Famous American Social Reformers

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 1 
Harriet Tubman
(Activist and Abolitionist Known for Her Efforts in Rescuing Slaves and Abolition of Slavery)
Harriet Tubman
47
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 
Frederick Douglass
(American Social Reformer, Abolitionist, Orator, Writer, and Statesman)
Frederick Douglass
14
Birthdate: February 14, 1818
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Talbot County, Maryland, United States
Died: February 20, 1895

Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.

 3 
Ida B. Wells
(Women's Rights Activist and Civil Rights Leader)
Ida B. Wells
8
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.
 4 
Margaret Sanger
(Birth Control Activist Who Opened the First Birth Control Clinic in the United States)
Margaret Sanger
8
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.

 5 
Jane Addams
(Reformer and Social Activist Who Became the First American Woman to be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize)
Jane Addams
14
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.

 6 
William Lloyd Garrison
(Abolitionist, Journalist and Founder of the Anti-Slavery Newspaper ‘The Liberator’)
William Lloyd Garrison
8
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.

 7 
Dorothea Dix
(Social Reformer)
Dorothea Dix
10
Birthdate: April 4, 1802
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maine, US
Died: July 17, 1887

Dorothea Dix was an American advocate who fought for the welfare of the mentally ill. She helped create the first generation of mental asylums in the United States. Dix also played a key role during the Civil War, serving as a Superintendent of Army Nurses. In 1979, Dorothea Dix was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 8 
Lucretia Mott
(Abolitionist, Women's Rights Activist, Social Reformer)
Lucretia Mott
3
Birthdate: January 3, 1793
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: November 11, 1880

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.

 9 
Josiah Henson
(Abolitionist)
Josiah Henson
3
Birthdate: June 15, 1789
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Charles County, Maryland, United States
Died: May 5, 1883

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.

 10 
Florence Kelley
(American Social and Political Reformer and the Pioneer of the Term 'Wage Abolitionism')
Florence Kelley
5
Birthdate: September 12, 1859
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: February 17, 1932

Florence Kelley was an American political and social reformer who pioneered the term wage abolitionism. Kelley's work for the minimum wage, children's rights, and eight-hour workdays are widely acclaimed today. After serving as the National Consumers League’s first general secretary, Florence Kelley helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.    

 11 
Theodore Parker
(American Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister of the Unitarian Church)
Theodore Parker
5
Birthdate: August 24, 1810
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lexington, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 10, 1860

Theodore Parker was an American transcendentalist minister whose words and quotations would later help inspire popular speeches of the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. A reformer and abolitionist, Parker played a key role in fighting against such laws as the Fugitive Slave Act.

 12 
Abigail Folger
(Social worker)
Abigail Folger
3
Birthdate: August 11, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: August 9, 1969
 13 
Thomas Morton
(English clergyman)
Thomas Morton
5
Birthdate: 1579 AD
Birthplace: not known
Died: 1647 AD

Thomas Morton was a colonist in North America who immigrated from Devon, England. Morton was also a social reformer, writer, and lawyer best remembered for studying Native American culture. He is credited with founding the colony of Merrymount, present-day Quincy, Massachusetts.

 14 
Gerrit Smith
(Former Member of the United States Representatives from New York's 22nd District (1853 - 1854))
Gerrit Smith
3
Birthdate: March 6, 1797
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Utica, New York, United States
Died: December 28, 1874

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.

 15 
Daniel Carter Beard
(American Illustrator, Author, and Social Reformer Who was a Pioneer of the Youth Scouting Movement)
Daniel Carter Beard
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1850
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: June 11, 1941

Daniel Carter Beard was an American author, illustrator, social reformer, and Georgist. He is credited with founding the Sons of Daniel Boone, which he later integrated with the Boy Scouts of America. He also served as the editor of Boys' Life magazine and helped his sister assemble the Camp Fire Girls.

 16 
Hannah Whitall Smith
2
Birthdate: February 7, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 1, 1911
 17 
George Ripley
(Journalist)
George Ripley
2
Birthdate: October 3, 1802
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Greenfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 4, 1880

George Ripley was an American journalist, Unitarian minister, and social reformer. He is best remembered for his association with Transcendentalism. Ripley is credited with founding a Utopian community named Brook Farm in Massachusetts. He later established himself as a literati, working for the New York Tribune and publishing the New American Cyclopaedia.

