Famous 19th Century Activists

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Activists, including Annie Besant, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Day and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century Activists
 1 
Harriet Tubman
(Activist and Abolitionist Known for Her Efforts in Rescuing Slaves and Abolition of Slavery)
Harriet Tubman
19
Birthdate: 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
(Women’s Rights Activist)
Susan B. Anthony
14
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
(Women's rights activist)
Sojourner Truth
9
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
(Leader of the British Suffragette Movement)
Emmeline Pankhurst
8
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
(American Author and First Deaf-Blind Person to Earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree)
Helen Keller
8
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
(American Women's Rights Activist and Key Figure Behind 'Seneca Falls Convention', First Women's Rights Convention)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
4
Birthdate: November 12, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Johnstown
Died: October 26, 1902
 7 
Alice Paul
(American Quaker, Feminist, Suffragist, and Women's Rights Activist)
Alice Paul
3
Birthdate: January 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey, United States
Died: July 9, 1977

Alice Paul was an American Quaker, feminist, suffragist, and women's rights activist. She is best remembered for strategizing events like the Silent Sentinels and the Woman Suffrage Procession, which resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Alice Paul often displayed courage while confronting police brutality for her activism.

 8 
Dorothy Day
(American Social Activist, Journalist, and Anarchist)
Dorothy Day
3
Birthdate: November 8, 1897
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: November 29, 1980

Dorothy Day was an American social activist, journalist, and anarchist. She is best remembered for co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement along with French activist Peter Maurin. She also co-founded a newspaper called Catholic Worker and served as its editor between 1933 and 1980. In 2001, Dorothy Day was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 9 
W. E. B. Du Bois
(Civil Rights Activists)
W. E. B. Du Bois
13
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 
Mary McLeod Bethune
(American Civil Rights Activist and Founder of the 'National Council of Negro Women')
Mary McLeod Bethune
4
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayesville, South Carolina, United States
Died: May 18, 1955

Mary McLeod Bethune was an American civil rights activist, educator, womanist, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She is credited with founding the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune also played a key role in the creation of the Black Cabinet while serving as an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. In 1973, Bethune was made an indutee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 11 
Jack London
(Novelist & Journalist)
Jack London
5
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.

 12 
Margaret Sanger
(Birth Control Activist Who Opened the First Birth Control Clinic in the United States)
Margaret Sanger
6
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.

 13 
Ida B. Wells
(Women's Rights Activist and Civil Rights Leader)
Ida B. Wells
4
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.
 14 
Solomon Northup
5
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.
 15 
Jeannette Rankin
(Feminist Politician, First Woman to be Part of the US Congress and Only from Montana)
Jeannette Rankin
3
Birthdate: June 11, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Missoula
Died: May 18, 1973
 16 
Rosa Luxemburg
(Revolutionary Socialist, Marxist Philosopher & Anti-War Activist)
Rosa Luxemburg
4
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
 17 
Emma Goldman
(American Anarchist Political Activist and Writer)
Emma Goldman
4
Birthdate: June 27, 1869
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kaunas, Lithuania
Died: May 14, 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.

 18 
Annie Besant
(British Social Reformer, Theosophist and Women's Rights Activist)
Annie Besant
4
Birthdate: October 1, 1847
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Clapham Town, London, United Kingdom
Died: September 20, 1933

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.

 19 
Margaret Fuller
(American Journalist, Critic, Editor, and Women's Rights Advocate)
Margaret Fuller
4
Birthdate: May 23, 1810
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 19, 1850

Margaret Fuller was an American journalist, critic, editor, women's rights advocate, and translator. She is best remembered for her association with the transcendentalism movement. Her 1843 book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is widely regarded as the first major feminist book in the USA. An advocate of women's rights, Margaret Fuller was the first female war correspondent in the USA.

 20 
Emily Davison
(English Suffragette Who Fought for Votes for Women in Britain in the Early 20th Century)
Emily Davison
3
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.

 21 
Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
(Military Leader)
Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
3
Birthdate: September 13, 1887
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, USA
Died: July 12, 1944
 22 
Victoria Woodhull
(The First Woman to Run for the American Presidency)
Victoria Woodhull
4
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.

 23 
Clara Barton
(Nurse, Founded of the American Red Cross)
Clara Barton
3
Birthdate: December 25, 1821
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 12, 1912
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.

 25 
Maxim Gorky
(Russian Writer Best Known for His Works 'The Lower Depths', 'Mother', 'Chelkash' and 'Children of the Sun')
Maxim Gorky
3
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.

