Question of the Week: Do you have any activists in your family?

+8 votes

We'll be featuring Rosa Parks in the Connection Finder and we'd like to know:

Do you have any activists or reformers in your family?

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
Dr. Daniel Wills was my 10th ggfather, born in 1633. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were early Quakers. He was arrested multiple times and spent many months in Northampton jail for his refusal to disavow his beliefs. He came to this country in 1677 and helped settle Burlington, NJ.
close but not direct ... Oliver Cromwell (the uncle) my ancestor was dragged kicking and screaming into the new order run by .... Oliver Cromwell ( the nephew) .
My 2 x grandfather, John Hughes, was a leader in the Rebecca Riots in Wales in the early 1840s. His name was actually Jac Ty-Isha, but the English forced the Welsh to Anglicise their names. The English also repressed the Welsh language, but Jac could read and write in both Welsh and English.

The Rebecca Rioters were especially concerned with the way the English were erecting toll gates throughout Wales to rip the local farmers off and to line their own purses. They were also concerned with other social problems.

Local leaders were called Rebecca and their followers her 'children.' They would blacken their faces and don women's white clothing to go and smash down the toll gates and attached houses at night time. Jac was such a Rebecca and he rode a white horse which made him an easy target when someone dobbed them in and he was caught red handed.

The result was 20 years transportation to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania).
My Ewen/Ewan/Euan ancestors probably attended Quaker assemby with yours. They helped settle Burlington, NJ. prior to the Revolution.

25 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

Lots. I had a number of abolitionists as ancestors: Stephen and Ruth Mosher, who had a station on the underground railroad, in Ohio. They were Quakers.


My great-great grandfather, Rev. Peter Winebrenner, preached against slavery, and encouraged his flock, during the Civil War, to fight to free the slaves. His cousin once removed, Rev. John Winebrenner, was also an abolitionist and allowed women to speak in church. He also spoke out against unscrupulous behavior by wealthy members of the church. He was considered too radical by the German Reformed Church that ordained him, as well as by the church that he pastored. They locked him out of his church. He started the Church of God.


Rev. Peter Winebrenner

My great-grandfather, C. C. Stoner, who married Rev. Peter Winebrenner's daughter, enlisted in the Civil war with his brother and 3 cousins. He was on Gen. Sherman's march from Tennessee through the south, and was at Lincoln's review of the troops at Washington D.C. He was the only one of the 5 in his family that enlisted to survive the war. When he was older, he served in the Kansas state legislature, as a member of the People's Party.


C. C. Stoner and his wife Rachel (daughter of Peter Winebrenner), soon after the Civil War.

Another great-grandfather, Henry Forrey, also fought in the war to free the slaves, as did at least one of my great-great grandfathers, W. K. Eggleston.

Francis Cooke was my 11-greats grandfather. He was enough of an activist to take the hazardous voyage on the Mayflower to an unknown land, to start a new life for himself and his family.

My 7-greats grandfather was Bishop Johannes Steiner, an Anabaptist from Switzerland. When the Swiss Reformed Church was persecuting Anabaptists, he and his family fled for their lives, first to Germany, then the Netherlands, and finally to Pennsylvania.

My mother, Lois, was an activist in both the mothering and teaching fields. I remember that just before I entered kindergarten, she taught me about the existence of racist people, and how it was not okay to think that way, and told me specific racist names for people, explaining that she was only doing so that I would know what they were and not accidentally use them after hearing someone else do so.

Her second year teaching, in southern California (around 1950-ish), she was given a class that was considered to be a "difficult" class. They were 3rd graders, and all non-readers, supposedly all either mentally "slow" or with severe emotional problems. She soon discovered that the vast majority of the class simply didn't speak English. She taught the lessons in English and Spanish, while teaching them English as a second language. She got the whole class up to grade level by the end of the year. She was asked to take the same students a second year, and by the end of that year, they were testing at 5th grade level in most subjects. She actually lost her job for doing it too well. No one could believe that her students could learn, and she was accused of cheating on the tests. She asked the principal to re-test them, which he did, and they came out the same, but she was not re-hired the next term.

