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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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Abigail Scott Duniway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-787).

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Duniway, Abigail Jane Scott (22 October 1834–11 October 1915), Oregon pioneer and suffragist, was born in Tazewell County, Illinois, the daughter of John Tucker Scott and Ann Roelofson, farmers. Duniway attended school sporadically, restricted by her responsibilities on her parents’ farm. In March 1852, in spite of his wife’s hesitations, John Scott decided to move his family to Oregon. With thirty others, in a caravan of five wagons, the family set off on the 2,400-mile trek. Ann Scott died of cholera in June; her three-year-old son Willie passed away two months later. By October the party had reached Lafayette, near Salem, Oregon, where they settled. Abigail taught school in the neighboring village of Eola and worked on her father’s farm. In August 1853 she married Benjamin Charles Duniway, a farmer who had moved to Oregon three years earlier; they had six children. The early years of her marriage were especially hard on Abigail, who bore two children in quick succession and also was obliged to take on many of the physically taxing, traditionally male tasks on the farm. The family moved to a farm near Lafayette in 1857. Duniway’s first novel, ...

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Kinzie, Juliette Augusta Magill (11 September 1806–15 September 1870), historian, writer, and early Illinois settler, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the daughter of Arthur William Magill, a banker, and Frances Wolcott. She received a richer and more complete education than that usually available to young women. She attended a boarding school in New Haven, Connecticut; was tutored by her uncle, Alexander Wolcott, in Latin and other languages while he was a student at Yale; and spent time at ...

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Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1812?–1904), legendary African-American woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately $45,000....

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See Donner Party

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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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Spalding, Eliza Hart (11 August 1807–07 January 1851), pioneer and missionary, was born in Kennsington (now Berlin), Connecticut, the daughter of Levi Hart and Martha Hart, farmers who shared the same ancestor, Stephen Hart. When she was thirteen, the family moved to a farm near Holland Patent in Oneida County, New York. At home she learned the necessary crafts of spinning, weaving, and candle making. She attended Hamilton Oneida Academy and may have studied at Chipman Female Academy in Clinton, New York. Eliza was a serious and bright student. Slender and of medium height, she had dark brown hair and blue eyes and a “coarse voice.” She was also very religious; baptized in August 1826, she joined the local Presbyterian church. For a while she also taught school. A friend of hers, known as Mrs. Jackson, suggested that she might wish to correspond with Henry Harmon Spalding of Prattsburg, New York, who had conveyed to Mrs. Jackson that he was looking for a woman who would “devote her life to educate the heathen.” They began writing each other in 1830, and in the fall of 1831 they met....

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Wright, Susanna (04 August 1697–01 December 1784), frontierswoman and writer, was born in Lancashire, England, the daughter of Patience Gibson and John Wright, of Warrington and, later, Manchester, England. John Wright trained as a physician, became a practicing Quaker minister, and made his living variously as a tradesman, a farmer, and a ferry master. The Wright family immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1714, bringing a certificate of good standing from Hartshaw Monthly Meeting in Lancashire that John Wright presented to Chester (Pa.) Monthly Meeting later that year together with a certificate from Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, indicating a brief residence in Philadelphia. The family later became members of New Garden Monthly Meeting and Sadsbury Monthly Meeting. John Wright purchased land below Chester in an area then known as Chamassungh or Finland....