 18 
Ellen Gates Starr
(American Social Reformer and Activist)
Ellen Gates Starr
2
Birthdate: March 19, 1859
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Laona Township, Illinois, United States
Died: February 10, 1940

Ellen Gates Starr is best remembered for co-establishing the Hull House social settlement in Chicago along with activist Jane Addams. Initially an art student, she later dedicated her life for the betterment of immigrant factory workers and reformation for child labor laws. She later retired to a Roman Catholic convent.

 19 
Amanda Smith
(American Methodist Preacher and Former Slave Who Opened an Orphanage for African-American Girls)
Amanda Smith
2
Birthdate: January 23, 1837
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Long Green, Maryland, United States
Died: February 24, 1915

Born into slavery, Amanda Smith later stepped into freedom after her father bought his and his family’s freedom. Starting as a domestic help, she later became a missionary and a Holiness movement leader, who invested in women’s education wholeheartedly and even established an orphanage for Black girls.

 20 
Abigail Kelley Foster
(Social Reformer)
Abigail Kelley Foster
6
Birthdate: January 15, 1811
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pelham, Massachusetts, United States
Died: January 14, 1887

Born into a Quaker household, Abigail Kelley Foster later grew up to be a teacher and a strong anti-slavery advocate. Both she and her husband, Stephen Symonds Foster, also worked on women’s rights issues. She was also named to the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 21 
Rose Schneiderman
(Trade unionist)
Rose Schneiderman
0
Birthdate: April 6, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sawin, Poland
Died: August 11, 1972
 22 
Grace Abbott
(American Social Worker Known for Her Activist Work on Behalf of Immigrants and Children)
Grace Abbott
2
Birthdate: November 17, 1878
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Grand Island, Nebraska, United States
Died: June 19, 1939

Grace Abbott is best remembered for her efforts toward securing reformation of child labor laws and the betterment of the work conditions of immigrant laborers. After her graduation, she moved to Hull House, where she focused on social work. She later penned books such as The Immigrant and the Community.

 23 
Josephine Shaw Lowell
(American Social Worker Best Known for Creating the 'New York Consumers League' in 1890)
Josephine Shaw Lowell
2
Birthdate: December 16, 1843
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 12, 1905

Best remembered for establishing the New York Consumers League, Josephine Shaw Lowell believed that charity shouldn’t just relieve people’s suffering but also help people in overcoming their misery by rehabilitating them. She was also the first female commissioner of the New York Charities Commission and campaigned for women’s rights.

 24 
Robert Dale Owen
(Former United States Minister to the Two Sicilies (1853 - 1858))
Robert Dale Owen
2
Birthdate: November 7, 1801
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: June 24, 1877

Born to Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, Robert Dale Owen followed in his father’s footsteps to become a socialist and even teamed up with his father to set up a socialist community in New Harmony, Indiana. He was also a key part of the Working Men's Party and the Democratic Party.

 25 
Charles Loring Brace
(American Philanthropist Who Contributed to the Field of Social Reform)
Charles Loring Brace
2
Birthdate: June 19, 1826
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
Died: August 11, 1890

Known as the pioneer of the modern foster care system, Charles Loring Brace was raised by a single father. He established New York’s Children’s Aid Society and served as its executive secretary for almost 4 decades. His works inspired the Social Gospel movement. He also spearheaded the Orphan Train movement.

 26 
Florence Jaffray Harriman
(Former 8th United States Ambassador to Norway)
Florence Jaffray Harriman
2
Birthdate: July 21, 1870
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: August 31, 1967

Born to an affluent New York banker, Florence Jaffray Harriman initially established herself as a well-known socialite. She later invested in social reform, organizing events and campaigns on child labor and related issues. She also served as an American minister to Norway during World War II.