Lois Gardner

My mother, Lois Gardner, about 1988.

I, myself, am a radical liberal activist and environmentalist. I have marched and picketed and protested, and signed a lot of petitions.

by Alison Gardner G2G6 Mach 6 (63.6k points)
selected by Elaine Musser
Wow! Sounds like you come from a long line of activists. They would surely be proud you are continuing the tradition! :)
I applaud you for standing up for what you believe. Yet only the radicalized will see evil behind alternate views.
(This was written in response to a reply by a Sandra, who disapproved vehemently of my libralism, which seems to have been removed.) I do not believe that this is the proper venue for political disagreements. However, I believe that you are confusing socialism with fascism and totalitarianism. Wikipedia has a lengthy list of countries with socialist governments, which include India, Nepal and Tanzania.

We have a number of socialized programs in the U.S. government, like social security, Medicare, welfare, etc. Many European countries have many more socialized programs in their government than we do.

All the liberals I know of, including myself, are great proponents of freedom. Including the freedom to disagree with us.
Me too Allison - sat in a Redwood for three days in 92 and also do not think Wikitree is for politics but do not see how anyone fighting to preserve what is left of our environment can be seen as evil
Which redwood? I live in Albion, and did support on the Enchanted Meadow tree-sits.
I had a feeling that was you Alison - I remember you - I sat in Lynda's tree in Raven's Call - did support for Dark Moon and lots of general Mayhem in the wonderful Albion Nation Uprising!  I miss the people and area so much - in contact with Polly, Lynda, Coyote, Darryl, Nick Wilson and Val through facebook.  We did good and some of the area was saved!
Navarro, if you wish to keep in touch, feel free to "private message" me.
Thank you, Elaine, for selecting this as the best answer. I will be out demonstrating for climate action tomorrow in Mendocino, at the corner of Main and Kasten Sts., if anyone is in the area. There's another demonstration up in Fort Bragg (California) at Main and Laurel sts.
+12 votes

The only one I can think of who comes close to fitting the description is my 4th great-uncle, William Henry Bright, who was a member of the Wyoming territorial legislature and introduced Wyoming's women's suffrage bill (the first in the country) in 1869.

by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (111k points)
+10 votes
7th great Grandfather Albert Andieissen Bradt was part of a group that began an underground Lutheren Church in the Beverwyck (Albany, New York) area - I stumbled across that and have not yet put it into his profile but somewhere in my stacks and sticky notes here ....

He was quite the rebel the minute he got off the ship here in 1637 and just did not follow rules very well it would seem, but this was his rebellion organized - Now my mother was sort of an out there and do it woman - learned to fly planes, was a lookout for a summer in California sitting alone at the top of a mountain with birds and squirrels for company looking out at the view- she went to Japan and lived alone in San Francisco and Seattle before moving to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where she worked for the forest service and became a lookout - met dad and all that leading to me -So I do not think she called herself an activist but her life to me is a woman's rights example
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (146k points)
I did not know about the underground Lutheran Church. Thanks for that info cousin.  Albert is my 9th great grandfather.
I have to find the source for that - was working on his sons Storm's profile and various wives and parents of wives in that family but a bunch of merges came in from my French - Canadian - Scots - Métis side and I went off that way for a bit and now back trying to find where I was before that happened - wish I did not work full time - but it keeps the lights on .... great to meet ya cousin!
Hello, cousin!  Thank you also for the info!  Albert Bradt is my 12th Great-Grandfather.
Hi cuz - that is awesome Marie
Oh wait - I forgot I have another one - an uncle - well great uncle lets see of one of my fifth great grandfather - just found out about him, not sure if he is on WT yet - see my great grandfather came over at the age of fourteen to work for the Hudson Bay Company in what would become Manitoba - they dealt in furs mostly anyhow his younger brother back home in England was quite the activist there - he inherited his fathers business where clothing for sailors was sold at a little shop, but he became a big business man and was outspoken and this was around the time of the French Revolution - so anyhow some of the people he hung out with were tried for treason I believe - have just learned a little about him about two weeks ago - will have to read that again and add him and make a nice profile - I usually do not chase people back across the sea once I know where they are from - do not know that much about Europe and England's history although I have read up on some of it - but this guy was well known and mocked by a newspaper for a time and then later honored by the same newspaper later - I am going to order a book that has a big writeup on him in it for myself for Christmas
+9 votes
Martin Luther is the ancestor of my gguncle who married into my family. I think he changed the (religious) world a little bit. #IronyOff
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (669k points)
LOL - just a bit! ;)
See now wild Lutherans all over!
+4 votes
Other than a lot of early American ancestors and some distant cousins, just me.
by Martyn Mulford G2G6 Mach 2 (26.0k points)
+5 votes

