Political Life

Read short biographies of each person depicted on the panel below.

Frank Kellogg

Frank Kellogg was born on December 22, 1856 in Potsdam, New York. As a young boy, the Kellogg family moved to a farm in Olmsted County, Minnesota. He received roughly 6 years of formal education. Through borrowed books and self-determination, Kellogg passed the bar exam in 1887.

Kellogg’s cousin, Cushman Kellogg Davis, gave him an opportunity to work for his law firm in St. Paul. Frank Kellogg represented some of America’s business titans, including John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and James J. Hill. Kellogg moved on to representing the federal government after he befriended President Theodore Roosevelt on a business trip to Washington D.C. He was promoted to Special Assistant Attorney General and would become known as the “trust buster” after prosecuting industries that held near-total monopolies in the United States, including the Union Pacific Railroad and the Standard Oil Company.

In 1912, Kellogg was elected president of the American Bar Association, and also began his political career. In 1916, he was elected to U.S. Congress as a Senator representing Minnesota, but lost his reelection in 1922. Kellogg spent time as the Ambassador to England before President Calvin Coolidge named him as Secretary of State, where Kellogg worked with Germany’s debts following WWI and aiding the country’s post-war recovery. In 1928, Kellogg created a treaty with France’s foreign minister, Aristide Briand, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which renounced war as an instrument of national policy.

Kellogg died on December 21, 1937. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for his work on the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Nellie Davis Tayloe Ross was born November 29, 1876 to James Wynn Tayloe and Elizabeth Blair Green Tayloe in St. Joseph, Missouri. She married a young lawyer, William Bradford Ross, in 1902 and they moved to Wyoming so he could begin a private law practice. She had four sons, though the third died when he was 10 months old. Nellie Ross quickly settled into being a housewife and living a simple life, even as her husband entered politics and was elected Governor of Wyoming.

In 1922, Democratic Governor William Ross died while in office, thrusting his widow, Nellie, into a special election for his seat. Though she did not campaign, she handily won the race and became the first woman governor in the United States. She was active in office, pushing forward policies to reform banking, protect women workers and miners, and provide assistance to farmers despite going against a Republican-dominated State House. Ross was narrowly defeated in 1926, but remained active in her party, serving as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Ross created more history when appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as director of the U.S. Mint in 1933, making her the first woman to hold that position. It took time for the Mint’s staff to warm up to her, thinking she was just another clueless appointee. Under Ross, however, the Mint recovered from the Depression era and modern techniques, such as automated processes, were implemented. It was not until Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected that Ross was replaced after nearly 20 years of service at the Mint.

Nellie Tayloe Ross died on December 19, 1977. She was 101 years old.

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell was as rare as a person gets in her time. Born September 23, 1863 to former slaves of mixed-race, her family was part of the black elite in post-Civil War Memphis. Responding to her family’s emphasis on education, Terrell earned a master’s degree from Oberlin College in 1888.

A pioneer in education, she taught many places, including Howard University, and pushed the concept of kindergartens in Washington D.C. public schools. But Terrell was also well known for her activism. She was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a tireless worker for women’s suffrage, serving as the president of the National Association of Colored Women. Her words “Lifting as we climb” became the motto for the association and echoed her belief that racial discrimination could be ended through African-Americans advancing themselves and others through education, work, and community activism.

Less known were her efforts with the War Camp Community Service. The group provided recreation outlets for thousands of men during World War I. The organization addressed the needs of returning soldiers and even led a protest at the White House regarding limited job opportunities for African-American veterans.

Mary Church Terrell died July 24, 1954, two months after she saw the U.S. Supreme Court end segregation in schools via the Brown vs. Board of Education case. Her home in Washington D.C. has been named a National Historic Landmark.

James Wheldon Johnson

Best remembered for his leadership of the NAACP, Johnson served as the executive secretary of that organization from 1920-1930. He was also a respected writer, lawyer, and composer for several Broadway shows.

James Weldon Johnson was born June 17, 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida. As a young man, Johnson moved to New York during the Great Migration, and along with his brother, he began writing and composing with moderate commercial success. In 1906, he helped with the successful presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt and was subsequently appointed as US Consul to Venezuela from 1906-1908 and Nicaragua from 1909-1913. Upon returning to New York, he continued his writing, specifically for the New York Age, an influential African-American newspaper based in the city.

By 1916 his gift for writing and diplomacy led him to a post as field secretary with the NAACP where he built and revived local chapters of the organization. In the course of this work, he opposed race riots in northern cities and engaged the NAACP in mass demonstrations. He organized a silent protest parade of more than 10,000 African Americans down New York City’s Fifth Avenue on July 28, 1917 to protest the still-frequent lynchings of blacks in the South.

The return of soldiers from WWI increased competition for work and housing to a fierce degree, sparking social tensions and white racial violence against blacks. In 1919 he organized peaceful protests of this violence in what would be known as the “Red Summer,” a term coined by Johnson himself. The following year he was chosen as the first black Executive Secretary of the NAACP, a post he would hold for the next 10 years. During his tenure with the NAACP Johnson was known for his involvement in the Harlem Renaissance – he had great admiration for black, musicians, and writers and sought to increase awareness of their talent throughout wider society.

He died in a car crash in 1938 and has since been posthumously honored many times.

