A list of famous humanitarians – people who have actively worked to help and improve life for their fellow men and women.
Clara Barton (1821-1912) – A nurse in the American civil war, Clara Barton helped improve the treatment of wounded soldiers. After working with the international Red Cross in Europe, she returned to the US where she set up the American Red Cross.
Abbé Pierre (1912–2007)
French humanitarian who founded the charity Emmaus movement to help refugees and the homeless.
Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
Born in Albania, lived in India. Devoted life to serving poor and neglected people in society. Her mission worked in countries across the world.
Diana Princess of Wales (1961–1997)
Active in many charities seeking to improve human welfare from AIDS to the campaign to prevent landmines.
Martin Luther King (1929–1968)
American Civil rights activist seeking to end racism and discrimination through non-violent methods.
Edith Cavell (1865–1915)
British nurse in the First World War. Executed as a spy for helping Allied soldiers to escape Belgium.
Rosa Parks (1913–2005)
American civil rights activist who launched a campaign to end segregation by refusing to give up her seat on the bus.
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)
British nurse (born in Italy) who helped improve standards of hospitals and nursing. Nightingale analysed studies of hospital treatment and initiated certain practices which improved survival rates.
Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845)
British Quaker who campaigned for better conditions in prisons, also set up charities for the homeless and poor.
Bob Geldof (1951–)
Irish singer/songwriter and fundraiser for charities in the developing world. Famous for being driving force behind ‘Band-Aid’ in 1984.
Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993)
British actress and humanitarian. Worked for many years with UNESCO in the developing world.
Helen Keller (1880–1968)
Deaf-blind from the age of two, Keller helped de-stigmatise disability and campaigned for better conditions for the blind.
William Wilberforce (1759–1833)
English politician, philanthropist and leading figure in the campaign to end slavery and the slave trade in Britain. Wilberforce also supported other social reform, such as supporting animal welfare.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948)
Leader of the Indian independence movement. Advocated use of non-violent protest. Sought to unite different religious traditions. Also sought to improve the welfare of the ‘untouchable’ caste and Indian women.
Herbert Hoover (1874 – 1964) Hoover is best known for serving as President from 1929 to 1933 during the Great Depression. However, he played the major role in American aid to Belgium and Europe in the First World War. He also organised aid during the 1927 Mississippi Floods.
George Orwell (1903–1950)
Campaigning journalist who lived amongst the poorest members of society during the Great Depression to write about their experiences. Also volunteered to fight in the Spanish civil war. Wrote about the dangers of totalitarian states.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)
Involved in many charities and a keen supporter of the United Nations. Helped to draw up charter on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Raisa Gorbachev (1932–1999)
Wife of Mikhail Gorbachev. Involved in many Russian charities.
Lord Baden Powell (1857–1941)
Founder of the Scouts movement.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1869)
US Campaigner against slavery. Her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, helped challenge attitudes on slavery.
William Booth (1812–1892)
English Christian missionary who founded the Salvation Army in the Nineteenth Century. The Salvation Army sought to give Christian charity to the poorest members of society.
Tegla Laroupe (1973– )
Kenyan distance runner. Since retirement, she has devoted herself to various initiatives promoting peace, education and women’s rights.
Albert Einstein (1879–1955) Einstein was leading physicist of his generation. He also adopted strong positions on pacifism and spoke in favour of international cooperation.
Jane Goodall (1934– )
British conservationist helping to support Chimpanzees in the wild.
Angelina Jolie (1975– ) US actress, film producer, humanitarian. Jolie has been active as a UN Special Envoy and has visited many war zones and spoken on humanitarian issues.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous humanitarians”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net 23rd May 2010. Updated 8 April 2020.
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