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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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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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Chase, Salmon Portland (13 January 1808–07 May 1873), statesman, antislavery leader, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of Ithamar Chase, a glassmaker and tavernkeeper, and Janette Ralston. When Chase was nine years old, his father died. To ease the financial burden on his mother, Chase, the eighth of eleven children, moved to Ohio and lived with his uncle ...

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Douglas, William O. (16 October 1898–19 January 1980), U.S. Supreme Court justice, New Deal administrator, and environmentalist, was born William Orville Douglas in Maine, Minnesota, near the North Dakota border, the son of Julia Fisk and William Douglas, a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to southern California in 1901 and then to eastern Washington, near Yakima, a year later....

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Ford, Betty (08 April 1918–08 July 2011), first lady of the United States and public health advocate, was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of three children of William S. Bloomer, a traveling salesman, and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. She was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1934; at his funeral Betty learned from her mother that he had been an alcoholic. Starting dance lessons at age eight, Betty briefly thought of becoming a ballerina. However, she soon gravitated toward modern dance, which, after her 1936 graduation from high school, she studied at the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont. One of her instructors, the influential ...

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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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Giddings, Joshua Reed (06 October 1795–27 May 1864), antislavery congressman, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joshua Giddings and Elizabeth Pease, farmers. At the age of ten he moved with his parents to Ashtabula County in Ohio’s Western Reserve, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1819 he married Laura Waters, with whom he had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Lacking virtually all formal education, Giddings nonetheless studied law with Elisha Whittlesey, later a U.S. representative, and established a successful practice. After losing his considerable investments in western lands in the panic of 1837 and becoming estranged from his former law partner, future U.S. Senator ...

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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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Hoover, Herbert Clark (10 August 1874–20 October 1964), engineer, philanthropist, and thirty-first president of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa, the son of Jesse Clark Hoover and Hulda[h] Minthorn, farmers. Orphaned at the age of nine, he lived with a variety of relatives in Iowa and finally spent his teenage years in Newberg and Salem, Oregon. Although his parents belonged to a “progressive” branch of Quakers who permitted some organ music and gospel hymns at their meeting house, Hoover’s religious training was quite rigorous under the tutelage of his mother, an ordained Quaker minister....

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Kennedy, Edward Moore (Ted) (22 February 1932–25 August 2009), U.S. senator and advocate for liberal reform, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the ninth and last child of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr., a banker, investor, and American ambassador to Great Britain. His dynasty-building father held high expectations for his children and established trust funds that would provide them with the financial security and freedom to pursue public service. As the baby brother, Kennedy spent his childhood catching up with his siblings in a highly competitive, politically oriented Irish Catholic family that turned everything into a contest, whether it was sailing, playing touch football, or getting attention at the dinner table. Kennedy later attributed his habit of copious research and preparation for legislation as a senator to the standards his father set for table talk....

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Marshall, Thurgood (02 July 1908–24 January 1993), civil rights lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court justice, was born Thoroughgood Marshall in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Canfield Marshall, a dining-car waiter and club steward, and Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher. Growing up in a solid middle-class environment, Marshall was an outgoing and sometimes rebellious student who first encountered the Constitution when he was required to read it as punishment for classroom misbehavior. Marshall’s parents wanted him to become a dentist, as his brother did, but Marshall was not interested in the science courses he took at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, from which he was graduated with honors in 1930. He married Vivian “Buster” Burey in 1929; they had no children....

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Roosevelt, Eleanor (11 October 1884–07 November 1962), first lady of the United States, social reformer, politician, diplomat, was born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in New York City, the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall. Her childhood was materially comfortable—both sides of her family were wealthy and prominent in New York society—but it was also emotionally arid. Her mother, beautiful but distant and so disappointed in the looks of her daughter that she called her “granny,” died when Eleanor was eight. Her youngest brother died the following year. She clung to her father, the younger brother of ...

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Saylor, John Phillips (23 July 1908–28 October 1973), conservationist, was born on a farm near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the son of Tillman Saylor, an attorney, and Minerva Phillips Saylor, a former schoolteacher. After graduating from Johnstown High School at age sixteen Saylor attended Mercersburg Academy in south central Pennsylvania, a college preparatory school for boys. He struggled academically but nonetheless was accepted at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1928, he went on to law school at the University of Michigan but left that program to attend Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1930 to 1933. On graduation, he joined his father's law firm and in 1937 married Johnstown schoolteacher Grace Doerstler. They had two children. In 1942 Saylor joined the navy. He served as a communications officer aboard the U.S.S. ...

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Udall, Morris K. (15 June 1922–12 December 1998), congressman, environmental leader, and presidential candidate, nicknamed "Mo", congressman, environmental leader, and presidential candidate, nicknamed “Mo,” was born Morris King Udall in St. Johns, Arizona, the son of Levi S. Udall, a Mormon leader and later chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and Louise Lee Udall. He was the fourth of six children. At age six, he lost his right eye while playing with a knife. His handicap proved to be hardly an obstacle as he became a star athlete, editor of the school paper, and student body president. Udall attended the University of Arizona in Tucson from 1941 to 1942 but left to enter the U.S. Army in World War II, rising to captain in the Army Air Forces. He commanded an all-black squadron while based in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Returning to the university in 1946, he pursued a law degree and earned honors as an all-Border Conference basketball player. He played professional basketball for the Denver Nuggets in the 1947–1948 season. In 1949 he married Patricia J. Emery; they would have six children and divorce in 1966....