William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst was born April 29, 1863. He was the only son of George Hearst, a gold mine owner and politician in California. As a child, William toured Europe with his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. He started his editing and publishing career at Harvard University, where he was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon before being expelled for misconduct.

Early in his career, Hearst took over his father’s struggling newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, and in two years began seeing profits. In 1895, he bought the unsuccessful New York Morning Journal. During the late 1890s, Hearst entered into a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. To increase sales, both papers indulged in “yellow journalism” — writing sensationalized stories with minimal fact checking. At his peak, Hearst owned 28 papers in major American cities, 18 magazines, and multiple radio stations and movie companies, creating the world’s largest media empire. It is approximated that one in four Americans read their news from a Hearst paper.

Hearst served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and had unsuccessful bids for both Mayor of New York and Governor of the state. Given his editorial control and reach, Hearst held enormous political influence. After the end of World War I, he used his bully pulpit to call for an isolationist foreign policy to keep the U.S out of European issues. His life story was the inspiration for the Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane.

The Stock Market Crash and ensuing Great Depression hit his newspapers hard. Hearst fell into economic struggles and his reputation declined as he turned against President Franklin Roosevelt.

He died on August 14, 1951 at the age of 88. The Hearst Corporation has survived and continues to publish multiple forms of media, including television, newspapers, and magazines.

Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins was born Frannie Coralie Perkins in April 10, 1880. She was well educated, first attending the predominantly male Worcester Classical High School, then studied to be a teacher at Mount Holyoke College, sociology and economics at the University of Pennsylvania and later Columbia University, and did a fellowship studying malnutrition among school children in New York’s Hell Kitchen.

In 1911, Perkins witness the women jumping from the 8th and 9th story windows during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. In response to the fire, the Committee of Safety was established and Perkins was hired as the group’s executive secretary at the recommendation of Theodore Roosevelt. This began her many years as a lobbyist fighting unsafe and terrible working conditions, such as limiting the work week to 54 hours for women and children.

Perkins once said, “Being a woman has only bothered me in climbing trees,” and went on to become the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. She used the post of U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which she held from 1933 to 1945, to create programs for the nation’s most vulnerable. She is known for her work on FDR’s New Deal, including oversight of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act during the Great Depression. She then served under President Harry Truman as a member of the Federal Civil Service Commission until 1953.

Frances Perkins died May 14, 1965. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982 and the U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Honor in 1988.

Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin was born June 11, 1880 near Missoula, Montana. Brought up on a ranch, Rankin helped in the house, but also outside. She performed the tasks of a ranch hand from farm chores to working on machinery and carpentry. These experiences formed her opinion that although women labored with men as equals, they did not have an equal political voice. She graduated from the University of Montana in 1902, studied at New York’s School of Philanthropy in 1908 and 1909, then worked as a social worker in Seattle, Washington. By 1910, Rankin was advocating women's suffrage in Washington, California, and Montana. Her main cause was to give women the right to vote, something she saw accomplished in her home state of Montana in 1914.

Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Montana from 1917-1919 and 1941-1943. She became a champion of the suffrage movement, continuing the fight to grant women the right to vote and paving the way for the 19th Amendment. Rankin also was a pacifist, and was one of fifty votes opposing the U.S. entry into World War I. During her second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rankin was to only member of Congress to vote against entering World War II.

Rankin would continue her work for social welfare and stay committed to pacifism until she died, even leading a march protesting the Vietnam War when she was 87 years old. She was active in many organizations, including the National Consumers League and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Jeannette Rankin died May 18, 1973. A statue of her resides in the United States Capitol’s Statuary Hall with the inscription “I Cannot Vote for War.”

Clarence Darrow

Clarence Seward Darrow was born April 18, 1857, in Ohio. His father, Amirus Darrow, and mother, Emily Eddy Darrow, had eight children. Their house was a stop along the Underground Railroad, influencing a young Darrow to be a creative thinker who could change the world.

Clarence Darrow attended Allegheny University and the University of Michigan Law School. He passed the bar exam in 1878 and moved to Chicago to begin his legendary law career defending big names such as Eugene Debs, the head of the railroad union, Bill Haywood, one of the leaders of the Western Federation of Miners, and the murders of 14-year-old Bobby Franks, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. After WWI he defended war protesters who were charged with violating state sedition laws.

Following the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910, the trial that Darrow defended the accused McNamara brothers, Darrow himself is put on trial for attempting to bribe a juror. Though Darrow was most likely guilty, he is acquitted by the jury and is allowed to continue practicing law.

In 1925, when John Scopes found himself on trial for teaching evolution in school, he found himself being defended by America’s most famous lawyer: Clarence Darrow. Darrow used his skills on Scopes’ so-called “monkey trial” when putting William Jennings Bryan, three-time Presidential contender and later Secretary of State, on the stand. In front of a crowd of thousands, Darrow and Bryan argued over the literal interpretation of the Bible. So heated was the examination, the men were shaking fists at one another. The press concluded that Darrow had exposed Bryan’s beliefs as “mindless.”

Clarence Darrow retired in 1927 and died on March 13, 1938.

William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan was born on March 19, 1860 in Salem, Illinois to Silas Lillard Bryan and Mariah Elizabeth Jennings Bryan. Bryan started his career as an orator at the age of twelve when he delivered a campaign speech for his father.

