Famous 19th Century Activists

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Activists, including Annie Besant, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Day and W. E. B. Du Bois.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century Activists

 1 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
17
Famous As: Abolitionist and Political activist
Birthdate: February 29, 1822
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester County, Maryland, United States
Died: March 10, 1913

Born to parents who were bonded slaves, Harriet Tubman life was a difficult one from the very beginning. Yet with her remarkable courage and determination, she not only escaped slavery herself, but also led other enslaved people to freedom. The prominent political activist and abolitionist was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the American Civil War.

 2 Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony
12
Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist
Birthdate: February 15, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Adams, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 13, 1906

Susan B. Anthony's vital role in the women's suffrage movement changed the course of history. She led one of the two national suffrage organizations, which later became the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Susan as its leading force. She also played an instrumental role in publishing The Revolution, a women's rights newspaper.

 3 Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth
8
Famous As: Women's rights activist
Birthdate: 1797 AD
Birthplace: Rifton, New York, United States
Died: November 26, 1883

Sojourner Truth was an American women's rights activist and abolitionist. Born into slavery, Truth escaped to freedom in 1826. She then approached the court to recover her son, subsequently becoming the first black woman to emerge successful against a white man in such a case. In 2014, she was named in Smithsonian's 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time list.

 4 Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst
6
Famous As: Leader of the British Suffragette Movement
Birthdate: July 15, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Moss Side, Manchester, England
Died: June 14, 1928
Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist best remembered for helping women earn the right to vote in elections by organizing the UK suffragette movement. For playing a major role in achieving women's suffrage in the UK, Pankhurst was named in Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century list in 1999.

 5 Helen Keller

Helen Keller
6
Famous As: Author, First Deafblind Person to Earn a B.A. Degree
Birthdate: June 27, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States
Died: June 1, 1968

A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.

 6 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
4
Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist
Birthdate: November 12, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Johnstown
Died: October 26, 1902

 7 Alice Paul

Alice Paul
3
Famous As: Women's rights activist
Birthdate: January 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey, United States
Died: July 9, 1977
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 8 Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day
3
Famous As: Journalist, Social Activist
Birthdate: November 8, 1897
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: November 29, 1980

 9 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
11
Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 27, 1963

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.

 10 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
4
Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

 11 George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw
4
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: July 26, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950

Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author George Bernard Shaw was best known for his realism and his support for women’s rights and socialism. His ideas gave rise to the word “Shavian.” His drama Pygmalion inspired the musical My Fair Lady. His other notable works include Candida and Man and Superman.

 12 Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune
4
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayesville, South Carolina, United States
Died: May 18, 1955

 13 Jack London

Jack London
4
Famous As: Novelist & Journalist
Birthdate: January 12, 1876
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: November 22, 1916

Jack London was an American novelist, social activist, and journalist. A pioneer of American magazines and commercial fiction, London was one of the first authors from the US to become an international celebrity. His life and work inspired several films, such as the 1943 movie Jack London and 1980 film Klondike Fever. He was also portrayed in several TV series.

 14 Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger
5
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: September 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Corning, New York, United States
Died: September 6, 1966

Margaret Sanger was an American writer and sex educator. She is credited with popularizing the term birth control. A birth control activist, Sanger established the first birth control clinic in America. She also set up organizations that later became the well-known non-profit organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She also played a key role in legalizing contraception in the US.

 15 Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 16, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Holly Springs, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 25, 1931
Civil rights and women's rights activist Ida B. Wells is remembered for speaking up against the lynching of Blacks in the U.S. She was born a slave and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. She later co-founded the NAACP. She also co-owned and wrote for Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

 16 Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup
5
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 10, 1807
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minerva, New York
Died: 1863 AD
Abolitionist Solomon Northup had authored the memoir Twelve Years a Slave, which was later adapted into the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. Northup was abducted and sold as a slave to a planter in Louisiana. He was eventually freed with the help of the governor New York.

 17 Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin
3
Famous As: First Woman Elected to U.S Congress
Birthdate: June 11, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Missoula
Died: May 18, 1973

 18 Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed
4
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: September 26, 1774
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Leominster, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 18, 1845
Nurseryman John Chapman, better known to people as Johnny Appleseed, is remembered for introducing apple trees in areas across the American states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, and West Virginia. His aim as a missionary of The New Church was to help local settlers make cider.

