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Bremer, Fredrika (17 August 1801–31 December 1865), novelist, travel writer, and poet, was born near Abo, Finland, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and his wife. The family moved to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1804 as Russia prepared to annex Finland, then a year later to a country estate near Arsta, Sweden. Bremer’s early life was unhappy; she was isolated and held under her parents’ strict control, her days consumed by a demanding academic regimen of history, philosophy, literature, music, art, and languages. She escaped the pressure by consuming romance novels by the British author Fanny Burney. Her health deteriorated, and in 1821 the family took her to the south of France to convalesce....

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John Dos Passos. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117477).

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Mourning Dove (1884?–1936), the first traditional Native American woman novelist, was born Christine Quintasket in a canoe crossing the Kootenay River near Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, the daughter of Joseph Quintasket and Lucy Stuikin, tribal leaders and farmers. Although her parents were prominent members of the Okanogan and Colville tribes of the Interior Salish, they were poor. Christine realized that education might be her only means of advancement. During the 1890s she studied at Goodwin Catholic Mission near Kettle Falls, Washington, and in 1900 at a government school at Fort Spokane. Several years later, she joined the staff at Fort Shaw School near Great Falls, Montana. There she married Hector McLeod in 1909, a member of the Flathead band, but they soon separated....

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Trollope, Frances (10 March 1779–06 October 1863), novelist and travel writer, was born in Stapleton, near Bristol, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Hilton and Frances Gresley, who died when “Fanny” was very young. Her father later remarried. She was educated by her father in their home near Bristol. In 1809 she married Thomas Anthony Trollope, a rising barrister. Between 1810 and 1818 she gave birth to seven children, including Anthony Trollope, who himself would write forty-seven novels. Only two of these children survived her, as sickness and premature deaths plagued the family. In 1813 Thomas Trollope took over a farm in Harrow that proved to be an economic disappointment....