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Anthony, Katharine Susan (27 November 1877–20 November 1965), author, was born in Roseville, Arkansas, the daughter of Ernest A. Anthony and Susan Jane Cathey. Her father was a distant relative of suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony, and her mother was an energetic suffragist. Anthony’s life work reflected a keen interest in women’s issues that undoubtedly flowed from her family circumstances....

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Banning, Margaret Culkin (18 March 1891–04 January 1982), writer, was born in Buffalo, Minnesota, the daughter of William Edgar Culkin, a Duluth newspaper executive, and Hannah Alice Young. She attended Vassar College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 1912. Pursuing an interest in social work, she attended Russell Sage College on a fellowship in 1912–1913, then spent the following academic year at the Chicago School of Philanthropy, which awarded her a certificate in 1914 for completion of its program. That same year she married a Duluth lawyer, Archibald T. Banning, Jr. The couple, who were divorced in 1934, had four children, two of whom survived into adulthood....

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Blake, Lillie Devereux (12 August 1835–30 December 1913), author and feminist, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of George Pollok Devereux, a planter, and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson. Though she was christened Elizabeth Johnson, her father called her “Lilly,” and she adopted that name with altered spelling. The Devereux were prominent slaveholders, and Lillie spent her early years on her father’s cotton plantation. After George Devereux’s death in 1837, she moved with her mother and sister to Connecticut, joining her mother’s family there. She was raised in New Haven in an atmosphere of Episcopalian respectability and Whiggish political convictions. Her education at a girls’ school was supplemented by private tutoring based on courses in the Yale curriculum....

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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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Bradwell, Myra Colby (12 February 1831–14 February 1894), publisher and political activist, was born in Manchester, Vermont, the daughter of Eben Colby and Abigail Willey. She spent her childhood in Vermont and western New York, and when she was twelve, her family moved to Illinois. She attended local schools in Wisconsin and Illinois and became a schoolteacher. In 1852 she married ...

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Colby, Clara Dorothy Bewick (05 August 1846–07 September 1916), woman's rights activist and publisher, woman’s rights activist and publisher, was born in Gloucester, England, the daughter of Thomas Bewick and Clara Willingham. The Bewicks immigrated to the United States in 1849, settling on a farm in Windsor, Wisconsin; Clara and her maternal grandparents joined them in 1854. She entered the University of Wisconsin in 1865, initially enrolling in the “normal department” set up for women. However, with faculty assistance, she pursued the “classical course” designed for men. In 1869 she graduated as valedictorian of Wisconsin’s first class of women to be awarded the bachelor of philosophy degree. She remained at the university until 1871, teaching Latin and history and taking graduate classes in French, Greek, and chemistry....

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Dorr, Rheta Childe (02 November 1866–08 August 1948), journalist and feminist, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Edward Payson Child, a druggist, and Lucie Mitchell. Christened Reta Louise Child, Dorr later adopted the “Rheta Childe” spelling. In 1884 her father enrolled her at the University of Nebraska, where she took the “opportunity to loaf to my heart’s content.” Finding her “soul’s reflection” in Henrik Ibsen’s play ...

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Elliott, Sarah Barnwell (29 November 1848–30 August 1928), writer and women's rights advocate, writer and women’s rights advocate, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the daughter of the Right Reverend Stephen Elliott, Jr., first Episcopal bishop of Georgia, and Charlotte Bull Barnwell, his second wife. At the time of Elliott’s birth, her father was in charge of a school for young women. After the Civil War and her father’s death, Elliott moved with her mother and sisters to Sewanee, Tennessee, in the Cumberland mountains, where her brother was teaching at the newly opened University of the South, a school their father had helped to found. Elliott lived in Sewanee for much of the rest of her life, with the exception of her residence in New York from 1895 to 1902, years in which she pursued a full-time writing career. She never married. Her most advanced educational opportunity came in attending lectures at Johns Hopkins University in the summer of 1886....

