1-13 of 13 items  for:

  • Published Online: 2016 x
  • Social welfare and reform x
Clear all

Article

Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009), biologist, agronomist, and humanitarian, was born in Saude, Iowa, to grandchildren of Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s working farm, where he learned to fish, hunt, raise corn and oats, and tend livestock. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue education, so Norman left the family farm in 1933 to enroll in the University of Minnesota. His college years coincided with the depths of the Great Depression. To earn money, Borlaug left school in 1935 and found employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the CCC he saw the effect of starvation first hand, and this experience affected him deeply. Long before “food security” became a common phrase, Borlaug knew its significance. In 1937 he graduated with a B.S. in forestry from the College of Agriculture and secured a job with the United States Forest Service. In 1938 he married former classmate Margaret Gibson. The couple had three children....

Article

Chamberlain, Mariam K. (24 April 1918–02 April 2013), feminist economist, foundation officer, and women’s studies advocate, was born Mariam Kenosian in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the second child and only daughter of Avack Kenosian, a factory worker, and Zabel Kenosian, a homemaker. Her parents immigrated to the United States in 1912 and 1913 in the midst of ongoing Turkish violence against the Armenian community. Despite her parents’ poverty and lack of support for women’s higher education, Mariam was the valedictorian of her class at Chelsea High School. She was accepted to Radcliffe College in 1936, paying her deposit with a $50 prize she had won as the first girl marbles champion of Chelsea. Living at home, Mariam won scholarships, borrowed, and worked as a secretary, completing a B.A. in economics in June 1940. In 1941 she was accepted for the Ph.D. program in economics at Harvard University....

Article

Commoner, Barry (28 May 1917–30 September 2012), scientist-activist, biologist, and environmentalist, was born Barry Commoner in Brooklyn, New York, to Isaac (Isador) and Gussie Commoner, Russian immigrants. His uncle, the Slavonic scholar Avrahm Yarmolinsky, recommended the family adopt a more anglicized spelling of their last name. Commoner attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, where he discovered his passion for biology. Assisted by his wife, the poet ...

Article

DeCrow, Karen (18 December 1937–06 June 2014), feminist activist, author, and civil rights attorney, was born Karen Lipschultz in Chicago, the older of two daughters of businessman Samuel Meyer Lipschultz and Juliette Abt Lipschultz, a former professional ballet dancer. Educated in the city’s public schools, as a teenager she composed and submitted short stories to national magazines, and she pursued her interest in writing in college as well. She graduated from Sullivan High School in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood in 1955 and received a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1959....

Article

Fierro de Bright, Josefina ( September 1914–02 February 1998), Mexican American civil rights activist, was born in Mexicali, Baja California, near the US border. Her father, Rodolfo Fierro, was major general in the northern revolutionary army of Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and her mother, Josefa Amador Fierro, was a follower of Ricardo Flores Magón, a leftist who opposed the dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz. After General Fierro’s death during the revolution, Josefina moved with her mother and younger brother to Arizona, and later to various California towns and cities. Raised by her mother to stand up for one’s rights in the face of discrimination, at a young age Fierro embarked on an unprecedented organizing career advocating for opportunities and equality for California’s largest racial minority population, people of Mexican origin....

Article

Goldman, Henry (21 September 1857–04 April 1937), financier and philanthropist, was the youngest child of Bertha Goldman and of Marcus Goldman, who organized and directed a successful New York currency- and note-discounting firm. Henry Goldman was born in Philadelphia and spent his early childhood there. After the family moved in 1869 to New York City, the young Goldman received a fine education at the private Sachs Collegiate Institute for Boys and did well in his courses in the classics, history, and math. Having excelled on his college boards, he was admitted to and attended Harvard between 1874 and 1875. Goldman enjoyed history, literature, and art appreciation and wrote insightful papers for these courses. However, he had to drop out of Harvard at the end of his freshman year as a result of encountering severe problems with his eyesight....

