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Brooks, John Graham (19 July 1846–08 February 1938), reformer and sociologist, was born in Acworth, New Hampshire, the son of Chapin Kidder Brooks, a merchant, and Pamelia Graham. During his youth he worked at the store owned by his father, who also represented the town of Acworth in the state legislature. After graduating from Kimball Union Academy in 1866, Brooks attended the University of Michigan Law School but soon changed his mind about studying law. He left after a year and taught the next year on Cape Cod. In 1868, after a summer in Quebec perfecting his French, he enrolled in Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio. After graduating in 1872 Brooks returned to New England and enrolled in the Harvard Divinity School, where he graduated with a degree in sacred theology in 1875. He was soon ordained and served as a Unitarian minister in Roxbury, Massachusetts. In addition to his pastoral duties, he involved himself in labor reform and organized classes in history and economics for the workingmen of the neighborhood. His liberal sermons attracted listeners from Cambridge and Beacon Hill. He was soon addressing informal groups on social problems. In 1880 he married the widow of another Unitarian minister, Helen Lawrence Appleton Washburn, who shared his reform impulses; they had three children....

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Cloward, Richard (25 December 1926–20 August 2001), sociologist, social worker, and an architect of the welfare rights movement, was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Donald Cloward, a radical Baptist minister, and Ester Fleming, an artist and feminist. Donald Cloward had trained in the social gospel tradition at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, and both he and Esther shared a passion for social justice, which they passed on to their son. Richard Cloward graduated from high school in Auburn, New York, in 1943 and served as an ensign in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1944 to 1946. He received a B.A. in sociology from the University of Rochester in 1949. While attending the University of Rochester, Cloward cofounded an interracial day camp and a settlement house known as Hubbell House....

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W. E. B. Du Bois Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1946. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42528).

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Du Bois, W. E. B. (23 February 1868–27 August 1963), African-American activist, historian, and sociologist, was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Mary Silvina Burghardt, a domestic worker, and Alfred Du Bois, a barber and itinerant laborer. In later life Du Bois made a close study of his family origins, weaving them rhetorically and conceptually—if not always accurately—into almost everything he wrote. Born in Haiti and descended from Bahamian mulatto slaves, Alfred Du Bois enlisted during the Civil War as a private in a New York regiment of the Union army but appears to have deserted shortly afterward. He also deserted the family less than two years after his son’s birth, leaving him to be reared by his mother and the extended Burghardt kin. Long resident in New England, the Burghardts descended from a freedman of Dutch slave origin who had fought briefly in the American Revolution. Under the care of his mother and her relatives, young Will Du Bois spent his entire childhood in that small western Massachusetts town, where probably fewer than two-score of the 4,000 inhabitants were African American. He received a classical, college preparatory education in Great Barrington’s racially integrated high school, from whence, in June 1884, he became the first African-American graduate. A precocious youth, Du Bois not only excelled in his high school studies but contributed numerous articles to two regional newspapers, the Springfield ...

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Kerby, William Joseph (20 February 1870–27 July 1936), Catholic priest and promoter of professional social work, was born in Lawler, Iowa, the son of Irish immigrants Daniel P. Kerby, a prosperous banker, and Ellen Rockford. One of ten children, he attended St. Joseph’s (now Loras) College in Dubuque. After graduating in 1889, he entered St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Dubuque on 21 December 1892. He then continued the study of theology at the recently opened Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where the relatively liberal Belgian professor ...

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Woods, Robert Archey (09 December 1865–18 February 1925), social reformer, educator, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Woods, a businessman and founder of the United Presbyterian Church in East Liberty, Pennsylvania, a section of Pittsburgh, and Mary Ann Hall. At age sixteen he entered Amherst College, where he met ...