Pushing back to the 17th Century - my 10x great-grandparents, William Clayton & Prudence (Lanckford) Clayton were early Quakers.  As early dissenters from the Church of England they faced persecution - William was even jailed for their religious beliefs.  The family migrated to Pennsylvania in the late 1600's.

The arrest and torture of James Larbee

by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+3 votes

It depends on how you define them.  My direct ancestor Thomas BOYKETT [Boykett-4] was very active in opposition to the Church Rate []

Louis BEATTIE [Beattie-1084] was an anarchist who used a pseudonym, and a relative of Dame Mary GILMORE, who is in my wife's tree.  He accompanied her to Paraguay for the only known attempt to create a community of "noble savages."  It was a failure: see [] but the Dame found a husband there.

by Doug Laidlaw G2G6 Mach 1 (15.9k points)
+4 votes


!.  Me:  I was intensely active regarding the reform of certain fascistic laws in the 1980's.  This cost me my liberty and ultimately, my family.  In some senses, I am still active in this movement, but not too much.  My enemies won out at the time, but even the U.S. Government can't suppress the truth, and the liberties that I fought for have won and are winning all over the world at this very moment.  Despite the costs that I incurred, I am very proud of my activism; I paved the way for a lot who followed, and I have spared many people jail time and the loss of their families and jobs, even torture, which I had to endure in the USA, or death.   

      I then came out against torture, internationally, which was inconveniently covered up by the European Court of Human Rights (they not only denied my appeal, but destroyed every legal document and pleading that I had submitted to them).

        You may think George H.W. Bush was a great guy, but I think God and the Devil are using his butt as a soccer ball in hell right now, and I am not a bit ashamed or reticent to say this. I said it then, and I will not stop now.  George H.W. Bush was an elitist rights abuser, and Americans should be ashamed that they elected him to anything, much less President.

II. Samuel Gorton, Sr; aka Gorton-2.  Samuel Gorton came as a Puritan early to Plymouth colony, and soon found out that he did not fit into the Puritan mold. He was thrown out of the colony when there was no where else for a European to go and left to his own devices.  He moved to what is now Rhode Island, but Massachusetts religious and political authorities followed him there, and I believe they hauled him back to Mass. for a while.  He wound up returning to England, where he had "friends in Court", to plead his case for a seperate Rhode Island & Providence Plantations colony, which he won. His place in American history is secured by that event alone.  

     I believe Samuel Gorton Sr. is perhaps the very first "American" thinker, as opposed to being an "English colonist."  His thinking shows an evolution from that then current in both Massachusetts and England: he fought for freedom of speech and religion.  

     I had no idea that he even existed until I traced my family back on wikitree and found him here. You can read his lengthy story in the materials that appear in his profile.   He has not been afforded his due respect in American history, and I believe that will come eventually.  I am very proud to be one of the offspring of this man.  His life encapsulates the American ideal in a nutshell.  When I read his biography, I feel a strong philosophical as well as physical relationship to him that spans the distance of the centuries.

