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Allen, Elizabeth Akers (09 October 1832–07 August 1911), poet and journalist, was born Elizabeth Ann Chase in Strong, Maine, the second of three daughters of Thomas Chase, a carpenter and circuit preacher, and Mercy Fenno Barton. Her childhood was traumatic. A fourth sibling died accidentally, and her frail mother, whose medical treatments led Elizabeth to vow to murder the doctor, died in 1836. Her father placed his daughters separately with acquaintances until he remarried the following year. Four-year-old Elizabeth’s foster parents forced her to work, whipped her, and shut her in the cellar when she failed to meet their expectations. She had some schooling at Farmington (Maine) Academy. She wrote her first verses at age twelve; these were published in a Vermont newspaper, having been submitted without her knowledge. Eager to escape a grim home, she began working at thirteen, first in a sweatshop-like bookbindery, later as a teacher....

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Nicholson, Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook (11 March 1849–15 February 1896), newspaper publisher and poet, was born in Gainesville, Hancock County, Mississippi, the daughter of Captain William J. Poitevent, a builder-owner of steamboats and a lumber manufacturer, and Mary A. Russ. Because of her mother’s ill health, Eliza Poitevent spent much of her youth at the farm of her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Kimball, some twenty miles from her birthplace. In 1867 she graduated from the Amite (La.) Female Seminary. She would later describe her time there as “useless education,” given the academic instructions imposed on “intellectual women” in that era. She began writing poems during her early teens. However, it was not until after her graduation that her first published efforts appeared in the ...