 26 
Peter Kropotkin
(Anarchist, Socialist & Historian)
Peter Kropotkin
3
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. 

 27 
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
(Independence Activist, Reformer)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
4
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.

 28 
William Lloyd Garrison
(Abolitionist, Journalist and Founder of the Anti-Slavery Newspaper ‘The Liberator’)
William Lloyd Garrison
4
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.

 29 
Pearl Buck
(American Writer Known for Her Novels on Chinese Lifestyle and Culture, Winner of 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Pearl Buck
3
Birthdate: June 26, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hillsboro
Died: March 6, 1973
 30 
Prescott Bush
(Former United States Senator from Connecticut (1952 - 1963))
Prescott Bush
4
Birthdate: May 15, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Died: October 8, 1972

Prescott Bush was an American politician and banker. He is best remembered for his service as the US Senator from Connecticut from 4 November 1952 to 3 January 1963. Prescott Bush is also remembered as the father of former President George H. W. Bush.

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.

Jacob Riis
3
Birthdate: May 3, 1849
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ribe
Died: May 26, 1914
 33 
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
(Indian Minister of Education (1947-58))
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
3
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

 34 
Mary Ann Shadd
(American-Canadian Activist, Journalist, Publisher and the First Black Woman Publisher in North America)
Mary Ann Shadd
3
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.

 35 
Patrick Pearse
(Barrister and a Leader of the Easter Rising in 1916)
Patrick Pearse
3
Birthdate: November 10, 1879
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: May 3, 1916

Patrick Pearse was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, and revolutionary. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Opinionated with radical views, he decided as a boy that he would dedicate his life to Irish freedom. A relentless idealist, he was executed after the Easter Rising and was immortalized as a symbol of the rebellion.

 36 
Anna Leonowens
(British Travel Writer, Educator, and Social Activist)
Anna Leonowens
3
Birthdate: November 5, 1834
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ahmednagar, India
Died: January 19, 1915

Indian-born British author Anna Leonowens is best remembered for her memoir The English Governess at the Siamese Court, which related her experience as a governess of the children of King Mongkut of Siam. The musical The King and I and the novel Anna and the King of Siam were inspired by her life.

 37 
Roger Casement
(British Diplomat Known as ‘Father of Twentieth-Century Human Rights Investigations')
Roger Casement
3
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.

 38 
A. Philip Randolph
(Leader of the African-American civil-rights movement,)
A. Philip Randolph
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Crescent City
Died: May 16, 1979
 39 
Sister Nivedita
(Irish Teacher, Author, Social Activist, School Founder and Disciple of 'Swami Vivekananda')
Sister Nivedita
3
Birthdate: October 28, 1867
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Died: October 13, 1911

Born in Ireland, schoolteacher Margaret Elizabeth Noble met Indian spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda in London and, inspired by his ideals, went to Calcutta, where she was renamed Sister Nivedita and began following Brahmacharya. She not only founded a girls’ school in Kolkata but also worked for social upliftment of Indians.

 40 
Carrie Nation
(Activist)
Carrie Nation
3
Birthdate: November 25, 1846
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gerrard County, Kentucky, USA
Died: June 9, 1911
 41 
Mary Edwards Walker
(Surgeon, Feminist, Activist)
Mary Edwards Walker
3
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.

 42 
Henry Dunant
(Co-Founder of the Red Cross)
Henry Dunant
3
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.

 43 
Joe Hill
(Songwriter, Trade unionist)
Joe Hill
3
Birthdate: October 7, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gävle
Died: November 19, 1915
 44 
William C. Quantrill
(Confederate guerrilla leader)
William C. Quantrill
3
Birthdate: July 31, 1837
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Canal Dover, Ohio, United States
Died: June 6, 1865
 45 
James Weldon Johnson
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1871
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Died: June 26, 1938
 46 
Kasturba Gandhi
(Wife of Mahatama Gandhi)
Kasturba Gandhi
3
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.

Aldo Leopold
3
Birthdate: January 11, 1887
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: April 21, 1948
 48 
Samuel Gompers
(Labor leader, Cigar Maker)
Samuel Gompers
3
Birthdate: January 27, 1850
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 13, 1924
 49 
Marie Stopes
(Paleobotanist & Women’s Rights Activists)
Marie Stopes
3
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
(Feminist Politcian Who Led the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain)
Millicent Fawcett
3
Birthdate: June 11, 1847
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aldeburgh, England
Died: August 5, 1929