He graduated from Illinois College in 1881, then the Union College of Law in 1883. His commitment to politics was such that he left his home state to seek more favorable odds for being elected to office in Nebraska during 1887. By the age of 30, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Populist party. In 1896, he’d won the Democratic presidential nomination with his fervent oratory style, delivering his famous “Cross of Gold” speech. During the next three election cycles, Bryan campaigned tirelessly only to be defeated by William McKinley, and then William Howard Taft.

However, he proved to be a better kingmaker than ruler. Bryan worked for the presidential nomination of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Upon his victory, Wilson named Bryan his Secretary of State. When World War I broke out, Bryan was committed to pacifism and neutrality. When Germany sank the Lusitania, Bryan resigned rightly thinking Wilson would lead the country into war. Thereafter, Bryan worked for peace, woman suffrage and curbing the teaching of evolution, even involving himself in the famous Scopes trial.

William Jennings Bryan died on July 26, 1925.

Julia Lathrop

Julia Lathrop was born on June 29, 1858 in Rockford, Illinois. Her work with civil service reform was rooted in her experience living and working at Hull House in Chicago, starting in 1890. Hull House was an example of the reformist philosophy that rich and poor ought to live and work more closely with each other. While at Hull House, Lathrop worked with other reformers and activists to provide daycare, education and healthcare to the poor living in the surrounding neighborhood.

Her work at Hull House led to Lathrop’s appointment as the first woman member of the Illinois State Board of Charities. In this role she helped introduce reforms such as the appointment of female doctors in state hospitals and the removal of the insane from state workhouses. Her work for the people of Illinois put her on the political map, and in 1912, President Taft appointed her the first director of the newly created Children’s Bureau, and the first woman to head a United States federal bureau.

As Director, Lathrop instituted and oversaw research into child labor, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency, mothers’ pensions, and more. In her final year as Director of the Children’s Bureau, and just two years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act became the first federally funded social welfare measure in the US. The law focused on federal matching grants to states for prenatal and child health clinics, and it stands importantly as the first venture of the federal government into social security legislation.

Following World War I, President Wilson sent Lathrop overseas to attend an international conference on child welfare. She was influential in creating a childcare bureau in the new country Czechoslovakia.

Julia Lathrop died April 15, 1932.

Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs was born November 5, 1855, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He left home at the age of 14 to work in the railroad shops, and later, as a locomotive fireman. This is where Debs first saw the conditions of the working class men and began advocating for an industrial union. He became the president of the newly established American Railway Union in 1893.

Debs was a labor organizer and founding member of both the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, which he later left due to the group’s radicalism. He was a presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Outspoken in his resistance to American involvement in World War I and the Government’s suppression of anti-war activity, he delivered an anti-draft speech that violated the Sedition Act, an extension of the Espionage Act limiting speech. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. Nevertheless, he was on the 1920 presidential ballot and received almost one million votes.

Debs was neither an intellectual nor a steadfast politician. Instead, he was an effective public speaker who won his support from his sincerity and integrity. He was published in many periodicals, and wrote the pamphlet Unionism and Socialism (1904) and the book Walls and Bars (1927). Eugene V. Debs died October 20, 1926.

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was born November 8, 1897, in New York City. She spent some time at the University of Illinois before returning to New York City to work as a journalist for multiple socialist and progressive publications. An activist at an early age, Day was jailed for picketing in front of the White House and then went on a hunger strike while serving out her sentence. This is one of several times she turned to civil disobedience to make an important point.

At the age of 30, the journalist and social justice advocate left a wild life in New York City to convert to Catholicism. She used her fervor to start a newspaper, The Catholic Worker, and eventually an entire social justice movement within the church known as the Catholic Worker Movement. Later in life she met Mother Teresa and worked alongside Cesar Chavez.

Day helped establish special homes to help those in need. The movement she created continues to thrive with more than 200 communities across the United States and another 28 communities abroad.

Several have called for Day to be put forward for sainthood for her social activism and commitment to her faith. In 2015, Pope Francis named her one of “four great Americans,” setting her alongside the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

Dorothy Day died on November 29, 1980 in Maryhouse, one of the Catholic settlement houses she helped establish.

Lillian Wald

Lillian Wald was an American nurse, author and well-known humanitarian. She was born March 10, 1867, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After attending various medical and nursing schools, Wald began in 1893 to teach a home class on nursing at the Hebrew Technical School for Girls. It was during this time that she also began to care for the sick of Manhattan’s Lower East Side as a visiting nurse. She coined the term “Public Health Nurse” to describe her method of medical care, which integrated nurses into the public community.

At this same time, Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement. By 1906, she had 27 nurses on staff to care for the poor immigrants on the Lower East Side, and by 1913 that staff had more than tripled to 92 people. The settlement eventually expanded into the Visiting Nurses Service of New York, which today serves more than 160,000 people annually in the five boroughs of New York; Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties; and parts of upstate New York.

In 1903, Wald helped found the Women’s Trade Union League and served on the executive committee of the League’s New York City chapter. By 1910, her involvement in humanitarian action, specifically focused on women’s and minorities rights and the labor movement, had expanded to an international level when she and several colleagues went on a tour of Hawaii, Japan, China and Russia. She also was an early leader in what would become the National Child Labor Council, and became a founding member of the NAACP in 1909. The organization held its first major public conference at Wald’s Henry Street Settlement.