Article

Margolin, Bessie (24 February 1909–19 June 1996), federal government attorney, Supreme Court advocate, and feminist, was born in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the second (and first American-born) child of Russian Jewish immigrants Harry Margolin, a carpenter and peddler, and Rebecca Goldschmidt. The Margolins soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Rebecca died a year after giving birth to her third child. A poor widower, Harry sent Bessie and her siblings to the Jewish Orphans Home in New Orleans. There Margolin lived for twelve years, flourishing under the home’s regimen of self-government and rigorous secular education at the Isidore Newman School, which the home founded for its wards and for children from the broader community. In 1925 sixteen-year-old Margolin, an adept writer and debater, delivered Newman’s commencement address and won a scholarship to attend Newcomb College, Tulane University’s coordinate college for women....

Article

Martin, Del (05 May 1921–27 August 2008), lesbian and women’s rights activist and writer, was born Dorothy Louise Taliaferro in San Francisco to Jones and Mary Taliaferro. Del (as she became known) attended public schools in the city and was named the salutatorian of the first graduating class at George Washington High School. She then attended the University of California at Berkeley and studied journalism. At nineteen, after transferring to San Francisco State College (now California State University at San Francisco), Del married James Martin in 1940; two years later, she gave birth to their daughter, Kendra. The marriage ended in divorce when her husband discovered love letters she had written to a female neighbor....

Article

Nones, Benjamin (09 March 1757–09 February 1826), Revolutionary War soldier, Jewish community leader in Philadelphia, and early abolitionist, was born Abraham Benjamin Nones in Bordeaux, France, the son of Abraham Benjamin Nones and Rachel Nones. In a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson...

Article

Rich, Adrienne (16 May 1929–27 March 2012), poet, essayist, and lesbian-feminist activist, was born Adrienne Cecile Rich in Baltimore, Maryland, to Arnold Rice Rich and Helen Elizabeth Jones Rich, both southerners. Her father, a pathologist and highly regarded professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, was renowned for his work ethic and brilliant lectures, but feared for his critical, exacting standards. Her mother was a gifted pianist, piano teacher, and composer. She married late because she pursues her musical career, but then gave it up, as housewives were expected to do, to care for her family. Until she was four Adrienne had an African American nanny, as was also common in her milieu. She and her younger sister, Cynthia, were home schooled until Adrienne was nine, which was less common, but fostered both an extraordinary ability for independent work and a need for community which became a central theme of Rich’s later writing. At home both girls read widely, especially in the classics. Their father particularly valued formal, traditional poetry which she began writing as a very young child, largely to satisfy him. In a household not given to playfulness, she indulged her zeal for storytelling privately. Rich’s parents urged their daughters to work hard, aim high, and see themselves as special. That message had to be squared, however, with the model of their mother’s sacrifice to their father’s success. Adrienne tried hard to please, but she was also quick-tempered, and even when young, stubbornly insistent on her own strong sense of right and wrong....

Image

Fred L. Shuttlesworth. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. Created between 1970 and 1980? Artist unknown. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsca-48227).

Article

Shuttlesworth, Fred L. (18 March 1922–05 October 2011), civil rights activist, was born Freddie Lee Robinson outside Mount Meigs, Alabama, near Montgomery. His father, Vetter Greene, never married his mother, Alberta Robinson, who moved with the baby and her father to Birmingham. She later married William Nathan Shuttlesworth, a former coal miner and bootlegger who farmed corn. As a youth Fred attended the Oxmoor and Wenonah schools. He helped make moonshine until the death of his stepfather in 1940, after which a police raid resulted in his arrest. The eighteen-year-old, who had just graduated from Rosedale High, received two years probation....

Article

Springer Kemp, Maida (12 May 1910–29 March 2005), labor leader, Pan-Africanist, and civil rights activist, was born Maida Stewart in Panama, the daughter of Panamanian Adina Stewart and Harold Stewart, a Barbadian migrant who worked a white collar job on the Panama Canal. Her parents separated shortly after their arrival in Harlem in 1917. Adina later worked as a beautician and was renowned for her hospitality and culinary talents. Maida’s exposure to activism began under her mother’s influence. She accompanied her mother to the meetings of ...