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Anna E. Dickenson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102148).

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Dickinson, Anna Elizabeth (28 October 1842–22 October 1932), orator and lecturer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of John Dickinson, a merchant who never recovered from the Panic of 1837, and Mary Edmondson. Devout Quakers, the Dickinsons were active members of the local antislavery society. Dickinson was two when her father died, and her mother kept the family together by teaching school and taking in boarders. Dickinson attended a series of Friends’ educational institutions, but her formal training ended by the time she was fifteen....

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Diggs, Annie LePorte (22 February 1848–07 September 1916), Populist orator and journalist, was born in London, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Cornelius LePorte, a French-Canadian lawyer, and Ann Maria Thomas. While Annie was still a small child, her father moved the family to New Jersey. She had a private governess then attended public schools and a convent school, but she always regretted her lack of a college education. Deciding on a career in journalism, she lived briefly in Washington, D.C., before moving west in 1873. She worked in a Lawrence, Kansas, music store demonstrating pianos until she married Alvin S. Diggs, a postal clerk, that September. The couple had three children....

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Hiawatha (fourteenth century–?), Onondaga warrior and orator, was spokesman for Deganawidah in the campaign for the formation of the League of the Hau-De-No-Sau-Nee, or People of the Longhouse. In the absence of contemporary sources, our current information is based on oral traditions handed down by the elders, some of which were recorded and published only in the late nineteenth century. Oral tradition is transmitted through storytelling, ritual reenactments, and sacred symbols carved on wooden sticks or embroidered on wampum belts. The so-called myths are of historical importance because they reflect the traditional values of the past and are called on to resolve present issues....

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Mary Lease. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-36676).

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Lease, Mary Elizabeth Clyens (11 September 1853–29 October 1933), orator and writer, was born in Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Joseph P. Clyens and Mary Elizabeth Murray, farmers. The death of her father, two brothers, and an uncle during the Civil War forced her family into a life of poverty; nevertheless, she received an education at St. Elizabeth’s Academy, a Catholic school, and graduated in 1868. She taught in her home county after graduation, and when her attempts to unionize other teachers failed in 1870 she moved to Osage Mission, Kansas, to teach at a parochial school. In 1873 she married Charles L. Lease, a druggist, and the couple moved to an isolated prairie farm in Kingman County. The young couple was plagued with bad luck; they were not successful at farming, and two of their children had died in infancy. When the farm failed, the Leases moved to Denison, Texas, only to fail again. In 1883, while Lease was pregnant, the family moved to Wichita, Kansas. While her husband resumed his career as a druggist, Lease cared for their four children, managed the household, and took in washing. In 1884 she began studying law at home and was admitted to the Kansas bar in 1885....

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O’Hare, Kate Richards (26 March 1876–10 January 1948), socialist orator and columnist, was born Carrie Kathleen Richards in Ottawa County, Kansas, the daughter of Andrew Richards and Lucy Sullivan, homesteaders. In 1887 drought and financial reverses forced the Richards family to relocate to Kansas City, Missouri. Kate attended Pawnee City Academy in Nebraska in 1893–1894 but, after teaching school for one term, chose to work in her father’s machine shop in Kansas City, becoming one of the first women to join the International Association of Machinists. Considering a ministry in the Disciples of Christ, she became a temperance worker and in 1896 joined the staff of the Florence Crittenton Mission in Kansas City, which sought to uplift prostitutes and alcoholics. Increasingly influenced by political tracts of social criticism to which her father had introduced her, she abandoned rescue efforts after hearing a talk by the famous militant union organizer “Mother” ...