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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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Bethune, Mary Jane McLeod (10 July 1875–18 May 1955), organizer of black women and advocate for social justice, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina, the child of former slaves Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, farmers. After attending a school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, she entered Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina, in 1888 and graduated in May 1894. She spent the next year at ...

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Blackwell, Alice Stone (14 September 1857–15 March 1950), women's rights advocate and humanitarian reformer, women’s rights advocate and humanitarian reformer, was born in Orange, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Browne Blackwell, a hardware merchant, and Lucy Stone, a suffrage leader. Blackwell was surrounded by reform activity from her early childhood on. Both of her parents were prominent suffrage workers and founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). ...

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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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Brown, Charlotte Emerson (21 April 1838–05 February 1895), first president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, first president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, was born in Andover, Massachusetts, the daughter of Reverend Ralph Emerson, a clergyman and professor, and Eliza Rockwell. Charlotte’s father came from a distinguished New England heritage and was related to ...

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Clay, Laura (09 February 1849–29 June 1941), farm manager and women's rights leader, farm manager and women’s rights leader, was born at “White Hall,” her family’s estate, located between Lexington and Richmond, Kentucky, the daughter of Cassius M. Clay, a notable politician, emancipationist, and diplomat, and Mary Jane Warfield. Clay’s formal education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War, when the family accompanied her father to Russia, where he had been appointed U.S. minister. Returning to Kentucky in 1862, she attended Sayre School in Lexington, graduating in 1865. Aside from a year at a finishing school in New York City and brief stints of study at the Universities of Michigan and Kentucky, this completed her formal education. In 1873 she leased a 300-acre farm from her father and became its owner upon his death in 1903. Describing herself as a “practical farmer,” she skillfully managed this rich Bluegrass land, deriving from it her own livelihood and most of the finances for her long public career....

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Davis, Paulina Kellogg Wright (07 August 1813–24 August 1876), abolitionist, suffragist, and educator, was born in Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Kellogg and Polly Saxton. In 1817 the family moved to an undeveloped area near Niagara Falls. Davis’s enjoyment of the frontier’s exhilirating freedom ended with the deaths of her parents. In 1820 she went to live with a strict orthodox Presbyterian aunt in LeRoy, New York, where she was educated and attended church regularly....

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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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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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Felton, Rebecca Latimer (10 June 1835–24 January 1930), reformer and women's activist, reformer and women’s activist, was born in De Kalb County, Georgia, the daughter of Charles Latimer, a locally prominent planter and merchant, and Eleanor Swift. She attended a private community school before entering boarding school and finally the Madison Female College, from which she graduated in 1852. In 1853 she married William Harrell Felton, a politically active Methodist minister; they had five children....

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Gage, Frances Dana Barker (12 October 1808–10 November 1884), reformer, lecturer, and author, was born on a farm in Union Township, Washington County, Ohio, the daughter of Joseph Barker and Elizabeth Dana, farmers. The rugged conditions of farm life bred in her a hardiness and resourcefulness that served her well as an adult....

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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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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (03 July 1860–17 August 1935), feminist critic and author, was born Charlotte Anna Perkins in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Frederic Beecher Perkins, a man of letters and librarian, and Mary Ann Fitch Wescott. Her great-grandfather was theologian Lyman Beecher...

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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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Grimké, Angelina Emily (20 February 1805–26 October 1879), abolitionist and women's rights activist, abolitionist and women’s rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Faucheraud Grimké, a planter and judge, and Mary Smith. A member of one of the wealthiest and most aristocratic families in Charleston, her father, who had been a captain in the American Revolution, traced his descent from the city’s earliest Huguenot and German settlers and held the post of senior associate, equivalent to chief justice, of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Her mother’s family had included two colonial governors. From an early age both Angelina and her older sister ...

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Grimké, Sarah Moore (26 November 1792–23 December 1873), abolitionist, writer-educator, and women's rights pioneer, abolitionist, writer-educator, and women’s rights pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Faucheraud Grimké, chief judge of the state supreme court, and Mary Smith. Sarah was educated by private tutors in subjects considered proper for well-bred southern girls—among them, French, watercolors, harpsichord, and embroidery. But from her older brother Thomas, a student at Yale, she learned Latin, Greek, mathematics, and geography. Raised in the upper classes of Charleston, Sarah gained firsthand experience with prosperity’s underside, African slavery. Her father “owned” several hundred slaves, some of whom she taught to read before he (and the law of the state) forbade it....

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Henrotin, Ellen Martin (06 July 1847–29 June 1922), woman's club leader and social reformer, woman’s club leader and social reformer, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Edward Byam Martin and Sarah Ellen Norris. Following her birth the family moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and after Ellen’s thirteenth birthday they were transplanted to the British Isle of Wight, where Edward Martin had acquired land. The status and wealth of the family enabled Ellen to be educated in London, Paris, and Dresden schools and to learn many foreign languages. In 1868 the family returned to the United States, making their home in Chicago where her father had numerous investments....

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Hepburn, Katharine Martha Houghton (02 February 1878–17 March 1951), women's rights activist, women’s rights activist, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Alfred Houghton, a businessman and son of founders of the Corning Glass Works, and Caroline Garlinghouse. After the deaths of her parents—her father of suicide in 1892 and her mother of stomach cancer in 1894—the teenager and her two sisters were sent to Corning, New York, to live with their mother’s cousin Mack Smith in Canandaigua, New York. Katharine attended Bryn Mawr College and earned her B.A. in 1899 and an M.A. in chemistry and physics in 1900. After a European tour, she took a teaching job in Baltimore, where she met Thomas Norval Hepburn, a student at Johns Hopkins Medical School, whom she married in 1904....

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Hollingworth, Leta Anna Stetter (25 May 1886–27 November 1939), psychologist and feminist, was born in a dugout near Chadron, Nebraska, the daughter of John G. Stetter and Margaret Elinor Danley. Her father, a fun-loving but irresponsible Virginian of German descent, worked as a peddler, entertainer, and itinerant cowboy. Her mother, the well-educated daughter of a neighboring Scotch-Irish farm family, died in 1890, leaving three girls to be reared by their maternal grandparents. At twelve Leta and her sisters moved to Valentine, Nebraska, to live with their father and his new wife, a troubled woman who made life a “fiery furnace.”...