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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).


Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...


Neal, John (25 August 1793–20 June 1876), author and women's rights activist, author and women’s rights activist, was born in Falmouth (now Portland), Maine. His father, a Quaker schoolmaster of the same name, died a month after the birth of Neal and his twin sister, leaving Neal’s mother, Rachel Hall, the difficult task of raising them in precarious financial circumstances. He attended several Quaker schools, the town school, and Portland Academy until age twelve. Combative and rebellious from early childhood, Neal, in 1808, left his native village and a job as shopkeeper’s apprentice for an itinerant career as writing master, schoolmaster, and portrait sketcher. During the War of 1812, he became a partner in the dry-goods business of John Pierpont and Joseph Lord, managing a branch store in Baltimore. Their venture collapsed during the postwar recession. Pierpont went on to a career in the ministry—and to become the grandfather of ...