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Benson, Oscar Herman (08 July 1875–15 August 1951), educator and organizer of youth groups, was born in Delhi, Iowa, the son of P. C. Benson and Celia Ortberg, farmers. His father died when Oscar was still a child, and he became the principal support for his mother and three younger siblings. He continued to farm and took on additional jobs to pay for his education. At the age of eighteen, while working in a sawmill, he lost three fingers in an accident. His neighbors, in admiration of his determination to succeed, took up a collection that enabled him to continue his schooling. In 1898 Benson graduated from Epworth (Iowa) Seminary and Teaching College and then financed three further years of college (the State University of Iowa, Iowa State Teachers’ College, and the University of Chicago) by teaching in rural schools. In 1902 he married Sadie J. Jackson; they had three children....

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Kay Boyle. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113309).

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Boyle, Kay (19 February 1902–27 December 1992), writer, educator, and political activist, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Howard Peterson Boyle, a lawyer, and Katherine Evans, a literary and social activist. Her grandfather had founded the West Publishing Company, and the financial security afforded by this background allowed the Boyle family to travel extensively. Boyle’s education was sporadic, culminating in two years of architecture classes at the Ohio Mechanics’ Institute (1917–1919). In 1922 Boyle joined her sister Joan in New York City, where she began to work for ...

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De Zavala, Adina Emily (28 November 1861–01 March 1955), teacher and historic preservationist, was born at De Zavala Point, Harris County, Texas, the oldest of six children of Augustine De Zavala and Julia Tyrell. Her paternal grandfather was Lorenzo de Zavala, a native of Yucatan and first ad interim vice president of the Republic of Texas. In 1867 her father, a merchant and shipbuilder, moved his family to Galveston, Texas. Adina was enrolled as a student at the Ursuline Convent there from 1871 to 1878. In 1878 the family moved to Shavano, Bexar County, Texas, where Augustine De Zavala owned a ranch and general store. Adina De Zavala enrolled at Sam Houston Normal Institute in Huntsville, Texas, in 1879 and received a teacher’s certificate in 1881. She taught elementary school in Terrell, Texas, from 1884 to 1886; in Austin in 1890; and in San Antonio from 1893 to 1907. Her father died in 1892, and in 1897 she and her mother and sisters moved from the ranch into a home in San Antonio, where she resided for most of the rest of her life. She resigned from the San Antonio school system in January 1907, after receiving a reprimand from the school board for “assuming an independent and insubordinate attitude toward her superior officers,” and devoted the rest of her life to patriotic and historical organizations and to historical writing and journalism....

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Dean, Vera Micheles (29 March 1903–10 October 1972), international affairs specialist and teacher, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, the daughter of Alexander Micheles, a Russian of German-Jewish background who immigrated to the United States in 1888 and later returned to Russia as a sales representative for the U.S.-based Gillette Company, and Nadine Kadisch, a translator of English novels into Russian. Growing up in Russia, the Micheles children received private tutoring and became fluent in seven languages. After the 1917 revolution, the family had to move to London for political reasons, and Vera was sent to Boston. There she attended business school, worked briefly as a stenographer, and then enrolled at Radcliffe College. After graduating with distinction in 1925, she earned an M.A. from Yale University. In 1928 she received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe in international law and international relations and became a U.S. citizen....

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Elliott, Harriet Wiseman (10 July 1884–06 August 1947), educator, political organizer, and government official, was born in Carbondale, Illinois, the daughter of Allan Curtis Elliott, a merchant who extended easy credit to poor coal miners, and Elizabeth Ann White, a staunch supporter of ...

