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Atherton, Gertrude Franklin (30 October 1857–14 June 1948), author, biographer, and historian, was born Gertrude Franklin Horn in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Thomas Horn, a businessman, and Gertrude Franklin. Her maternal grandfather, a grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, was a banker and editor of one of San Francisco’s first newspapers. Gertrude lived with him when her parents were divorced after three years of marriage. Although she was well read, her formal education was sporadic—while she was attending the Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, she contracted tuberculosis. After twice becoming engaged, she eventually eloped in 1876 with George H. Bowen Atherton, a former suitor of her mother’s. They had a daughter and a son who died at the age of six....

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Baker, Ray Stannard (17 April 1870–12 July 1946), journalist and author, was born in Lansing, Michigan, the son of Joseph Stannard Baker and Alice Potter. A descendant of pioneering stock, he grew up in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where his family moved in 1875 and his father worked as a land agent. Baker later boasted that he had been brought up on the “last frontier.” His mother died in 1883, but his father, a Civil War veteran, strongly impressed Baker with his rugged character, integrity, and common sense. He attended the local schools, discovered the world of books in his parents’ library, and in 1885 enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing. In college Baker discovered a special liking for science courses and also edited the school newspaper. After receiving the B.S. degree in 1889, he returned home to work in his father’s land office. In January 1892 Baker entered law school at the University of Michigan but dropped out after a few months. Meanwhile, he became interested in journalism, partly as the result of a seminar at the university. In the summer of 1892 he found a job with the Chicago ...

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Barrus, Clara (08 August 1864–04 April 1931), physician and author, was born in Port Byron, New York, the daughter of John William Barrus, a traveling salesman, and Sarah Randall, a schoolteacher. She began her education at the Port Byron Academy, where three years before her graduation she decided to become a physician. She felt women physicians were scarce and were needed to “treat modest girls who refused treatment from a man” ( ...

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Bate, Walter Jackson (23 May 1918–26 July 1999), biographer and literary critic, was born in Mankato, Minnesota, the son of William G. Bate, a high school principal, and his wife, Isabel Melick Bate. The second of five children, he experienced two major crises while growing up in Mankato: at the age of four he was hit by a car and suffered permanent damage to his nervous system; and with the advent of the Great Depression seven years later his father's salary was cut in half, creating financial hardship for the family. To make matters worse, the elder Bate, a staunch Republican, was fired from his job altogether following the Democratic sweep in the elections of 1932. Despite the family's limited means, Walter's father urged his sons to get the best education possible, which to him meant attending an Ivy League college. Walter chose Harvard because of its proximity to Boston, where he could find work, and he enrolled there in the fall of 1935 with the intention of studying English literature....

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Bowen, Catherine Drinker (01 January 1897–01 November 1973), biographer and novelist, was born Catherine Shober Drinker in Haverford, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Henry Sturgis Drinker, an attorney, and Aimee Ernesta Beaux, a musician. After her father became president of Lehigh University in 1905, the family moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In between travels to such places as the Panama and Suez canals, she attended the Moravian Seminary, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. From 1914 to 1916 she studied at St. Timothy’s boarding school in Catonsville, Maryland, where she cultivated a taste for music and started to play the violin. Although accepted at Bryn Mawr College, she studied instead at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland (1915–1917), where she further cultivated the violin. Subsequently, she studied at the Juilliard School in New York City when it was still known as the Institute of Musical Arts....

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Buck, Pearl S. (26 June 1892–06 March 1973), author and humanitarian, was born Pearl Sydenstricker in Hillsboro, West Virginia, the daughter of Absalom Sydenstricker and Caroline Stulting, missionaries who were on furlough from their Presbyterian missionary activities in China when Pearl, their first daughter, was born in the United States. Three months later the infant was taken to China when her parents returned to their duties. Educated by her mother at home and then by a Chinese tutor, Buck later attributed much of her knowledge to the influence of her Chinese amah who, together with Chinese playmates, gave her many insights into her exotic surroundings and developed imaginative outlets. Indeed Buck claimed that in her early years she was more fluent in Chinese than in English. She received additional training at a mission school and in 1909 was sent to board for a year at Miss Jewell’s School in Shanghai. Her parents insisted that she attend college in the United States, so in 1910 she enrolled in Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she won several academic honors and graduated four years later with a bachelor of arts degree. She received a teaching assistantship at Randolph-Macon, but upon learning that her mother was seriously ill she returned to China to care for her....

