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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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Harrison, Marguerite (23 October 1878–16 July 1967), journalist, spy, world traveler, and writer, was born Marguerite Elton Baker in Baltimore, Maryland, to Elizabeth Elton Livezey and Bernard Baker. Her wealthy family made its fortune in transatlantic shipping, and she spent many summers in Europe, where she enhanced her language skills. Her education was a combination of private tutors and attendance at St. Timothy’s School in Catonsville, Maryland, where she experienced some social awkwardness, but she also learned much about the wider world that would influence the rest of her life. After high school, she attended Radcliffe College for one semester and then in 1901 quickly married Thomas Harrison against her parents’ wishes. In contrast to her family’s high standing and social connections, Thomas came from a family of lesser means and status....

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Keyes, Frances Parkinson (21 July 1885–03 July 1970), writer, editor, and traveler, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in James Monroe’s house, the daughter of John Henry Wheeler, a scholar and head of the Greek department at the University of Virginia, and Louise Fuller Johnson Underhill. When John Wheeler died in 1887, Louise Wheeler moved to “The Oxbow,” a family home near Newbury, Vermont, where Frances spent the summer months. In the winter months they relocated to Boston so Frances could attend school. Although she did graduate from Miss Winsor’s school in Boston, she described her formal education as “sketchy.”...

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Martineau, Harriet (12 June 1802–27 June 1876), author, was born in Norwich, England, the daughter of Thomas Martineau, a textile manufacturer, and Elizabeth Rankin. The family was Unitarian, republican, and laissez-fairist, and these traditions shaped both Harriet’s early thinking and her implicit belief in natural law and the rights of the individual. Although her education was inferior to that given her brothers, it was more rigorous than was customary for girls of the period. In adolescence she developed a hearing disorder that left her permanently hard of hearing, but, despite this disability and her inferior status as a woman in the nineteenth century, she made her living as a writer and earned an international reputation doing so....

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Royall, Anne Newport (11 June 1769–01 October 1854), travel writer and journalist, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Newport and Mary (maiden name unknown). The Newports moved to the Pennsylvania frontier in 1772 and by 1775 were living near Hanna’s Town, the Westmoreland County seat, after which time William Newport disappears from the records. Anne learned to read at an early age from her father and briefly attended school in a log cabin. After the death of her mother’s second husband (c. 1782), she moved with her mother and her half brother to Middle River, Virginia. In 1787 she and her mother became domestics for William Royall of Sweet Springs Mountain, now in West Virginia....

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Thompson, Era Bell (10 August 1906–30 December 1986), author and editor, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Stewart C. Thompson and Mary Logan. In 1914 she moved with her family to Driscoll, North Dakota, where her father was a farmer and, from 1917 to 1921, a private messenger for Governor ...