 27 
Ernestine Rose
(American Suffragist and Abolitionist)
Ernestine Rose
2
Birthdate: January 13, 1810
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland
Died: August 4, 1892

Born to a Polish rabbi, Ernestine Rose was much ahead of her times. As a teenager, she spoke up against the regressive Jewish customs that hindered women’s freedom. She later became a pioneering feminist and suffragist from her community and was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 28 
Franklin Benjamin Sanborn
(American Journalist, Historian, and Charity Worker)
Franklin Benjamin Sanborn
2
Birthdate: December 15, 1831
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, United States
Died: February 24, 1917

A renowned social scientist, journalist, and teacher, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn is remembered for establishing the American Social Science Association. The Harvard alumnus was a prominent abolitionist and was associated with many intellectuals and literary legends in Concord, Massachusetts. As part of the Secret Six, he funded John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry.

 29 
Thomas Mott Osborne
(American Prison Administrator, Prison Reformer, Industrialist and New York State Political Reformer)
Thomas Mott Osborne
2
Birthdate: September 23, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Auburn, New York, United States
Died: October 20, 1926

A renowned penologist, Thomas Mott Osborne is known for introducing several reforms for prisoners, such as self-help and humanitarian programs. While chairing the New York State Commission on Prison Reform, he disguised himself as a prisoner to learn about their living conditions. He had also been a Sing Sing State Prison warden.

 30 
Frances Dana Barker Gage
(American Reformer, Feminist and Abolitionist)
Frances Dana Barker Gage
2
Birthdate: October 12, 1808
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marietta, Ohio, United States
Died: November 10, 1884

Known for her involvement in various anti-slavery and women’s empowerment campaigns, Frances Dana Barker Gage was a prominent American social reformer. She was also associated with the farmers’ papers Ohio Cultivator and Field Notes. She also worked toward achieving women’s voting rights and property rights.

 31 
Sophonisba Breckinridge
(American Educator, Activist and Social Reformer Who Led the Social-Work Education Movement in the United States)
Sophonisba Breckinridge
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1866
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lexington, Kentucky, United States
Died: July 30, 1948

Apart from being a prominent Progressive Era social reformer, Sophonisba Breckinridge also created history by becoming the first female to be named to the Kentucky bar and the first woman PhD holder in political science and economics at the University of Chicago. She also launched the journal Social Service Review.

 32 
Mary Van Kleeck
2
Birthdate: June 26, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Glenham, New York, United States
Died: June 8, 1972

Dutch-American social reformer Mary Van Kleeck is remembered for her relentless work for female factory workers and child laborers. She also headed the department of international studies of the Russell Sage Foundation for more than 3 decades. She supported Soviet socialism and also penned books such as Creative America.

 33 
Julia Lathrop
(American Social Reformer and 1st Director of United States Children's Bureau)
Julia Lathrop
2
Birthdate: June 29, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rockford, Illinois, United States
Died: April 15, 1932

Born to a well-known lawyer, Julia Lathrop initially worked in her father’s law office and later turned into a full-fledged social reformer working on areas such as education and children’s welfare. She also created history by serving as the first director of the U.S. Children’s Bureau.

 34 
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
(American Human Rights Activist and Social Reformer)
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
1
Birthdate: May 20, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Franklin County, Kentucky, United States
Died: November 25, 1920

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge is best remembered for leading the women's suffrage movement in Kentucky. Mostly involved with campaigns related to children’s and women’s rights, she also established the Lexington Civic League, geared toward controlling child labor and upliftment of poor children. She was also associated with efforts to prevent tuberculosis.

 35 
Lillie Devereux Blake
(American Novelist, Essayist, and Reformer)
Lillie Devereux Blake
1
Birthdate: August 12, 1833
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
Died: December 30, 1913

Initially a novelist, Lillie Devereux Blake later devoted her life to the cause of women’s suffrage and empowerment of women. Raised in an affluent neighborhood, she was taught in the best schools. She had taken to writing after finding herself in a financial crisis following her husband’s suicide.

 36 
Hannah G. Solomon
(Social Reformer)
Hannah G. Solomon
1
Birthdate: January 14, 1858
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: December 7, 1942

Born to parents who were early Jewish settlers in Chicago, Hannah G. Solomon grew up to be an iconic figure of women’s empowerment in the US. She established the National Council of Jewish Women, modeled on an elite women’s club, to bring about social change and improve the lives of women.

