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Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams, 1908. Glass negative. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-npcc-19900).

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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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Ahern, Mary Eileen (01 October 1860–22 May 1938), librarian and editor, was born on a farm southwest of Indianapolis, Indiana, to William Ahern, a farmer, and Mary O’Neill, both Irish immigrants. In 1870 the family left the farm for Spencer, Indiana, where Mary Eileen graduated from high school in 1878. Following her graduation from Central Normal College in Danville, Indiana, in 1881, she worked as a teacher in the public schools of Bloomfield, Spencer, and Peru, Indiana, for eight years....

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Andrews, Eliza Frances (10 August 1840–21 January 1931), author and educator, was born at Haywood Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the daughter of Garnett Andrews, a judge and planter, and Annulet Ball. After attending the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington, Georgia, Andrews, often known as “Fanny,” was, in 1857, one of the first students to receive an A.B. degree at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia....

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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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Anneke, Mathilde Franziska Giesler (03 April 1817–25 November 1884), suffragist, author, and educator, was born in Lerchenhausen, Westphalia, Germany, the daughter of Karl Giesler, a Catholic landlord and mine owner, and Elisabeth Hülswitt. She grew up comfortably and was well educated, more through learned company than tutors and schools. In fact, as a teacher in later years she would read “Fridjhoff’s saga to her pupils and recite from memory the translation she had read when eleven years old,” given to her by a prince (Heinzen, p. 3)....

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Gertrude Atherton Arnold Genthe, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0120).

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Atherton, Gertrude Franklin (30 October 1857–14 June 1948), author, biographer, and historian, was born Gertrude Franklin Horn in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Thomas Horn, a businessman, and Gertrude Franklin. Her maternal grandfather, a grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, was a banker and editor of one of San Francisco’s first newspapers. Gertrude lived with him when her parents were divorced after three years of marriage. Although she was well read, her formal education was sporadic—while she was attending the Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, she contracted tuberculosis. After twice becoming engaged, she eventually eloped in 1876 with George H. Bowen Atherton, a former suitor of her mother’s. They had a daughter and a son who died at the age of six....

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Banning, Margaret Culkin (18 March 1891–04 January 1982), writer, was born in Buffalo, Minnesota, the daughter of William Edgar Culkin, a Duluth newspaper executive, and Hannah Alice Young. She attended Vassar College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 1912. Pursuing an interest in social work, she attended Russell Sage College on a fellowship in 1912–1913, then spent the following academic year at the Chicago School of Philanthropy, which awarded her a certificate in 1914 for completion of its program. That same year she married a Duluth lawyer, Archibald T. Banning, Jr. The couple, who were divorced in 1934, had four children, two of whom survived into adulthood....

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Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston (29 March 1831–10 March 1919), author and teacher, was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Henry Huddleston and Mary Singleton. When Barr was young, her family moved often, according to her father’s assignment as a Methodist minister. Although her early education was frequently interrupted by relocations, returns on the Reverend Huddleston’s investments allowed Barr to attend the best private schools wherever the church sent the family. Furthermore, reading sophisticated books and treatises to her father reinforced her formal schooling and contributed to an excellent early education. This childhood security ended abruptly in 1847, when a family friend absconded to Australia with the Reverend Huddleston’s fortune, and Barr had to earn her own living as a “second teacher” at a school in Downham Market. Soon the family’s monetary situation improved and enabled Barr, in 1849, to attend Normal School in Glasgow to learn the Stowe teaching method, with its emphasis on moral training, lifelong learning, and understanding rather than rote learning. Marriage, in 1850, to Robert Barr, a prosperous young Scottish wool merchant, ended her teacher-training program. Nevertheless, teaching, on a formal or informal basis, was an important part of Barr’s life for the next twenty years....