Wald also organized New York City campaigns for suffrage, marched to protest the entry of the United States into World War I, joined the Woman’s Peace Party, and helped to establish the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1915, she was elected president of the newly formed American Union Against Militarism (AUAM). She remained involved with the AUAM’s daughter organizations, the Foreign Policy Organization and the American Civil Liberties Union, after the United States joined the war.

In 1922, she was named by the New York Times as one of the 12 greatest living American women, and in 1970, Wald was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Wald never married and valued independence in her private life. Her most intimate relationships were with women, particularly Mabel Hyde Kittredge and Helen Arthur. Lillian Wald died September 1, 1940.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was born June 27, 1869 in Lithuania. She immigrated to the United States in 1885, and worked in a clothing factory in Rochester, New York. Goldman turned into a fiery, radical, anarchist activist and writer. Throughout her life she advocated for populist causes such as workers’ rights, peace, birth control, and free speech. She and her partner, Alexander Berman, edited their own anarchist newspaper, Mother Earth, until it was disbanded in 1917.

Her speeches attracted huge crowds — and controversy. She was imprisoned for the first time after starting a riot after giving a speech to a group of unemployed people. Goldman was jailed again in 1917 for speaking out against the draft. Upon her release, she was considered a communist operative during the 1919 communist hysteria spreading through the United States and deported to the Soviet Union. She then traveled throughout Europe and stayed active, continuing to write and lecture. She found herself in Spain multiple times during the Spanish Civil War fighting Facism and aiding displaced women and children.

Emma Goldman died May 14, 1940. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service allowed Goldman to be buried in Chicago, next to the Haymarket Rioters who inspired her.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. When she was 19 months old, Keller suffered an illness that left her blind and deaf. Anne Sullivan, a teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, taught Keller how to read, write, and understand the world around her. The young teacher began by finger spelling words in Keller’s hand. Though it was a tantrum-filled, dramatic process, Keller eventually understood the relationship between words and objects. This event has been depicted in many movies, books and television programs. With personal perseverance and that of her instructors, Keller earned a college degree and became a noted humanitarian, co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

After college, Keller become an international speaker, authored 12 books and was an advocate for people with disabilities. Her efforts were successful in improving the treatment of the deaf and the blind by removing them from asylums. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and elected into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965. Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, only weeks before her 88th birthday.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul was born to an affluent Quaker family in Mount Laurel, New Jersey on January 11, 1885. Paul’s Quaker upbringing steeped her in the ideals of equal rights for women. She attended women’s suffrage meetings with her mother, but it was in England when she was studying social work that influenced Paul’s new militant style of gaining rights for women.

When Paul returned to the United States in 1912, her right to vote demonstrations turned violent and enraged leaders like Carrie Chapman Catt. Paul broke off from the main movement by 1916, forming the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage aimed at creating change via politicians. They picketed President Wilson, calling him “Kaiser Wilson,” as the U.S. entered World War I, angering many who thought such acts were unpatriotic.

Paul eventually was arrested and officials tried to get her committed to a sanitarium. The press got wind of the treatment, and Americans were appalled. Wilson reacted, saying suffrage was part of what Americans were fighting for in Europe. The vote for women came shortly after the war, but Paul didn’t rest. She fought for an equal rights amendment for women, helping to push a bill introduced in Congress every year from 1923 to 1972. A vote went to the states to ratify in 1972 but the Equal Rights Amendment fell short by three states by 1982.

Alice Paul continued her work until she died on July 9, 1977, fighting for the equality of women around the world and advocating to include gender equality into the charter of the United Nations.

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt was born January 9, 1859, in Ripon, Wisconsin. Her family relocated to Iowa, where she attended college at Iowa State Agricultural College, now Iowa State University, in 1880. She was the only female in her graduating class.

Catt became involved in the suffrage movement in the late 1880s, joining the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association. She also joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), who recognized her as an incredible speaker and sent her to speak across the nation. In 1900, Catt succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the next president of NAWSA and managed to increase the organization’s memberships and funds. She resigned in 1904 due to her husband’s ailing health, but took the position again in 1915 when the organization was starting to struggle.

Catt’s coordination efforts are credited for Congress’ constitutional amendment granting women the vote. States signed on and by 1918 President Wilson backed the effort. In August 1920, the amendment passed. Chapman Catt went on to found the League of Women Voters shortly after the victory and was active in anti-war causes until her death on March 9, 1947.

Jane Addams

Jane Addams was born September 6, 1880 in the small farming town of Cedarville, Illinois. Her father, John Huy Addams, was a wealthy man who owned a successful mill, a local politician, had fought in the Civil War, and considered Abraham Lincoln a friend. Jane Addams was raised on liberal Christian values and a desire to help others. She graduated from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881 at the top of her class.

By 1914, Addams was one of the most widely known and beloved women in America. A best-selling author and a tireless social reformer, she was the founder of Chicago’s Hull House, which provided social services to the poor and working classes. From 1909 to 1915, she was the first woman to serve as the president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. But she was also an avid believer in peace and spoke out against the war in Europe and American involvement. After America entered the war in 1917, Addams was vilified for her views. Even the New York Times scolded her for being “unpatriotic,” and she was expelled from the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution. After the war, she was a leading figure of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and in 1931 became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“We believe in real defense against real dangers, but not in a preposterous ‘preparedness’ against hypothetical dangers,” wrote Jane Addams in a letter to President Wilson in 1915. “It has been the proud hope of American citizens ... that to the United States might be granted the unique privilege of helping the war-worn world to a lasting peace.”

