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Alice Pike Barney. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101726).

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Barney, Alice Pike (14 January 1857–12 October 1931), artist and arts patron, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Napthali Pike, an arts patron and successful businessman, and Ursula Muellion “Ellen” Miller. She grew up and was educated at various schools in Cincinnati and New York City, her family having moved there in 1866. Although Barney courted the famous British explorer ...

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Bliss, Lillie P. (11 April 1864–12 March 1931), art collector, patron, and benefactor, was born Lizzie Plummer Bliss in Boston, Massachusetts, daughter of Cornelius Newton Bliss, a textile merchant who was active in Republican Party politics, and Elizabeth Mary Plummer. In 1866 the family moved to the Murray Hill section of New York City, where as a young girl Bliss was privately educated. She lived there caring for her invalid mother until 1923, when her mother died. Bliss acted as hostess in New York and Washington, D.C., for her father, who served as secretary of the interior (1897–1899) in the cabinet of ...

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Dreier, Katherine Sophie (10 September 1877–29 March 1952), artist and art patron, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Johann Caspar Theodor Dreier, an iron distributor, and Dorothea Adelheid Dreier, his cousin. The youngest of five children, she grew up in a family with strong Germanic ties and a long-standing commitment to social and humanitarian reforms. Until art took precedence in her life, Dreier involved herself in a number of Progressive Era reforms, beginning in 1898 with her service as treasurer of the German Home for Recreation of Women and Children in Brooklyn, an institution cofounded by her mother. In 1903 she helped launch both the Manhattan Trade School for Girls and the Little Italy Neighborhood House in South Brooklyn. Dreier was also active in woman suffrage, serving as a delegate to the Sixth Convention of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance held in Stockholm in 1911 and heading the German-American Committee of the Woman Suffrage party in New York in 1915. In 1918 she spent five months in Argentina surveying that country’s fledgling social reforms....

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Force, Juliana Rieser (23 December 1876–28 August 1948), museum director and early champion of American art, was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Maximilian Rieser, a hatter and grocer, and Julianna Schmutz Kuster. As a girl she wanted to be a writer and hoped to go to college; when that proved financially impossible, she temporarily settled for teaching English and stenography at a business school in Hoboken, New Jersey, where the family had moved in 1886....

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Isabella Stewart Gardner. Photograph of a painting by John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112024).

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Gardner, Isabella Stewart (14 April 1840–17 July 1924), patron of the arts and museum founder, was born in New York City, the daughter of David Stewart, an importer and businessman, and Adelia Smith. Educated at a series of private girls’ schools in New York, Gardner (known as “Belle” from early childhood) was sent to a French Protestant school in Paris at age sixteen. Her parents soon joined her in Paris, where the Stewarts befriended the family of John L. Gardner, a Boston businessman involved in shipping. Belle Stewart and Julia Gardner, a girl of her own age, quickly became close friends....

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Gilder, Helena de Kay (14 January 1846–28 May 1916), painter and cultural reformer, was born Helena de Kay in New York City, the daughter of Commodore George Colman De Kay, a naval officer, and Janet Halleck Drake. As a granddaughter of poet Joseph Rodman Drake...

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Guggenheim, Peggy (26 August 1898–23 December 1979), art patron, was born Marguerite Guggenheim in New York City, the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, who directed the mining and smelting interests of the Guggenheim clan, and Florette Seligman. She grew up in one of the most affluent and socially prominent Jewish families in New York, tutored at home except for a short stint at the Jacoby School. In addition to the loneliness imposed by her restrictive home life, her childhood was marked by her father’s death in the 1912 ...

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Harkness, Rebekah West (17 April 1915–17 June 1982), philanthropist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Allen Tarwater West, a stockbroker, and Rebekah Semple. The youngest of three children, Rebekah grew up surrounded by the amenities of a prominent St. Louis family. A vivacious, headstrong teenager with a penchant for the arts, she obeyed but did not agree with her father’s request that she resign from a St. Louis Opera production of ...