 19 Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg
4
Famous As: Marxist economist
Birthdate: March 5, 1871
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Zamosc, Poland
Died: January 15, 1919
Polish Marxist and socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg was a member of parties such as the SPD, the USPD, and the KPD. Luxemburg was an anti-war activist and taught economics and Marxism at SPD's Berlin training center. She was assassinated by the Freikorps troops during the German Revolution

 20 Annie Besant

Annie Besant
4
Famous As: Social Reformer
Birthdate: April 16, 1847
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Clapham, England
Died: 1933 AD

Annie Besant was a British theosophist, socialist, writer, orator, educationist, women's rights activist, and philanthropist. Despite being British, Besant supported India's freedom movement and even joined the Indian National Congress. She is also credited with co-founding Banaras Hindu University. Besant also helped launch the Indian Home Rule movement to campaign for democracy in the country.

 21 Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman
4
Famous As: Political activist
Birthdate: June 7, 1869
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kaunas, Lithuania
Died: May 4, 1940

Emma Goldman was a writer and anarchist political activist. She played an important role in popularizing the anarchist political philosophy in Europe and North America in the early and mid-20th century. Her lectures and writing spanned a wide variety of subjects, such as atheism, militarism, freedom of speech, homosexuality, capitalism, and free love.

 22 Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller
4
Famous As: Journalist, Activist
Birthdate: May 23, 1810
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 19, 1850

 23 Emily Davison

Emily Davison
3
Famous As: Suffragist, Activist
Birthdate: October 11, 1872
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 8, 1913

Activist Emily Davison is remembered for her relentless fight for women’s suffrage. As part of her protest, at the 1913 Epsom Derby, she went in front of King George V’s horse, to attach suffragette flags to it, and was tragically trampled to death. Some regard her as a martyr for women’s causes.

 24 Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi
3
Famous As: Leader of Indian Independence Movement
Birthdate: October 2, 1869
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Porbandar, India
Died: January 30, 1948

An Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist, Mahatma Gandhi was a major figure in India’s fight for independence from British rule. He is renowned for his employment of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience methods. Despite his popularity, he had numerous detractors as well and was assassinated in 1948. He is widely considered the Father of the Nation in India.

 25 Clara Barton

Clara Barton
3
Famous As: Nurse, Founded of the American Red Cross
Birthdate: December 25, 1821
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 12, 1912

 26 Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
3
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 13, 1887
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, USA
Died: July 12, 1944

 27 Jane Addams

Jane Addams
3
Birthdate: September 6, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cedarville, Illinois, U.S.
Died: May 21, 1935

Jane Addams was an American social worker, reformer, settlement activist, public administrator, sociologist, and author. Addams was a prominent leader in the history of women's suffrage and social work in the USA. She is credited with co-founding one of America's most popular settlement houses, the Hull House in Chicago. Addams is also credited with co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union.

 28 Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky
3
Famous As: Writer, Political Activist
Birthdate: March 28, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Died: June 18, 1936

Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.

 29 Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: September 23, 1838
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Homer, Ohio, United States
Died: June 9, 1927

Victoria Woodhull was an American politician, suffragist, and writer who played an important role in the women's suffrage movement. She is credited with founding Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, America's first newspaper to be founded by a woman. Her life and career inspired the Broadway musical Onward Victoria. In 2001, she was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 30 Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin
3
Famous As: Anarchist, Socialist & Historian
Birthdate: December 9, 1842
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: February 8, 1921

Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917. 

 31 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
4
Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 32 William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison
4
Famous As: Journalist, Abolitionist
Birthdate: December 10, 1805
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Newburyport, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 24, 1879

William Lloyd Garrison was an American journalist, abolitionist, social reformer, and suffragist. He is best remembered for founding The Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper, which was published from 1831 to 1865. He also co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society which helped fight slavery in the United States. In the 1870s, William Lloyd Garrison was an important figure in the women's suffrage movement.