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Bates, Katharine Lee (12 August 1859–28 March 1929), educator and writer, was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Bates, a Congregational minister, and Cornelia Frances Lee, a former schoolteacher. When Bates was less than a month old, her father died, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. They remained in Falmouth for a dozen years, then moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, which would be Bates’s home and professional base for the rest of her life. Although the family was unusually education-minded—Bates’s paternal grandfather had been president of Middlebury College, and her mother had graduated from Mount Holyoke Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College)—poverty prevented her older brothers from continuing their schooling. Because they contributed to the family’s income, however, Bates was able to complete high school and to enroll in the newly established Wellesley College, from which she received her B.A. in 1880....

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Bellamy, Elizabeth Whitfield Croom (17 April 1837–13 April 1900), author and teacher, was born near Quincy, Florida, the daughter of William Whitfield Croom, a plantation owner and merchant, and Julia Stephens. Elizabeth received her education in Philadelphia, at Pelham Priory, and in New York, at the Spingler Institute, under the direction of the Reverend ...

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Bonner, Marita Odette (16 June 1898–06 December 1971), educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, she applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school faculty adviser and was one of the few African-American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, she won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a B.A. in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930, when she married William Almy Occomy, a Brown graduate. The couple moved to Chicago, where they raised three children....

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Booth, Mary Louise (19 April 1831–05 March 1889), magazine editor and translator, was born in Millville (later Yaphank), Long Island, New York, the oldest child of William Chatfield Booth, a schoolteacher, and Nancy Monsell. Booth attended local schools at Yaphank and at Williamsburgh, which became part of Brooklyn, where the family moved in 1844 when her father became principal of a public school. Mainly, however, she was self-taught, reading the entire Bible at age five and Racine in the original French at seven. Although her father thought teaching the only suitable career for a woman, and she taught in his school briefly (about 1845–1846), she aspired to a literary career....

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Kay Boyle. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113309).

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Boyle, Kay (19 February 1902–27 December 1992), writer, educator, and political activist, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Howard Peterson Boyle, a lawyer, and Katherine Evans, a literary and social activist. Her grandfather had founded the West Publishing Company, and the financial security afforded by this background allowed the Boyle family to travel extensively. Boyle’s education was sporadic, culminating in two years of architecture classes at the Ohio Mechanics’ Institute (1917–1919). In 1922 Boyle joined her sister Joan in New York City, where she began to work for ...

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Brodie, Fawn McKay (15 September 1915–10 January 1981), writer, educator, and editor, was born in Ogden, Utah, the daughter of Thomas Evans Brodie and Fawn Brimhall McKay, both of whom were Mormons. Her father was a chronically indebted farmer, a respected church leader, and later a state senator and public utilities commissioner. She earned her B.A. at the University of Utah in 1934, was an instructor in English at Weber State College (now Weber State University, Ogden, Utah), and obtained her M.A. in English at the University of Chicago in 1936. She married Bernard Brodie in 1936. During the next several years, her husband, who had earned his Ph.D. in 1940 in political science at the University of Chicago, taught at a variety of places, served in the U.S. Navy, and became a writer and a consultant on matters of national defense, weaponry, and foreign affairs. Meanwhile, the Brodies had three children....

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Buckmaster, Henrietta (1909–26 April 1983), writer and editor, was born Henrietta Henkle in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Rae D. Henkle, a newspaperman, and Pearl Wintermute. Her father moved with his family to New York City to become foreign editor of the New York Herald...

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Cabrera, Lydia (20 May 1900–19 Sept. 1991), Cuban writer and anthropologist, was born in Havana, Cuba. (Even though 1899 is sometimes listed as her birth year, Cabrera always gave the date listed here). Her parents were Raimundo Cabrera Bosch, a lawyer, jurist, writer, and politician, and Elisa Marcaida Casanova. Lydia Cabrera was the youngest of eight siblings. Her interaction with her family’s Afro-Cuban servants (especially her nanny and her seamstress) and the stories she heard as a child are often cited as the foundation for her future career as a writer and transcriber of Afro-Cuban folk tales....

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Cary, Mary Ann Camberton Shadd (09 October 1823–05 June 1893), African-American educator, journalist/editor, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd’s father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson, a free black woman from Pennsylvania. Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker, and his property by the 1830s was valued at $5,000. He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where the family had moved sometime in the 1830s, and he served as a delegate to the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1835 and 1836....