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Sophonisba Breckinridge is arguably the most important social reformer that you’ve never heard of.
A native of Kentucky, Breckinridge spent her adult life in Chicago, where she became a tireless advocate of social justice. She took part in virtually every reform campaign of the Progressive and New Deal eras and became a nationally and internationally renowned figure. Her work informed women's activism for decades and continues to shape progressive politics today. Yet now she’s largely forgotten.
In this discussion, Anya Jabour of the University of Montana will talk with the Newberry’s Mary Hale about Breckinridge and her legacy. The conversation will focus on Breckinridge’s participation in Chicago’s reform milieu in the heyday of Progressivism, from the turn of the century until World War 1, when she worked tirelessly to promote labor legislation for women workers, financial support for poor families, social services for immigrants, civil rights for blacks, and equal citizenship for women.
About the Speakers:
Anya Jabour is Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana, where she teaches U.S. women's history and directs the History Department’s Public History Program. She has published extensively on the history of women, families, and children in the nineteenth-century South, leading to her role as historical consultant for the PBS Civil War miniseries Mercy Street. Her most recent book, Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America (University of Illinois Press, 2019), is the first full-length biography of the once internationally renowned but now largely forgotten social work educator and social justice activist.
Mary Hale is the Program Manager of Scholarly and Undergraduate Programs at the Newberry. Her work on Gilded Age politics and fiction has appeared in American Literature and elsewhere. She has an essay forthcoming in an edited volume on the literary work of Albion Tourgée and is currently working on a project related to the political fiction of Ellen Glasgow. She received her PhD and MA in English literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame.
This event is co-sponsored by the Chicago Collections Consortium.
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