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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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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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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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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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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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Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” (03 September 1891–25 September 1995), and Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (19 September 1889–25 January 1999), dentist and schoolteacher, were born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughters of Henry Beard Delany, an educator and Episcopal bishop, and Nanny James Logan Delany. Bessie was to become a dentist, and Sadie a schoolteacher; late in life, they gained fame for their published reminiscences. Descended from a mix of black, American Indian, and white lineages, the sisters grew up in a family of ten children in Raleigh on the campus of St. Augustine's, the African-American school where their father, a former slave, served as priest and vice principal. The sisters graduated from St. Augustine's (Sadie in 1910 and Bessie in 1911) at a time when few Americans, black or white, were educated beyond grammar school. “We had everything you could want except money,” recalled Bessie. “We had a good home, wonderful parents, plenty of love, faith in the Lord, educational opportunies—oh, we had a privileged childhood for colored children of the time” ( ...

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See Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie”

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Emerson, Mary Moody (25 August 1774–01 May 1863), aunt and influential teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, aunt and influential teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in Concord, Massachusetts, the daughter of Reverend William Emerson and Phebe Bliss. Before he left home to serve as chaplain in the Continental army, William Emerson sent Mary, the fourth of five children, to live with his mother. After he died of a fever, Mary remained with her grandmother, and when she died Mary was sent to live with an impoverished aunt on her farm in Malden. She thus began life as she always lived it, in exile. The extreme poverty and drudgery of her youth was made even more difficult after a second, apparently insane aunt was sent to live at the Malden farm. In 1780, when Mary’s mother married her husband’s successor, Dr. ...

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Ferguson, Elizabeth Graeme (03 February 1737–23 February 1801), writer and translator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Graeme, a prominent physician, and Ann Diggs, stepdaughter of Sir William Keith, the first provincial governor of Pennsylvania. In the environment of her father’s large estate, “Graeme Park,” Elizabeth developed into a well-read and cultivated young woman. According to one memoir, her literary activity began “to divert her mind” from a broken engagement to ...

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Gerould, Katharine Fullerton (06 February 1879–27 July 1944), educator and author, was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. Orphaned in infancy, she was adopted by her uncle, Reverend Bradford Morton Fullerton, and his wife, Julia M. Bell Fullerton. She began her education at Miss Folsom’s School and received her B.A. (1900) and M.A. (1901) from Radcliffe College. She held a faculty position in English at Bryn Mawr until 1910....

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Grimké, Charlotte Forten (17 August 1837–23 July 1914), educator, diarist, and essayist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Mary Virginia Wood and Robert Bridges Forten, who were free blacks. Her father, a mathematician, orator, and reformer, was the son of wealthy sailmaker ...

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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Jordan, June Millicent (09 July 1936–14 June 2002), poet, essayist, professor, and activist, was born in New York City to Granville Ivanhoe Jordan and Mildred Fisher Jordan. Her Jamaican parents migrated to the United States during the interwar years, first settling in Harlem, where Jordan was born, and later moving to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. In the crucible of their immigrant striving—a rigorous itinerary of museums, planetariums, and symphonies; a precocious curriculum of ...

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Helen Keller Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112513).

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Keller, Helen (27 June 1880–01 June 1968), author, reformer, and symbol of personal courage, was born Helen Adams Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the daughter of former Confederate captain Arthur H. Keller, a publisher and business entrepreneur, and Kate Adams. She was an unexceptional child until struck in her nineteenth month by an illness that was, possibly, scarlet fever. The event, she later recalled, “closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a newborn baby.” Profoundly and permanently deaf and blind, she was to carve out a life that astonished nearly everyone....

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Lumpkin, Katharine Du Pre (22 December 1897–05 May 1988), reformer and author, was born in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of William Wallace Lumpkin, a railroad employee, and Annette Caroline Morris. Both parents were the offspring of planters who lost their fortunes in the Civil War. Annette Lumpkin had taught school briefly before she married, and her learning, Katharine wrote later in ...

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Plato, Ann (1820–?), writer and teacher, was probably born in Hartford, Connecticut. Her parentage and birth date are unknown, though it is likely that she was related to the Plato family prominent in Hartford's nineteenth-century black community. Little is known of her childhood; she was probably educated at home, at church, and in some of the schools sporadically set up by and for Hartford's African Americans in the 1830s. She was a member of the Talcott Street Congregational Church, and through church activities, she was exposed to the uplift thinking of the Reverend Amos Beeman, the Reverend Hosea Easton, the Hartford activist James Mars, and later the Reverend James Pennington. She would also have watched the Amistad case unfold....

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Randolph, Sarah Nicholas (12 October 1839–25 April 1892), historian and educator, was born at Edge Hill, Ablemarle County, Virginia, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, a planter, and Jane Hollins Nicholas. The importance of history and family responsibility was deeply ingrained in Sarah Nicholas Randolph. Her father, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite grandson, who served as the manager of his affairs during the last ten years of the former president’s life and was the executor of his estate, edited the first collection of Jeffersoniana, ...

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Ripley, Sarah Alden Bradford (31 July 1793–26 July 1867), scholar, Transcendentalist, and teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, scholar, Transcendentalist, and teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Gamaliel Bradford III, a sea captain and penal reformer, and Elizabeth Hickling. Her father traced his ancestry to ...