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Julie Longo and Sandra F. VanBurkleo

Abbott, Grace (17 November 1878–19 June 1939), social worker and administrator, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, the daughter of Othman Ali Abbott, a lawyer and politician, and Elizabeth Griffin, a high school principal. The Abbott household provided an intellectually stimulating environment, emphasizing reading, discussion, and formal education for all four children. Othman Abbott encouraged both Grace and her older sister ...

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Abzug, Bella (24 July 1920–31 March 1998), lawyer, feminist leader, and U.S. representative, was born Bella Savitsky in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Emmanuel Savitsky, butcher, and Ester Tanklefsky Savitsky. She attended local schools before entering Hunter College in Manhattan, where she took part in student government and was active in the Zionist movement. She entered Columbia University Law School following her graduation in 1942 but soon left school and took a wartime job in a shipyard. She married Martin Abzug, a writer who later became a stockbroker, in 1944; the couple had two daughters. Abzug returned to Columbia and served as editor of the ...

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Adams, Abigail (11 November 1744–28 October 1818), first lady and woman of intellect, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Smith, a Congregational minister, and Elizabeth Quincy. Abigail grew up in a prominent and wealthy family, descended from Puritan leaders and successful merchants. She had no formal schooling, both because of her recurrent illnesses and the limited options available to girls. Yet neither obstacle prevented her from achieving a remarkably broad and sophisticated education. She enjoyed the family’s well-stocked library, the stimulating company of educated relatives and parsonage visitors, and the attentive tutelage of her grandmother. Her studies ranged from Shakespeare to Locke, from Plato to French. She also began two lifelong habits: letter-writing to distant relatives and friends, and the practice of a deep Congregational faith....

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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson (12 February 1775–15 May 1852), first lady, was born in London, England, the daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American merchant, and Catherine Nuth (or Young). Though it is known that her father was a prominent businessman and that her uncle ...

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Adams, Maude (11 November 1872–17 July 1953), actress, was born Maude Ewing Kiskadden in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of James Henry Kiskadden, a banker, and Asenath Ann Adams, an actress. Adams’s mother was raised a Mormon but married outside the church. Adams, the only surviving child, was introduced to an audience at nine months and took her first speaking role at the age of five. She used her mother’s maiden name from the outset of her career. She appeared frequently in stock companies with her mother, first in Salt Lake City, then in 1874 in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1875 in San Francisco, and on tours throughout the West. Reports on Adams’s schooling vary, the longest estimate being that she studied from the age of six to sixteen. According to Phyllis Robbins’s biography (informed by Adams’s mother and various other family members and corrected in manuscript by Adams), she had only intermittent schooling before spending her tenth and eleventh years at the Salt Lake City Collegiate Institute under her maternal grandmother’s protection; formal tutoring ended when her father died and Adams was summoned to San Francisco to join her mother. They toured together until 1888, when Adams received her first engagement in a resident New York company. Several years of stock with E. H. Sothern followed before Adams made a success in 1892 in ...

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Addams, Jane (06 September 1860–21 May 1935), social reformer and peace activist, was the daughter of John Huy Addams, a businessman and Republican politician, and Sarah Weber. Born on the eve of the Civil War in the small farming community of Cedarville, just outside Freeport, in northern Illinois, she was the youngest of five children, four of whom were girls. Her mother died during pregnancy when Jane was two years old. The Addams family was the wealthiest, most respected family in the community. Jane’s father owned the local grain mill, was president of the Second National Bank of Freeport, had interests in a local railroad and a local insurance company, taught Sunday School, and was active in local Bible societies. A founding member of the Republican party and supporter of ...

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Akins, Zoë (30 October 1886–29 October 1958), playwright and screenwriter, was born in Humansville, Missouri, the daughter of Thomas J. Akins, a postmaster, and Elizabeth Green. During Zoë’s childhood, the family moved to St. Louis, where Thomas Akins was postmaster as well as a member of the Republican national committee. At age twelve, Akins was sent to Monticello Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois, and later to Hosmer Hall in St. Louis....

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Alcott, Louisa May (29 November 1832–06 March 1888), author, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott, an educator and philosopher, and Abigail May, the energetic, philanthropic daughter of a prominent liberal Boston family. Louisa grew up in Concord and Boston, suffering from poverty as a result of her selfish idealist father’s inability to support his family. Bronson Alcott habitually sacrificed his wife and daughters by refusing to compromise with a venal world, most conspicuously when he subjected them to an experiment in ascetic communal living at Fruitlands farm in 1843. However, the Alcotts’ intellectual environment was rich and stimulating: Louisa’s parents assiduously encouraged her writing, and their friends included leaders in abolition and women’s rights, including the Transcendental philosophers ...

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Aldrich, Bess Streeter (17 February 1881–03 August 1954), author, was born Bess Genevra Streeter in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the daughter of James Wareham Streeter, a farmer and miller, and Mary Wilson Anderson. Aldrich was the youngest of eight children and the only one born in Cedar Falls, where her parents had moved a few years prior to her birth. Her mother and several of her brothers and sisters wrote poetry. Aldrich began writing short stories as a child; her first writing prize came at the age of fourteen when she won a camera for a children’s story sent to the ...

