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Harkness, Rebekah West (17 April 1915–17 June 1982), philanthropist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Allen Tarwater West, a stockbroker, and Rebekah Semple. The youngest of three children, Rebekah grew up surrounded by the amenities of a prominent St. Louis family. A vivacious, headstrong teenager with a penchant for the arts, she obeyed but did not agree with her father’s request that she resign from a St. Louis Opera production of ...

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Lewisohn, Irene (05 September 1892–04 April 1944), theater patron and practitioner and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Rosalie Jacobs and Leonard Lewisohn, a German-Jewish immigrant who made his fortune in the mining and processing of copper and other minerals. The deaths of Lewisohn’s parents before she was ten years old left her older sister Alice and her with considerable wealth—and the social burden of such wealth. The daughter of a philanthropist, Lewisohn was impressed by the Henry Street Settlement, one of her father’s causes. After attending the Finch School in New York, she studied dance independently and eventually found her calling in the unique combination of social service and the arts....

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McCormick, Edith Rockefeller (31 August 1872–25 August 1932), philanthropist, socialite, and patron of the arts and psychiatry, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., an industrialist, and Laura Celestia Spelman. She spent her youth in Cleveland and New York City, where the family moved in 1880. In addition to attending the Rye Female Seminary, Edith received private tutoring and learned to play the cello. Unusually gifted and endowed with a strong scholarly inclination, she had mastered three foreign languages by the time she was ten years old....

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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Rockefeller, Abby Aldrich (26 October 1874–04 April 1948), philanthropist, was born Abby Greene Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich and Abby Pearce Chapman. After establishing himself in the mercantile life of Rhode Island, her father was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1881 he took his seat in the U.S. Senate, where he became a powerful chair of the Finance Committee. His political skills and his passion for art were his legacy to Abby....

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Catherine Filene Shouse. Plaster, 1974, by Elaine Pear Cohen. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Joan D. Tolley.

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Shouse, Catherine Filene (09 June 1896–14 December 1994), philanthropist, patron of the arts, and advocate for careers for women, was born Catherine Filene in Boston, Massachusetts, the eldest daughter of A. Lincoln Filene and Thérèse Weil. As a child, she was known as Catherine; as an adult, she was always Kay. She grew up in a wealthy, progressive home where politicians, businessmen, musicians, and social reformers were frequent visitors. Her father, who never finished high school, engaged in civic, educational, and labor reforms while president of William Filene and Sons, the Boston retail store founded by her grandfather. Her mother, a talented amateur musician, supported the Boston Symphony Orchestra and founded a music settlement house....

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Stanford, Jane Eliza (25 August 1825–28 February 1905), philanthropist and collector, was born in Albany, New York, the daughter of Dyer Lathrop, a storekeeper and founder of the Albany Orphan Asylum, and Jane Anne Shields. Jane had some elementary schooling, followed by a year at the Albany Female Academy (established in 1814) when she was fifteen. In 1850 Jane married ...

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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....

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Wolfe, Catharine Lorillard (08 March 1828–04 April 1887), philanthropist and art collector, was born in New York City, the daughter of John David Wolfe, a merchant and real-estate developer, and Dorothea Ann Lorillard. Wolfe experienced the stereotypical childhood of the very rich, including private tutors, fashionable parties, and family tours in Europe. Her interests appear to have included art, social life, fashion, foreign travel, and daily horseback riding in Central Park or near “Vinland,” her Newport estate. At the death of her mother in 1866 she inherited part of the Lorillard tobacco fortune and began to collaborate with her father in his philanthropic endeavors. She may also have begun speculating in real estate. After her father died in 1872 Wolfe possessed a fortune estimated at $12 million. It is difficult to determine how she invested or managed her money; as a refined woman, she shunned publicity, and contemporary observers only recorded her activities that were deemed appropriate for women. As seen by contemporaries, her main interests were the Episcopal church, social life, travel, philanthropy, and art collecting. One obituary declared, “Miss Wolfe was a most quiet and unassuming person and had no eccentricities of habit or character” ( ...

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Zimbalist, Mary Louise Curtis Bok (06 August 1876–04 January 1970), founder and president of the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, and philanthropist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Cyrus H. K. Curtis and Louisa Knapp. When she was an infant the family moved to Philadelphia, where her father became an eminently successful publisher of newspapers and periodicals. Her parents were gifted musical amateurs, and music became one of her principal subjects when she received her formal education at the Ogontz School for Young Ladies in Abington, Pennsylvania—a school to which she contributed generously in later years. Her studies in piano and music theory were ably supervised by her mother, with whom she began extensive travels to Europe at the age of thirteen. In 1893 she became engaged to ...