Anna Howard Shaw was born in England on February 14, 1847. At four years old, Anna’s family immigrated to Massachusetts. After eight years, her father sent her, her mother and her siblings to live in a log cabin, located in the wilderness of Michigan. Shaw faced many hardships during her teenage years, including the death of her sister and extreme poverty. During this time, Anna worked as a school teacher. After the Civil War, Shaw was inspired to become a preacher. However, her family frowned upon this career path and she was left to support herself.
In 1873, Anna enrolled in Albion College. Later, she graduated from the Boston University School of Theology with a medical degree. She was the only woman in her class of 40 men, as well as the second woman to graduate from the University. While at college, Anna advocated for women’s rights. Anna Howard Shaw was ordained as a Methodist Minister in 1880, becoming the first woman to preach in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, and London. In addition, Ms. Shaw was the first woman to deliver a sermon in the State Church of Sweden. Through her travels, and experience at medical school, Anna Howard Shaw became aware of the problems women faced.
In 1886, Anna became involved in the suffrage movement by lecturing at the American Woman Suffrage Association. The next year, Anna worked with Susan B. Anthony to advocate for the League of the Nations covenant and the importance of suffrage in the Constitution. Susan. B. Anthony urged Anna to join the National Woman Suffrage Association. Shaw played an important part in combining the AWSA and the NWSA. From 1904 to 1915, Anna served as President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. During World War I, Ms. Shaw was the Chair of the Woman’s Committee of the National Council of Defense. Because of her hard work, she was then awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for her support on the committee. Anna Howard Shaw was also known as the “master orator” for social justice; she often organized and lectured throughout the world for temperance, woman’s suffrage, and peace.