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Allen, Nathan (25 April 1813–01 January 1889), physician, social reformer, and public health advocate, was born in Princeton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Allen and Mehitable Oliver, farmers. He spent his first seventeen years on the family farm, learning to work hard and to follow the Christian principles of his parents. He could not afford a higher education, but a friend in Leicester helped pay his tuition at Amherst Academy and then at Amherst College, where he matriculated in 1832, graduating in 1836....

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Benjamin, Harry (12 January 1885–24 August 1986), physician, endocrinologist, and sex researcher, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Julius Benjamin, a banker, and Bertha Hoffman. He became interested in human sexuality at the age of twenty, when he read August Forel’s ...

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Billings, John Shaw (12 April 1838–11 March 1913), army medical officer, library organizer, and public health activist, was born near Allensville, Indiana, the son of James Billings, a farmer and storekeeper, and Abby Shaw. Despite spotty secondary schooling, he ultimately went to Miami College (Ohio), where he earned his B.A. in 1857. He was awarded the M.D. by the Medical College of Ohio in 1860. Billings remained with the latter institution for a year as an anatomical demonstrator, but after the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the U.S. Army as a contract surgeon. In 1862 he was commissioned first lieutenant and assistant surgeon and went on to make army service his career. Also in 1862 he married Katharine Mary Stevens; they had five children....

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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....

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Cabot, Hugh (11 August 1872–14 August 1945), surgeon, educator, and medical reformer, was born in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, the son of James Elliot Cabot, an architect, naturalist, and graduate of Harvard Law School, and Elizabeth Dwight. The youngest of seven boys, Cabot was an active child, exposed to music, the Unitarian religion, the challenge of the outdoors, and his parents’ philanthropic ideals. His privileged yet altruistic upbringing underlay his future productive life....

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Henry, Aaron E. (02 July 1922–19 May 1997), civil rights activist, politician, and pharmacist, was born in Dublin, in the Mississippi Delta. His sharecropping parents, Ed and Mattie Henry, strove to educate Aaron and his sister and shield them from the hardships of farm and manual labor. They moved to neighboring Coahoma County so that Henry could attend the segregated Coahoma Agricultural High School. Indeed his political awakening began in high school, where a few earnest teachers bravely schooled their students on civics and civil rights. With the coaxing of one young educator, Aaron and his classmates joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as at-large members in 1941....

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Hollingworth, Leta Anna Stetter (25 May 1886–27 November 1939), psychologist and feminist, was born in a dugout near Chadron, Nebraska, the daughter of John G. Stetter and Margaret Elinor Danley. Her father, a fun-loving but irresponsible Virginian of German descent, worked as a peddler, entertainer, and itinerant cowboy. Her mother, the well-educated daughter of a neighboring Scotch-Irish farm family, died in 1890, leaving three girls to be reared by their maternal grandparents. At twelve Leta and her sisters moved to Valentine, Nebraska, to live with their father and his new wife, a troubled woman who made life a “fiery furnace.”...

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Jackson, James Caleb (28 March 1811–11 July 1895), abolitionist and physician, was born in Onondaga County, New York, the son of James Jackson, a physician, and Mary Ann Elderkin. Jackson studied at Manlius Academy, a preparatory school, until the death of his father in 1828. He then gave up plans for a college education and took up farming. Jackson married Lucretia E. Brewster in 1830; they had one child....

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Kearsley, John (1684–11 January 1772), physician, politician, and philanthropist, was baptized in the village of Greatham, County Durham, England. His father was John Kearsley, an Anglican minister; his mother’s name is unknown. Kearsley’s father provided two of his sons with a medical education; young John studied in London without earning a degree. For a time he practiced medicine in England, but in 1711 he emigrated and settled in Philadelphia....

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Leverton, Ruth M. (23 March 1908–14 September 1982), scientist and dietitian, was born Ruth Mandeville Leverton in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Ernest Richard Leverton, an engineer, and Helen Ruth Mandeville Leverton. The family moved often because of her father's career. After her high school senior year in Deadwood, South Dakota, they moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she began studying at the University of Nebraska....

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Lozier, Clemence Sophia (11 December 1813–26 April 1888), physician and reformer, was born Clemence Sophia Harned in Plainfield, New Jersey, the daughter of David Harned, a farmer and Methodist, and Hannah Walker, an informal medical practitioner and Quaker. As a child Clemence acquired an interest in medicine from her physician brother and from her mother, who had learned traditional healing practices from American Indians. Her mother, realizing that her daughter had a quick mind, began teaching her healing skills. The lessons ended when her mother died and eleven-year-old Clemence was sent to school at Plainfield Academy....

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Rush, Benjamin (04 January 1746–19 April 1813), physician, professor of chemistry and of medicine, and social reformer, was born in Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, thirteen miles northeast of Philadelphia, the son of John Rush, a farmer and gunsmith, and Susanna Hall Harvey. John Rush died when Benjamin was five years old. His mother ran a grocery store to support the family. She sent Benjamin at age eight to live with an uncle by marriage, the Reverend Dr. ...

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Shabazz, Betty (28 May 1936?–23 June 1997), civil rights activist, educator, nurse, mother, was born Betty Dean Sanders, the daughter of Shelman Sandlin, a construction worker, and the teenager Ollie Mae Sanders from Pinehurst, Michigan. (Because her birth certificate is lost, scholars are uncertain about her place of birth.) Her young parents were unmarried—this was a social stigma in 1930s America—and her relationship with her mother was stormy. When she was eleven years old, she was adopted by Helen and Lorenzo Malloy, affluent, middle-class African American Methodists from Detroit, Michigan. Providing Shabazz with many social and material advantages, the Malloys also valued educational attainment, and they pushed her to excel in her classes and study hard. After graduating from high school, Shabazz enrolled in Alabama's Tuskegee University, then known as Tuskegee Institute, one of the nation's most distinguished places of higher education for African Americans. However, she was not happy there. Unaccustomed to the blatant racism of Jim Crow laws, she quickly decamped to New York City in 1956 to continue her studies....

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Wald, Lillian D. (10 March 1867–01 September 1940), public health nurse and social reformer, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Max D. Wald, a dealer in optical wares, and Minnie Schwarz, both German immigrants. The family moved to Rochester, New York, and became part of the affluent German-Jewish community. Lillian enjoyed a happy, indulged childhood far removed from the urban poverty and ghetto life that absorbed her as an adult....