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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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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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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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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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Lamb, Martha Joanna R. N. (13 August 1826–02 January 1893), author and editor, was born Martha Reade Nash in Plainfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Arvin Nash and Lucinda Vinton. She was a precocious child and began to write poems and stories before she was ten. From an early age she enjoyed reading books from her father’s library, especially ones devoted to history. She lived for a while in Goshen, Massachusetts, and attended school both in Northampton and in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Tutored in mathematics, she became so adept that she not only taught for a while in a polytechnic institute but also revised a mathematics textbook for use in high schools. She also read widely in English literature and studied foreign languages....

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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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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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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....