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Bingham, Anne Willing (01 August 1764–11 May 1801), leader of Philadelphia society during the Federalist period, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Willing, a wealthy importer and partner of Robert Morris (1734–1806), and Anne McCall, who oversaw Anne’s education. Anne studied literature, writing, French, music, drawing, and embroidery. Her childhood and youth were filled with social engagements shared with children of elite families, including her relatives the Byrds and the Shippens. Though her father refused to sign the Declaration of Independence and her family remained in occupied Philadelphia during the Revolution, they remained socially aloof from General ...

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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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See Rosie the Riveter

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Brown, Margaret Tobin (18 July 1867–26 October 1932), social rights activist, philanthropist, actress, and Titanic survivor, social rights activist, philanthropist, actress, and Titanic survivor, popularly known as Molly Brown, was born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, the daughter of Irish immigrants. The real life of Margaret Tobin Brown has little to do with the myth of Molly Brown, a story created in the 1930s and 1940s that culminated in the 1960 Broadway hit ...

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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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Churchill, Jennie Jerome (09 January 1854–29 June 1921), society hostess, wife of Lord Randolph Churchill, and mother of Winston Churchill, was born Jeanette Jerome in Brooklyn, New York, the second daughter of Leonard Jerome, a financier, editor, and sportsman, and Clarissa (Clara) Hall. Called Jennie after the popular singer Jenny Lind, Jennie’s childhood was marked by the wealth and tastes of her ambitious parents. Leonard made his fortune speculating in stocks and built his reputation supporting progressive causes within the Whig Party and later the Republican Party, serving as consul in Trieste from 1852 to 1853. From an early age, Jennie shared her father’s love of music and horses and was an accomplished pianist and rider all her life. Her education included attendance at an elite private school and piano lessons with Stephen Heller, a friend of Chopin’s. Despite their wealth, the Jeromes were never accepted among New York’s elite families, a slight felt deeply by Jennie’s mother. In 1867, after Leonard suffered a significant loss in the stock market, Clarissa moved to Paris with her three daughters. Jennie would never live in the United States again....

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Fitzgerald, Zelda (24 July 1900–10 March 1948), wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer, and artist, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer, and artist, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the daughter of Anthony D. Sayre, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, and Minnie Buckner Machen. Zelda grew up in a privileged and secure home. As the baby of the family, she was indulged and spoiled as a child, and at a young age she began to develop eccentric, self-centered behavior. In 1909 she began studying ballet, which became a lifetime interest. Zelda was known as an excellent athlete, particularly in her habit of diving from high places on a dare. When she was seven, the family moved to 6 Pleasant Avenue in Montgomery, Zelda’s permanent home until her marriage....

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Jorgensen, Christine (30 May 1926–03 May 1989), achieved fame by undergoing a surgical sex change, who was born George William Jorgensen, Jr., in New York City, the son of George William Jorgensen, a carpenter and building contractor, and Florence Davis Hansen. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where he attended local schools, Jorgensen was somewhat of a loner, particularly in high school, where he was sexually underdeveloped, less than five feet tall, and weighed less than 100 pounds. Underweight and probably underage, he was initially turned down for enlistment in the armed services after graduation. He worked briefly as a temporary photographer for Pathé News before being drafted into the U.S. Army in October 1945. After serving a little more than a year he was given an honorable discharge. Over the next several years he drifted from one failure to another. He tried unsuccessfully to get a studio job in Hollywood; failure led to his return to New York. For less than a semester, he attended Mohawk College in Utica, New York, on the G.I. Bill, after which he transferred to the Progressive School of Photography in New Haven, Connecticut. Still unemployed, in 1949 he entered the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School, where he trained to become a lab technician....

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Longworth, Alice Lee Roosevelt (12 February 1884–21 February 1980), socialite and celebrity, was born in New York City, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), the twenty-sixth president of the United States, and Alice Hathaway Lee, a Boston socialite. An only child, Alice was two days old when her mother and her paternal grandmother died. Her father left her with his sister, Anna Roosevelt (Cowles), and went west to assuage his double loss. For the next two years, Alice saw her father only occasionally. In 1887 Theodore returned with his new wife, ...

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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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See Rosie the Riveter

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Palmer, Bertha Honoré (22 May 1849–05 May 1918), Chicago society leader and reformer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of Henry Hamilton Honoré, a hardware and cutlery importer, and Eliza Jane Carr. Following Bertha’s sixth birthday the family arrived in Chicago, where her father became a real estate developer and helped to expand the town on Lake Michigan into a bustling city. Religiously affiliated with the Disciples of Christ church in her early years, she later became an Episcopalian....

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Pitcher, Molly (13 October 1754?–22 January 1832), revolutionary war heroine, was of uncertain origins; her birthplace, early family history, and heroic actions are all clouded in mystery and dispute. Only her actual first name, Mary, is accepted as definite. John B. Landis, in an influential 1911 study built on oral testimony, maintained that Mary was born near Trenton, New Jersey, that she was the daughter of John George Ludwig, a dairyman who came from the German Palatinate, and that she was employed as a domestic servant before her first marriage. However, these claims cannot be verified. There is better support for Landis’s claim, based on family testimony, that Mary married John (or John Casper) Hays, a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, barber, in 1769. C. P. Wing, who in 1878 had access to a family bible as well as to Mary’s granddaughter, who was thirty when Mary died, offered the same information about Mary’s first marriage. In addition, a marriage licence for a Mary Ludwick and Casper Hays was issued in the appropriate county in 1769. Nevertheless, D. W. Thompson and Merri Lou Schaumann, in a vital 1989 study, asserted that court records prove that Mary’s first husband was a William Hays and that she was never married to a John Hays. However, they do not have court records for the period before 1783. On balance, the evidence suggests that Mary did marry a John Hays of Carlisle in 1769. All scholars agree that Mary’s first marriage produced one son, John L. Hays (1780–1856)....

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Rosie the Riveter (fl. 1920), Rose Will Monroe (), and Rose Bonavita (1921–1966), iconic figure of the women who worked in defense industries during World War II, was a composite of the experiences of many real women, including Rose Bonavita, Rosalind P. Walter, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, and Rose Will Monroe....

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Ross, Betsy (01 January 1752–30 January 1836), legendary maker of the first American flag, was born Elizabeth Griscom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Quakers Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James. The grandson of an English carpenter who had migrated to the Delaware Valley in the 1680s, Samuel Griscom was in the building trades and may have contributed to the building of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. Rebecca Griscom taught Betsy needlework, a skill that the daughter would later use in business....

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Schott, Marge (18 August 1928–02 March 2004), baseball team owner, philanthropist, and eccentric, was born Margaret Unnewehr in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second child of five daughters born to Edward and Charlotte Unnewehr. The family business, the Cincinnati Veneer Company, provided the means for the Unnewehrs to live in Clifton, an upper-middle-class section of the city. Something of a tomboy, Margaret (called Marge) was enrolled in the private Sacred Heart Academy where she spent much of her energy playing sports, especially field hockey. Marge attended the University of Cincinnati for three years but left school to work for her father's business. In 1952 she married Charles Schott, a member of one of Cincinnati's wealthiest families. Together they purchased an estate in the upscale Indian Hill community where Marge would live for the rest of her life. The couple had no children....

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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....