Women Social Reformers

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Throughout history, there have been many women social reformers who have made significant contribution to the field. The list includes many familiar and great female social reformers such as Harriet Tubman, Jane Addams, Dorothea Dix, Lucretia Mott, Josephine Butler.The women social reformers featured in this list are from United States, United Kingdom, Canada & Australia and many more countries.
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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 
Florence Nightingale
(Social Reformer & Founder of Modern Nursing and Known as 'The Lady with the Lamp')
Florence Nightingale
20
Birthdate: May 12, 1820
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: August 13, 1910
The Lady with the Lamp Florence Nightingale is remembered for her relentless efforts in nursing soldiers during the Crimean War. She founded London’s St Thomas' Hospital to train nurses. She also pioneered the use of the polar area diagram and was the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.
 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 
Savitribai Phule
(Social Reformer, Poet)
Savitribai Phule
33
Birthdate: January 3, 1831
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Naigaon, British India (now in Satara district, Maharashtra)
Died: March 10, 1887

Savitribai Phule was a revolutionary social reformer who dedicated her life to educate girls and bring about gender equality in the face of resistance from the conservative Indian society. Phule, who was illiterate till her marriage, went on to become a teacher, a feat considered first by an Indian woman. With her husband, she established schools for girls in Maharashtra.

 5 
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.

 6 
Annie Besant
(British Social Reformer, Theosophist and Women's Rights Activist)
Annie Besant
8
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.

 7 
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.

 8 
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.

 9 
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.

 10 
Josephine Butler
(Social Worker)
Josephine Butler
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1828
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Northumberland
Died: December 30, 1906

Renowned Victorian-era feminist and social reformer Josephine Butler was a champion for women’s suffrage and also fought against human trafficking. It is believed, she devoted herself to charity after the death of her 6-year-old daughter. She also forced Cambridge to encourage women’s education, which culminated in the Newnham women’s college.

 11 
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.    

 12 
Caroline Norton
3
Birthdate: March 22, 1808
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: June 15, 1877

Being the granddaughter of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, author Caroline Norton had her first experience at writing in her teens. Her beauty and charm, however, made her failed barrister husband jealous. The rift in their marriage caused her to successfully campaign for married women’s right to property and their children’s custody.

 13 
Abigail Folger
(Social worker)
Abigail Folger
3
Birthdate: August 11, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: August 9, 1969
 14 
Octavia Hill
(Social Reformer)
Octavia Hill
5
Birthdate: December 3, 1838
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Wisbech, England
Died: August 13, 1912

Social reformer Octavia Hill led the British open-space movement, which eventually led to the formation of the National Trust. Inspired by John Ruskin, she established her first housing project in a London slum. She later devoted her life to developing living conditions of the poor and utilizing open spaces.

 15 
Hilda Taba
(Architect)
Hilda Taba
3
Birthdate: December 7, 1902
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kooraste, Estonia
Died: July 6, 1967
 16 
Julie Billiart
(Religious leader)
Julie Billiart
3
Birthdate: July 12, 1751
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cuvilly, France
Died: April 8, 1816
 17 
Bertha Pappenheim
(German-Austrian Social Worker and the founder of the 'Jewish Women's Association')
Bertha Pappenheim
3
Birthdate: February 27, 1859
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: May 28, 1936

Austrian-Jewish feminist and social worker Bertha Pappenheim founded the Jewish Women's Association (Jüdischer Frauenbund), mainly with the objective of improving women's experiences in the Jewish community. She was treated by Austrian physician Josef Breuer for nervous symptoms and her case study (under the pseudonym Anna O.) found place in Breuer’s book Studies on Hysteria, co-authored with Sigmund Freud.

 18 
Khadija Arib
(Politician)
Khadija Arib
3
Birthdate: October 10, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hedami, Morocco
 19 
Yosano Akiko
(One of the Most Infuential and the Most Controversial Post-Classical Woman Poets of Japan)
Yosano Akiko
2
Birthdate: December 7, 1878
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Died: May 29, 1942

Yosano Akiko was a Japanese author, social reformer, poet, pacifist, and feminist. One of the most controversial and popular woman poets of Japan, Yosano was an important exponent of a genre of classical Japanese poetry called Tanka. She also contributed immensely to several publications like Bluestocking.

 20 
Hannah Whitall Smith
2
Birthdate: February 7, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 1, 1911
 21 
Pushpa Basnet
(Social worker)
Pushpa Basnet
5
Birthdate: 1984 AD
Birthplace: Kathmandu, Nepal
 22 
Elizabeth Montagu
(British Social Reformer, Patron of the Arts, Salonnière, Literary Critic and Writer)
Elizabeth Montagu
6
Birthdate: October 2, 1718
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Yorkshire, England
Died: August 25, 1800

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.

 23 
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.

 24 
Mary Carpenter
(British Philanthropist, Social Reformer, and Founder of Free Schools for Poor Children, the ‘Ragged Schools')
Mary Carpenter
2
Birthdate: April 3, 1807
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Exeter, England
Died: June 14, 1877

Educated at her Unitarian minister father’s school, Mary Carpenter grew up to form her own free schools for the poor, known as the ragged schools. Her work later took her to India and North America. She also established the National Indian Association to ease communication between Indian and British reformers.

 25 
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.

 26 
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.

 27 
Rose Schneiderman
(Trade unionist)
Rose Schneiderman
0
Birthdate: April 6, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sawin, Poland
Died: August 11, 1972
 28 
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.

 29 
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.

 30 
Freda Bedi
(British woman who was jailed in India as a supporter of Indian nationalism)
Freda Bedi
7
Birthdate: February 5, 1911
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Derby, England
Died: March 26, 1977
 31 
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.

 32 
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.

 33 
Iratxe García
(Politician)
Iratxe García
2
Birthdate: October 7, 1974
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Barakaldo, Spain
 34 
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.

 35 
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.

 36 
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.

 37 
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.

 38 
Alice Salomon
(Social worker)
Alice Salomon
2
Birthdate: April 19, 1872
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: August 30, 1948
 39 
Regina von Habsburg
(Archduchess)
Regina von Habsburg
2
Birthdate: January 6, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Würzburg, Germany
Died: February 3, 2010
 40 
Karen Olsen Beck
2
Birthdate: January 31, 1933
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Copenhagen, Denmark
 41 
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.

 42 
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.

 43 
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.

Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł
6
Birthdate: February 27, 1667
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Königsberg, Ducal Prussia
Died: March 25, 1695
 45 
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.

 46 
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. 

 47 
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.

 48 
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.

 49 
Beatrice Webb
(British Sociologist, Economist, Socialist, Labour Historian and Social Reformer)
Beatrice Webb
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1858
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gloucestershire, England
Died: April 30, 1943

Sociologist Beatrice Webb is best remembered for coining the term collective bargaining. Along with her husband, Sidney Webb, whom she met at the Fabian Society, and others, Beatrice co-founded the London School of Economics. In spite of her lack of formal education, she was a prominent educator and an avid diarist.

 50 
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.