Rheta Childe Dorr was born in Omaha, Nebraska. At age 12, she sneaked out of her family's house to attend a women's rights rally led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and became committed to the cause. By age 15, she was working, over the objections of her parents, in order to become financial independent. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, she moved to New York City to study at the Art Students' League and try her hand as a writer. She married John Pixley Dorr, a businessman 20 years her senior, with whom she moved to Seattle and had a son. They separated two years later, and Rheta returned to New York City in 1898, settling on the Lower East Side. She got jobs as a reporter with the New York Evening Post and Hampton's Broadway magazine, writing investigative articles about women's, labor, and social issues. Soon she had established herself as a leading muckraking journalist. To make ends meet, she also worked as a freelance writer and
public lecturer. In 1910, she published a collection of her articles, What Eight Million Women Want, which became as bestseller. In 1912, she travelled to Europe as a foreign correspondent, and interviewed leading figures in the women's suffrage movement such as Emmeline Pankhurst. On her return to the USA, she joined the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and became the first editor of its influential journal, The Suffragist. In 1917, she went to Russia to observe the revolution there and interviewed key figures; the result was her book Inside the Russian Revolution. Her other works included A Soldier's
Mother in France (1918); her autobiography, A Woman of
Fifty (1924); and the Life of Susan B. Anthony: The Woman
Who Changed the Mind of a Nation (1928).