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Jane Addams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95722).

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Addams, Jane (06 September 1860–21 May 1935), social reformer and peace activist, was the daughter of John Huy Addams, a businessman and Republican politician, and Sarah Weber. Born on the eve of the Civil War in the small farming community of Cedarville, just outside Freeport, in northern Illinois, she was the youngest of five children, four of whom were girls. Her mother died during pregnancy when Jane was two years old. The Addams family was the wealthiest, most respected family in the community. Jane’s father owned the local grain mill, was president of the Second National Bank of Freeport, had interests in a local railroad and a local insurance company, taught Sunday School, and was active in local Bible societies. A founding member of the Republican party and supporter of ...

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Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (05 July 1839–23 October 1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate, was born in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, the daughter of David Johnston, a tanner, and Letitia Clark. In 1853 her father moved the family to Plattekill, New York, where he became a farmer and minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She attended public school and a Friends’ boarding school and taught in rural New York from 1858 to 1867. Accompanying a female Quaker preacher on a mission to New England churches, almshouses, and prisons, Bailey met her future husband, Moses Bailey, a fellow Society member and prosperous manufacturer of oil cloth. They were married in 1868 and settled at his Winthrop, Maine, home. They had one child....

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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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Edward W. Bok. In the background are, from left to right, Senators George H. Moses, James Reed, and T. H. Caraway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103937).

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Brooke, Abraham (1806–08 March 1867), physician and radical reformer, was born at Sandy Spring, Maryland, the son of Samuel Brooke and Sarah Garrigues, farmers. The Brooke family had been leading Quakers in Maryland for several generations, and Abraham attended Quaker schools at Sandy Spring before entering medical college in Baltimore. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Lukens, a fellow Quaker from Sandy Spring; they had three children. When the Hicksite-Orthodox schism took place among Quakers, the Brookes, like most Maryland Friends, sided with the Hicksite group....

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Ralph Bunche Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1951. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109113).

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Bunche, Ralph Johnson (07 August 1904–09 December 1971), scholar and diplomat, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family’s last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in political science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California at Los Angeles or UCLA). He graduated summa cum laude and served as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1928, then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his Ph.D. at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris; they had three children. Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching his dissertation and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in February 1934....

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Burritt, Elihu (08 December 1810–06 March 1879), reformer, was born in New Britain, Connecticut, the son of Elihu Burritt, a farmer and cobbler, and Elizabeth Hinsdale. Burritt’s mother made the Bible and the religion of John Calvin the basis of the Christian nurture of her ten children. Elihu attended the local district school and showed a marked aptitude for scholarship. After his father’s death in 1827, he apprenticed himself to a local blacksmith and independently continued his studies, particularly in languages....

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Deming, Barbara (23 July 1917–02 August 1984), writer and activist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Katherine Burritt, who gave up her career as a singer to marry, and Harold Deming, a lawyer. Deming was born into a family that was influenced by her mother’s association with an artistic group of friends in Greenwich Village and her father’s association with Republican politics. She was educated at the Friends School of the Fifteenth Street Meeting in New York until she left for Bennington College in 1934....

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Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware (04 April 1872–25 July 1947), birth control and sex education reformer and pacifist, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of George Whitefield, a wool merchant, and Livonia Coffin Ware. When Dennett was ten her father died and the family moved to Boston, where she attended public schools and went on to Miss Capen’s School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dennett then studied at the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where she displayed a great talent for tapestry and leather design. From 1894 to 1897 she headed the Department of Design and Decoration at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia. After a trip to Europe with her sister, during which they collected gilded Cordovan leather wall hangings, the sisters opened a handicraft shop in Boston. Dennett helped organize the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in 1897. She served on the council of the society until 1905, when her interest in politics and social welfare began to supersede her interest in the arts. In 1900 she married William Hartley Dennett, a Boston architect with whom she had two sons. The marriage ended in divorce in 1913 with Dennett receiving custody of their children....

