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Nathan Allen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B01026).

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Allen, Nathan (25 April 1813–01 January 1889), physician, social reformer, and public health advocate, was born in Princeton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Allen and Mehitable Oliver, farmers. He spent his first seventeen years on the family farm, learning to work hard and to follow the Christian principles of his parents. He could not afford a higher education, but a friend in Leicester helped pay his tuition at Amherst Academy and then at Amherst College, where he matriculated in 1832, graduating in 1836....

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Bagley, Sarah George (29 April 1806–?), millworker, reformer, and physician, was born in Candia, New Hampshire, the daughter of Nathan Bagley and Rhoda Witham, farmers.

Bagley grew up in a family whose economic situation became increasingly precarious during the course of the nineteenth century. Nathan Bagley originally farmed land in Candia, which he had inherited from his father, but he later moved on to farming land in Gilford, New Hampshire. After losing litigation in 1822, he sold his land in Gilford and eventually moved to Meredith Bridge, New Hampshire (now Laconia), where he became an incorporator of the Strafford Cotton Mill Company in 1833. However, Nathan Bagley did not own a home after 1824; it was Sarah Bagley who made the down payment on a house for her family in Meredith Bridge in the 1840s. She probably used money she had saved during her stints as a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts....

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Barber, Jesse Max (05 July 1878–23 September 1949), African-American journalist, dentist, and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina, the son of Jesse Max Barber and Susan Crawford, former slaves. Barber studied in public schools for African-American students and at Friendship Institute in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he graduated as valedictorian. In 1901 he completed the normal school course for teachers at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and afterward entered Virginia Union University in Richmond. There Barber was president of the literary society and edited the ...

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Barrows, Isabel (17 April 1845–25 October 1913), ophthalmologist, stenographer, and reformer, was born Katharine Isabel Hayes in Irasburg, Vermont, the daughter of Scottish immigrants Henry Hayes, a physician, and Anna Gibb, a schoolteacher. The family moved to Hartland and then Derry, New Hampshire, where Isabel Hayes graduated from Adams Academy. In 1863 she married William Wilberforce Chapin, a Congregational minister. The following year the couple traveled to India for a missionary assignment. Less than a year after arriving in India, William Chapin died of diphtheria. Six months later Isabel Chapin returned to the United States. She moved to Dansville, New York, where she worked as a bath assistant at a water-cure sanatorium....

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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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Chapin, Henry Dwight (04 February 1857–27 June 1942), physician, was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of the Reverend Henry Barton Chapin, a Presbyterian minister, and Harriet Ann Smith. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1877 and studied medicine with a preceptor (possibly Dr. ...

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Clark, Mamie (18 April 1917–11 August 1983), psychologist and community mental health pioneer, was born Mamie Katherine Phipps in Hot Springs, Arkansas, one of two children and the only daughter of Harold H. Phipps, a prominent physician and resort owner, and Katie Florence Phipps. She described her upbringing in the Jim Crow South as largely happy and secure despite racial tensions and the economic privations of the Great Depression....

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Davis, Frances Elliott (28 April 1882–02 May 1965), public health nurse, nurse-educator, and community advocate, was born in Shelby, North Carolina, the daughter of an unlawful interracial marriage between Darryl Elliott, a part African-American Cherokee sharecropper, and Emma (maiden name unknown), the daughter of a plantation owner and Methodist minister. Darryl Elliott fled the state early in Frances’s life, leaving her to be raised by her mother. Both parents had died by 1887, after which Davis was raised in a succession of foster homes. At the age of twelve she was sent to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lived under the guardianship of the Reverend Mr. Vickers. In the Vickers household she was regarded more as a domestic helper than a ward; consequently her early formal education was pursued on a sporadic basis. Determined to succeed, she possessed the intrepidity to upgrade her reading skills on her own....

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Dock, Lavinia Lloyd (26 February 1858–17 April 1956), nurse, suffragist, and social reformer, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Gilliard Dock and Lavinia Lloyd Bombaugh, landlords. Dock, who later came to think of herself as a feminist, received what she called an “oldfashioned and conventional” education at a local female academy. Her life was basically carefree until her mother died when Dock was eighteen, leaving her and her older sister with the responsibility of raising their four siblings....

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Donaldson, Mary Elizabeth (12 January 1851–1930), physician and social activist, was born Mary Elizabeth Cracker in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, the daughter of Zachariah Cracker and Elizabeth Delia Brown, farmers. Donaldson grew up in a family strongly dedicated to the Baptist religion and intellectual pursuits. She completed her education through high school, then taught for four years in Reedsburg schools until her 1871 marriage to a man named Hesford. In 1873 Donaldson bore a daughter, who died at age four; soon after the child’s death she and her husband divorced. Following the divorce Donaldson escorted her ailing brother James to Idaho to recuperate. In Idaho she obtained work as a teacher while nursing James to full recovery....