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Lewisohn, Irene (05 September 1892–04 April 1944), theater patron and practitioner and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Rosalie Jacobs and Leonard Lewisohn, a German-Jewish immigrant who made his fortune in the mining and processing of copper and other minerals. The deaths of Lewisohn’s parents before she was ten years old left her older sister Alice and her with considerable wealth—and the social burden of such wealth. The daughter of a philanthropist, Lewisohn was impressed by the Henry Street Settlement, one of her father’s causes. After attending the Finch School in New York, she studied dance independently and eventually found her calling in the unique combination of social service and the arts....

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Mabel Dodge Luhan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106861).

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Luhan, Mabel Dodge (26 February 1879–13 August 1962), writer and patron, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Charles Ganson and Sarah Cook, members of the upper class who lived on inherited wealth. Like most Victorian women of her class, Luhan was educated to charm and groomed to marry. Stultified emotionally and intellectually at home and at the various finishing (or boarding) schools she attended, she worked throughout her life to create a world that would simultaneously establish her identity and serve as a model for the larger European and American communities that surrounded her. She moved from one “cosmos,” as she called them, to the next, with the expectation that each would provide the answer to her own and her contemporaries’ need to connect with something larger than the dying legacy of individualism left them by late Victorian culture....

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Mason, Charlotte Louise (18 May 1854–15 April 1946), patron of writers and artists, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the daughter of Peter Quick and Phoebe Van der Veer, farmers. Eighteen months after her mother’s death in 1864, her father married Catherine Jane Pumyea....

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McCormick, Edith Rockefeller (31 August 1872–25 August 1932), philanthropist, socialite, and patron of the arts and psychiatry, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., an industrialist, and Laura Celestia Spelman. She spent her youth in Cleveland and New York City, where the family moved in 1880. In addition to attending the Rye Female Seminary, Edith received private tutoring and learned to play the cello. Unusually gifted and endowed with a strong scholarly inclination, she had mastered three foreign languages by the time she was ten years old....

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Menil, Dominique de (23 March 1908–31 December 1997), art patron, was born Dominique Schlumberger in Paris, France, to Conrad Schlumberger, an oil technology pioneer, and Louise Delpech Schlumberger. Dominique studied for an advanced degree in physics and math at the Sorbonne in the late 1920s before marrying John (at that time, Jean) de Menil, a banker in 1931. (They were to have five children.) In 1936 John de Menil began working for Schlumberger, Ltd., and soon thereafter he moved to Houston, Texas, to run the company's American branch. Dominique joined her husband in Houston in 1941, and they subsequently went to Venezuela to expand their business in South America. A few years later they resettled in Houston and commissioned architect Philip Johnson to create their primary residence, which was decorated by fashion designer Charles James. Dominique became a U.S. citizen in the early 1960s....

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Moody, Harriet Converse (18 March 1857–22 February 1932), entrepreneur and patron of the arts, was born in Parkman, Ohio, the daughter of William Mason Tilden, a livestock broker, and Harriet Converse. William Tilden moved his family to Chicago circa 1867. Educated at home by her mother, Harriet later attended the Howland School, a Quaker institution in Union Springs, New York. She continued her education at Cornell University, where she earned a degree in English literature in 1876. Enrolling at the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, she returned to Chicago after one year, made her debut, and married Edwin Brainard, a lawyer. The marriage was not a success, and the Brainards were divorced in the 1880s....

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Perry, Antoinette (27 June 1888–28 June 1946), actress and director for whom the Tony Awards were named, was born in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of William Russell Perry, a city clerk, and Minnie Betsy Hall, an artist and Christian Science healer. Perry’s father, who was Catholic, and his wife separated over religious differences two weeks after their marriage and divorced shortly following their child’s birth. Her mother married twice again. Perry, nicknamed Tony, wrote in a 1930s article that even in grade school she had felt an urge to be an actress, in part because of the encouragement of her uncle, actor George Wessells. “My uncle trained me as a child—in Shakespearean men’s parts—and stimulated my desire,” she recalled. “When I was six, I didn’t say I’d become an actress. I felt I was one. No one could have convinced me I wasn’t.”...

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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Rockefeller, Abby Aldrich (26 October 1874–04 April 1948), philanthropist, was born Abby Greene Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich and Abby Pearce Chapman. After establishing himself in the mercantile life of Rhode Island, her father was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1881 he took his seat in the U.S. Senate, where he became a powerful chair of the Finance Committee. His political skills and his passion for art were his legacy to Abby....