Addams suffered a heart attack in 1926. She was never able to fully recover, and died May 21, 1935.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was born December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. He developed interests in politics and literature. He attended Davidson College near Charlotte, North Carolin for a year before attending Princeton University in 1875. He did well at Princeton, engaging in debates, reading widely, editing the college newspaper, and began comparing the American Government to the Brithish Parliamentary System. After graduating from Princeton, Wilson studied law at the University of Virginia, hoping to enter politics. He went on to earn his doctorate degree from John Hopkins University. He spent time as a professional academic before working with the Democratic Party and being elected as the governor of New Jersey in 1910.

Wilson was elected the 28th President of the United States mostly due to a split in the Republican Party. He was sent to the Oval Office with just over 40 percent of the vote. With Democrats already controlling Congress, Wilson ushered in what is known as the Progressive Movement, passing a laundry list of liberal policies, including antitrust acts and farm loan laws. Wilson also is credited with averting a nationwide railroad strike, and its ensuing economic crisis, with the Adamson Act, making law an eight-hour workday for railroad employees. He warmed up to the Women’s Suffrage movement and pushed for the 19th Amendment.

Though he tried to stay neutral as World War I began in 1914, Wilson was drawn into the conflict as Germans engaged in unrestricted submarine warfare. After intelligence recovered the Zimmerman Telegram, revealing the German intention to form an alliance against the U.S. with Mexico. Wilson felt America needed to act.

After the war, Wilson traveled to Paris, promoting the formation of a League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, for which he was awarded the 1920 Nobel Peace Prize. He also proposed what would be known as Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” and helped create the Treaty of Versailles to ensure lasting peace.

Woodrow Wilson suffered from a stroke and died February 3, 1924. He was driven by an ideal his father had taught him, to leave the world a better place that you found it.

Theodore Roosevelt

After gaining massive popularity as a Rough Rider — the nickname given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry in the Spanish–American War — Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was elected the 26th President from 1901-1909. At age 42, he was the youngest person in history to serve as President of the United States.

Roosevelt rushed in the Progressive Era, which oversaw the break up of trusts, the regulation of railroads, enacted laws aimed at controlling the purity of food and drugs. He also established a multitude of new national parks, forests, and monuments.

A proponent of preparedness, Roosevelt greatly expanded the US Navy. He sent his ‘“Great White Fleet” around the world to project power and the image of “a big stick” in order to succeed in peaceful negotiations. In 1906 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his successful mediation of the treaty which ended the Russo-Japanese War.

During WWI, Roosevelt opposed President Woodrow Wilson’s policy of military isolation. In fact, Roosevelt was ready to once again saddle up for military service, but was never called upon to serve. He planned to run again for president in 1920; however, Roosevelt was in failing health throughout WWI and passed away in early 1919.

Calvin Coolidge

A young New England lawyer, John Calvin Coolidge opened a law office and spent 20 years working on wills and real estate cases. But somewhere in there, Coolidge, who went by Calvin, launched a political career. He was elected to his city council in 1898, working his way post to post until, twenty years later, his fellow Republicans nominated him in a successful bid for governor of Massachusetts. As a pro-business conservative, he ran a tight administration.

A year later, riots broke out across Boston as the police went on strike. Rather than negotiate, Coolidge called the state guard and refused to rehire strikers writing,“there is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime.” His strong stance earned “Cool Cal” Coolidge national fame and the VP spot on the Republican ticket with Harding. They won the 1920 election with a strong mandate. Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1923, making Coolidge president, and a popular one at that.

John Foster Dulles

Dulles served as US Secretary of State under President Eisenhower and was a significant figure in the early-Cold War era. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Dulles graduated from Princeton in 1908 and then attended George Washington University Law School. After passing the bar, Dulles worked at NYC law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, specializing in international law. At the outset of WWI he tried to enlist in the Army but was rejected because of poor eyesight. Instead he received a commission on the War Industries Board, which coordinated the purchase of supplies during America’s military involvement in WWI.

In 1918, Dulles served as legal counsel to the US delegation at the Versailles Peace conference. He argued forcefully against imposing the crushing reparations on Germany that had been proposed by the allies. When the heavy reparations were imposed anyway, Dulles played a major role in designing the Dawes Plan which was a compromise intended to ease international economies out of the recession that followed WWI. Throughout the 1920's and '30s he continued his work in international law, focusing specifically on finance, loans and investment.

By 1944 Dulles was a prominent Republican – he served as Thomas Dewey’s chief foreign policy advisor during Dewey’s presidential candidacies in 1944 and 1948. In 1945 he helped draft the preamble to the United Nations Charter and served as a US delegate in 1946, 1947, and 1950.

In 1953 Dulles was appointed Secretary of State by President Eisenhower, and his overarching legacy in that role was to continue the US policy of “containment” of communism throughout the world. During his time in this role, Dulles concentrated on: building up NATO and forming other alliances; opposing communism at every turn; and supporting military coups to overthrow unsympathetic leaders in countries such as Iran and Guatemala.

