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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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Ames, Mary Clemmer (06 May 1831?–18 August 1884), journalist and author, was born Mary Clemmer in Utica, New York, the daughter of Abraham Clemmer, a merchant, and Margaret Kneale. Her father came from an Alsatian Huguenot family that had settled in this country before the American Revolution, and her mother had emigrated from the British Isle of Man in 1827. She received her formal education at the Westfield Academy in Westfield, Massachusetts, where the family moved about 1847; she attended the academy probably until 1850. A poem that she wrote at the academy was published in the ...

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Ayer, Harriet Hubbard (27 June 1849–23 November 1903), businesswoman and journalist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Henry George Hubbard, a real estate dealer, and Juliet Elvira Smith. Her father died when Harriet was three years old, but his legacy of valuable land purchases enabled the family to live comfortably. Poor health limited Harriet’s early education to private tutors. Although Episcopalian, she entered the Catholic Convent of the Sacred Heart at the age of twelve, graduating three years later....

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Barnes, Djuna (12 June 1892–19 June 1982), writer, was born Djuna Chappell Barnes in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, the daughter of Wald Barnes (born Henry Budington, recorded as Buddington), a musician, and Elizabeth Chappell. She was raised mostly in her birthplace, Fordham, and Huntington, Long Island, New York. The Barnes family, which believed in sexual freedom, included four brothers by Djuna’s mother, plus Wald’s mistress Fanny Faulkner and their three children; they were supported largely by Wald’s mother, Zadel Barnes Budington Gustafson, a journalist and suffragist. Djuna’s parents and grandmother Zadel tutored the children, especially in the arts. With the blessing of her father and grandmother (over the objections of her mother), at seventeen Djuna eloped with a soap salesman, Percy Faulkner, brother of Fanny Faulkner, but stayed with him only a few weeks. Djuna attended school sporadically, if at all; later she attended Pratt Institute (1913) and the Art Students League of New York (1915), studying life drawing and illustration....

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Beatty, Bessie (27 January 1886–06 April 1947), radio broadcaster, journalist, and author, was born Elizabeth M. Beatty in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Thomas Edward Beatty and Jane Mary Boxwell. Her parents had immigrated from Ireland to the Midwest and then to Los Angeles, where Thomas Beatty became a director of the first electric street railroad in the city. In 1903 Bessie Beatty matriculated at the Highland Park campus of Occidental College, determined to be a writer. She was active in campus literary societies and wrote several articles for student publications before taking a position in her senior year as a reporter for the ...

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Bennett, Gwendolyn (08 July 1902–30 May 1981), writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Native American reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Bennett’s father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. Her parents divorced and her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with her stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York....

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Black, Winifred Sweet (14 October 1863–25 May 1936), journalist, known also as Annie Laurie and Winifred Bonfils, was born in Chilton, Wisconsin, the daughter of Benjamin Jeffrey Sweet, an attorney and Union army officer in the Civil War, and Lovisa Loveland Denslow. The fourth of five children, she was christened Martha Winifred. In 1869 the family moved to Illinois when her father was appointed U.S. pension agent for Chicago. Benjamin Sweet died in 1874 while serving in the ...

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Blake, Lillie Devereux (12 August 1835–30 December 1913), author and feminist, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of George Pollok Devereux, a planter, and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson. Though she was christened Elizabeth Johnson, her father called her “Lilly,” and she adopted that name with altered spelling. The Devereux were prominent slaveholders, and Lillie spent her early years on her father’s cotton plantation. After George Devereux’s death in 1837, she moved with her mother and sister to Connecticut, joining her mother’s family there. She was raised in New Haven in an atmosphere of Episcopalian respectability and Whiggish political convictions. Her education at a girls’ school was supplemented by private tutoring based on courses in the Yale curriculum....

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Nellie Bly. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97447).

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Bly, Nellie (05 May 1864–27 January 1922), reporter and manufacturer, was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Michael Cochran, a mill owner and associate justice of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Kennedy Cummings. Judge Cochran, the father of fifteen children by two wives, died suddenly without a will in 1870, leaving Mary Jane with little money. Mary Jane’s abusive third marriage to John Jackson Ford ended in divorce in 1878, and “Pink,” as Elizabeth Jane was known, at age fifteen, went off to Indiana (Pa.) Normal School, adding a final ...

