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Anneke, Mathilde Franziska Giesler (03 April 1817–25 November 1884), suffragist, author, and educator, was born in Lerchenhausen, Westphalia, Germany, the daughter of Karl Giesler, a Catholic landlord and mine owner, and Elisabeth Hülswitt. She grew up comfortably and was well educated, more through learned company than tutors and schools. In fact, as a teacher in later years she would read “Fridjhoff’s saga to her pupils and recite from memory the translation she had read when eleven years old,” given to her by a prince (Heinzen, p. 3)....

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Susan B. Anthony. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-23933).

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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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Avery, Rachel G. Foster (30 December 1858–26 October 1919), suffragist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of J. Heron Foster, the founder and editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, and Julia Manuel, an early advocate of women’s rights. Both of her parents were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers); her father’s pacifist religion, however, did not prevent him from serving as a colonel in the Union army during the Civil War. Her parents also strongly opposed slavery and were active in the abolitionist movement. Her mother, a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a friend of ...

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Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (05 July 1839–23 October 1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate, was born in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, the daughter of David Johnston, a tanner, and Letitia Clark. In 1853 her father moved the family to Plattekill, New York, where he became a farmer and minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She attended public school and a Friends’ boarding school and taught in rural New York from 1858 to 1867. Accompanying a female Quaker preacher on a mission to New England churches, almshouses, and prisons, Bailey met her future husband, Moses Bailey, a fellow Society member and prosperous manufacturer of oil cloth. They were married in 1868 and settled at his Winthrop, Maine, home. They had one child....

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Barron, Jennie Loitman (12 October 1891–28 March 1969), suffragist, lawyer, and judge, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Morris Loitman, a needle trades worker and later an insurance agent, and Fannie Castelman, a needle trades worker. From her Russian immigrant parents, Jennie Loitman learned the value of education. She graduated from grammar school at age twelve and from Boston’s Girls High School at age fifteen. While in high school she worked as an after school “hand” in a shoe factory. She taught Americanization classes in the evening and sold copies of William Shakespeare’s works door to door to pay her way through Boston University, where she received three degrees, an A.B. in 1911, an LL.B. in 1913, and an LL.M. in 1914....

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Belmont, Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt (17 January 1853–26 January 1933), social leader and suffragist, was born Alva Erskine Smith in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of Murray Forbes Smith, a cotton merchant, and Phoebe Ann Desha. As a child, Alva summered with her parents in Newport, Rhode Island, and accompanied them on European vacations. In 1857 the Smiths moved to New York City, where they settled in Madison Square. Murray Smith later went to Liverpool, England, to conduct his business, and Alva, her mother, and her sisters moved to Paris. Alva attended a private boarding school in Neuilly, France, for one year....

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Bittenbender, Ada Matilda Cole (03 August 1848–15 December 1925), lawyer and suffragist, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Daniel Cole, an inventor and Civil War veteran, and Emily A. Madison. After some local schooling, she attended Lowell’s Commercial College in Binghamton, New York, graduating in 1869. She then attended the Pennsylvania State Normal School at Bloomsburg from 1874 to 1875, teaching there for one year after her graduation. From 1876 to 1877 she attended the Froebel Normal Institute in Washington, D.C. After graduating, she returned to Bloomsburg and served as principal of the Pennsylvania State Normal School, but she resigned after one year for reasons of health....

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Blankenburg, Lucretia Longshore (08 May 1845–29 March 1937), suffragist and reformer, was born near New Lisbon, Ohio, the daughter of Thomas Ellwood Longshore, a Quaker schoolteacher, and Hannah E. Myers, who also was from a Quaker family and who became the first woman doctor in Philadelphia. She was named for ...

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Harriot Stanton Blatch. Speaking to men on Wall Street, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-7097).

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Blatch, Harriot Stanton (20 January 1856–20 November 1940), woman suffrage leader, was born Harriot Eaton Stanton in Seneca Falls, New York, the daughter of Henry Brewster Stanton, a lawyer, state senator, and abolitionist, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader in the women’s rights movement. Inspiration germinated within the Stanton household. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been one of the initiators in writing the Declaration of Sentiments that was presented at the historic first convention for women’s rights held in Seneca Falls in 1848. Harriot, the sixth of seven siblings, idolized her mother, a woman with a great imagination and a good amount of common sense who passed her fervor for the cause of woman suffrage on to her younger daughter....

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Inez Milholland Boissevain Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1914. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0661-B).

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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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Bowen, Louise deKoven (26 February 1859–09 November 1953), philanthropist, social reformer, and suffragist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of John deKoven, a successful banker, and Helen Hadduck. Louise grew up with all the pleasures and privileges of wealth and power. She graduated from the prestigious Dearborn Seminary at the age of sixteen and soon thereafter began teaching Sunday school and dabbling in charity work. She established the Huron Street Club, one of the first boys’ clubhouses in Chicago; helped to create a kitchen garden association for girls; and regularly visited the hundred families of the boys in her church class, offering help when needed. In 1886 she married Joseph Tilton Bowen, a Chicago businessman. She gave up her Sunday school class and other church-related social work so that she would have time to care for their four children. Unwilling, however, to give up all philanthropic activities when her children were very young, Bowen joined the board of managers of the Maurice Porter Memorial Hospital. She later held board positions with other hospitals and helped establish the Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago....

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Madeline Breckinridge. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111461).

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Breckinridge, Madeline McDowell (20 May 1872–25 November 1920), woman suffragist and Progressive reformer, was born at Woodlake in Franklin County, Kentucky, the daughter of Henry Clay McDowell, a lawyer and businessman, and Anne Clay. Members from both sides of her family had been prominent since Kentucky’s earliest years. In 1882 her family moved to Ashland, the estate of her great-grandfather ...

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Brown, Gertrude Foster (29 July 1867–01 March 1956), suffragist, concert pianist, and music educator, was born Gertrude Marion Foster in Morrison, Illinois, the daughter of Lydia Ann (or Anna) Drake and William Charles Foster, an agricultural commodities trader and real estate investor. At the early age of five, Gertrude displayed a talent for music by teaching herself to play short piano pieces that she had heard her older brother practicing. When she was twelve years old, she was hired as the organist for the local Presbyterian church, the first organist for that church ever to be paid a salary....

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Brown, Olympia (05 January 1835–23 October 1926), Universalist minister and suffragist, was born in Prairie Ronde, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, the daughter of Asa B. Brown and Lephia Olympia, farmers. Her parents were Universalists with a strong commitment to education for their children. She first attended school with her two younger sisters and brother in a building on her family’s farm and later in Schoolcraft, Michigan. In 1854 she went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts. She disliked the stultifying rules and religious orthodoxy there and transferred in 1856 to the newly organized coeducational Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio....

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Carrie Chapman Catt Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-28475).

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Catt, Carrie Chapman (09 February 1859–09 March 1947), suffragist leader and peace activist, was born Carrie Clinton Lane in Ripon, Wisconsin, the daughter of Lucius Lane and Maria Clinton, farmers. In 1866 the family moved to a farm outside Charles City, Iowa, and Carrie thereafter identified herself as an Iowan. She was graduated from Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in 1880 with a B.S. She was a feminist long before she knew the word; at thirteen she was indignant when she realized that her mother could not vote in the presidential election. At college she organized a debate on woman suffrage and broke tradition by joining a public-speaking society. After graduation she read law for a year, then taught high school in Mason City, Iowa. She soon became the school’s principal as well as the superintendent of schools. In these posts she developed her organizational and administrative talents. They were the keystones to her success as a leader of women for the next sixty years....