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Bucke, Richard Maurice (18 March 1837–19 February 1902), psychiatrist and biographer, was born in Methwold, County of Norfolk, England, the son of Reverend Horatio Walpole Bucke, a Church of England curate and a direct descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, the renowned prime minister of England. (His mother’s name has been recorded as Clarissa Andrews, but that cannot be confirmed.) Within a year of his birth, Bucke’s parents emigrated to Upper Canada, settling on a farm near London, Ontario. His father, a classical scholar and linguist, brought to Canada a library of five or six thousand books in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Bucke and his six siblings received their schooling at home....

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Darlington, William (28 April 1782–23 April 1863), physician, botanist, and author, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Edward Darlington, a farmer who also found time to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature, and Hannah Townsend. Wanting to escape the drudgery of farm work that had restricted his schooling to a few winter months each year, at age eighteen Darlington persuaded his father to pay the necessary fees for his apprenticeship to study medicine with John Vaughan in Wilmington, Delaware. In return, his father required that he give up his inheritance of a share of the family farm....

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De Casseres, Benjamin (1873–06 December 1945), author and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of David De Casseres, a printer, and Charlotte Davis. On his father’s side he was a collateral descendant of Spinoza. De Casseres left high school at thirteen and went to work as a four-dollar-a-week office boy for ...

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Edel, Leon (09 September 1907–05 September 1997), biographer, theorist of biographical literature, and literary historian, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Simon Edel and Fannie Malamud Edel. His family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada when he was about two years old and he remained in Canada for his college education, receiving his B.A. in 1927 from McGill University in Montreal, and continued there for the start of his graduate studies, obtaining an M.A. in 1928 with honors, having written a thesis on the writer ...

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Graham, Shirley (11 November 1896–27 March 1977), musical composer and director, author, and political activist, also known as Shirley Graham Du Bois, was born Lola Bell Graham in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of the Reverend David A. Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Etta Bell. She accompanied them when her father held pastorates in New Orleans, Colorado Springs, and Spokane. He delighted her with stories about important blacks in American history. In his churches, she learned to play the piano and the pipe organ and to conduct choirs. In 1914 she graduated from high school in Spokane, took business school courses, and worked in government offices in Spokane and Seattle. After she married Shadrach T. McCanns in 1921, she gave private music lessons and played the organ in white movie theaters, hidden backstage. She had two sons, Robert and David, and was either widowed in 1924 or obtained a divorce in 1929. (In many respects, biographical data concerning Graham are in dispute.)...

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Irving, Washington (03 April 1783–28 November 1859), author, was born in New York City, the son of William Irving, a Scottish merchant, and his English wife, Sarah Sanders, who had emigrated to America in 1763. A middle-class family of very modest means, the Irvings gradually prospered in the economic expansion that followed the American Revolution. In time the father’s business, heavily dependent on imports from England and France, became the family business, in which his five sons were involved in varying degrees at various times. Irving was the youngest child, and his mother and three sisters lavished affection and attention on him in his early years. The father, however, a Presbyterian deacon and elder, dominated the family until his death in 1807, imposing on the household a strict religious discipline, which his youngest son strongly resisted. Although Irving was interested in literature from an early age, authorship in the United States was generally seen as at best an avocation. Thus in 1799 he began an apprenticeship with a lawyer, partly as an escape from the family business. But literary pursuits, a troublesome lung condition, and social distractions delayed his qualifying for the bar for several years....

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Josephson, Matthew (15 February 1899–13 March 1978), writer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Julius Josephson, a banker, and Sarah Kasindorf. A child of Jewish immigrants from Romania and Russia, Josephson graduated from Columbia University in 1920. That same year he married Hannah Geffen, a nineteen-year-old reporter for the ...

