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Anderson, Mary (27 August 1872–29 January 1964), labor leader and federal administrator, was born in Lidköping, Sweden, the daughter of Magnus Anderson and Matilda Johnson, farmers. She received her only formal education at a local Lutheran school. Inspired by letters from her older sister Anna who had moved to the United States, Mary and her sister Hilda traveled to Ludington, Michigan, in 1889. Sixteen years old when she arrived in America, Anderson struggled to learn English while she worked as a dishwasher and cook in a boardinghouse for lumber workers....

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Beyer, Clara Mortenson (13 April 1892–25 September 1990), reformer and labor law administrator, was born in Middletown, California, the daughter of Danish immigrants Morten Mortenson, a carpenter and unsuccessful chicken farmer, and Mary Frederickson. Her father died in a trolley accident when she was fifteen. As the eldest of four children remaining at home, Beyer delayed further schooling until her mother sold the farm. She then worked her way through high school and the University of California, Berkeley, gaining firsthand understanding of labor conditions and unskilled workers’ lives. At Berkeley she absorbed the institutional approach to labor economics, which emphasized the law and social institutions rather than market forces; she received a B.S. in 1915 and an M.S. in economics in 1916 with a thesis called “Organized Labor in San Francisco, from 1892–1902.”...

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Fechner, Robert (22 March 1876–31 December 1939), labor union and New Deal official, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the son of Charles Robert Fechner, a carriage trimmer, and Virginia Roberts Fechner. Fechner grew up in the Georgia towns of Macon and Griffin. He briefly attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, but he left school at the age of sixteen and apprenticed himself in the Augusta shops of the Georgia Railroad as a machinist. His training as a machinist lasted until 1896....

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Moore, Ely (04 July 1798–27 January 1860), labor leader and congressman, was born near Belvidere, New Jersey, the son of Moses Moore and Mary Coryell, farmers. His early years are obscure. He attended public schools, learned the printer’s trade, and moved to New York City in the early 1820s. He later claimed to have studied medicine there. Around that time he married Emma Coutant, whose father, a Democrat, was elected county registrar, and in 1830 appointed Moore assistant county registrar for New York County (Manhattan). Moore displayed his oratorical skills in Coutant’s struggle against the charter of the New York & Harlem Railroad, which threatened the livelihood of local carters. Moore and his wife had six children; following her death, he married Clara Baker, with whom he had no children....

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Wilson, William Bauchop (02 April 1862–25 May 1934), labor leader, U.S. congressman, and the first secretary of labor, was born in Blantyre, Scotland, the son of Adam Wilson, a miner, and Helen Bauchop. In 1870 the family moved to Arnot, Pennsylvania, where William began working in the coal mines at the age of nine. He received little formal education but read extensively, forming a boys debating club at the age of fourteen. In 1883 he married Agnes Williamson; they had eleven children....