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Alice Barnham (1523–1604) by unknown artist, c. 1557 [Alice Barnham and her sons Martin and Steven] Berger Collection at the Denver Art Museum, photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

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Barnham [née Bradbridge], Alice (1523–1604), silkwoman and benefactor, was born on 7 September 1523 at Chichester, Sussex, one of the youngest of the fourteen children of William Bradbridge (d. 1546), a successful and prosperous mercer, and his wife, Alice. Alice Barnham...

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Beckett [née Bousfield; other married name Thomas], Frances Sarah [Fanny] (bap. 1821, d. 1902), philanthropist and a founder of Scottish Home Industries, was baptized on 27 June 1821, at Frimley, Surrey, the only child of George Thomas Frederick Bousfield, solicitor, and his wife, ...

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Margaret Grace Bondfield (1873–1953) by Bassano, 1922 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bondfield, Margaret Grace (1873–1953), trade unionist, campaigner for women's interests, and politician, was born on 17 March 1873 at Chard, Somerset, the tenth of eleven children and third of four daughters of William Bondfield (1814–1901), foreman laceworker, and his wife, Anne Taylor (1827?–1911)...

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Chestre, Alice (d. 1485), trader and benefactor, in common with many fifteenth-century women, seems particularly to have come into her own after the death of her husband. Henry Chestre, a Bristol draper, had been prosperous and was numbered among the worthy men of his parish, ...

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Cook [née Graves], Cecily Mary (1889/90–1962), trade unionist and suffrage campaigner, daughter of Alfred Graves, was probably born in London, but little else is known about her early life. She married Herbert G. N. Cook, a secretary, on 6 November 1909. The couple's only child, a son, died at about the age of nineteen. Following ...

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Dant, Joan (1631–1715), pedlar and benefactor, was the wife of a weaver in New Paternoster Row, Spitalfields, London, but little else is known about her early life. She had a half-brother called John Allen.

Left facing destitution on her husband's early death, Joan...

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Grubb [née Pim], Sarah (1746–1832), miller and benefactor, was born on 11 December 1746 at Mountrath, Queen's county, the eldest of the fifteen children of John Pim (1718–1797), a rich Dublin wool merchant, and his wife, Sarah Clibborn (1724–1812) of Moate Castle, co. Westmeath...

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Harrison, Agatha Mary (1885–1954), industrial welfare reformer and unofficial diplomat, was born on 23 January 1885 at Sandhurst in Berkshire, the youngest daughter of Charles Harrison, a Methodist minister, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Tilt. She was educated at Jersey Ladies' College and at ...

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Minnie Louise Haskins (1875–1957) by Keystone, 1939 © Getty Images

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Haskins, Minnie Louise (1875–1957), author and industrial welfare promoter, was born at 2 Kingswood Hill, Oldland, near Bristol, on 12 May 1875, the second child and eldest daughter of Joseph Haskins (1842–1891), a grocer who acquired a pottery works at Warmley where he manufactured clay drainpipes, and his wife, ...

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Jarrett, Rebecca (1846–1928), prostitute and social purity activist, was probably born in London on 3 March 1846, the youngest of thirteen children whose father had a rope-walk and shop off the Old Kent Road. Claiming public attention during just one year, when she was co-accused in 1885 with ...

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Massingberd, Emily Caroline Langton (1847–1897), women's club founder and temperance campaigner, was born at 43 Durnford Street, East Stonehouse, Devon, on 19 December 1847, the first of the three children of Charles Langton Massingberd (1815–1887), a landowner, and his first wife, Harriett Anne (...

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Inez Jane Mary McCormack (1943–2013) by Brian Thompson, 2010 © Brian Thompson / Press Eye

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McCormack [née Murphy], Inez Jane Mary (1943–2013), trade unionist and human rights campaigner, was born on 28 September 1943 at 11 Lower Crescent, Belfast, the daughter of Francis Cecil Murphy, a self-employed printer, and his wife, Margaret, née Sterritt, a nurse. She had an older brother, ...

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Percyvale [née Bonaventure], Thomasine (d. 1512), trader and school founder, was born in Week St Mary, near Bude in Cornwall, daughter of John and Joan Bonaventure. She became the subject of a legend, recounted by Richard Carew in his Survey of Cornwall...

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Streatfeild, Lucy Anne Evelyn Deane (1865–1950), factory inspector and social worker, was born at Madras, India, on 31 July 1865, and was baptized there on the following day, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Bonar Millett Deane (1834–1881) and his wife, the Hon. Lucy Boscawen...

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Margery Mary Edith Josephine Pia Tennant (1869–1946) by unknown photographer © reserved

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Tennant [née Abraham], Margery Mary Edith Josephine Pia [May] (1869–1946), factory inspector, was born on 5 April 1869 in Rathgar, co. Dublin, the only daughter of Dr George Whitley Abraham, lawyer, and his wife, Margaret Curtin.

May Abraham was educated privately, mainly by her father, and never achieved any formal qualification. Although brought up a Roman Catholic, she later joined the ...