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Kelly, Howard Atwood (20 February 1858–12 January 1943), surgeon, gynecologist, and medical biographer, was born in Camden, New Jersey, the son of Henry Kuhl Kelly, a prosperous sugar broker, and Louise Warner Hard, the daughter of an Episcopal clergyman. During his youth, Kelly’s mother instilled in him a love of the Bible and the natural sciences. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, receiving the A.B. in 1877. Kelly originally intended to become a naturalist, but his father persuaded him to study medicine so that he would have a more secure income. In 1882 he received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He then served sixteen months as resident physician at the Episcopal Hospital in Kensington, a Philadelphia suburb with many poor. In 1883, upon completion of his internship, Kelly established a two-room “hospital,” which by 1887 evolved into the Kensington Hospital for Women and was supported by voluntary contributions. In 1888 Kelly performed the first caesarean section in Philadelphia in fifty years in which the mother survived. Among his colleagues this did much to enhance his reputation as a bold and skillful surgeon. During the year 1888–1889 he served as associate professor of obstetrics at the School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania....

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Kronenberger, Louis (09 December 1904–30 April 1980), writer and critic, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Louis Kronenberger, Sr., a merchant, and Mabel Newwitter. From 1921 to 1924 he attended the University of Cincinnati, but he left without completing a degree; instead, he moved to New York City to become a writer. He took a clerical job at the ...

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Tinky ‘‘Dakota’’ Weisblat

Marshall, Catherine (27 September 1914–18 March 1983), biographer and novelist, was born Sarah Catherine Wood in Johnson City, Tennessee, the daughter of John Ambrose Wood, a Presbyterian minister, and Leonora Whitaker. She grew up in the South in her father’s parsonages. The family never had much money; she later remembered her father’s buying groceries from week to week on credit. Nevertheless, she maintained, her parents instilled in her a sense of helping those with less money and of spiritual richness. Catherine Wood graduated from Agnes Scott College with a B.A. in history in 1936. She enjoyed writing during her college years and planned to write and teach after graduation. These plans were changed, however, by her marriage in the fall of 1936 to Peter Marshall, minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta....

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Skinner, Cornelia Otis (30 May 1901–09 July 1979), author and actress, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Otis Skinner, a matinee idol, and Maud Durbin, an actress. After Skinner’s mother retired from acting in 1906, the family moved to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where Otis Skinner resided when he was not performing. In 1920 Skinner left Bryn Mawr College during her sophomore year to study in Paris. She attended the Sorbonne and studied acting at the Comédie Francaise and the Jacques Copeau School. Returning to the United States, Skinner landed her first dramatic role in the stage adaptation of Blasco-Ibanez’s ...

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Stegner, Wallace Earle (18 February 1909–13 April 1993), author and educator, was born in Lake Mills, Iowa, the son of George Stegner, a drifting, gambling worker, and Hilda Paulson. The itinerant family lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota, then Redmond and Bellingham, Washington, then East End, Saskatchewan, Canada, and then Great Falls, Montana, before settling in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1921. After graduating from high school there, Stegner attended the University of Utah, where during his freshman year his contact with western writer-teacher ...

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Stein, Gertrude (03 February 1874–27 July 1946), author, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Daniel Stein, a businessman, and Amelia Keyser. Stein spent her early years in Europe, where her parents were traveling; the family returned to America in 1879, settling the following year in Oakland, California, where Stein spent the rest of her youth. Of Oakland she was later to remark, “There is no there there.” She countered the bland, suburban surroundings by reading voraciously: Shakespeare, Scott, Richardson, Fielding, Wordsworth....

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Tate, Allen (19 November 1899–09 February 1979), poet and critic, was born John Orley Allen Tate near Winchester, Kentucky, the son of John Orley Tate, a businessman, and Eleanor Parke Custis Varnell. During Tate’s childhood the business interests of his father—lumber, land sales, and stocks—forced the family to move as often as three times a year. As Tate later recalled, “we might as well have been living, and I been born, in a tavern at a crossroads.” By 1911 his father’s business ventures and his parents’ marriage had failed. The youngest of three boys by almost ten years, Tate found himself in “perpetual motion” with his mother, a native Virginian whose family seat in Fairfax County later became the “Pleasant Hill” of Tate’s only novel, ...