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Braden, Anne (28 July 1924–06 March 2006), civil rights activist and journalist, was born Anne Gambrell McCarty in Louisville, Kentucky, to Gambrell and Anita McCarty. Because her father was a traveling salesman, she grew up in various southern states, but mostly in rigidly segregated Anniston, Alabama. Her conservative white Episcopal parents fully embraced  the norms of southern racial hierarchy, and they remained comfortable throughout the Depression years of her childhood, but the young Anne, idealistic and devoutly religious, was troubled by the suffering around her. After graduating from Anniston High School in 1941, she left home to study literature and journalism at two Virginia women’s colleges, first Stratford Junior College and then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, where she discovered the life of the mind in a serious way and first met critics of racial segregation. In 1945, upon graduation from Randolph-Macon, she returned to postwar Alabama as a newspaper reporter, first for the ...

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Brewster, Anne Hampton (29 October 1818–01 April 1892), fiction writer and foreign correspondent, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Francis Enoch Brewster, an attorney, and Maria Hampton. She and her family were middle-class Anglo-American Protestants. Her older brother, Benjamin Harris Brewster...

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Briggs, Emily Pomona Edson (14 September 1830–03 July 1910), journalist who wrote under the pseudonym "Olivia", journalist who wrote under the pseudonym “Olivia,” was born in Burton, Ohio, the daughter of Robert Edson, a blacksmith, and Mary Umberfield (or Umberville). In 1840 the family moved to an Illinois farm, and fourteen years later they moved again, to Chicago, Illinois, where Emily’s father succeeded in real estate ventures. Emily attended local schools and had a short career as a schoolteacher in Ohio before she married John R. Briggs, Jr., a former Wisconsin legislator, in 1854; they had two children, one of whom survived to adulthood....

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Joyce Brothers. Dr. Joyce Brothers, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding a book she wrote, 1957. Photographic print by Phyllis Twacht. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117953).

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Brothers, Joyce (20 October 1927–13 May 2013), psychologist, television and radio personality, and columnist, was born Joyce Diane Bauer in Brooklyn, New York, to Morris K. Bauer and Estelle Rappaport Bauer, a Jewish couple who shared a law practice. She and sister, Elaine, were raised in Queens, where Joyce was an honors student at Far Rockaway High School....

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Bryant, Louise (05 December 1885–06 January 1936), journalist, was born Anna Louise Mohan in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Hugh Mohan and Louisa Flick. Her father, a writer, worked in government jobs and for newspapers in the West until shortly after Louise’s birth, when the family moved to Reno, Nevada. After Hugh Mohan abandoned the family, her mother filed for divorce in 1889, but Louise, always prone to romanticizing and exaggerating her childhood years, held that her father had died when she was four. Not long after the divorce, Louise’s mother married Sheridan Bryant, who gave Louise her name, and the Bryants moved to Wadsworth, Nevada. Sheridan Bryant, a freight train conductor, kept his family on the move, and Louise was educated at schools in both Wadsworth and Reno. In 1905 she entered Nevada State University (now the University of Nevada)....

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Bugbee, Emma (19 May 1888–06 October 1981), journalist, was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Edward Howard Bugbee and Emma A. J. Bugbee, high school teachers. Although her mother’s maiden name was Bugbee, her parents apparently were not related. Her mother traced her family back to Edward Bugbee, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1634. Her father was a grandson of Howard Bugbee, who appeared in Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1811 but never revealed his parents or his birthplace. Her mother refused to wear a wedding ring, which she considered a symbol of female servitude....

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Cannon, Poppy (2 Aug. 1905–1 April 1975), cookbook author, journalist, and advertising executive, was born Lillian Gruskin in Cape Town, South Africa, to Robert and Henrietta Gruskin, Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. (Henrietta’s maiden name is unknown.) The family moved to the United States in ...

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Cazneau, Jane Maria Eliza McManus Storms (06 April 1807–12 December 1878), journalist, was born near Troy, New York, the daughter of William McManus, an attorney and later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Catharina Coons. Little is known of her early years, although an aunt in Connecticut appears to have been partly responsible for raising her. Jane McManus married Allen B. (or William F.) Storms in 1825. They had one son before divorcing in 1831....