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Bauer, Catherine Krouse (11 May 1905–22 November 1964), housing advocate and urban-planning educator, was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the daughter of Jacob Louis Bauer, a highway engineer, and Alberta Louise Krouse, a suffragist. Bauer graduated from Vassar College in 1926, having spent her junior year at Cornell University studying architecture. Following graduation she lived in Paris and wrote about contemporary architecture, including the work of the modernist Le Corbusier. In New York from 1927 to 1930, she held a variety of jobs and began a friendship with the architectural and social critic ...

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Dinwiddie, Emily Wayland (14 August 1879–11 March 1949), social worker and housing reformer, was born in Greenwood, Virginia, the daughter of William Dinwiddie, a Presbyterian evangelical minister, and Emily Albertine Bledsoe. Emily grew up on a farm where she developed a love for the outdoors, participated in climbing, hiking, and swimming, and studied plant life. She graduated with a B.A. from Peace Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1898 and remained at the school for two years as a Latin teacher. She never married....

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Flagg, Ernest (06 February 1857–10 April 1947), architect and urban reformer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jared Bradley Flagg, a clergyman and artist, and Louisa Hart. After his mother’s death in 1872, Flagg abandoned his formal education and found employment in a series of marginal businesses in New York City. Later he worked as a developer in partnership with his father and brother, an experience that stimulated his interest in architecture and urban reform. Flagg’s cousin ...

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Harris, Patricia Roberts (31 May 1924–23 March 1985), cabinet member and ambassador, was born in Mattoon, Illinois, the daughter of Bert Fitzgerald Roberts, a Pullman car waiter, and Hildren Brodie Johnson, a schoolteacher. After graduating from a Chicago high school, she entered Howard University, from which she was graduated, summa cum laude, with an A.B. in 1945. In 1943, while a student at Howard, she joined the nascent civil rights movement and participated in a sit-in to desegregate a cafeteria lunch counter in Washington, D.C. Roberts did graduate work at the University of Chicago. In 1946, while attending graduate school, she was also program director of the local YWCA. In 1949 she returned to Washington, D.C., where she pursued further graduate study at the American University until 1950. From 1949 to 1953 she served as an assistant director in the Civil Rights Agency of the American Council on Human Rights. Married in 1955 to attorney William B. Harris, who encouraged her to enter law school (the marriage was childless), she earned a J.D. degree at the George Washington University Law Center in 1960. Recognized early in her youth as an outstanding and diligent student, Harris graduated first out of ninety-four in her class....

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Levitt, Abraham (01 July 1880–20 August 1962), lawyer and housing contractor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Rabbi Louis Levitt and Nellie (maiden name unknown), immigrants from Russia. Little is known about his parents. Levitt grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Because his family was very poor, he was forced to drop out of school at the age of ten to become a newsboy on Park Row. Later he worked as a dishwasher and held other menial positions, such as dock worker and waiter. Nevertheless, he educated himself by avidly reading books, newspapers, and magazines. He later said that by the time he was sixteen years old, he read some part of some book every day; his favorite subjects were history, economics, and philosophy. He also frequently attended lectures at Cooper Union and joined and regularly attended the meetings of various literary and scientific societies. When he was twenty years old, he took and passed a New York’s regents examination to gain entrance to the New York University Law School. Specializing in real estate law, he wrote an outstanding student manual on his specialty when he was a sophomore, the profits from which helped him finish his LL.B. Admitted to the New York bar in 1903, he established a private practice that soon flourished. Three years later he married Pauline A. Biederman; the couple had two sons, ...

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Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch. Charcoal and chalk on paper, 1932, by Samuel Johnson Woolf. © Estate of S.J. Woolf. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the artist's daughters, Muriel Woolf Hobson and Dorothy Woolf Ahern.

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Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury (08 September 1867–15 November 1951), social settlement leader and housing reformer, was born Mary Melinda Kingsbury in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, the older of two children of Laura Holmes and Isaac Franklin Kingsbury, both of whom came from well-established and politically engaged New England families. Her mother’s family had sheltered runaway slaves, and her father fought with the Thirty-Second Massachusetts Volunteers in the Civil War. Mary described her childhood as a happy one—surrounded by extended family and full of tales of the war—in which she played in fields and orchards, practiced piano, and read avidly. As a child, her family occupied the same pew in the local Congregational church that her father’s grandfather had, though the family joined the Episcopal Church when she was in her teens....

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Stokes, Isaac Newton Phelps (11 April 1867–18 December 1944), architect and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Anson Phelps Stokes, a banker, and Helen Louisa Phelps. His education was interrupted by episodes of ill health, but he entered Harvard University in 1887 and graduated in 1891. Stokes worked briefly in banking before he began to study at the School of Architecture of Columbia University from 1893 to 1894. He left without taking a degree and went to Paris to study housing design at the École des Beaux Arts. Improved tenement housing was to be a lifelong interest of his. In 1895 he married Edith Minturn. They had an adopted daughter....

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Veiller, Lawrence Turnure (07 January 1872–30 August 1959), housing reformer, was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the son of Philip Bayard Veiller (pronounced Vay-ay), a broker and factory owner, and Elizabeth du Puy. Because of his father’s widespread business interests, Veiller attended school in New York City, Chicago, and Newton, Massachusetts. After graduating from the City College of New York in 1890, he joined the local Charity Organization Society (COS). Working as a volunteer for COS and the University Settlement in the city’s tenement districts during the depression of 1893, Veiller became convinced that “the improvement of the homes of the people was the starting point of everything.” From 1895 to 1897, as plans examiner at the city Buildings Department, he learned about housing construction and finance. He married Amy Hall in 1897; they had no children....

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Robert C. Weaver Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USE6-D-010813).

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Weaver, Robert C. (29 December 1907–17 July 1997), economist, political administrator, and educator, was born Robert Clifton Weaver in Washington, D.C., the son of Mortimer Grover Weaver, a postal clerk, and Florence Freeman Weaver. Weaver grew up in a middle-class and educated family, one of seven African-American families in a Washington suburb. His father worked for the post office. (One grandfather, ...

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White, Alfred Tredway (28 May 1846–29 January 1921), housing reformer and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Alexander Moss White, a wealthy importer, and Elizabeth Hart Tredway. After earning an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in 1865, White returned to Brooklyn, worked in his family’s Manhattan importing firm, and, beginning in 1867, taught in the settlement school started two years earlier by young people in the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn. In 1869 he was asked by his pastor, Alfred P. Putnam, to superintend his church’s settlement work. White’s commitment to the welfare of immigrant children led him almost immediately to confront the appalling living conditions of the urban poor and to inaugurate the housing reform movement....

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Wood, Edith Elmer (24 September 1871–29 April 1945), public health activist and housing reformer, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the daughter of Horace Elmer, a naval officer, and Adele Wiley. As part of a military family, she lived around the United States and the world. She graduated from Smith College in 1890 and worked at the College Settlement in New York City. She married Albert Norton Wood, a naval officer, in 1893; they had four children. Before becoming involved in housing reform, Wood wrote fiction and travel books....