In 1954 he was named Time’s Man of the year. He argued in 1955 that “neutrality has increasingly become obsolete and, except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception.” He developed colon cancer in 1956 and was treated for it off and on until 1959 when he passed away at the age of 71. Among the many honors awarded Dulles are the National Medal of Freedom. Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia is named in his honor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Clear and Present Danger” isn’t just a good book. Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the phrase as the rationale for the government to limit free speech during wartime.

The case revolved around anti-draft leafleting during World War I. In Schenck v. United States, the defendants believed free speech protected their right to encourage men to buck military induction. Holmes ruled that when actions endanger American interests, they can be considered criminal.

The controversial ruling continues to show up in cases involving draft card burning, terrorism and even the decision granting corporations the individual right to free speech. Subsequent Holmes arguments would become part of the American lexicon, including his judgment that made the yelling of “fire” in a crowded theater illegal.

His service on the Court ran from 1902 to 1932 and Holmes remains one of most quoted and respected members. And the Schenck ruling continues to reverberate.

Louis Brandeis

Brandeis University in Massachusetts is named for “the people’s lawyer” — Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish person to sit on the Supreme Court. Born in Kentucky in 1856, Brandeis was known for fighting for workers’ rights, free speech and breaking up monopolies. He often refused payment for his work.

Brandeis became famous for defending the constitutionality of laws that oversaw worker hours and workplace conditions. In what has become known as the “Brandeis Brief,” he pioneered the use of sociological and scientific data to support a case. It’s credited for changing the direction of American laws and became the model for future Supreme Court cases.

President Woodrow Wilson admired his work and offered Brandeis a position in cabinet in 1913. He declined. President Wilson came knocking again in 1916, this time with a nomination to the Supreme Court. After hard-fought confirmation hearings, Brandeis’ nomination overcame the influence of anti-Semites and big business.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover coordinated the feeding of World War I troops and later the war-ravaged citizens of Europe as head of the Food Administration under President Wilson — no small feat. It helped earn him the nickname “Master of Emergencies.” He rose to the rank of Secretary of Commerce, ushering in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the building of the Hoover Dam.

Later, he campaigned for the presidency in 1928 saying the country was “nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before.” Hoover won, but less than a year into his term, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. He couldn’t find a way out, leading to the rise of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the next president.

Hoover had one last tie to World War I. During the last months of his presidency, he ordered that a makeshift camp of more than 40,000 protesting veterans be cleared from Washington, D.C. The protesters were demanding promised bonus pay and the incident remains a stain on his legacy.

J. Edgar Hoover

Before John Edgar Hoover’s famous (or infamous) work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he worked for the Justice Department in the War Emergency Division. At the beginning of World War I, Hoover was made head of the Division’s Alien Enemy Bureau by President Wilson. In this role, Hoover used the 1917 Espionage act to jail “disloyal foreigners” without trial.

By 1919, Hoover’s attentions turned domestic. As the new head of the General Intelligence Division he ferreted out radicals bringing about the First Red Scare and the Palmer Raids. Under Attorney General Palmer, radical leftists and anarchists were arrested as fears mounted against communist radicals post World War I.

All this led Hoover to another directorship. Before there was an FBI, there was a Bureau of Investigation led in 1924 by Hoover. He greatly (and controversially) expanded the reach of the organization with modern police technology including centralized fingerprint and forensic labs. By 1935, it was a federal bureau — and Hoover, its director for life.

In this role, Hoover kept secret files on political leaders, amassed illegally. President Harry Truman asserted that Hoover wielded the FBI as his private secret police force.

Samuel Gompers

The founding member of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was actually an Englishman. Samuel Gompers’ family immigrated in 1863 to New York City. It was there, as a kid, that he made cigars at home with his father to support the family.

As a young teen, he formed a debate club and practiced public speaking. At 14, he joined his first union, the Cigarmakers’ Local Union No. 15, and was immediately active in the organization.

In 1886, Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and spent 37 years as the organization’s president. He negotiated higher wages, shorter hours and encouraged members to be politically active in elections.

Under Gompers, the AFL supported World War I by avoiding strikes and attempting to boost morale. President Wilson appointed Gompers to chair the Labor Advisory Board on the Council of National Defense. As such, he traveled to France for the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as an official advisor on labor issues.

W.E.B. Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt (“W.E.B.”) Du Bois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a member of a very small “free black” population in the town. Recognizing his talents, his neighbors rallied to raise money for Du Bois to attend the historically black college, Fisk University. Later he’d be the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard.

Passionate about equal rights for blacks, Du Bois rose to national prominence as a co-founder of the NAACP. He also publicly opposed Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise, an agreement that guaranteed only basic educational opportunities, while submitting the African-American population to white political rule. This, he felt, would not produce the needed African American intellectual elite for true equal rights.

As an author, Du Bois researched the experiences of American black soldiers in World War I France and documented widespread bigotry in the United States military. The year after his death, the many improvements he’d worked for all his life was enacted in the Civil Rights Act.

Andrew Mellon

Sometimes the most important soldiers in a war are the bean counters. Considered a financial prodigy, Mellon was just 17 when his father put him in the lumber and coal business — and soon was turning a profit. Later he became a partner in his father’s bank and within two short years he owned it.