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Ferebee, Dorothy Boulding (10 October 1898–14 September 1980), physician and social reformer, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the daughter of Benjamin Richard Boulding, a superintendent with the railroad mail service, and Florence Cornelia Ruffin, a teacher. She came from a well-established family in which several members were lawyers, but from childhood she wanted to be a physician. When her mother became ill, she went to live with an aunt in Boston, where she attended secondary school. She graduated from two respected Boston institutions, Simmons College in 1920 with honors and Tufts University College of Medicine in 1924. Her accomplishments were especially notable because many educational institutions of the time discriminated against women and minorities. In her class of 137 medical students there were only five women, and, as Ferebee explained, “We women were always the last to get assignments in amphitheaters and clinics. And I? I was the last of the last because not only was I a woman, but a Negro, too” (Carolyn Lewis, “Hard Work Can Topple the Barriers,” ...

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Garcia, Hector Perez (17 January 1914–26 July 1996), physician, community organizer, and civil rights activist, was born 17 January 1914 in Llera, Tamaulipas, Mexico. He was the second of nine children born to José and Faustina García, who emigrated to Mercedes, Texas, in 1917. Both of García’s parents were teachers in Mexico before the Mexican Revolution forced the family to flee the country. They instilled in their children the value of education, conducting daily lessons in language, literature, history, and math. In Mercedes Héctor’s father was a small business owner managing a dry-goods store and supporting all of his children through college. Remarkably, six of the García children would complete medical degrees....

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Harrison, Tillson Lever (07 January 1881–10 January 1947), physician, humanitarian, and bigamist, was born in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, the son of Henry Bailey Harrison, a banker, and Harriett Adele Tillson. Harrison's maternal grandfather was the town's wealthy patriarch, Edwin “E.D.” Tillson, whose company was the precursor of the Quaker Oats Company of Canada. Harrison enjoyed a charmed life, regularly winning prizes at county fairs for excellence in the poultry that he raised on E.D.'s experimental farm. In 1895 Harrison ran away to join the Twenty‐second Oxford Rifles militia, but was returned home when it was discovered that he was underage....

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Aaron Henry. Speaking before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, NJ. Photograph by Warren K. Leffler, 1964. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-U9- 12470E-28).

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Henry, Aaron E. (02 July 1922–19 May 1997), civil rights activist, politician, and pharmacist, was born in Dublin, in the Mississippi Delta. His sharecropping parents, Ed and Mattie Henry, strove to educate Aaron and his sister and shield them from the hardships of farm and manual labor. They moved to neighboring Coahoma County so that Henry could attend the segregated Coahoma Agricultural High School. Indeed his political awakening began in high school, where a few earnest teachers bravely schooled their students on civics and civil rights. With the coaxing of one young educator, Aaron and his classmates joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as at-large members in 1941....

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Lattimore, John Aaron Cicero (23 June 1876?–31 December 1959), physician and civil rights activist, was born near Shelby, Cleveland County, North Carolina, the son of John Carpenter Lattimore and Marcella Hambrick, former slaves and farmers. Lattimore graduated from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, with an A.B. in 1897. He then attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, receiving his M.D. in 1901. With a fellow classmate, H. B. Beck, as a partner, he began the general practice of medicine in Louisville, Kentucky; after considerable effort, his practice grew. In 1928 he married Naomi Anthony of Louisville; they had no children....

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Clemence Sophia Lozier. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B018108).

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Lozier, Clemence Sophia (11 December 1813–26 April 1888), physician and reformer, was born Clemence Sophia Harned in Plainfield, New Jersey, the daughter of David Harned, a farmer and Methodist, and Hannah Walker, an informal medical practitioner and Quaker. As a child Clemence acquired an interest in medicine from her physician brother and from her mother, who had learned traditional healing practices from American Indians. Her mother, realizing that her daughter had a quick mind, began teaching her healing skills. The lessons ended when her mother died and eleven-year-old Clemence was sent to school at Plainfield Academy....

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Majors, Monroe Alpheus (12 October 1864–10 December 1960), physician, civil rights activist, and writer, was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Andrew Jackson Majors and Jane Barringer. In 1869 his family moved to Austin, Texas. After attending public schools in Austin, Majors studied at West Texas College, Tillotson Normal and Collegiate Institute, Central Tennessee College, and finally Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1886....