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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....

Article

Demorest, Ellen Curtis (15 November 1824–10 August 1898), publisher and businesswoman, was born Ellen Louise Curtis in Schuylerville, New York, the daughter of Henry Curtis, a farmer and manufacturer, and Electa Abel. She attended local schools and graduated from Schuylerville Academy at age eighteen. Exposed to the fashion industry from an early age—her father’s factory made hats, and the nearby resort at Saratoga Springs regularly featured dapper visitors from across the nation—she established a prosperous local millinery business immediately after graduating. Within a year she had moved on to larger markets in Troy and finally—by the early 1850s—to New York City. Settling in Brooklyn, she met merchant William Jennings Demorest during a business transaction. They were married in 1858. In addition to raising two children from her husband’s first marriage—he was a widower—Demorest would have two of her own. Unlike most couples of their era, the Demorests became equal partners in professional as well as domestic life....

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Jane Heap. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-2112).

Article

Heap, Jane (01 November 1883–16 June 1964), artist and editor, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of George Heap, an engineer, and Emma (maiden name unknown). Interested in art from an early age, Heap attended the Art Institute of Chicago from 1901 until 1905 and later studied mural design in Germany. By the century’s second decade Chicago was in the midst of a “Renaissance” in art and literature. Writers and artists influenced by Nietzsche, Shaw, Picasso, and Gauguin attacked the straitlaced conservatism of the Victorian genteel tradition. Young midwesterners with artistic aspirations traveled to Chicago where they embraced and expressed an American modernism that owed much to European philosophies. Heap was among them....

Article

Wallace, Lila Bell Acheson (25 December 1889–08 May 1984), cofounder and co-owner of the Reader's Digest and philanthropist, cofounder and co-owner of the Reader’s Digest and philanthropist, was born in Virden, Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of T. Davis Acheson and Mary E. Huston. After Lila’s father completed his theological studies and became a Presbyterian minister, the family moved to the United States and became U.S. citizens. They lived in various small towns in the Midwest and West....