New Books Network

Anya Jabour

Sophonisba Breckinridge

Championing Women's Activism in Modern America

University of Illinois Press 2019

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in BiographyNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network June 25, 2020 Christina Gessler

Sophonisba Breckinridge’s remarkable career stretched from the Civil War to the Cold War. She took part in virtually every reform campaign of the Progressive...

Sophonisba Breckinridge’s remarkable career stretched from the Civil War to the Cold War. 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.

In her new book, Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women’s Activism in Modern America (U Illinois Press, 2019), Anya Jabour‘s rediscovers this groundbreaking American figure. After earning advanced degrees in politics, economics, and law, Breckinridge established the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, which became a feminist think tank that promoted public welfare policy and propelled women into leadership positions. In 1935, Breckinridge’s unremitting efforts to provide government aid to the dispossessed culminated in her appointment as an advisor on programs for the new Social Security Act. A longtime activist in international movements for peace and justice, Breckinridge also influenced the formation of the United Nations and advanced the idea that “women’s rights are human rights.” Her lifelong commitment to social justice created a lasting legacy for generations of progressive activists

Anya Jabour is Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana. Her books include Topsy-Turvy: How the Civil War Turned the World Upside Down for Southern Children and Scarlett’s Sisters: Young Women in the Old South.


Dr. Christina Gessler works as a historian, poet, and photographer. In seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary, Gessler writes the histories of largely unknown women, poems about small relatable moments, and takes many, many photos in nature.