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Barnard, Kate (23 May 1875–23 February 1930), Progressive reformer and politician, was born Catherine Anna Barnard in Alexandria, Nebraska, the daughter of John P. Barnard, a lawyer and real estate speculator, and Rachael Mason Shiell. Shortly after Barnard’s birth her family moved to the small frontier town of Kirwin, Kansas, where her mother died in 1877. She attended public school in Kirwin until the early 1890s, when she and her father moved to the new territory of Oklahoma. The experiences of her early adulthood resemble those of other women Progressives in at least two ways. First, she was introduced to politics by her father, a local politician. Second, she tried several lines of work before she became a reformer. From 1896 to 1899 she taught in rural schools; then, in 1902 she exchanged teaching for stenography. Startled by the degree of poverty in her own neighborhood in Oklahoma City, she decided in the fall of 1905 to conduct a campaign to clothe the community’s poor. The crusade gained her public recognition and convinced her of the importance of volunteer associations. She resuscitated a local charity organization and was appointed its matron in December 1905. She began to realize that unionization could be another weapon with which to combat poverty and, consequently, became a deputy organizer for the International Women’s Union Label League....

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Bayne, Thomas (1824–1889), dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As the slave of Martin, Bayne learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor’s assistant and to make dental house calls. Bayne also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor’s accounts....

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Blair, Emily Newell (09 January 1877–03 August 1951), feminist, politician, and writer, was born in Joplin, Missouri, the daughter of Anna Cynthia Gray and James Patton Newell, a mortgage broker. She enrolled in the Woman’s College of Baltimore (now Goucher College) in 1894, but her father’s death cut short her education after just one year. Returning home, she helped raise her younger siblings, taught school, and attended classes at the University of Missouri without completing a degree. In 1900 she married Harry Wallace Blair, a former classmate at Carthage High School....

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Boudinot, Elias (02 May 1740–24 October 1821), statesman and philanthropist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Elias Boudinot III, a silversmith and postmaster in Philadelphia, and Elizabeth Williams, daughter of a planter in Antigua, West Indies. He was fourth in a line of notable Elias Boudinots, the first a Huguenot refugee who moved from London to New York about 1687. Over the generations Boudinots became linked through marriage with a number of prominent families, including those of Thomas Bradbury Chandler, ...

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Herman N. Bundesen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B03896).

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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....

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Campbell, Tunis Gulic (01 April 1812–04 December 1891), abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined with ...

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Oscar L. Chapman Testifying before Senate Interior Committee, 1950. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94480).

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Chapman, Oscar Littleton (22 October 1896–06 February 1978), humanitarian, politician, and secretary of the interior, was born in Halifax County, Virginia, the son of James Jackson Chapman and Rosa Blount, farmers. Portending his future liberalism, young Chapman rebelled against his southern heritage, choosing a picture of ...

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Salmon P. Chase. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1747).

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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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Clark, Peter Humphries (1829–21 June 1925), educator, politician, and civil rights leader, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Michael Clark, a barber, and his wife (name unknown). Clark was the product of a complex, mixed racial ancestry that provided the basis for a lifelong struggle to find a place for himself in both the white and African-American worlds. The oral tradition of Peter Clark’s family and of the Cincinnati African-American community contends that Michael Clark was the son of explorer ...

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Cassius Marcellus Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109862).

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Cooper, Edward (26 October 1824–25 February 1905), businessman, philanthropist, and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Cooper, a businessman, philanthropist, and public figure, and Sarah Bedell. After attending public school in New York City, the younger Cooper enrolled at Columbia College, but he earned no degree. At Columbia College, Cooper met ...

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Crisp, Mary Dent (05 November 1923–24 March 2007), Republican Party leader and women's rights advocate, Republican Party leader and women’s rights advocate, was born Mary Dent in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the seventh child of Harry Dent and Elizabeth Patch Dent. After graduating from Allentown High School, she attended Oberlin College, receiving a degree in botany in 1946. She would later trace her interest in politics to Oberlin’s emphasis on an individual’s responsibility to engage with pressing social issues. She married William Crisp, a doctor, in 1948; the couple had three children and resided in Phoenix, Arizona. There, she took graduate courses in political science at Arizona State University....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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Dewson, Molly (18 February 1874–21 October 1962), politician and social reformer, was born Mary Williams Dewson in Quincy, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Henry Dewson, a Boston leather merchant, and Elizabeth Weld. Molly (as she was always known) attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1897. After college she joined the staff of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union in Boston, where she conducted research on domestic service and the professionalization of housework. In 1900 she became the superintendent of the parole department for the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls at Lancaster. In 1912 she resigned that post to join Boston reformer ...

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Gerard, James Watson (25 August 1867–06 September 1951), diplomat, politician, and philanthropist, was born in Geneseo, New York, the son of James Watson Gerard, a respected lawyer and author, and Jenny Jones Angel. He studied at Columbia University (A.B., 1890; A.M. in political science, 1891) and the New York Law School (LL.B., 1892). Admitted to the New York bar in 1892, he began a long association with Bowers & Sands, a law firm founded by his grandfather. In 1901 he married Mary “Molly” Daly, daughter of ...

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Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (17 April 1823–11 July 1915), businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager, Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men’s literary society, and, like his brother ...