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Mary McLeod Bethune Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 129 P&P).

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Bethune, Mary Jane McLeod (10 July 1875–18 May 1955), organizer of black women and advocate for social justice, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina, the child of former slaves Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, farmers. After attending a school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, she entered Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina, in 1888 and graduated in May 1894. She spent the next year at ...

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Griffing, Josephine Sophia White (18 December 1814–18 February 1872), abolitionist, women's rights activist, and freedmen's aid reformer, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and freedmen’s aid reformer, was born in Hebron, Connecticut, the daughter of Joseph White and Sophia Waldo, farmers. Both parents were from prominent New England families. Though not much is known of Josephine’s childhood and education, she embarked on a life of public activism after her marriage in 1835 to Charles Stockman Spooner Griffing....

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Hunter, Jane Edna Harris (13 December 1882–19 January 1971), autobiographer and black women's rights activist, autobiographer and black women’s rights activist, was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, the daughter of Edward Harris and Harriet Millner, sharecroppers. Following her father’s death due to jaundice when she was ten years old, Jane and her three siblings were distributed briefly among the homes of various relatives. His death and the ensuing dispersal of her nuclear family were especially difficult for Jane, in part because she had customarily been “father’s ally in his differences with mother” ( ...

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Lampkin, Daisy Elizabeth Adams (09 August 1888–10 March 1965), civil and women's rights activist, civil and women’s rights activist, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, the daughter of George S. Adams and Rosa Ann Proctor. She attended public schools in Reading and, shortly after graduating, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1909. In 1912 she married William L. Lampkin, a restaurant owner. The couple did not have any children, but they raised the daughter of a deceased friend....

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Rosenberg, Anna Marie Lederer (19 June 1902–09 May 1983), labor and personnel consultant and assistant secretary of defense, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of Albert Lederer, a furniture manufacturer, and Charlotte Bacskai, a children’s author and illustrator. Her father was prosperous until Emperor Franz Joseph canceled a furniture order, causing the family to go bankrupt, close down the factory, and move to the United States in 1912. Albert Lederer never forgot that experience, and, no longer at the whim of an emperor and appreciative of his newly found freedoms, he encouraged his daughter to be a patriotic American. She entered New York City’s Wadleigh High School in 1914 and organized the Future Voters League to encourage woman suffrage. While in high school in 1919 she settled a strike by students protesting compulsory military training, and that same year she served as a volunteer nurse and sold Liberty Bonds financing World War I. In 1919 she married an American soldier, Julius Rosenberg; they had one son. Later that year she became a naturalized citizen....

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Stewart, Maria W. (1803–17 December 1879), writer, black activist, and teacher, was born Maria Miller in Hartford, Connecticut (information about her date of birth and parentage is not known). Orphaned at five years old and indentured to a clergyman’s family until she was fifteen, Maria Miller supported herself as a domestic servant and gained a rudimentary education by attending “Sabbath schools.” Miller’s marriage on 10 August 1826 to James W. Stewart, a Boston shipping agent, placed her in the small and vibrant free black Boston community that had established organizations and institutions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for northern blacks coming out of bondage. Stewart’s brief period of financial security ended when unscrupulous executors cheated the young widow out of her inheritance following the death of her husband in 1829....

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Thompson Patterson, Louise (09 September 1901–27 August 1999), cultural and political radical, activist, and feminist, was born Louise Alone Toles in Chicago, the daughter of William Toles, a bartender, and Lula Brown Toles. In 1904, her parents separated, and in the next ten years she lived throughout the Northwest with her mother and her stepfather, William Thompson. Often the only black child in town, she was the target of vicious racial insults. In an effort to maintain her self-respect, she strove to excel in school. In 1919, she enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. There she attended a lecture by ...

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Weil, Gertrude (11 Dec. 1879–30 May 1971), activist for women’s suffrage, social welfare, Zionism, and civil rights, was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Henry Weil and Mina Rosenthal. Weil’s father and grandparents were antebellum Jewish immigrants from rural Württemberg and Bavaria. Settling in a southern mill and market town, they rose from peddlers to prosperous storekeepers to prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Family wealth allowed Weil the autonomy to pursue a career of public service. Weil’s parents set examples of civic engagement, notably her mother who joined women emerging from domesticity and religious societies into civic organizations. After attending local public schools, the sixteen-year-old Weil was sent by her progressive parents to the coeducational Horace Mann School in New York. In ...

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Wyatt, Addie (08 March 1924–28 March 2012), labor leader, feminist, civil rights activist, and minister, was born Addie Cameron in Brookhaven, Mississippi, the daughter of Ambrose Cameron, a tailor and presser, and Maggie Mae Nolan, a schoolteacher. In 1930 the family left Brookhaven for Chicago, Illinois, in search of a better racial climate as part of the Great Migration, the mass exodus of African Americans out of the rural South to northern, western, and midwestern urban cities. The Camerons settled in the Bronzeville neighborhood, a rapidly growing African-American community on Chicago’s South Side that was rich in black-owned businesses and cultural institutions but plagued by slum housing, poverty, and joblessness....