social activist, was born in Centerville, New Jersey, the daughter of Austin Shuey Mann and Rachel Kline. In 1873 the Mann family moved to Hernando County, Florida, where Austin Mann pursued business and political interests, serving three terms as a state senator and as a leader of the national Farmer’s Alliance. After the death of her mother in 1882, May was enrolled as a year-round boarder at St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Augustine. She graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1889 and spent the next two years managing her father’s offices in Brooksville and Tallahassee....

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Kittredge, Mabel Hyde (19 September 1867–08 May 1955), civic and social worker, was born in Boston Massachusetts, the daughter of Rev. Abbott Eliott Kittredge, a pastor of New York’s Central Presbyterian Church, and Margaret Ann Hyde. Kittredge attended private schools, finishing her formal education at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, but she never “translated these privileges into any sense of social exclusiveness or superiority; and … never regarded her education as ‘finished’ ” (Gilkey, sect. 3)....

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Lingelbach, Anna Lane (10 October 1873–14 July 1954), educator, historian, and civic leader, was born in Shelbyville, Illinois, the daughter of Oscar F. Lane, a farmer and minister of the Disciples of Christ, and Mary F. Wendling. Following her early education in private schools, she enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington against strenuous objection from her father, who, like many of his era, felt higher education inappropriate for a woman. This early expression of Anna’s force of character foreshadowed a life exhibiting similar determination and courage in a career of rich and diverse dimensions....

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Montgomery, Helen Barrett (31 July 1861–19 October 1934), Baptist church leader, civic reformer, and educator, was born in Kingsville, Ohio, the daughter of A. Judson Barrett and Emily Barrows, teachers. Her school years were spent in upstate New York, first in Lowville, then in Rochester. Her father, who she later said was a dominant influence in her life, left his teaching career to attend Rochester Theological Seminary, later assuming the pastorate of the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester....

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Bertha Palmer. Photographic print, late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107005).

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Palmer, Bertha Honoré (22 May 1849–05 May 1918), Chicago society leader and reformer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of Henry Hamilton Honoré, a hardware and cutlery importer, and Eliza Jane Carr. Following Bertha’s sixth birthday the family arrived in Chicago, where her father became a real estate developer and helped to expand the town on Lake Michigan into a bustling city. Religiously affiliated with the Disciples of Christ church in her early years, she later became an Episcopalian....