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Coggeshall, George (02 November 1784–06 August 1861), sea captain and author, was born in Milford, Connecticut, the son of William Coggeshall, a shipmaster, and Eunice Mallett. A Revolutionary War veteran, William Coggeshall was financially ruined when one of his vessels was seized by a British cruiser for trading at a French island, and another was captured by France for trading with English colonies. As a result, George Coggeshall and his six siblings were left destitute. Thus, he was denied a formal education and was forced to teach himself by reading every book available. A devoted son, Coggeshall determined that he would go to sea as soon as possible, thereby reducing the family’s expenses and affording him a chance to recoup his father’s losses....

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Dorris, Michael (30 January 1945–11 April 1997), writer and academician, was born Michael Anthony Dorris in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Jim Leonard Dorris, a soldier, and Mary Burkhardt Dorris. Jim Dorris was killed in the late stages of World War II or shortly after the war, depending on the source consulted. As a result, Dorris was raised by his mother, aunt, and two grandmothers. As a youngster, Dorris read voraciously, borrowing books from adults and spending time in libraries. Following high school, he enrolled at Georgetown University, the first member of his family to attend college. He earned a B.A. degree (cum laude) in 1967 and an M.Phil. from Yale University in 1970. He was a successful academician, holding faculty appointments at the University of Redlands (1970–1971), Franconia College (1971–1972), and Dartmouth College (1972–1989, adjunct 1989–1997). While at Dartmouth, he founded and taught in the Native American Studies Program. Dorris's ancestry has been described as mixed Irish, French, and Native American, with the latter more specifically identified as “Modoc on his father's side.”...

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Olaudah Equiano. From the frontispiece of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, 1794. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54026).

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Equiano, Olaudah (1745–31 March 1797), sailor, abolitionist, and writer, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born in eastern Nigeria, the son of an Ibo village chief. When he was eleven, people from another Ibo village captured Equiano and his sister, beginning a six-month period during which he was separated from his sister and sold from one master to another until he reached the coast. There Equiano’s African masters sold him to white slave traders headed for Barbados. From Barbados he traveled to Virginia, where he was bought by Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel. During the spring 1757 voyage to England, Pascal gave Equiano the name Gustavus Vassa, which he used throughout his life, yet Equiano still included his African name on the title page of his autobiography....

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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Lame Deer, John Fire (1903–15 December 1976), coauthor of a popular account of American Indian life, was born with the Lakota name Tahca Ushte (Lame Deer) and the English name John Fire on the Lakota reservation in southwestern South Dakota, the son of Silas Let-Them-Have-Enough and Sally Red Blanket. He was one of twelve children, but many of his siblings did not reach maturity and others died in early adulthood. He was raised in large part by his maternal grandparents, Good Fox and Plenty White Buffalo, in a small log cabin located on or near the border between the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. Around the age of eight, he was forced by an agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to go to a school where the main focus was on discipline and where no teacher was capable of teaching at any level higher than the third grade. After six years in this school, he was sent to a white boarding school, where he became increasingly rebellious. Apparently he stayed only two years....

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Mountain Wolf Woman (01 April 1884–09 September 1960), Native American autobiographer, was born in East Fork River, Wisconsin, the daughter of Charles Blowsnake and Lucy Goodvillage, members of the Thunder clan of the Winnebago (known to themselves as the Ho-Chunk) tribe, and the sister of Sam Blowsnake, author of ...

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Royce, Sarah Eleanor Bayliss (02 March 1819–23 November 1891), pioneer, teacher, and writer, was born in Stratford-on-Avon, England, the daughter of Benjamin Bayliss, a tailor, and Mary Trimble (or Timbell). Her parents brought her as a baby with five older children to the United States in 1819. They lived for a time in Philadelphia before settling in Rochester, New York. Sarah was educated as extensively as a woman then could be, with what her daughter would call an “old-style academy education” at the Albion Female Seminary. She then taught school, as she would at many other times in her life. She joined the Disciples of Christ and probably at church meetings met Josiah Royce, Sr., an Englishman whose family had lived for a time in Canada before coming to New York State. The two were married on 31 May 1845....

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Olive Hoogenboom

Simon, Kate (05 January 1912–04 February 1990), writer, was born Kaila Grobsmith in Warsaw, Poland, the daughter of Jacob Grobsmith, a skilled shoemaker, and Lina Babicz, a corsetiere. Braving wartime travel to save the life of her ailing young son, Lina Grobsmith along with her two children came to the United States in 1916 by steerage, joining her husband who had arrived three years earlier....

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Thompson, Era Bell (10 August 1906–30 December 1986), author and editor, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Stewart C. Thompson and Mary Logan. In 1914 she moved with her family to Driscoll, North Dakota, where her father was a farmer and, from 1917 to 1921, a private messenger for Governor ...