 33 Pearl Buck

Pearl Buck
3
Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: June 26, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hillsboro
Died: March 6, 1973

 34 Prescott Bush

Prescott Bush
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: May 15, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Died: October 8, 1972

 35 Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis
3
Birthdate: May 3, 1849
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ribe
Died: May 26, 1914

 36 Giuseppe Mazzini

Giuseppe Mazzini
3
Birthdate: June 22, 1805
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Genoa, Italy
Died: March 10, 1872

Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian journalist, politician, and activist. He played a major role in the Italian revolutionary movement and in the unification of Italy. His efforts gave rise to an independent and unified Italy, which replaced many separate states that were dominated by foreign powers. Mazzini is widely regarded as the most influential European revolutionary.

 37 Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd
3
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: October 9, 1823
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Died: June 5, 1893

The first North American Black woman to publish a newspaper, USA-born Mary Ann Shadd was the founder of the Canadian newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. Concurrently serving as its anonymous editor and contributor, she also became one of the first women to pursue journalism in Canada. She was also one of the first Black women to earn a degree in law.

 38 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
3
Famous As: Indian Minister of Education (1947-58)
Birthdate: November 11, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: February 22, 1958

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, and scholar. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, serving as a senior leader of the Congress. His contribution to the Indian education system is recognized across India by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day

 39 Roger Casement

Roger Casement
3
Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: September 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sandycove, Ireland
Died: August 3, 1916

Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist and diplomat. Also a well-known humanitarian activist, Casement is remembered for the Casement Report, a 1904 document in which he wrote about the abuses in the Congo Free State. His investigations of human rights abuses earned him a knighthood in 1911. However, Casement was stripped of his knighthood after being charged with high treason.

 40 A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph
3
Famous As: Leader of the African-American civil-rights movement,
Birthdate: April 15, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Crescent City
Died: May 16, 1979

 41 Joe Hill

Joe Hill
3
Famous As: Songwriter, Trade unionist
Birthdate: October 7, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gävle
Died: November 19, 1915

 42 Mary Edwards Walker

Mary Edwards Walker
3
Famous As: Surgeon, Feminist, Activist
Birthdate: November 26, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oswego
Died: February 21, 1919

Mary Edwards Walker, or Dr. Mary Walker, was the only female surgeon who served injured soldiers during the American Civil War. A dress reform supporter, she believed women should value comfort more than tradition when it came to clothes. She was also the first and only Medal of Honor winner.

 43 James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 17, 1871
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Died: June 26, 1938

 44 Henry Dunant

Henry Dunant
3
Famous As: Co-Founder of the Red Cross
Birthdate: May 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: October 30, 1910

Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman, social activist, and humanitarian. He is credited with co-founding and promoting the Red Cross. In 1901, he became the first Swiss Nobel laureate when he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Dunant is also credited with founding the Swiss branch of YMCA. His life inspired the 1948 historical drama film, Man to Men.

 45 Carrie Nation

Carrie Nation
3
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 25, 1846
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gerrard County, Kentucky, USA
Died: June 9, 1911

 46 Kasturba Gandhi

Kasturba Gandhi
3
Famous As: Wife of Mahatama Gandhi
Birthdate: April 11, 1869
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Porbandar
Died: February 22, 1944

Kasturba Gandhi was an Indian freedom fighter and political activist. Best remembered as the wife of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kasturba took part in Indian independence movements along with her husband. Her life and career inspired a play titled Kasturba which was written by Narayan Desai and directed by Aditi Desai. The play was staged several times in India.

 47 Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold
3
Birthdate: January 11, 1887
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: April 21, 1948

 48 Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers
3
Famous As: Labor leader, Cigar Maker
Birthdate: January 27, 1850
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 13, 1924

 49 Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes
3
Famous As: Paleobotanist & Women’s Rights Activists
Birthdate: October 15, 1880
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: October 2, 1958

Apart from being a successful botanist, Marie Stopes was also a popular activist, known for her contribution to the feminist cause. A leading supporter of birth control, she established the UK’s first clinic for family planning. She was also known for her books Married Love and Wise Parenthood.

 50 Millicent Fawcett

Millicent Fawcett
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 11, 1847
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aldeburgh, England
Died: August 5, 1929