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Garfield, Harry Augustus (11 October 1863–12 December 1942), lawyer, educator, and public official, was born in Hiram, Ohio, the son of James A. Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, and Lucretia Rudolph (Lucretia Rudolph Garfield). A witness to the fatal shooting of his father in 1881, Garfield grappled with the implications of that tragedy for the rest of his life. He earned a B.A. at Williams College, 1881–1885, and after teaching briefly at St. Paul’s, a private school for boys, he studied law at Columbia University, 1886–1887, and in England at Oxford University and the Inns of Court, 1887–1888. In the latter year he married Belle H. Mason; they had four children....

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Hope, Lugenia D. Burns (19 February 1871–14 August 1947), community organizer and educator, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Ferdinand Burns, a well-to-do carpenter, and Louisa M. Bertha. Lugenia was raised in a Grace Presbyterian, middle-class family. Her father’s sudden death forced her mother to move the family to Chicago to maintain their class standing and provide Lugenia, or “Genie” as she was called, with educational opportunities lacking in St. Louis. From 1890 to 1893, while her older siblings worked to support the family, Lugenia attended high school and special classes, the Chicago School of Design, the Chicago Business College, and the Chicago Art Institute....

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Le Sueur, Marian (02 August 1877–26 January 1954), teacher and radical politician, was born Marian Lucy in Bedford, Iowa, the daughter of (first name unknown) Lucy, a lawyer, and Antoinette McGovern. Le Sueur’s parents apparently had nontraditional views and strong streaks of independence. Her father reportedly fled home for long periods preceding the birth of each child. Her mother eventually reared the children alone, going west in 1899 to claim land in Oklahoma, where she built a house and became a temperance leader....

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Lingelbach, Anna Lane (10 October 1873–14 July 1954), educator, historian, and civic leader, was born in Shelbyville, Illinois, the daughter of Oscar F. Lane, a farmer and minister of the Disciples of Christ, and Mary F. Wendling. Following her early education in private schools, she enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington against strenuous objection from her father, who, like many of his era, felt higher education inappropriate for a woman. This early expression of Anna’s force of character foreshadowed a life exhibiting similar determination and courage in a career of rich and diverse dimensions....

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Robert Morss Lovett. Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G39-T-5691-019).

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Lovett, Robert Morss (25 December 1870–08 February 1956), educator, writer, and reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Augustus Sidney Lovett, an insurance broker, and Elizabeth Russell. Lovett grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston and then went to Harvard, where he graduated at the head of his class with an A.B. in English in 1892....

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Marcuse, Herbert (19 July 1898–29 July 1979), author, professor, and political activist, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Carl Marcuse, a prosperous Jewish merchant, and Gertrud Kreslawsky, the daughter of a wealthy German factory owner. Marcuse studied at the Mommsen Gymnasium in Berlin before World War I and served with the German army in the war. Transferred to Berlin early in 1918, he observed and sympathized with the German revolution that drove Kaiser Wilhelm II out of Germany and established a Social Democratic government....

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Tenayuca, Emma (21 December 1916–23 July 1999), labor organizer, community activist, school teacher, was born in San Antonio, Texas, the first daughter of eleven children born to Sam Tenayuca and Benita Hernandez Zepeda. Her parents had eleven children and to relieve their economic burden, the maternal grandparents raised some of the children, including Emma. Her grandfather worked as a carpenter and followed politics. Tenayuca developed an early understanding of transnational politics when, at age seven, she was taken to the ...

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Willett, Herbert Lockwood (05 May 1864–28 March 1944), clergyman, orator, and biblical scholar, was born near Ionia, Michigan, the son of Gordon Arthur Willett, a farm machinery merchant, and Mary Elizabeth Yates, a schoolteacher serving as a nurse in the Union army. Formative in his choice of vocation were the memberships of both the Willett and Yates families in a Disciples of Christ congregation founded in the 1850s by evangelist Isaac Errett. Willett never attended public school. He studied under his mother’s tutelage, memorizing large portions of the Bible and poetry, an accomplishment that later lent distinction to his public and academic addresses. In 1883 his Disciples heritage prompted him to attend Bethany College in West Virginia, the school founded by the denominational leader ...