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Andrews, Regina (21 May 1901–05 February 1993), librarian and dramatist, was born Regina M. Anderson in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, Illinois, to Margaret Simons Anderson, a clubwoman and ceramics artist, and William Grant Anderson, an attorney. Regina grew up in an upper-middle-class family because of her father’s success as a defense attorney, which earned him the nickname “Habeas Corpus.” Her views about race were no doubt shaped by her father’s fighting for racial justice for his clients and his collaboration with the antilynching advocate ...

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Barney, Natalie Clifford (31 October 1876–02 February 1972), writer and salon hostess, was born in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Albert Clifford Barney, a railroad car heir, and Alice Pike, a painter and philanthropist. Her childhood was spent in wealthy circles in Cincinnati and later in Washington, D.C., and Bar Harbor, Maine. She was educated at home by a French governess and in France at Les Ruches in Fontainebleau. By the turn of the century, she had decided to remain in Paris and write in French....

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Eliza Violet Gist Blair. Francis Preston Blair and Eliza Violet Gist Blair. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-1725).

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Blair, Eliza Violet Gist (1794–05 July 1877), newspaperwoman and political hostess, was born in either Virginia or in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the daughter of Nathaniel Gist, an Indian agent and planter, and Judith Cary Bell. Eliza’s father died in 1797, and a decade later her mother married ...

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Calamity Jane Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95040).

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Calamity Jane (01 May 1852–01 August 1903), legendary western woman, was born Martha Cannary in Princeton, Missouri, the daughter of Robert Cannary (also spelled Canary). Her mother’s identity is unknown. In 1865, enticed by news from the Montana gold fields, her father moved the family to Virginia City, Montana. After her mother died in 1866, the family settled in Salt Lake City. Following her father’s death in 1867, an adolescent but determined Calamity Jane traveled to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From there she embarked upon the transient existence that would characterize her life in the West, especially in the Black Hills mining camps of South Dakota and Wyoming....

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Fields, Annie Adams (06 June 1834–05 January 1915), literary hostess, author, and social reformer, was born Ann West Adams in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Zabdiel Boylston Adams and Sarah May Holland, both descended from prominent early Massachusetts settlers. Her father was a Boston physician who also taught at Harvard Medical School and served on the Boston school board. Annie’s childhood pleasures included easy access to books and Sunday visits to such distinguished relatives as the Adamses of Braintree. At ...

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Hone, Philip (25 October 1780–05 May 1851), diarist and socialite, was born in New York City, the son of a German-born joiner. Of humble origins, Hone determined to raise himself socially to the point where he would be able to mingle with the affluent on equal terms. Although the young Hone had little formal education, at the age of sixteen he began working at his elder brother John’s auction house. Three years later he became a partner. A hard worker, Hone helped make his brother’s business one of the most successful auction firms in the city. Over a period of nearly twenty years Hone amassed over half a million dollars and, in May 1821, at the age of forty, retired from business, toured Europe, and began collecting books and pictures. When he returned to New York, he and his wife, Catharine Dunscomb, whom he had married in 1801, and their six children settled in his home at 235 Broadway....

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Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west....

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Kennedy, John F., Jr. (25 November 1960–16 July 1999), American icon, publisher, and lawyer, was born John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., in Washington, D.C., the son of President John F. Kennedy, a descendant of a politically and socially prominent Massachusetts family, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy...

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Elsa Maxwell Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103698).

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Maxwell, Elsa (24 May 1883–01 November 1963), international hostess, songwriter, and newspaper columnist, was born in a theater box during a touring company’s performance of Mignon in Keokuk, Iowa, the daughter of James David Maxwell, an insurance salesman and part-time journalist, and Laura Wyman. Her childhood was spent in a modest flat situated among the elegant homes on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. A disappointment there at age twelve may have influenced her later party giving. A neighbor, the wealthy senator ...

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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).

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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.”...

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Smith, Margaret Bayard (20 February 1778–07 June 1844), author and society leader, was born on a farm near Swede’s Ford on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Bubenheim Bayard, a merchant, and Margaret Hodge. The family had moved from Philadelphia just before the city was occupied by the British. A revolutionary war leader, Bayard had commanded a regiment in the battles of Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown and spent part of the winter of 1777–1778 with ...

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Gertrude Stein Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103680).

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Stein, Gertrude (03 February 1874–27 July 1946), author, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Daniel Stein, a businessman, and Amelia Keyser. Stein spent her early years in Europe, where her parents were traveling; the family returned to America in 1879, settling the following year in Oakland, California, where Stein spent the rest of her youth. Of Oakland she was later to remark, “There is no there there.” She countered the bland, suburban surroundings by reading voraciously: Shakespeare, Scott, Richardson, Fielding, Wordsworth....

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Stockton, Annis Boudinot (01 July 1736–06 February 1801), poet and state host, was born in Darby, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Elias Boudinot, a merchant and silversmith, and Catherine Williams. Even as a young woman, Annis Boudinot was known to the local Princeton, New Jersey, elite as—in the words of her friend ...