 37 
May Wright Sewall
(American Reformer Known for Her Service to the Causes of Education, Women’s Rights, and World Peace)
May Wright Sewall
1
Birthdate: May 27, 1844
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Greenfield, Wisconsin, United States
Died: July 22, 1920

May Wright Sewall was a social reformer committed to the causes of women's rights, education, and world peace. She was passionately involved in the woman's suffrage movement. Besides her work as a social reformer, she also founded the Girls' Classical School in Indianapolis along with her second husband. She was active in the American Peace Society in her later years. 

 38 
Barbara Deming
(Writer, Journalist)
Barbara Deming
1
Birthdate: July 23, 1917
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: August 2, 1984

Feminist social reformer Barbara Deming started her career as a firebrand journalist, writing for publications such as the New Yorker and Vogue. Obsessed with the works of Gandhi, she later started campaigning for peace and civil rights, and also formed Money for Women. She was also an open lesbian.

 39 
Lizzie Black Kander
(American Progressive Reformer, Philanthropist and Author)
Lizzie Black Kander
1
Birthdate: May 28, 1858
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wisconsin, United States
Died: July 24, 1940

Welfare worker Lizzie Black Kander is best remembered for penning a popular cookbook, The Settlement Cookbook, which helped her raise funds for her Milwaukee settlement house and had sold over a million copies by the 1970s. She also worked to offer vocational training to women and children.

 40 
Lugenia Burns Hope
(American Activist and Social Reformer)
Lugenia Burns Hope
1
Birthdate: February 19, 1874
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: August 14, 1947

Social reformer and civil rights activist Lugenia Burns Hope is remembered for launching the social welfare association Neighborhood Union, dedicated to the upliftment of Black women. She had also worked to secure equality for Black soldiers during World War I. She was later named to the Georgia Women of Achievement.

 41 
Annie Turner Wittenmyer
(American Social Reformer)
Annie Turner Wittenmyer
1
Birthdate: August 26, 1827
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Adams County, Ohio, United States
Died: February 2, 1900

Annie Turner Wittenmyer is remembered for his association with the temperance movement and for supplying medical aid and food to soldiers during the Civil War. Widowed in her youth, she devoted her entire life to relief work and even headed the Iowa State Sanitary Commission.

 42 
Katherine Philips Edson
(Social Activist)
Katherine Philips Edson
0
Birthdate: January 12, 1870
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kenton, Ohio, United States
Died: November 5, 1933
 43 
Caroline Bartlett Crane
1
Birthdate: August 17, 1858
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hudson, Wisconsin, United States
Died: March 24, 1935
 44 
Albion Fellows Bacon
0
Birthdate: April 8, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Evansville, Indiana, United States
Died: December 10, 1933
 45 
Maud Nathan
(Social Worker)
Maud Nathan
1
Birthdate: October 20, 1862
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: December 15, 1946
 46 
Caroline Severance
(American Abolitionist, Suffragist, and Founder of Women’s Clubs)
Caroline Severance
1
Birthdate: January 12, 1820
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Canandaigua, New York, United States
Died: November 10, 1914

Reformer Caroline Severance is best known for establishing women’s clubs in the US. A champion for women’s rights and women’s suffrage, she was also an abolitionist. Along with her husband, she formed the Independent Christian Church. She was also the first female to join the Parker Fraternity Course.

Francis John McConnell
0
Birthdate: August 18, 1871
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: United States
Died: August 18, 1953
 48 
Elaine Brody
(Sociologist)
Elaine Brody
0
Birthdate: December 4, 1922
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: July 9, 2014
 49 
Lucy Rider Meyer
(Social Worker)
Lucy Rider Meyer
0
Birthdate: September 9, 1849
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Haven, Vermont, United States
Died: March 16, 1922
 50 
Linda Gilbert
(Prison Reformer)
Linda Gilbert
0
Birthdate: May 13, 1847
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rochester, New York, United States
Died: October 24, 1895