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Andrews, Mary Raymond Shipman (02 April 1860–02 August 1936), novelist and short story writer, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of the Right Reverend Jacob Shaw Shipman, an Episcopal minister, and Anna Louise Johns. In 1861 the family moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned to appreciate outdoor activities, particularly riding. Mary’s father later served as bishop in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and then at Christ Church in New York City, where the family settled in 1877. After graduating from high school, Mary studied with her father and later with her husband, William Shankland Andrews, an attorney whom she married in 1884. They had one child....

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Andrews, V. C. (06 June 1923?–19 December 1986), novelist, was born Virginia Cleo Andrews in Portsmouth, Virginia, the daughter of William Henry Andrews, a retired serviceman who owned a tool-and-die business, and Lillian Lilnora Parker, a telephone operator. Little is known about her personal life, and she sought to keep her exact age a secret. Andrews spent her childhood in Portsmouth and later in Rochester, New York. She was a gifted artist from an early age, and her talents were encouraged. Andrews also expressed a great desire to act. By her own account, she lived a life of the imagination, reading a great deal (Alexander Dumas and ...

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Austin, Jane Goodwin (25 February 1831–30 March 1894), historical novelist and juvenile writer, was born Mary Jane Goodwin in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of Isaac Goodwin, a lawyer, antiquarian, and authority on Pilgrim history, and Elizabeth Hammatt, a poet and songwriter. After her father’s death in 1832, the family moved to Boston, where Jane was educated in private schools. As a young girl she began to cultivate her lifelong interest in family genealogy and her Pilgrim ancestors, writing stories about their lives for her own and her family’s amusement. Some of these stories were eventually published under various pen names in contemporary periodicals. Her brother, the Honorable John Abbot Goodwin, was also inspired by their heritage and wrote a history of Plymouth settlement, ...

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Bailey, Temple (1880?–06 July 1953), novelist and short story writer, was born Irene Temple Bailey in Petersburg, Virginia, the daughter of Milo Varnum Bailey and Emma Sprague. Her birth date is uncertain, but when she died she was thought to be in her seventies. The Baileys lived for a time in Richmond, Virginia, before moving to Washington, D.C., when Temple was five. She returned briefly to Richmond, where she attended a girls’ school housed in what had been General ...

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Baker, Dorothy Dodds (21 April 1907–17 June 1968), novelist, was born in Missoula, Montana, the daughter of Raymond Branson Dodds, a businessman, and Alice Grady. Dorothy spent much of her childhood years in California, where her father worked in the oil business. She was educated at Occidental College, Whittier College, and the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in French in 1929, whereupon she traveled to Paris. Her travels introduced her to Howard Baker, whom she married in 1930; they had two children. At this time she also began work on a novel that with considerable addition and revision would be published some ten years later in 1943 as her second book, ...

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Elaine Fredericksen

Baldwin, Faith (01 October 1893–19 March 1978), novelist, was born in New Rochelle, New York, the daughter of Stephen Charles Baldwin, a well-known trial lawyer, and Edith Hervey Finch. At age three she moved to Manhattan and then, at seven, to Brooklyn Heights. Baldwin was able to read by the time she was three years old. She attended Brooklyn Heights Academy and finishing school in Brooklyn and in Briarcliff Manor, New York. At six she wrote a drama called ...

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Bleecker, Ann Eliza ( October 1752–23 November 1783), poet and novelist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Brandt Schuyler, a prosperous merchant from an upper-class New York family, and Margaret Van Wyck. Her father died two months before Ann Eliza’s birth, but he left his family of one son and three daughters in comfortable circumstances. In childhood she read widely, wrote verse, and was part of the cultural life of upper-class New York society....

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Catherine Drinker Bowen Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116250).

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Bowen, Catherine Drinker (01 January 1897–01 November 1973), biographer and novelist, was born Catherine Shober Drinker in Haverford, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Henry Sturgis Drinker, an attorney, and Aimee Ernesta Beaux, a musician. After her father became president of Lehigh University in 1905, the family moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In between travels to such places as the Panama and Suez canals, she attended the Moravian Seminary, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. From 1914 to 1916 she studied at St. Timothy’s boarding school in Catonsville, Maryland, where she cultivated a taste for music and started to play the violin. Although accepted at Bryn Mawr College, she studied instead at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland (1915–1917), where she further cultivated the violin. Subsequently, she studied at the Juilliard School in New York City when it was still known as the Institute of Musical Arts....