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Dudley, Helena Stuart (31 August 1858–29 September 1932), settlement house worker and peace activist, was born in Florence, Nebraska, the daughter of Judson H. Dudley, a land developer, and Caroline Bates. Her early life was rather unsettled as the Dudley family moved about the West in pursuit of her father’s real estate ventures. Helena Dudley did not attend college until the age of twenty-six when she spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then went on to Bryn Mawr college, graduating with the first class in 1889 with a degree in biology. Like so many other college-educated women of her generation, she became a teacher, first at the Pratt Institute and, a year later, at the Packer Institute, both in Brooklyn, New York....

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John Haynes Holmes, c. 1939–1941. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112447).

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Holmes, John Haynes (29 November 1879–03 April 1964), Unitarian and later independent minister and a leading advocate of pacifism, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Marcus M. Holmes, a businessman, and Alice Haynes. Holmes was educated at Harvard College (A.B. 1902) and Harvard Divinity School (S.T.B. 1904) and entered the Unitarian ministry, holding early pastorates at Danvers (1902–1904) and Dorchester (1904–1907), Massachusetts, before moving in 1907 to the Church of the Messiah in New York City, where his influence as a minister dedicated to social reform began to be felt. In 1904 he married Madeleine Baker, with whom he had two children....

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King, Coretta Scott (27 April 1927–30 January 2006), human rights advocate and peace activist, was born Coretta Scott in Heiberger, Alabama, the third daughter of Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott, small farmers. Coretta’s siblings included two older sisters, one who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother; like many farm children, in her youth Coretta helped to tend crops and pick cotton. She credited the early influence of her family, who encouraged her to question not only racial and economic injustice but gender inequality as well, for her commitment to social justice. Bernice Scott admonished Coretta and older sister Edythe to “get an education and try to be somebody” so that “you won’t have to depend on anyone for your livelihood—not even on a man”; both parents understood the constraints placed on young black women in the Jim Crow South and were unwilling to allow their children to let such limitations define them (Scott King, p. 34). Heeding her mother’s advice, as her sister had before her, Coretta entered Lincoln School, a private black school in Marion, Alabama, with an integrated faculty. In 1945 she graduated as class valedictorian and again followed Edythe’s lead by enrolling in Antioch College, a predominantly white school in Yellow Springs, Ohio, committed to the principles of integration....

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Murray, Orson S. (23 October 1806–14 June 1885), Baptist minister, editor, and radical reformer, was born in Orwell, Vermont, the son of Jonathan Murray and Rosalinda Bascom, farmers. Murray grew up impoverished on a hardscrabble farm in Orwell, obtaining only a few years of schooling. His parents were devout Free Will Baptists, and as a teenager Murray felt called to the Baptist ministry. In 1828 he married Catherine Maria Higgins; the couple had nine children. Determined to have a classical education, he returned to school at the Shoreham and Castleton academies, completing his studies in 1832....

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Schwimmer, Rosika (11 September 1877–03 August 1948), pacifist and feminist, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of Max Schwimmer, an experimental farmer who raised seed corn, produce, and horses, and Bertha Katscher. Schwimmer’s upper-middle-class, secularized Jewish family had a history of involvement in progressive political and social movements....

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Fanny Garrison Villard. Albumen silver print, c. 1865, by Black & Case. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Peter and Marlene Northey.

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Villard, Fanny Garrison (16 December 1844–05 July 1928), social reformer, suffragist, and pacifist, was born Helen Frances Garrison in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Helen Eliza Benson and William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist leader and editor/publisher of the Liberator. Fanny and her four surviving brothers were raised in a political household. As the only surviving daughter in the leading abolitionist family in the United States, young Fanny was taught to incorporate certain political beliefs into her personal life. She was to oppose slavery and racism, embrace feminism in the public sphere, but accept fairly traditional Victorian ideas about women’s domestic role, and preach and practice nonviolence and conflict resolution in both her personal and political worlds. This mandate extended from never striking a child or animal to campaigning against war....