by Dan Sparkman G2G6 Mach 2 (21.7k points)
edited by Dan Sparkman
Thank you for being an activist!
+5 votes
Yes . . . my grandmother Marion Colquhoun Burnett used to host the Oxford University Fabian Society at her pub, the Blue Bell.  She was very good friends with George Bernard Shaw and Aldous Huxley.  She organized socialist rallies and meetings of the Labour Party at her home in Yorkshire; Barbara Castle was one of the members of her group.  She also helped organize the the call up system for women in the Second World War.  She was actively involved in the women's movement and fought for gay rights and educated us all about the process of colonization of indigenous peoples.  Also my grandfather's cousin Nora Taylor was the headmistress of a school for Blacks in South Africa where she taught liberatory consciousness through the arts all through apartheid writing regularly to my grandfather, Leslie Sherwood, who worked for the British Consular Office imploring him to do everything in his power to end apartheid.
by Jo Burnett G2G1 (1.6k points)
+4 votes
My great grandmother, Florence Brennan (Baldwin, Davis) was very active in early North Dakota government.  She worked in the ND state Supreme Court, then was the librarian for the Bismark Library when it opened.  She became the ND State Historian and retired after many years of service.  She was very active in women's clubs promoting accepting women as professionals and allowing women to vote.  She wasn't into child rearing and asked her sister who also had a near same age daughter to raise my grand mother, Elaine Baldwin (Derby) so that my great grandmother could focus on her professional life and activities.  She met her second husband, Albert Davis, a younger lawyer that also worked in the state Supreme Court and later was elected to the ND House of Representatives.  Albert mysteriously disappeared about the time that his son, Brennan Davis, was born.
by Paul Derby G2G Crew (320 points)
+2 votes
I have Stephen English-1105, (1726-1783) who built the original church and school for his slaves. It is recognized as one of "America's Historic Treasures" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
by Sherrie Mitchell G2G6 Mach 2 (28.2k points)
+4 votes
Yes: Enrichetta di Lorenzo (*1820 - 1871 Naples, Italy) She was the  partner of Carlo Pisacane, patriot and fighter for the unit of Italy, killed in the illl ffated expedition of Sapri oganised to end the rule of he Bourbon Dynasty in the Kingdom of 1857. Earlier in 1849 she was present with Calo in Rome at the fight for the Repubblica Romana of Mazzini and Garibaldi that for a short time replaced the rule of the Pope over the Pontificial State until Napoleon III restored the pope with his troops. In this occasion she organized the ambulances and hospitals that assisted the patriots.wounded in the battle. After Italy was united in 1860, as she was widowed and needy,Garibaldi got a government pension for her
by Gino Baracchi G2G1 (1.3k points)
+4 votes
Yes.My Paternal Grandfather K.C Raghavan Vaidyar was an active participant in the Indian freedom struggle.
Good one!
+5 votes
My first cousin Gregory Pavelich, a prominent Canadian activist for gay rights and in the fight against AIDS, poverty and homelessness. Greg died of a heart attack at the age of 52 years, October 6, 2003. His passing was much too early.
by Laurie Poirier G2G1 (1.5k points)
+4 votes

My 5th great-grandfather, Richard Harding was ordered to come to the Colonies during the Revolutionary War as a British Recruiter. He refused, but was forced to come against his will, and upon landing, he immediately joined ranks in the Continental Line. He was wounded by a Hessian soldier during the battle at Germantown. (According to a note written by Richard's great grandchild, the Hessian soldier had been sent by the King of Prussia to kill him.) He lost the use of his arm, but still wanted to fight against England. He became a dispatch bearer for George Washington after a personal recommendation by his former captain.

My great-grandfather, Floyd Barnes Hardin, was a 5th generation Methodist Minister. At the outbreak of WW1 he was dismayed over the mobilization of Christian against Christian. He organized clergymen in a protest against war, which became known as the Christian Pacifists. This received wide national publicity and resulted in the arrest and conviction of Mr. Hardin and other clergymen on the charge of Unlawful Assembly. While serving 90 days in jail, he wrote a pamphlet titled "An Unlawful Assembly in Jail." Floyd, along with 4 others (including millionaire Prince Hopkins and poet, Robert Frost) were charged with conspiracy to violate the espionage act, and were indicted by a federal grand jury. They were accused of conspiracy to circulate "The Ethics of Murder" and "More Prussian than Prussia," two alleged seditious books written by Mr. Hopkins. Floyd was kept under the watchful eye of the FBI for some time after his sentencing.

by Kathy Edmond G2G2 (2.2k points)
edited by Kathy Edmond
+3 votes
My 8-g-grandfather was Richard Bourne Sr. of Sandwich, Barnstable, MA.

