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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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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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India Edwards Right, at a television broadcast of "Meet the Press." Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91083).

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Edwards, India (16 June 1895–14 January 1990), politician and women's advocate, politician and women’s advocate, was born India Walker in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Archibald Walker and India Thomas Walker. Her father left home when she was four, and her mother married John A. Gillespie, a Canadian, whom India considered to be her real father. She attended public schools in Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis....

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Miller, Emma Guffey (06 July 1874–23 February 1970), Democratic party activist and feminist, was born Mary Emma Guffey in Guffey Station, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Guffey, a developer of coal, oil, and gas land, and Barbaretta Hough. Her early education was in the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, public schools and at the Alinda Academy in Pittsburgh, where the family lived after 1891. In 1899 she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, whose president, ...

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Paley, Grace (11 Dec. 1922–22 Aug. 2007), short story writer, poet, antiwar activist, and feminist, was born Grace Goodside in the Bronx, the third child of Isaac Goodside and Manya Ridnyik. Grace was the baby of the family; her sister Jeanne and brother Victor were respectively fourteen and sixteen years older. Her parents, both Socialist activists, anglicized their name from Gutseit when they emigrated from the Ukraine in ...

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Wendell Phillips. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10319).

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Phillips, Wendell (29 November 1811–02 February 1884), orator, abolitionist, and women's rights and labor advocate, orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Phillips, a well-to-do politician and philanthropist, and Sarah Walley. The youngest of eleven children, Wendell received strict and loving attention from both of his parents. From the first he was trained to see himself as a great leader, committed to addressing the great moral and political questions of his age. This drive for leadership was compounded by his early discovery that he possessed extraordinary gifts as an orator. Athletic, handsome, and intelligent, he impressed teachers and classmates alike with his unusual capacity to express himself and to influence others with eloquent speaking. After attending the Boston Latin School, he graduated from Harvard in 1831 and obtained a Harvard law degree in 1833. For the next three years Phillips resided in and around Boston as he attempted, halfheartedly, to establish a legal practice, a career for which he felt no great enthusiasm. Instead he yearned to pursue a vocation worthy of his august legacy. That vocation, finally, was the cause of abolitionism, which he discovered through the process of courtship and marriage....

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Cornelia Bryce Pinchot As hostess to a Society of American Foresters' baked apple party, 1950. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100622).

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Pinchot, Cornelia Bryce (26 August 1881–09 September 1960), politician and advocate of progressive causes, was born Cornelia Elizabeth Bryce in Newport, Rhode Island, the youngest daughter of Lloyd Stephens Bryce and Edith Cooper. Her father had been a Democratic congressman, a novelist, an intimate and political confidante of ...

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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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Tillmon, Johnnie (10 April 1926–22 November 1995), welfare rights leader and community activist, was born Johnnie Lee Percy in Scott, Arkansas, the eldest child of John Percy, a sharecropper, and Gussie Danforth, a field hand. When Johnnie was five years old, her mother died during childbirth, and her father remarried a family friend who helped raise her and her two younger brothers. Like many black families in the pre–civil rights South, hers was poor. They moved to several towns in rural Arkansas as her father pursued more profitable sharecropping arrangements. At the age of seven, she began picking cotton to earn extra money....

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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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Yard, Molly (6 July 1912–20 Sept. 2005), political activist and feminist leader, was born Mary Alexander Yard in Shanghai, China. She was the third of four daughters of Methodist missionaries James M. and Mabel Yard. Although she later claimed to have been “born a feminist,” Yard’s activist career was shaped by the particular restrictions and relative freedoms she encountered as a girl raised in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province. A family friend gave Molly’s parents a decorative brass bowl after her birth that was meant to console them for bearing another daughter. As a child, Yard witnessed the pain of other girls’ bound feet. She recalled, “I grew up with that whole devaluation of myself because I was female. It's outrageous, and it stays with you all your life.” But Yard also found that girls in China had opportunities to participate in organized sports that did not exist in the United States....