Women Social Reformers

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.

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

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 1 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
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 Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale
Famous As: Social reformer, Statistician
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

Ida B. Wells
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.

 4 Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule
Famous As: Social Reformer, Poet
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

Margaret Sanger
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.

 6 Jane Addams

Jane Addams
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.

 7 Annie Besant

Annie Besant
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.

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 8 Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix
Famous As: Social Reformer
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

Lucretia Mott
Famous As: Abolitionist, Women's Rights Activist, Social Reformer
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

Josephine Butler
Famous As: Social Worker
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 Gautami

Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 2, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nidadavole, Andhra Pradesh, India

A prominent actor of Tamil and Telugu films, Gautami also found success as a TV host and a costume designer. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, she later recovered and launched Life Again Foundation, geared toward helping cancer patients. She was in a 13-year live-in relationship with actor Kamal Haasan.

 12 Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley
Famous As: Social Reformer
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.    

 13 Caroline Norton

Caroline Norton
Famous As: Author
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.

 14 Abigail Folger

Abigail Folger
Famous As: Social worker
Birthdate: August 11, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: August 9, 1969

 15 Mary White Ovington

Mary White Ovington
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: April 11, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: July 15, 1951

Mary White Ovington was an American journalist and suffragist. She is best remembered as one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Throughout her life, Mary White Ovington remained active in the fight for women's suffrage in the United States of America. She also wrote several articles and books including an autobiography. 

 16 Octavia Hill

Octavia Hill
Famous As: Social Reformer
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.

 17 Hilda Taba

Hilda Taba
Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: December 7, 1902
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kooraste, Estonia
Died: July 6, 1967

 18 Khadija Arib

Khadija Arib
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: October 10, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hedami, Morocco

 19 Yosano Akiko

Yosano Akiko
Famous As: Author
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

Hannah Whitall Smith
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 7, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 1, 1911

 21 Grace Abbott

Grace Abbott
Famous As: Social Worker
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.

 22 Pushpa Basnet

Pushpa Basnet
Famous As: Social worker
Birthdate: 1984 AD
Birthplace: Kathmandu, Nepal

 23 Elizabeth Montagu

Elizabeth Montagu
Famous As: Critic
Birthdate: October 2, 1718
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: York, 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.

 24 Abigail Kelley Foster

Abigail Kelley Foster
Famous As: Social Reformer
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.

 25 Ellen Gates Starr

Ellen Gates Starr
Famous As: Social Reformer
Birthdate: March 19, 1859
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: 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.

 26 Mary Carpenter

Mary Carpenter
Famous As: Educational and Social Reformer
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.

 27 Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith
Famous As: Leader
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.

 28 Rose Schneiderman

Rose Schneiderman
Famous As: Trade unionist
Birthdate: April 6, 1882
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sawin, Poland
Died: August 11, 1972

 29 Josephine Shaw Lowell

Josephine Shaw Lowell
Famous As: Biographer
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 Florence Jaffray Harriman

Florence Jaffray Harriman
Famous As: Socialite
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.

 31 Ernestine Rose

Ernestine Rose
Famous As: Social reformer
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.

 32 Frances Dana Barker Gage

Frances Dana Barker Gage
Famous As: Writer
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.

 33 Iratxe García

Iratxe García
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: October 7, 1974
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Barakaldo, Spain

 34 Karen Olsen Beck

Karen Olsen Beck
Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: January 31, 1933
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Copenhagen, Denmark

 35 Mary Van Kleeck

Mary Van Kleeck
Famous As: Author
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.

 36 Sophonisba Breckinridge

Sophonisba Breckinridge
Famous As: Educator
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.

 37 Julia Lathrop

Julia Lathrop
Famous As: Social worker
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

Alice Salomon
Famous As: Social worker
Birthdate: April 19, 1872
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: August 30, 1948

 39 Regina von Habsburg

Regina von Habsburg
Famous As: Archduchess
Birthdate: January 6, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Würzburg, Germany
Died: February 3, 2010

 40 Moa Martinson

Moa Martinson
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 2, 1890
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Linköping Municipality, Sweden
Died: August 5, 1964
Moa Martinson was a Swedish writer whose works were honored with the prestigious Nine Society's Grand Prize in 1944. During the feminist movement in the 1970s, Martinson served as a role model for female authors, especially in the Nordic countries. Moa Martinson's life and career inspired the 1986 biographical film Moa where Gunilla Nyroos played the title role.

 41 Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Famous As: Human Rights Activist
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 Deborah Meier

Deborah Meier
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: April 6, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

A leading American scholar and educationist, Deborah Meier was the person behind the small-schools movement. Initially a kindergarten teacher, she campaigned for education for children from low-income families and also established the Central Park East school network, primarily focusing on New York’s East Harlem.

 43 Lillie Devereux Blake

Lillie Devereux Blake
Famous As: Writer
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.

 44 Hannah G. Solomon

Hannah G. Solomon
Famous As: Social Reformer
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.

 45 Ida Husted Harper

Ida Husted Harper
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 18, 1851
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Franklin County, Indiana, United States
Died: March 14, 1931

After getting married to an influential lawyer, Ida Husted Harper began writing for newspapers, focusing on women-centric columns. She later became an iconic figure of the American women’s suffrage movement and also penned works such as History of Woman Suffrage. She was also associated with the International Council of Women.

 46 Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł

Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł
Famous As: Princess
Birthdate: February 27, 1667
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Königsberg, Ducal Prussia
Died: March 25, 1695

 47 Julie Billiart

Julie Billiart
Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: July 12, 1751
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cuvilly, France
Died: April 8, 1816

 48 Barbara Deming

Barbara Deming
Famous As: Writer, Journalist
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.

 49 Katherine Dreier

Katherine Dreier
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: September 10, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: March 29, 1952

Katherine Dreier was not just an artist but also a social reformer. Born to German immigrants in the US, she studied art as a child and later represented the women’s suffrage movement. She also co-established Société Anonyme, a hub for art collectors, and was known for her abstract art creations.

 50 May Wright Sewall

May Wright Sewall
Famous As: Reformer
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.