Perhaps it was this upstart mentality that led President Harding to appoint Mellon as Secretary of the Treasury in 1921. His abilities were so valued, he continue to serve in this post under three consecutive presidents. This has yet to be repeated.

It was Mellon’s life’s work to serve the country by reducing its huge federal debt from World War I. He’d watched the debt amount of $1.5 billion in 1916 increase to more than $24 billion at war’s end. His aggressive policies are credited with cutting debt numbers nearly in half.

Ellard Walsh

Ellard Walsh was born on October 3, 1887, in Ontario, Canada. As a child, his family moved to North Minneapolis. Walsh started his military career on November 7, 1905 when he enlisted in the First Minnesota Regiment of the Minnesota National Guard.

Walsh was federalized the first time in 1916 and sent to patrol the Mexican border. When he returned in March 1917, he was a First Sergeant. He was federalized two weeks after his return, this time for World War I. He was commissioned with the 135th Infantry as a Second Lieutenant and sent to train at Camp Cody, New Mexico with the 34th Infantry Division. After training, he was sent to France in October 1918, but was too late to take part in any action as the war would end only a month later. Upon his arrival home again, he quickly moved up the ranks of the Minnesota National Guard. In 1921, he was offered a job on the staff as Assistant Adjunct General and was promoted to Lt. Colonel. A few years later, he would become Chief of Staff for the 34th Division and be promoted to Colonel.

In 1925, Walsh assumed to role of Acting Adjunct General for the ailing Adjunct General, Walter Rhinow. Two years later, Walsh earned his first star and assumed the role of Adjunct General, taking only 10 years to rise from First Sergeant to Brigadier General. His first priority was to find a replacement location for the Minnesota National Guard training camp in Lake City, Camp Lakeview. Aided by Senator Christian Rosenmeir, Walsh acquired 12,000 acres along the Mississippi River North of Little Falls. The land included the remains of Fort Ripley, giving the new training camp it’s name, Camp Ripley.

Walsh’s most challenging battle came during World War II, but on the home front. The Guard’s future was under attack from multiple Bills, Congressional Committees, magazines and newspapers, and the strong opinion of Lesley McNair. Walsh’s career turned toward counterattacking McNair’s arguments to “dispense with [the National Guard] as a component of the Army.” Walsh found allies, including Geroge Marshall, and became the president of the National Guard Association of the United States. Through negotiations and persuasion, Walsh was able to secure a future for the National Guard, earning him the nickname Mr. National Guard.

Walsh spent 14 years as president of the National Guard Association of the United States, and retired after 22 years of serving as Minnesota’s Adjunct General. He died August 19, 1975 and was buried at Camp Ripley’s Pioneer Cemetery.

Eleanor Roosevelt

When Eleanor Roosevelt was 18, she saw her father’s fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on a New York train. They began a romantic correspondence — one vehemently opposed by Franklin’s mother, Sara. To put an end to the relationship, Sara spirited her son away on a Caribbean cruise. Despite her efforts, the young Roosevelts married in 1905.

Eleanor was never content to live in Franklin’s shadow. As First Lady, she broadcast her positions on political and social issues through press conferences, newspaper columns and radio shows. She used her profile and influence to advocate for the rights of women, minorities and refugees. Political work became Eleanor’s life, particularly as her relationship with FDR changed over time. Eleanor cultivated a passionate relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok in the early 1930s, even as she and Franklin continued their work together.

After FDR died, Eleanor championed the United States’ entry into the United Nations. She became its first delegate and chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the only president to have served four terms. His tenure, from 1933 to 1945, took the nation through the harrowing times of the Great Depression and World War II. As a young man, FDR was stricken with polio, often putting him in a wheelchair — and his future political career in jeopardy. However, it did not hold him back from a successful run for Governor of New York in 1928. There he enacted programs to combat the Great Depression on a statewide level.

As president, FDR expanded his ideas into the New Deal — multiple programs focusing on the “3 Rs,” Relief, Recovery, and Reform. These acts forever changed the lives of the urban unemployed, the rural poor, farmers and saved a generation of artists through work.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy,” and received approval from Congress to declare war. The U.S. economy was mobilized for the conflict and FDR ordered the internment of 100,000 Japanese-American civilians, an act the government later apologized for in 2013.

Roosevelt navigated a two-front war strategy that ended in the defeat of the Axis Powers. FDR has been rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Edwin Hubble

Edwin Hubble was born to Virginia Lee Hubble and John Powell Hubble on November 20, 1889 in Marshfield, Missouri and moved to Wheaton, Illinois in 1900. As a child he was a well rounded kid, getting good grades and playing sports well.

After the US declared war on Germany in 1917, Hubble rushed to finish his Ph.D. so he could join the US Army where he was assigned to the newly created 86th Division and raised to the rank of lieutenant colonel but never saw combat.

If you like the show, “The Big Bang Theory” you indirectly have Edwin P. Hubble to thank. He was a lawyer who, after serving in World War I, bravely chose to “chuck law for astronomy” — and in doing so made some of the most important discoveries in modern astronomy.

While at the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the 1920s, Dr. Hubble proved that those clouds of light seen through telescopes were actually entire galaxies. This discovery that our own Milky Way was not alone in the universe shifted thinking in astronomy forever.