At his own expense he purchased 16 square miles for a permanent abode for the Mashpee  indigenous peoples - this tract has been a Mashpee reservation since then. He learned their language, and was a missionary among them. He was ordained a pastor by Cotton and John Eliot in 1670. His work was so successful that one of the Native Americans succeeded him as pastor. 'He controlled them by his just and Christian behavior and did more by the moral he exerted than Bradford at the head of his army.'
by Weldon Smith G2G6 Mach 2 (20.9k points)
Bravo! Now there is an ancestor of whom you can truly and justly be proud!
Sandra, I suspect Richard was quite a lot more liberal than his brethren. And I follow in his footsteps.

It takes all kinds of people to be models for how to behave (and for how not to behave), We learn our lessons from both kinds.
+3 votes
Thomas "The Regulator" Woodward was either my great grandfather or my great uncle in South Carolina.  He was a major activist in the Regulator Movement which was the precursor to the American Revolution.
by Dave Woodward G2G Crew (670 points)
+5 votes

Vida Goldstein, a noted Australian suffragette and pacifist was my great grandmother's first cousin (my 1c3r). She addressed US Congress in 1902 and gave a popular speaking tour in England in 1911. She was one of the first women to stand for parliament in the British Empire (but was unsuccessful in her bid).

by Anne Young G2G6 Mach 1 (19.1k points)
+4 votes
Yes my great-great-grandfather Jan Johannes Giezen and his siblings. They were all very active in the socialist and anarchist movement in Friesland during the last part of the nineteenth century. During this time Friesland suffered under an agricultural crisis due to the cheap import of Wheat from the United States and Canada. And it also was the period that the Netherlands went through the industrial revolution. So there was a large labor force and few jobs and laborers felt exploited this sparked the socialist and anarchist movement in Friesland.

They were propagandists for there cause, spoke at meating, wrote for local socialist publications and organized strikes. His brother Christoffer Giezen emigrate to the USA afther he was charged with sedition.

edit: corrected the links
by Erik Giezen G2G1 (1.6k points)
edited by Erik Giezen
I'm not sure I would be proud of any ancestor who was a "propogandaist" or socialist. Simply being an activist or reformer is not necessarily a thing to be proud have to be on the moral high ground , not on the evil side.
I think the primary qualification of an activist is placing your life on the line by speaking one's truths to power. I would consider such peaceful acts noble, even though we may in hindsight consider the means advocated to be at odds with our own morality and times. It is the act itself, and not the particular advocacy position, that we respect. We may wonder what other avenues were open to these ancestors to secure their livelihoods and continue to feed their families. Answers to such questions will usually suppress leaps to personal judgements.
I find it hard to respond to your comment. You judge something from your time and what i think an American perspective. The last one I as European have a hard time to understand. And I don't want to make the same mistake.

The word propagandist is used purposefully because its the term that was used at that time in history and it wasn't considerd negative. Words can change meaning an value over time.

And yes I'm proud of that generation because I wish I would be able to do the same thing if it where me in that situation.
+4 votes
My grandfather Porfirio Ojeda Rivera was an activist.  He was a leader in the California division of the Sinarquistas, which in the US fought for the rights of the Mexican worker.  This was long before C. Chavez.   He was accused but found innocent by The House Un-American Activities Committee of being the head of a foreign political party. He still had to report monthly to the FBI on who he met with.  He was an activist in Mexico also and worked to end the reign of the PRI.  He risked his life several times by protecting ballots to keep the vote in his area un-corrupted.   He defied the Mexican government and helped priests to escape during the 30s and was honored by Pope Pius 6th.
by Cynthia Latimer G2G Crew (320 points)

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