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Allan, Maud (27 August 1873–07 October 1956), dancer, choreographer, and actress, was born Ula Maude Durrant in Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Allan Durrant, a shoemaker, and Isa Matilda Hutchinson. In the late 1870s the family migrated from Ontario to San Francisco, where Allan grew up and, from an early age, studied piano with several teachers. San Francisco’s thriving theatrical and musical environment in the late 1880s and early 1890s enabled her to see fine performances, including those by some of the best women artists, among them Adele aus der Ohe and Sarah Bernhardt. Allan’s discipline, however, was piano. At age twenty-two, already musically accomplished and very beautiful, she went to Berlin for advanced piano study at the Royal High School for Music then under the direction of Joseph Joachim....

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Allen, Florence Ellinwood (23 March 1884–12 September 1966), federal judge, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of Clarence Emir Allen, a lawyer, congressman, and mine manager, and Corinne Marie Tuckerman, a women’s club leader. In 1904 she earned a bachelor’s degree Phi Beta Kappa from the women’s college of Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She then worked for two years in Berlin, Germany, as a music critic. Returning to Cleveland, she taught at a private girls’ school. Lacking the talent for a concert piano career and bored by teaching duties, she took a master’s degree in political science from Western Reserve in 1908. The public law courses reminded her of the exciting connection between law and social reform, exemplified by her father’s political career....

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Allyson, June (07 October 1917–08 July 2006), actress, was born Eleanor “Ella” Geisman in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Robert Geisman, a janitor, and Clara Provost. Ella's father was an alcoholic and took little interest in her. When she was six months old, her parents separated. Mother and daughter moved from their Bronx tenement on 143rd Street to her grandparents' apartment near Pelham Bay. Clara landed a $20-a-week printing job and moved with her daughter to an $18-a-month coldwater flat off Third Avenue. Ella collected firewood and bathed in a washtub. Many moves followed. Often, Ella was shipped off to her grandparents. She felt isolated and abandoned. “You're going to be somebody in this world,” her grandmother consoled her ( ...

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Anderson, Margaret (24 November 1886–19 October 1973), editor and author, was born Margaret Carolyn Anderson in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of Arthur Aubrey Anderson and Jessie Shortridge. Anderson’s father was a railway executive who provided a comfortable middle-class existence for his wife and three daughters. Anderson, whose chief interest as a young woman was music and literature, was soon regarded as the rebel of the family. After three years at Western College for Women in Ohio, she dropped out and made her way to Chicago, hoping to find work as a writer. After various stints as a bookstore clerk, print assistant, and part-time critic, Anderson decided to start her own literary journal. With little money but a great deal of enthusiasm and support from friends, Anderson founded the avant-garde ...

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Anderson, Marian (17 February 1897–08 April 1993), contralto, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Berkeley Anderson, a refrigerator room employee at the Reading Terminal Market, an ice and coal dealer, and a barber, and Anne (also seen as “Annie” and “Anna,” maiden name unknown), a former schoolteacher. John Anderson’s various jobs provided only a meager income, and after his death, before Marian was a teenager, her mother’s income as a laundress and laborer at Wannamaker Department Store was even less. Yet, as Anderson later recalled, neither she nor her two younger sisters thought of themselves as poor. When Marian was about eight her father purchased a piano from his brother; she proceeded to teach herself how to play it and became good enough to accompany herself. Also as a youngster, having seen a violin in a pawn shop window, she became determined to purchase it and earned the requisite $4 by scrubbing her neighbors’ steps. She attempted to teach herself the violin as well but discovered that she had little aptitude for the instrument....

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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Elizabeth R. Nelson

Anglin, Margaret (03 April 1876–07 January 1958), actress, was born Mary Margaret Anglin in Ottawa, Canada, the daughter of Timothy Warren Anglin, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Ellen A. McTavish. Born a Roman Catholic, she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Montreal until she left school at fifteen to pursue a career as a concert reader. Despite her father’s disapproval, her mother supported her choice and enabled Margaret to go to New York to study elocution when she was seventeen....

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Anthony, Lucy Elmina (24 Oct. 1859–4 July 1944), suffragist, was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the oldest child of Jacob Merritt Anthony and Mary Almina Luther. Jacob, who eked out a living selling sewing machines, was the younger brother of Susan B. Anthony...

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Anthony, Susan B. (15 February 1820–13 March 1906), reformer and organizer for woman suffrage, was born Susan Brownell Anthony in Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read. Her father built the town’s first cotton mill. When Susan, the second of eight children, was six, the family moved to Battenville, New York, north of Albany, where Daniel prospered as manager of a larger mill and could send Susan and her sister to a Friends’ seminary near Philadelphia. His good fortune, however, collapsed with the financial crisis of 1837; the mill closed, Susan left boarding school, the family lost its house, and for nearly a decade the family squeaked by, assisted by Susan’s wages as a teacher. Looking for a new start in 1845, Daniel moved to a farm near Rochester, the city that would be Susan’s permanent address for the rest of her life....

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Arden, Elizabeth (31 December 1878?–18 October 1966), businesswoman, was born Florence Nightingale Graham (her legal name throughout life) in Woodbridge, near Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Graham and Susan Tadd, farmers. Florence would remain a citizen of Canada until she married an American, Thomas Jenkins Lewis, in 1915. Her mother died when Florence was a small child. Unable to finish high school because of her straitened finances, she entered nursing but found that she disliked working with sick people. She moved quickly through jobs as dental assistant, stenographer, and cashier and finally followed her brother William to New York City. By then she was about thirty, although her youthful complexion made her look about twenty. In 1908, as a cashier in a New York beauty salon, she persuaded her employer, Eleanor Adair, to teach her how to give facials, and she quickly mastered this “art of the healing hands.”...