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Firestone, Shulamith (07 January 1945–28 August 2012), feminist, author, and activist, was born Shulamith Bath Shmuel Ben Ari Feuerstein in Ottawa, Canada, the second child and oldest daughter of six children born to Kate Weiss and Sol Feuerstein. The family Americanized its surname to Firestone when it moved to the United States. Shulie Firestone, as she was known, grew up in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, where she and her two sisters and three brothers were raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Firestone attended the Rabbinical College of Telshe, near Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington University in St. Louis before transferring in 1964 to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a B.F.A. in painting three years later. Throughout college Firestone supported herself by working as a mail sorter at the post office. In 1967 four male students at the Art Institute made a film about Firestone, entitled ...

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Fuller, Margaret (23 May 1810–19 July 1850), author and feminist, was born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, the daughter of Timothy Fuller, a lawyer, and Margaret Crane. Her father taught his oldest child reading at age three and Latin at age six, but Fuller’s education grew eclectic in later childhood when she was left largely to her own resources. “To excel in all things should be your constant aim; mediocrity is obscurity,” her father wrote to Margaret when she was ten. Under such pressures, Fuller suffered periodically throughout her life from depression and headaches. Timothy Fuller was often away, serving four terms in Congress (1817–1825). Margaret’s mother, a devout Unitarian, was subdued by sickly health. In Fuller’s fictional ...

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106490).

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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (03 July 1860–17 August 1935), feminist critic and author, was born Charlotte Anna Perkins in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Frederic Beecher Perkins, a man of letters and librarian, and Mary Ann Fitch Wescott. Her great-grandfather was theologian Lyman Beecher...

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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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Irwin, Inez Leonore Haynes Gillmore (02 March 1873–25 September 1970), writer and feminist, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the daughter of Gideon Haynes, a prison warden and social reformer, and Emma Jane Hopkins, a Lowell Mills girl (factory mill worker) before her marriage. After two years in Brazil the family returned to Boston, where Irwin grew up, genteely poor, with thirteen brothers and sisters. “As I look back on my life,” she wrote in an article for the ...

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Jones, Claudia (21 February 1915–25 December 1964), Communist, journalist, and feminist, was born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch in Trinidad, the daughter of Sybil Cumberbatch and Charles Bertram Cumberbatch. Jones's mother came from a family of landowners, while her father's family owned hotels. Claudia spent her first eight years in Trinidad while the colony experienced major political, social, and economic upheavals. In 1922 Claudia's parents migrated to New York, and she and her sisters arrived in February 1924. They came, Claudia explained three decades later in a letter to American Communist Party head ...

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La Follette, Suzanne (1893–23 April 1983), feminist, writer, and editor, was born Clara La Follette on her family’s 1,000-acre ranch near Pullman, Washington, the daughter of William LeRoy La Follette, a rancher, and Mary Tabor. La Follette “grew up on horseback,” roaming the unfenced ranges of the Snake River Canyon, an unspoiled area where Jeffersonian lifestyles and values still held sway. A product of this environment, from an early age she placed great value on individual liberty and feared the intrusive power of the state....

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Lee, Muna (29 January 1895–03 April 1965), poet, feminist, and specialist in international affairs, was born in Raymond, Mississippi, the daughter of Benjamin Floyd Lee, a druggist, and Mary McWilliams. The eldest of nine children, she spent her childhood both in Raymond and in Hugo, Oklahoma, where her family moved in 1902. In 1909 she returned to Mississippi to attend her mother’s alma mater, Blue Mountain College, where she was encouraged to write poetry. She spent a year there and a year at the University of Oklahoma; then she enrolled in the University of Mississippi, earning her B.S. in 1913....

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Lorde, Audre (18 February 1934–17 November 1992), poet, essayist, and feminist, was born Audrey Geraldine Lorde in New York City, the daughter of Frederic Byron Lorde, a laborer, and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, both West Indian immigrants from Grenada. As a child, when someone asked about her thoughts, she replied by quoting poetry, and at the age of twelve she wrote poems. Lorde attended Hunter High School, where she met other girls who wrote poetry. She edited the school's literary magazine, but when an English teacher rejected a love poem Lorde had written about a boy, she sent it to ...

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MacKaye, Hazel (24 August 1880–12 August 1944), women's rights activist and writer and director of pageants, women’s rights activist and writer and director of pageants, was born in New York City, the daughter of James Morrison Steele MacKaye, a playwright and theatrical innovator, and Mary Medbery, a writer and actress. Her brothers Benton, Robert, and ...

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Anne Martin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112008).