And that Big Bang Theory? That came in 1929, when Dr. Hubble showed that the farther out a galaxy is from our planet, the faster it appears to move away. This became the foundation of the expanding universe principle, which theorizes that a long ago explosion — or Big Bang — has been propelling all matter away from the core of the universe.

In July 1949, while on vacation in Colorado, Hubble suffered a heart attack and was taken care of by his wife at his home until he suffered and died of cerebral thrombosis a few years later on September 28, 1953. There was no funeral and his wife never revealed where he was buried.

The Hubble Space Telescope was named after the scientist in 1990. On March 6, 2008, the United States Postal Service released a 41 cent stamp in honor of Hubble.

Nora Bayes

Bayes was already a professional actress and singer in Chicago’s vaudeville at 18 years old. She toured the country and even performed on Broadway. Later, she married singer-songwriter Jack Norworth and the pair created many hits including “Shine On, Harvest Moon.” They divorced in 1913, freeing Bayes to remarry four additional times.

Bayes participated in morale boosting during World War I by recording the patriotic song, “Over There.” The song became an international hit, which she graciously performed for soldiers on tour.

Charlie Chaplin

War broke out in Europe just as the feature-length film “The Little Tramp,” starring Charlie Chaplin was gaining fame. By then, his silent movie antics were creating laughter on both sides of the ocean.

However, Chaplin endured criticism from both his home countrymen in England and Americans for not joining the armed forces. Few knew that the film star had tried to sign up with the U.S. Army, but was deemed underweight for the fight.

Instead Chaplin threw himself into war bond tours and made a film that poked at militarism, called “Shoulder Arms.” He was warned by officials not to make light of the war, but in the end soldiers were happy to have a laugh and enjoy a movie understanding of their plight. Chaplin films were shown to injured men, while soldiers in the trenches posted cutouts of the Little Tramp, hoping the enemy would “die laughing.”

Despite the beloved characters he created, the entertainer was undermined by the Red Scare of the 1950's and eventually exiled to Europe.

D. W. Griffith

D.W. Griffith was an innovator in film bringing us many techniques audiences are familiar with today, including the “close up.”

In 1918, his movie “Hearts of the World” was an attempt to pull the American spirit into the war abroad. It was controversial in its graphic depiction of the war’s cruelty in Europe. His landmark movie, “Birth of a Nation,” was the first ever feature-length film. Griffith stunned viewers with his location shots and camera mastery in this film about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

While the techniques were historic, the accuracy wasn’t. Scholars praise the filmmaking craft, but the subject matter was racist and rightly protested. The controversy likely helped at the box office and the film remains one of the highest grossing in history when figures are adjusted for inflation.

Griffith’s other legacy? He formed United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

Edward Bernays

Nothing says success like getting more Americans to smoke and eat bacon. Dubious as that sounds, those were just two highlights of the career of Edward Bernays. He coined the term “public relations” after working for the U.S. government’s Committee on Public Information during World War I, an effort to sway public opinion for the war. Bernays (the nephew of Sigmund Freud) saw the power of messaging and was eager to put what he had practiced to use on a peacetime public. He employed a new tool called the press release to generate buzz around ideas and products.

In the 1920's, he created a campaign for a tobacco company to make female smoking more socially acceptable, calling Lucky Strikes “torches of freedom” for women. He did more of the same when nationally promoting a more hearty “All-American” breakfast habit that included bacon and eggs. (Yes, he was working for a bacon distributor.)

In his retirement, perhaps out of guilt, one of his final projects was for anti-smoking campaigns. There was no stopping bacon, apparently. In his obituary, Bernays was referred to as the “father of public relations,” no doubt for his pioneering strategies and his own self-promotion.

Irving Berlin

Born Israel Isidore Baline, Irving Berlin was a Russian-born American composer and songwriter widely considered to be among the greatest in American history. Throughout the course of his 60 year career Berlin is estimated to have written 1,500 songs, 8 times being nominated for an Academy Award. The most popular include widely covered hits such as “White Christmas”, “Easter Parade”, and “There’s No Business Like Show Business”.

Berlin’s musical style was unique, using simple and straightforward American vernacular – especially the slang of the time – relating to everyday speech. His songs resonated greatly with everyday people, those whom Berlin called the “soul of America,” and made him a legend by the time he was 30 years old. George Gershwin claimed that he learned that ragtime, which was perfected by Berlin and would later became jazz, “was the only musical idiom in existence that could aptly express America.”

In short, Irving Berlin can be considered the father of modern American music, and one of the greatest songwriters in history.

Mary Pickford

Known as “America’s Sweetheart” and the “Queen of the Movies,” Mary Pickford was a prolific actress in the early film industry. Pickford co-founded the film studio United Artists, was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a progressive philanthropist.

During WWI, she toured the country drumming up support and selling Liberty Bonds. Her stop on Wall Street had some 50,000 spectators, though she raised more — an estimated $5 million dollars in bonds— in Chicago. The Army made her an honorary colonel. Not bad for a Canadian!

At war’s end, Pickford started the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF) to help needy actors. She spearheaded a fundraising plan, the Payroll Pledge Program. This payroll-deduction for studio workers gave one half of one percent of their earnings to the MPRF. By 1940, the organization was able to build The Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital. This unique retirement community provides services for members of the motion picture and television industry.

View one of the other panels.