1824: Ellen Louise Curtis Demorest born (businesswoman)

  • US fashion arbiter, she was a successful milliner who widely credited for inventing mass-produced tissue-paper dressmaking patterns. With her husband, William Jennings Demorest, she established a company to sell the patterns, which were adaptations of the latest French fashions, and a magazine to promote them (1860). Her dressmaking patterns made French styles accessible to ordinary women, thus greatly influencing US fashion.
  • Aided by her sister and husband, Ellen Demorest devised a mathematical system to print patterns in a variety of sizes. In 1860 Madame Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, a pattern catalog, was introduced and by 1865 Demorest was so successful that she had thirty distribution agencies across the nation with over 200 saleswomen. Her success in paper patterns spawned a mail order empire for women eager to acquire the latest fashions and accessories from New York.
  • In 1876, the year of their height in popularity, she and her husband’s company distributed and sold over 3 million patterns.
  • An ardent abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, Ellen Demorest employed both black and white women in her enterprises. Those who objected to her politics were asked to shop elsewhere.


1861: Margaret Haley born (educator, teacher, union organizer)

  • Margaret Haley was born in Joliet, Illinois, on November 15, 1861, to Irish immigrant parents. Growing up, she was influenced by her father, an active member of several labor organizations.
  • After attending a progressive normal school, she moved to Chicago to teach sixth grade in the infamous stockyards district, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. There she taught classes of 50 to 60 students, in deplorable conditions, according to a rigid curriculum imposed by educational bureaucrats. Over the next 16 years, she observed the unchanging poverty of the community in which she taught. She also discerned a constant decline in the conditions of the schools for teachers and students.
  •  Haley ardently believed that school reform was fundamental to social reform. She saw the struggle for teachers’ rights as intrinsically linked to other social struggles and she used the union to back progressive causes, among them, woman suffrage and child labor legislation. Under her leadership, the teachers union became a political force for both school and social reform. Haley and her cohorts were so successful that they acquired the nickname “Lady Labor Sluggers.”
  • Haley took a stand at the national level. In 1901, three years before Haley became president of the National Federation of Teachers, she became the first elementary school teacher to speak before the National Education Association at the St. Louis convention. She presented the famous speech, “Why Teachers Should Organize”. She pushed for greater numbers of women in leadership roles at the local and national levels of teachers’ unionization.

1873: Sara Josephine Baker born (physician, public health administrator)

  • Sara Jospehine Baker, MD, DrPH, was the first director of New York’s Bureau of Child Hygiene and an instrumental force in child and maternal health in the United States. A lesbian and a feminist, Baker was also a suffragist and a member of the Heterodoxy Club, a radical discussion group made up of more than 100 women, where she was known as “Dr Joe.”
  • To succeed in the male-dominated world of public health administration, she minimized her femininity by wearing masculine-tailored suits and joked that colleagues sometimes forgot that she was a woman. Whether her sex was accounted for or set aside, it is doubtless that Baker faced gender discrimination and the same obstacles to a high-profile career that confronted women physicians throughout the medical profession in the early 20th century.
  • In contrast to many of her colleagues’ emphasis on laboratory-based public health, Baker focused on preventive health measures and the social context of disease. Her work with poor mothers and children in the immigrant communities of New York City had a dramatic impact on maternal and child mortality rates and became a model for cities across the country as well as the United States Children’s Bureau, established in 1912.


1887: Marianne Moore born (poet)

  • Born near St. Louis, Missouri, on November 15, 1887, Marianne Moore was raised in the home of her grandfather, a Presbyterian pastor. After her grandfather’s death, in 1894, Moore and her family stayed with other relatives, and in 1896 they moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
  • She attended Bryn Mawr College and received her B.A. in 1909. Following graduation, Moore studied typing at Carlisle Commercial College, and from 1911 to 1915 she was employed as a school teacher at the Carlisle Indian School.
  • In 1918, Moore and her mother moved to New York City, and in 1921, she became an assistant at the New York Public Library. She began to meet other poets, such as William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, and to contribute to the Dial, a prestigious literary magazine.
  • She served as acting editor of the Dial from 1925 to 1929. Along with the work of such other members of the Imagist movement as Ezra Pound, Williams, and H. D., Moore’s poems were published in the Egoist, an English magazine, beginning in 1915. In 1921, H.D. published Moore’s first book, Poems, without her knowledge.
  • Moore was widely recognized for her work; among her many honors were the Bollingen prize, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote with the freedom characteristic of the other modernist poets, often incorporating quotes from other sources into the text, yet her use of language was always extraordinarily condensed and precise, capable of suggesting a variety of ideas and associations within a single, compact image.


1887: Georgia O’Keeffe born (painter)

  • Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, the second of seven children, and grew up on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. As a child she received art lessons at home, and her abilities were quickly recognized and encouraged by teachers throughout her school years. By the time she graduated from high school in 1905, O’Keeffe had determined to make her way as an artist.
  • O’Keeffe pursued studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and at the Art Students League, New York (1907–1908), where she was quick to master the principles of the approach to art-making that then formed the basis of the curriculum—imitative realism.
  • In 1908, she won the League’s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot).
  • O’Keeffe moved from New York to her beloved New Mexico, whose stunning vistas and stark landscape configurations had inspired her work since 1929.
  • During the 1940s O’Keeffe had two one-woman retrospectives, the first at the Art Institute of Chicago (1943), and the second in 1946 at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in Manhattan, the first retrospective MOMA held for a woman artist. O’Keeffe enjoyed many accolades and honorary degrees from numerous universities. In the mid-1940s, the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan sponsored a project to establish the first catalogue of her work.
  • She worked in pencil and watercolor until 1982 and produced objects in clay from the mid-1970s until two years before her death in 1986, at the age of 98.

*  In 2006, a fossilized species of archosaur was named after O’Keeffe. Blocks originally quarried in 1947 and 1948 near O’Keeffe’s home at Ghost Ranch were opened fifty years after being collected. The fossil strongly resembles ornithomimid dinosaurs, but are actually more closely related to crocodiles. The specimen was named Effigia okeeffeae (“O’Keeffe’s Ghost”) in January 2006, “in honor of Georgia O’Keeffe for her numerous paintings of the badlands at Ghost Ranch and her interest in the Coelophysis Quarry when it was discovered”. *




“the great struggle to get political recognition of the fact that women are as much human beings as men are.” – Dr. Sara Josephine Baker

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