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Bromfield, Louis (27 December 1896–18 March 1956), novelist, experimental farmer, and newspaper columnist, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of Charles Bromfield, a banker and local Democratic office holder, and Annette Marie Coulter. His father was from an old New England family, and his mother was the daughter of a pioneer family of Richland County, Ohio; both ancestries would influence his later fiction. Bromfield attended Mansfield public schools, spending summers on his mother’s family’s farm. In 1914–1915 he studied agriculture at Cornell University and then briefly attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He then studied journalism at Columbia University until his enlistment in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service in June 1917. He served with Section 577, attached to the French army, from December 1917 to February 1919. He participated in seven major battles during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was discharged in June 1919 while still in France....

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Davis, Clyde Brion (22 May 1894–19 July 1962), journalist and novelist, was born in Unadilla, Nebraska, the son of Charles N. Davis and Isabel Brion, shopkeepers. When Clyde was one year old the family moved to Chillicothe, Missouri, where Clyde’s father operated a saw mill. Clyde attended high school in Kansas City, excelling in gymnastics and drawing. He dropped out of school at fourteen and worked for a time as a printer’s apprentice, attending the Kansas City Art Institute at night. Eventually he got a job in the art department of the ...

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Fern, Fanny (09 July 1811–10 October 1872), newspaper columnist and novelist, was born Sarah Payson Willis in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Hannah Parker and Nathaniel Willis, a printer and founder of the first periodical for children.

Although the beautiful and high-spirited Fern rebelled against her father’s grim Calvinistic creed, she was passionately attached to her mother, who she believed had imbued her with talent. At a time when colleges were not open to women, Fern received as close to a college education as was available from the Hartford Female Seminary. In May 1837 Fern married Charles Harrington Eldredge, a cashier at the Merchant’s Bank of Boston. They had three children....

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Lane, Rose Wilder (05 December 1886–30 October 1968), a popular magazine writer, novelist, children's author, and noted libertarian thinker, was born near De Smet in the Dakota Territory (later South Dakota), the only surviving child of the homesteaders Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder. During Rose's early childhood the family struggled to make a living as pioneers, traveling in a covered wagon throughout the Midwest before finally settling in Mansfield, Missouri, when Rose was eight. Rose's childhood was marked by poverty and the uncertainty of frontier life. She was ostracized by classmates for her shabby clothes and her worn shoes, and she worried constantly about burdening her parents. Among her most charged and symbolic early memories was a house fire that destroyed the family's home and possessions. Young Rose had started the fire to assist her ailing mother on her sickbed, and she would blame herself for the tragedy well into adulthood. Despite these difficulties Lane would later valorize the pioneer experience as a source of fundamental American values—including hard work, stoicism, and mutual aid—that were threatened by the modern welfare state....

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McKay, Claude (15 September 1890–22 May 1948), poet, novelist, and journalist, was born Festus Claudius McKay in Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, the son of Thomas Francis McKay and Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards, farmers. The youngest of eleven children, McKay was sent at an early age to live with his oldest brother, a schoolteacher, so that he could be given the best education available. An avid reader, McKay began to write poetry at the age of ten. In 1906 he decided to enter a trade school, but when the school was destroyed by an earthquake he became apprenticed to a carriage and cabinetmaker; a brief period in the constabulary followed. In 1907 McKay came to the attention of Walter Jekyll, an English gentleman residing in Jamaica who became his mentor, encouraging him to write dialect verse. Jekyll later set some of McKay’s verse to music. By the time he immigrated to the United States in 1912, McKay had established himself as a poet, publishing two volumes of dialect verse, ...

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Phillips, David Graham (31 October 1867–24 January 1911), journalist and novelist, was born in Madison, Indiana, the son of David Graham Phillips, Sr., a bank cashier and local politician, and Margaret Lee. Raised in a prosperous family, Phillips spent his childhood in an atmosphere of middle-class comfort. With the aid of tutors and his father’s extensive private library, he was able to graduate from Madison High School in 1882. Shortly before his fifteenth birthday he entered Asbury College (now DePauw University, in Greencastle, Ind.) as the youngest member of the freshman class. Phillips began a lifelong friendship at Asbury with his classmate ...

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Rinehart, Mary Roberts (12 August 1876–22 September 1958), novelist, playwright, and journalist, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Beveridge Roberts, a sewing machine salesman, and Cornelia Gilleland. After high school, disappointed in her desire to study medicine, she entered the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses. At this time, her father’s business career, already marginal, slipped further until, in 1895, he committed suicide. The next year, she married Dr. Stanley Rinehart, a surgeon, and between 1897 and 1902 gave birth to three sons....

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Swados, Harvey (28 October 1920–11 December 1972), radical novelist and journalist, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Aaron Swados, a doctor, and Rebecca Bluestone, the daughter of a pioneer Zionist. Music and literature were highly valued in this Russian-Jewish family home, where Swados himself played flute and piano. While in high school he was influenced by his sister, Felice, later a novelist as well, to join the Young Communist League. In 1940, when he was a senior at the University of Michigan (from which he graduated with a B.A. degree), Swados converted to Trotskyism and subsequently joined Max Shachtman’s Workers party. Also in this period he won Michigan’s distinguished Hopwood Award for creative writing and published a story, “The Amateurs,” in ...