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Abzug, Bella (24 July 1920–31 March 1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative, was born Bella Savitsky in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Emmanuel Savitsky, butcher, and Ester Tanklefsky Savitsky. She attended local schools before entering Hunter College in Manhattan, where she took part in student government and was active in the Zionist movement. She entered Columbia University Law School following her graduation in 1942 but soon left school and took a wartime job in a shipyard. She married Martin Abzug, a writer who later became a stockbroker, in 1944; the couple had two daughters. Abzug returned to Columbia and served as editor of the ...

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Anthony, Susan B. (15 February 1820–13 March 1906), reformer and organizer for woman suffrage, was born Susan Brownell Anthony in Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read. Her father built the town’s first cotton mill. When Susan, the second of eight children, was six, the family moved to Battenville, New York, north of Albany, where Daniel prospered as manager of a larger mill and could send Susan and her sister to a Friends’ seminary near Philadelphia. His good fortune, however, collapsed with the financial crisis of 1837; the mill closed, Susan left boarding school, the family lost its house, and for nearly a decade the family squeaked by, assisted by Susan’s wages as a teacher. Looking for a new start in 1845, Daniel moved to a farm near Rochester, the city that would be Susan’s permanent address for the rest of her life....

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Boissevain, Inez Milholland (06 August 1886–25 November 1916), lawyer, feminist, and suffrage activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Elmer Milholland, a reporter and editorial writer, and Jean Torrey. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and woman suffrage. It was probably through his influence that Inez acquired her sense of moral justice and her activist stance....

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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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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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Goldman, Emma (27 June 1869–14 May 1940), anarchist and feminist activist, was born in Kovno, Lithuania, the daughter of Abraham Goldman and Taube Zodikoff, innkeepers and, later, small shopkeepers. Emma’s lonely childhood was shaped by her parents’ precarious social status and the contradictory influences of czarist anti-Semitism, the first stirrings of Russian feminism, and a growing revolutionary movement whose young members, especially the women, became Goldman’s lifelong inspiration. After attending a ...

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Martin, Anne Henrietta (30 September 1875–15 April 1951), suffragist and feminist essayist, was born in Empire City, Nevada, the daughter of William O’Hara Martin, a state senator, merchant, and Reno bank president, and Louise Stadtmuller. She attended Bishop Whitaker’s School for Girls in Reno, then the University of Nevada (1892–1894), where she received a B.A. in history. After a second B.A. in 1896 and an M.A. in history in 1897, both from Stanford University, she founded the history department at the University of Nevada and headed it until 1899. From 1899 to 1901 she continued her studies at Chase School of Art, Columbia University, and the Universities of Leipzig and London; she then lectured in art history at Nevada until 1903....

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...

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Phillips, Wendell (29 November 1811–02 February 1884), orator, abolitionist, and women's rights and labor advocate, orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Phillips, a well-to-do politician and philanthropist, and Sarah Walley. The youngest of eleven children, Wendell received strict and loving attention from both of his parents. From the first he was trained to see himself as a great leader, committed to addressing the great moral and political questions of his age. This drive for leadership was compounded by his early discovery that he possessed extraordinary gifts as an orator. Athletic, handsome, and intelligent, he impressed teachers and classmates alike with his unusual capacity to express himself and to influence others with eloquent speaking. After attending the Boston Latin School, he graduated from Harvard in 1831 and obtained a Harvard law degree in 1833. For the next three years Phillips resided in and around Boston as he attempted, halfheartedly, to establish a legal practice, a career for which he felt no great enthusiasm. Instead he yearned to pursue a vocation worthy of his august legacy. That vocation, finally, was the cause of abolitionism, which he discovered through the process of courtship and marriage....

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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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Wells, Emmeline B. (29 February 1828–25 April 1921), suffragist and Mormon feminist activist, was born Emmeline Blanche Woodward in Petersham, Massachusetts, the daughter of David Woodward and Diadama Hare, farmers. Marital relations were a defining characteristic of Emmeline’s life. As a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), she married at age fifteen fellow church member James Harris, also fifteen. By the next year, she had buried her first child and had been deserted by her teenage husband. Thereafter, Emmeline chose father figures as husbands. In 1845 she married Newel K. Whitney, a prominent Mormon bishop thirty-three years her senior, who was already the husband of two living wives. She wrote Whitney in 1847: “Like as a vine entwineth itself around an ...

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White, Sue Shelton (25 May 1887–06 May 1943), feminist, suffragist, and attorney, was born in Henderson, Tennessee, to James Shelton White and Mary Calista Swain, both educators. The family moved to the small town of Montezuma where James and Mary continued to teach and where James was active in the Methodist ministry. In 1879 the family moved a few miles north to the slightly larger but still rural town of Henderson, where the couple also taught and James became superintendent of schools. After James's death in 1893, Mary struggled to support the family. She sold pianos and books, gave piano and voice lessons, and wrote for the local newspaper while she supervised and tutored her own children. Mary made few gender distinctions in the chores and duties she assigned to her sons and daughters, and young Sue, named for her father's sister, spent much of her time following her older brothers around and caring for her younger brother. Sue White's lifelong sensitivity on racial issues can be attributed to her mother's activities during these years and the family's residence in what Sue described as a "twilight zone" between white Henderson and an African American community known as "Jaybird." Sue was fourteen years old when her mother died in 1901....

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Woolley, Mary Emma (13 July 1863–05 September 1947), educator, feminist, and peace activist, was born in South Norwalk, Connecticut, the daughter of Joseph Judah Woolley, a Congregational minister, and his second wife, Mary Augusta Ferris. May, as she was called, spent a happy, nurturing childhood in New England, first in Meriden, Connecticut, and then, beginning in 1871, at her father’s new pastorate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Reverend Woolley’s attempts to combine religious and social work—whether in reaching out to factory workers or in challenging St. Paul’s injunction of silence for women—profoundly influenced his daughter....