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Beach, Sylvia Woodbridge (14 March 1887–06 October 1962), bookstore owner and publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the second of three daughters of Sylvester Woodbridge Beach, a Presbyterian minister, and Eleanor Orbison, an artist. Disinclined toward both religion and formal education, she often pleaded illness and eventually fled the Presbyterian parsonage of Princeton, New Jersey, for Europe. Beach spent 1907–1908 and 1911–1912 in Florence, 1914–1916 in Spain, and in midsummer of 1916 settled in Paris, where her father had served as associate pastor at the American Church from 1902 to 1905. Paris would remain her home until her death there forty-six years later....

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Carnegie, Hattie (15 March 1886–22 February 1956), fashion designer and merchandiser, was born Henrietta Könengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Isaac Könengeiser and Hannah Kraenzer. The family emigrated to the United States, settling on New York’s Lower East Side in 1892. Hattie’s first job was as a messenger at R. H. Macy’s, where she encountered the heady new world of modern retailing and the lifestyle of affluent New York. That experience may have inspired her to assume the name Carnegie; ...

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Hattie Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92431).

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Clark, Catherine Taft (31 December 1906–02 May 1986), business executive, was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin, the daughter of Warren G. Taft, a machinist, and Louise West. Taft attended public schools in Whitewater, but as her father died when she was a child, she was unable to attend college. Instead, at nineteen she took a job as secretary to the local college president, where she claimed to learn as much as a formally enrolled student. From there, Milwaukee was her next stop; she worked at Schuster’s, a major department store, where she gained experience in retailing and marketing....

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Knox, Rose Markward (18 November 1857–27 September 1950), food manufacturer, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the daughter of David Markward, a druggist, and Amanda Foreman, and christened Helen Rosetta. She attended public schools in Mansfield and in her early twenties moved with her parents to Gloversville, New York. There she took a job sewing gloves, a job that introduced her to a glove salesman, Charles Briggs Knox, whom she married in February 1883; they had three children. He continued in sales, switching to knit goods, while the family lived in New York City and Newark, New Jersey....

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Anne Moody, 1970s, by Werner Bethsold

© Werner Bethsold/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

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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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Rudkin, Margaret Fogarty (14 September 1897–01 June 1967), bakery executive, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Fogarty, a trucker, and Margaret Healey. She attended public schools, and on graduating from high school, she was hired as a bookkeeper at a bank in Flushing, Queens. She left the bank after four years to join the brokerage firm of McClure, Jones & Company in New York City as a “customer’s woman” (account service representative), a position she held for four years. In 1923 she married Henry Albert Rudkin, one of the partners in the firm. The couple continued to live in New York City until 1929, when, with the money Henry Rudkin had made on Wall Street, they built a mansion on a 125-acre estate in Fairfield County, Connecticut, that they named “Pepperidge Farm.”...

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Shaver, Dorothy (29 July 1893–28 June 1959), retail executive, was born in Center Point, Arkansas, to James Shaver, a lawyer, and Sallie Borden. In 1898 the family moved to Mena, Arkansas, where James Shaver became a civic leader; he was later elected chancery judge of the Sixth Judicial District. Dorothy Shaver was an outgoing and popular child who seemed to have unlimited zest for a broad spectrum of activities, from singing in the local Episcopal church choir to joining neighborhood boys for pickup baseball games. She graduated in 1910 from Mena High School, where she was elected class salutatorian. Shortly afterward her parents intercepted her attempt to elope with a local boyfriend, and that fall she enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville....

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Timothy, Elizabeth (?–1757), newspaper publisher, printer, and bookseller, was born in Holland. Details of her parentage and early life remain unknown. She arrived in Philadelphia with her French Hugenot husband, Louis ( Lewis Timothy), in September 1731 and later followed him to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1734. In Charleston Louis anglicized their French name from Timothée to Timothy and changed the spelling of his given name to Lewis. ...

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Vestey, Evelyn (01 August 1875–23 May 1941), business executive, known as Lady Vestey, was born Evelene Brodstone in Monroe, Wisconsin, the daughter of Hans Brodstone and Mathilde Brodstone (maiden name unknown), Norwegian immigrants. In 1878, the family moved to a farm near Superior, Nebraska. The following year her father died. As a youngster, one of her closest friends was ...

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Esther Jane Williams. Full-length portrait, seated, wearing a bathing suit, 1945. Photographic print. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-137503).

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Williams, Esther Jane (08 August 1921–06 June 2013), movie star, swimming champion, and swimwear executive, was born in a small bungalow in Inglewood, a southwest suburb of Los Angeles, the fifth child born to Bula Myrtle Gilpin, a teacher, and Louis Stanton Williams, a sign painter. The family had followed her brother Stanton to Hollywood from Utah, and he appeared as a child star in silent pictures. Esther's mother took no interest in her, and she was raised by older sister Maurine, who taught her to swim. When Esther was eight years old, Stanton died from a burst colon. She hoped to replace his achievements with her own. At age eleven, Esther won a fifty-meter freestyle race at the Olympic Swim Stadium in Los Angeles. When she was sixteen she began swimming for the Los Angeles Athletic Club. During her teens she was repeatedly raped by an orphaned boy her parents had taken into their house. The water became her sanctuary....