Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.
Lucretia Mott was an American women's rights activist, abolitionist, and social reformer. Mott played a major role in the events leading up to the Seneca Falls Convention, the first gathering supporting women's rights in the USA. Lucretia Mott's work influenced Elizabeth Cady Stanton whom she mentored. In 1983, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Josiah Henson was an American abolitionist, author, and minister. Henson escaped to Upper Canada after being born into slavery and founded a settlement for other fugitive slaves in Kent County. Josiah Henson's autobiography about his escape from slavery is said to have inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's title character in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Granville Sharp was an activist who became one of the first English campaigners to support abolitionism in the UK. Sharp devised a plan to settle people in slavery and black people in Sierra Leone. He also established the St George's Bay Company and is thus considered a founding father of Sierra Leone. Sharp also worked towards correcting other social injustices.
Gerrit Smith was an American social reformer, politician, abolitionist, and philanthropist. Although he was a prominent candidate for President of the USA in 1848, 1856, and 1860, Smith served only 18 months in the federal government. Throughout his life, he was a major financial contributor to the Republican Party and the Liberty Party.
Born to a schoolmaster, Rowland Hill followed in his father’s footsteps to become a teacher and explored subjects such as astronomy and math. He is, however, best remembered for his reform of the postal system, including increasing the speed of letter transfer and introducing the prototype of the postage stamp.
Remembered as "the Greatest Hungarian,” István Széchenyi was a reformer and author who had initially fought against Napoleon I. He had served as the minister of public works and transport and improved his country’s waterways and roadways. Charged with sedition against Austria’s reign over Hungary, he later committed suicide.
Part of the 18th-century London intellectual circle, socialite Elizabeth Montagu was a pioneering member of the Bluestockings, a group of women who engaged in evening conversations as a substitute to card-playing. The wife of affluent landowner Edward Montagu, she inherited his riches and later built the Montagu House.
In spite of being blinded in an accident at age 19, John Fielding managed to become a magistrate. The half-brother of author Henry Fielding, he was nicknamed Blind Beak and was able to recognize criminals by their voices. He established the Bow Street Runners and revolutionized the juvenile justice system.
British politician and philanthropist Fowell Buxton was a prominent figure in the campaign for the abolition of slavery and was thus instrumental in the passage of the 1833 Abolition Act. Though the British government sponsored an anti-slave-trade expedition to Africa, inspired by his works, it failed to materialize due to multiple deaths.
Initially a leather breeches manufacturer, social reformer Francis Place participated in various working-class movements, before launching his tailoring shop. His socialist streak pushed him into politics, and he successfully campaigned against the Combination Acts that prohibited trade unions. He also became a Malthusian at one point.
Nicknamed the Factory King, Richard Oastler was a prominent English social reformer who is known for his relentless campaign for shortening work hours, eventually leading to the 1847 Ten Hours Act. While in prison for opposing the Poor Law Amendment Act, he penned Fleet Papers, a collection of his social theories.
Born into a Quaker household, Benjamin Lundy had developed anti-slavery sentiments quite early in life. He grew up to become one of the leading abolitionists of the 19th century. He also launched papers such as The National Enquirer and the anti-slavery association Union Humane Society.
British lawyer and legal reformer Samuel Romilly is best remembered for bringing about significant reforms in the English criminal law. Known for is campaigns against capital punishment for minor offenses, he was also knighted for his achievements. Unfortunately, distressed at his wife’s death, he committed suicide later.
Born into one of the noblest Austrian families, Nikolaus Zinzendorf devoted his life to the welfare of the poor. Recognized as a distinguished leader of the Moravian church and a reformer of the Pietist movement, he created a worldwide missionary network that he hoped would sustain an ecumenical Protestant movement.
The son of a weaver, Samuel Bamford quit school and worked as a weaver and a warehouseman. He later penned many poems, expressing his support for the working class. Charged with inciting violence at the Peterloo massacre, he was also jailed for a while. He later became a journalist in London.
Known as the Father of Reform, John Cartwright made significant parliamentary reforms, which later became part of the People’s Charter. An English naval officer, he had also been part of the Seven Years’ War. He also worked for universal suffrage and, in his later life, invested in crop trials and agricultural improvement.