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Forbes, Esther (28 January 1891–12 August 1967), historian and novelist, was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Trowbridge Forbes, a judge, and Harriette Merrifield, an author of published studies of historical artifacts and documents. Harriette Forbes contributed greatly to background research for her daughter’s writing. The Forbeses were a New England family with a long history, and Esther reputedly drew on that history for historical novels such as ...

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Lane, Rose Wilder (05 December 1886–30 October 1968), a popular magazine writer, novelist, children's author, and noted libertarian thinker, was born near De Smet in the Dakota Territory (later South Dakota), the only surviving child of the homesteaders Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder. During Rose's early childhood the family struggled to make a living as pioneers, traveling in a covered wagon throughout the Midwest before finally settling in Mansfield, Missouri, when Rose was eight. Rose's childhood was marked by poverty and the uncertainty of frontier life. She was ostracized by classmates for her shabby clothes and her worn shoes, and she worried constantly about burdening her parents. Among her most charged and symbolic early memories was a house fire that destroyed the family's home and possessions. Young Rose had started the fire to assist her ailing mother on her sickbed, and she would blame herself for the tragedy well into adulthood. Despite these difficulties Lane would later valorize the pioneer experience as a source of fundamental American values—including hard work, stoicism, and mutual aid—that were threatened by the modern welfare state....

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Rose Wilder Lane urging support of the Ludlow Resolution which is being considered by a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, 10 May 1939. Photograph by Harris ﹠ Ewing. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-hec-26664)

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Latimer, Elizabeth Wormeley (26 July 1822–04 January 1904), novelist, translator, and historian, was born Mary Elizabeth Wormeley in London, England, the daughter of Rear Admiral Ralph Randolph Wormeley of the English Royal Navy and Caroline Preble of Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was born in Virginia, but as a boy he was taken to England, where he received his education and enlisted in the navy. Elizabeth spent her childhood in England, Boston, Virginia, and France. She was educated mostly by tutors, although she spent a brief time at a boarding school. When she was fourteen, the family moved to London, where she attended the funeral of King William IV and the coronation of Queen Victoria. In Paris she became acquainted with William Makepeace Thackeray and his mother, Mrs. Carmichael Smythe. She witnessed the second funeral of Napoleon and made her debut at the balls of Louis Philippe. In 1842 she traveled to America to visit at the home of friends. Here she met the historian ...

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Margaret Leech. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112187).

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Leech, Margaret Kernochan (07 November 1893–24 February 1974), historian and novelist, was born in Newburgh, New York, the daughter of William Kernochan Leech, a milkman, and Rebecca Taggert (or Taggart). Leech grew up in the adult world of Newburgh’s Palatine Hotel, where, she later recalled, “we were rather nice hotel children” (Nichols, p. 8). After graduating from nearby Vassar College in 1915, Leech went to New York City, where she answered the complaints of subscribers to ...

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Ayn Rand Photograph by Ben Pinchot, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114904).

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Rand, Ayn (02 February 1905–06 March 1982), writer and philosopher, was born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the daughter of Fronz Rosenbaum, a chemist of Jewish descent, and Anna (maiden name unknown). The Russian Revolution, the beginning of which Rand witnessed when she was twelve years old, changed her life. Her family lost its financial and social position, and the remainder of her education, including the study of history at the University of Leningrad (1921–1924), was conducted according to Bolshevik guidelines. Rejecting communist economic and social ideology but not its opposition to religion—Rand abandoned her religious heritage first for secular agnosticism and later for militant atheism—she left the Soviet Union in 1926. She changed her name to Ayn (rhymes with “mine”) Rand (for the Remington-Rand typewriter that she brought with her) when she came to America. After a brief stay with relatives in Chicago, she made her way to California, where she worked as a Hollywood extra and then as a scriptwriter for two years and in wardrobe for another four. She became a naturalized citizen in 1931....

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Mari Sandoz Photograph by Al Aumuller, 1938. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117537).

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Sandoz, Mari (11 May 1896–10 March 1966), novelist and historian, was born in Sheridan County, Nebraska, the daughter of Jules Ami Sandoz and Mary Elizabeth Fehr, Swiss immigrant homesteaders. Sandoz grew up in an impoverished household, ruled by her violent-tempered father. The family led a painful existence, but Mari later realized that growing up in that place and time gave her poignant writing material. Living near an old Indian and trapper crossing on the Niobrara River, not far from two Indian reservations, she learned the area’s history and also the art of storytelling from the old friends of her father who stopped to exchange tales of their experiences with him. She also learned of the recent disappearance of the Indians’ way of life as settlers established their own civilization in the region....

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Scarborough, Dorothy (27 January 1878–07 November 1935), novelist and folklorist, was born Emily Dorothy Scarborough near Flora, an extinct village near Mount Carmel, Texas, the daughter of John B. Scarborough and Mary Adelaide Ellison. Her father, a Confederate veteran, taught school while studying law. Becoming a successful lawyer and district judge, he moved the family west to Sweetwater before settling in Waco so that his children could receive good educations. He became a trustee of Baylor University, the leading Baptist school in the state....

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Skinner, Constance Lindsay (07 December 1877–27 March 1939), poet, novelist, and historian, was born Constance Annie Skinner in Quesnal, British Columbia, Canada, the daughter of Robert James Skinner, a factor for the Hudson Bay Company, and Annie Lindsay. In Quesnal, an isolated fur-trading post northeast of Vancouver, Constance played with Native American children; these early experiences influenced her writing, particularly her poetry. The Skinners lived in a large cedar house, 500 miles from the railroad, so Constance was tutored by her parents from their extensive library. She loved to read and often ran off into the forest to peruse the books that fascinated her. When Constance was fourteen, the family moved to Vancouver, where she attended a private school, her only formal education....

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White, Helen Constance (26 November 1896–07 June 1967), novelist and educator, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of John White, a railroad clerk and civil servant, and Mary Josephine King. When White was five years old the family moved from New Haven to Boston, and White attended Girl’s High School and then Radcliffe College, where she received her B.A. in three years and her M.A. in the following year (1917). White then spent two years teaching at Smith College before deciding to pursue the Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She completed her studies, receiving the Ph.D. in 1924, and quickly published her doctoral dissertation as ...

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MaryJean Gross and Dalton Gross

Wiggin, Kate Douglas (28 September 1856–24 August 1923), educator and novelist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Noah Smith, a lawyer, and Helen Elizabeth Dyer. Her father died when she was three, and her mother then settled in Maine, which became a favorite setting for Wiggin’s fiction. Three years after her father’s death, her mother married Albion Bradbury, a physician. Although Wiggin attended several schools during childhood and adolescence, much of her education was under her stepfather’s tutelage....

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Winwar, Frances (03 May 1900–24 July 1985), novelist, biographer, and translator, was born Francesca Vinciguerra in Taormina, Sicily, the daughter of Domenico Vinciguerra, a singer, and Giovanna Sciglio. Her family arrived in the United States in 1907 and she grew up in New York City. She attended local public schools and studied at Hunter College and Columbia University but never took a degree. Quickly mastering English and French and retaining complete fluency in Italian, she showed an early taste for literature and began to publish poetry in the radical socialist magazine ...