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Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston (29 March 1831–10 March 1919), author and teacher, was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Henry Huddleston and Mary Singleton. When Barr was young, her family moved often, according to her father’s assignment as a Methodist minister. Although her early education was frequently interrupted by relocations, returns on the Reverend Huddleston’s investments allowed Barr to attend the best private schools wherever the church sent the family. Furthermore, reading sophisticated books and treatises to her father reinforced her formal schooling and contributed to an excellent early education. This childhood security ended abruptly in 1847, when a family friend absconded to Australia with the Reverend Huddleston’s fortune, and Barr had to earn her own living as a “second teacher” at a school in Downham Market. Soon the family’s monetary situation improved and enabled Barr, in 1849, to attend Normal School in Glasgow to learn the Stowe teaching method, with its emphasis on moral training, lifelong learning, and understanding rather than rote learning. Marriage, in 1850, to Robert Barr, a prosperous young Scottish wool merchant, ended her teacher-training program. Nevertheless, teaching, on a formal or informal basis, was an important part of Barr’s life for the next twenty years....

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Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” (03 September 1891–25 September 1995), and Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (19 September 1889–25 January 1999), dentist and schoolteacher, were born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughters of Henry Beard Delany, an educator and Episcopal bishop, and Nanny James Logan Delany. Bessie was to become a dentist, and Sadie a schoolteacher; late in life, they gained fame for their published reminiscences. Descended from a mix of black, American Indian, and white lineages, the sisters grew up in a family of ten children in Raleigh on the campus of St. Augustine's, the African-American school where their father, a former slave, served as priest and vice principal. The sisters graduated from St. Augustine's (Sadie in 1910 and Bessie in 1911) at a time when few Americans, black or white, were educated beyond grammar school. “We had everything you could want except money,” recalled Bessie. “We had a good home, wonderful parents, plenty of love, faith in the Lord, educational opportunies—oh, we had a privileged childhood for colored children of the time” ( ...

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See Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie”

Article

Dumont de Montigny, Jean-François-Benjamin (31 July 1696–1760), officer in the French colonial military in Quebec and Louisiana, historian, and memoirist, was born in Paris, France, to Jacques-François Dumont and Françoise Delamare. His father was a magistrate in the parlement of Paris, the most important of the French high courts of appeal. He was the youngest of six sons and something of a black sheep compared with his brothers, who achieved prominence as lawyers and priests....

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Eiseley, Loren Corey (03 September 1907–09 July 1977), anthropologist, writer, and philosopher of science, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the only son of Clyde Edwin Eiseley, an amateur actor turned hardware salesman, and Daisey Corey, a self-educated artist. The family’s financial instability and his mother’s handicap (she was deaf and, as he later wrote, “always on the brink of mental collapse”) made his formative years in Nebraska a time of profound isolation. For solace, he turned to the Nebraska prairie and its fauna. He enrolled in the University of Nebraska in 1925, but physical and psychological crises kept him from graduating until eight years later. Near the end of his life, he recalled dropping out of college at least three times—to work in a poultry hatchery, to recuperate from tuberculosis in Colorado and the Mojave Desert (1928–1929), and to drift, riding the rails in the West (1930–1931). His father’s death in 1928 brought Eiseley to the brink of mental collapse. During this period, however, he worked on his first archaeological dig, published his first poetry, and cultivated a deep affinity for animals and landscape. In the same year he finished college (1933) Eiseley went to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate work in anthropology. He earned his Ph.D. in 1937, completing a dissertation titled “Three Indices of Quaternary Time and Their Bearing upon Pre-History: A Critique.” With this work an intensely private man began an unexpected career as a prominent public intellectual and literary naturalist....

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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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Helen Keller Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112513).

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Keller, Helen (27 June 1880–01 June 1968), author, reformer, and symbol of personal courage, was born Helen Adams Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the daughter of former Confederate captain Arthur H. Keller, a publisher and business entrepreneur, and Kate Adams. She was an unexceptional child until struck in her nineteenth month by an illness that was, possibly, scarlet fever. The event, she later recalled, “closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a newborn baby.” Profoundly and permanently deaf and blind, she was to carve out a life that astonished nearly everyone....

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Lumpkin, Katharine Du Pre (22 December 1897–05 May 1988), reformer and author, was born in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of William Wallace Lumpkin, a railroad employee, and Annette Caroline Morris. Both parents were the offspring of planters who lost their fortunes in the Civil War. Annette Lumpkin had taught school briefly before she married, and her learning, Katharine wrote later in ...

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McElroy, John (25 August 1846–12 October 1929), journalist and author, was born in Greenup County, Kentucky, the son of Robert McElroy, an ironmaster, and Mary Henderson. The family background was Scotch-Irish. He left home at the age of nine, after his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage, dropping his middle name, Henderson, which was his mother’s maiden name. He worked his way to St. Louis, where he found a job as a printer’s devil. Befriended by journeymen printers, he learned how to set the type for popular songs and sold the songs on the streets of St. Louis. Through a program of reading and independent study he remedied the meagerness of his formal education. He was aided in this project by a photographic memory. He could recite most of Shakespeare’s plays, read French and German, and translate Greek and Hebrew. When the country was moving toward war, he traveled to Chicago. In 1862 he enlisted in ...

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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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Santayana, George (16 December 1863–26 September 1952), philosopher and writer, was born in Madrid, Spain, the son of Agustín Ruiz de Santayana, a Spanish diplomat, and Josefina Sturgis (formerly Josefina Borrás y Carbonell), the daughter of a Spanish diplomat. His mother had previously married a Boston merchant, George Sturgis, who died in 1857. Santayana was christened Jorge Agustín Nicolás, but his half sister Susana insisted that his name not be the Spanish Jorge, but George, after her father. A permanent resident of Spain only during 1863–1872, he retained his Spanish citizenship throughout his life and frequently returned to visit family and to write....

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George Santayana. Oil on canvas, 1950, by Harry Wood, Jr.. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Trapp, Maria von (26 January 1905–28 March 1987), author, governess, and singer, was born Maria Augusta Kutschera on a train headed for Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Karl Kutschera and Augusta Rainer. She was orphaned at the age of seven. Raised by a court-appointed guardian whom von Trapp described as anti-Catholic and socialist, she graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna in 1923. Following her education she became a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine order at a Salzburg, Austria, convent....