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Austin, Harriet N. (1825–1891), hydropathic physician and health and dress reformer, was born in Connecticut but raised in Moravia, New York. Little is known about her parentage or early life. At age twenty-six she enrolled in the first class of the coeducational American Hydropathic Institute operated by ...

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Bloomer, Amelia Jenks (27 May 1818–30 December 1894), temperance and women's rights reformer and editor, temperance and women’s rights reformer and editor, was born in Homer, New York, the daughter of Ananias Jenks, a clothier, and Lucy Webb. She received a basic education in Homer’s district schools and by the age of seventeen was teaching in Clyde, New York. After a year of teaching, Bloomer became a governess and tutor for a Waterloo, New York, family....

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Carse, Matilda Bradley (19 November 1835–03 June 1917), temperance worker, editor, and entrepreneur, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the daughter of John Bradley and Catherine Cleland, Scottish merchants whose ancestors had migrated to Ireland in the seventeenth century. Educated in Ireland, Carse emigrated in 1858 to Chicago. In 1861 she married Thomas Carse, a railroad manager with whom she had three sons. After her husband’s death in 1870, her youngest son was killed by a drunken drayman, propelling Carse into the temperance cause just as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organizing. She devoted much of the rest of her life to business and volunteer activities related to that organization....

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Frances Gage Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92766).

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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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Martin, Del (05 May 1921–27 August 2008), lesbian and women’s rights activist and writer, was born Dorothy Louise Taliaferro in San Francisco to Jones and Mary Taliaferro. Del (as she became known) attended public schools in the city and was named the salutatorian of the first graduating class at George Washington High School. She then attended the University of California at Berkeley and studied journalism. At nineteen, after transferring to San Francisco State College (now California State University at San Francisco), Del married James Martin in 1940; two years later, she gave birth to their daughter, Kendra. The marriage ended in divorce when her husband discovered love letters she had written to a female neighbor....

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Parker, Pat (20 Jan. 1944–17 June 1989), poet, performer, health care administrator, and lesbian-feminist activist, was born Patricia Ann Cooks in Houston, Texas, the youngest of five children of Marie Louise Anderson Cooks, a domestic worker, and Ernest Nathaniel Cooks, who worked as a roofer in the summer and retreaded tires in the winter. Later the family moved outside of Houston to a small, tin-roofed house with an outhouse. Pat recalled writing at an early age, particularly composing greeting cards for festive occasions. In high school, she joined the staff of the local black newspaper and became the first woman junior editor of her school newspaper. She also served as editor her senior year and graduated from Houston’s Evan E. Worthing Senior High School in ...

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Taylor, Valerie, (7 Sept. 1913–22 Oct. 1997), feminist novelist and radical activist, was born Velma Nacella Young in Aurora, Illinois, to Elsie M. Collins and Marshall J. Young in a family of independent Midwestern farmers and feminists. In addition to economic hardships, undiagnosed polio that resulted in curvature of the spine as well as her extreme nearsightedness were early challenges in her life. They did not keep her from excelling, and she graduated from the local high school in ...

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Way, Amanda (10 July 1828–24 February 1914), reformer and minister, was born in Winchester, Indiana, the daughter of Matthew Way, a farmer, teamster, and schoolteacher, and Hannah Martin. As a child she was painfully shy and self-conscious about being tall. She attended the local public schools and Randolph Seminary. After graduation she taught school for a time but opened a dressmaking and millinery shop when it became necessary for her to support her widowed mother in 1849....

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Frances Willard. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-790).

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Willard, Frances Elizabeth Caroline (28 September 1839–17 February 1898), educator and international temperance leader, was born in Churchville near Rochester, New York, the daughter of Josiah Willard, a businessman and farmer, and Mary Hill, a schoolteacher. When she was two her father sold his substantial farm and business interests and moved his family to Ohio, where both parents studied at Oberlin College. In 1846 the family moved to Wisconsin, where Frances spent the rest of her childhood on their large frontier farm near Janesville. Except for brief stints in rural schools, Willard was tutored by her mother until 1857, when she studied for a year at Milwaukee Female College (later Milwaukee-Downer College) and then at North Western Female College (later part of Northwestern University), receiving a “Laureatte of Science” in 1859. In 1861 she was engaged to ...

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Willing, Jennie Fowler (22 January 1834–06 October 1916), evangelist, reformer, and church worker, was born in Burford, Canada West (present-day Ontario), the daughter of Horatio Fowler, a homesteader and participant in the Papineau Rebellion of 1837, and Harriet Ryan, the daughter of the founder of Canadian Methodism, Henry Ryan. The Fowlers settled in Newark, Illinois, following Horatio’s expulsion from Canada after the failure of the rebellion. Jennie was a sickly child and largely self-educated. Her first job was as a school teacher in Illinois at age fifteen....