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Bremer, Fredrika (17 August 1801–31 December 1865), novelist, travel writer, and poet, was born near Abo, Finland, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and his wife. The family moved to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1804 as Russia prepared to annex Finland, then a year later to a country estate near Arsta, Sweden. Bremer’s early life was unhappy; she was isolated and held under her parents’ strict control, her days consumed by a demanding academic regimen of history, philosophy, literature, music, art, and languages. She escaped the pressure by consuming romance novels by the British author Fanny Burney. Her health deteriorated, and in 1821 the family took her to the south of France to convalesce....

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Gwendolyn Brooks, late 1940s. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107993).

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Brooks, Gwendolyn (07 June 1917–03 December 2000), poet and novelist, was born Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks at her grandmother's home in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of David Anderson Brooks, a janitor, and Keziah Wims Brooks. When she was two months old, the family settled in Chicago, where she would live the rest of her life. Brooks and her brother had a sheltered upbringing in a cheerful, orderly household. (She would later draw on memories of those years for her poem “a song in the front yard” [1945].) At Forrestville Elementary School, where she learned that light skin and fine hair were valued, this shy child with dark skin and coarse hair felt socially isolated. Her mother, however, encouraged her interest in writing, and Brooks published her first poem in ...

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Taylor Caldwell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113311).

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Tinky ‘‘Dakota’’ Weisblat

Caldwell, Taylor (07 September 1900–30 August 1985), novelist, was born Janet Miriam Holland Caldwell in Manchester, England, the daughter of Arthur F. Caldwell, a commercial artist, and Anna Markham. Dismayed at all the Germans working in his trade in England, the intolerant Arthur Caldwell bundled his family off to America when his daughter was six. In later years she recalled an unhappy childhood with a stern father. She retreated to a world of the imagination from an early age....

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Cannon, Cornelia James (17 November 1876–01 December 1969), novelist and birth control activist, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Henry Clay James and Frances Haynes. While her father practiced law and speculated in land, her mother helped out the family fortunes by painting; some of her watercolors are now at the Minnesota Historical Society. Cannon grew up in St. Paul and Newport. At Radcliffe College Cannon studied philosophy with ...

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Willa Cather Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1936. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42538 ).

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Cather, Willa (07 December 1873–24 April 1947), novelist and short-story writer, was born in Back Creek Valley (now Gore), Virginia, the daughter of Charles Cather, farmer, and Mary Virginia Boak. Cather’s family moved to Nebraska in 1883. She later told an interviewer that after the mountains of Virginia the prairie made her feel that she had “come to the end of everything—it was a kind of erasure of personality. … I thought I would go under.” But she did not, and for the first eighteen months of her life in Nebraska she lived on her grandfather’s farm, surrounded by immigrant farm families whom she came to know and love and whom she eventually turned into memorable fictional characters. When her father moved the family to the prairie village of Red Cloud and opened an insurance and real estate office, Cather began the next phase of her life. The town appears in six of her novels and a good many stories....

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Chesebrough, Caroline (30 March 1825–16 February 1873), novelist and short-story writer, was born in Canandaigua, New York, the daughter of Nicholas Goddard Chesebrough, a merchant and postmaster, and Betsy Kimball. Chesebrough was educated at the Canandaigua Seminary.

Chesebrough wrote sentimental fiction for adults and children. Using the pseudonym Caroline Chesebro’, she began her career by publishing short works in magazines in 1848. Among the publications in which Chesebrough’s sketches and stories subsequently appeared were ...

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Chopin, Kate O’Flaherty (08 February 1850–22 August 1904), novelist and short-story writer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Thomas O’Flaherty, a merchant, and Eliza Faris. Thomas was an Irish immigrant who became wealthy in the burgeoning Mississippi River trade. Eliza was, on her mother’s side, from a prominent St. Louis Creole family. Both parents were devout Catholics, and Kate received her schooling at the Sacred Heart Academy in St. Louis. After the death of Thomas O’Flaherty in 1855, Eliza never remarried, and Kate was raised in a multigenerational household of independent women....

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Chute, Beatrice Joy (03 January 1913–06 September 1987), novelist and short story writer, was born in Hazelwood, Minnesota, the daughter of William Young Chute, a real estate agent, and Englishwoman Edith Mary Pickburn. Joy Chute, as she preferred to be called, grew up in Hazelwood, about eight miles outside of Minneapolis, and was graduated from West High School in Minneapolis in 1929. She once observed that she and her older sisters, M.G. and Marchette, who also became writers, had the good fortune of sharing a tutor who, in their private grammar school, emphasized English composition and encouraged them to write. Like the Brontës, Chute and her sisters played endless writing games as children. Chute took extension work at the University of Minnesota, did secretarial work for her father for ten years, and later worked for the Property Owners’ Association and the Minneapolis Better Housing Committee....