Nellie Rathbone Bright: Acclaimed Author, Educator Activist, Un-American Woman?


This paper documents the life of Nellie Rathbone Bright, an immigrant daughter, celebrated author, and activist educator, who challenged the boundaries of gender and sexuality and engaged in grassroots political work to alleviate racial inequities in her community and schools. Historians have documented how the national hysteria about communism incited politicians and citizens to disgrace progressive reformers and civil rights activists. Bright’s identity as a Black, unmarried, grassroots activist and educator pushes us to consider how the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality made her an innocent victim of the McCarthy era anticommunist campaign.