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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Heco, Joseph (1837–1897), government interpreter, merchant, and publisher, was born Hamada Hikozō in the village of Komiya, near Kobe, Japan, on the eastern shore of the Inland Sea, the second son of a well-to-do farmer. After his father’s death his mother remarried, to a sea captain who adopted him. While on what should have been a brief internal voyage in late 1850, his ship was blown into the Pacific. He and sixteen other persons, after drifting for fifty-two days, were picked up by a U.S. ship that landed at San Francisco in February 1851. The American authorities, planning for Commodore ...

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Holt, Hamilton Bowen (19 August 1872–26 April 1951), editor, reformer, and college president, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of George Chandler Holt, an attorney and judge, and Mary Louisa Bowen. Holt grew up in Spuyten Duyvil, New York, attending several private schools and graduating from Columbia Grammar School in 1890. After receiving his A.B. from Yale in 1894, he studied sociology and economics for three years at Columbia University. In 1899 he married Alexina Crawford Smith; they had four children. In his prime Holt was a large, broad-shouldered man who possessed a warm personality and great energy....

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Johnson, Alvin Saunders (18 December 1874–07 June 1971), economist, educator, and journalist, was born near Homer, Dakota County, Nebraska, the son of John Johnson and Edel Maria Katrina Bille, farmers. Johnson’s father emigrated from Denmark to the United States in 1849 with the name Jens Jensen Deyrup; the immigration officer gave him the name John Johnson. Johnson’s mother emigrated from Denmark in 1867. By the time she arrived in Nebraska, John had fought in the Civil War and outlived two other wives, who had left him with five children. Johnson’s parents subsequently had three more children....

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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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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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Lattimore, Owen (29 July 1900–31 May 1989), columnist and Asia expert, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of David Lattimore, a professor of modern languages, and Margaret Barnes. In 1901 the family moved to Shanghai, where Lattimore’s father taught in Chinese government schools. In 1912 Lattimore’s mother took the children to study in Switzerland. When World War I broke out, Lattimore went to school in England for five years but failed to win a scholarship to Oxford....

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Lovett, Robert Morss (25 December 1870–08 February 1956), educator, writer, and reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Augustus Sidney Lovett, an insurance broker, and Elizabeth Russell. Lovett grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston and then went to Harvard, where he graduated at the head of his class with an A.B. in English in 1892....

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Nevins, Allan (20 May 1890–05 March 1971), journalist and historian, was born Joseph Allan Nevins on a farm near Camp Point, Illinois, the son of Joseph Allan Nevins, a farmer, and Emma Stahl, a former schoolteacher. Although he attended the local country school, Nevins received his most meaningful education at home from his parents. A sober-minded Calvinist, whose extensive personal library of 500 volumes lacked novels and poetry, Nevins’s father required his children to spend their spare hours performing farm chores. At the age of eighteen, Nevins escaped farm drudgery by enrolling at the University of Illinois, where, studying the works that had been denied him as a child, he majored in English literature. His ceaseless industry was a matter of concern for his mentor, Professor ...

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Pollock, Channing (04 March 1880–17 August 1946), playwright, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Alexander Lyon Pollock, an employee of the U.S. Weather Bureau, and Verona Larkin. Pollock’s early schooling took place in Omaha and Salt Lake City, where his father worked as a newspaper editor and publisher. He also went to the Untergymnasium in Prague, while visiting his father’s relatives, the elder Pollock having emigrated in the 1870s from Austria. He had tutors in San Salvador, where his father served as U.S. consul, dying of yellow fever. Enrolled in Bethel Military Academy, Warrenton, Virginia, he grew impatient to work as a writer. Already at school at eight, he had written and acted in ...

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Scott, Emmett Jay (13 February 1873–12 December 1957), educator and publicist, was born in Houston, Texas, the son of Horace Lacy Scott, a civil servant, and Emma Kyle. Scott attended Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, for three years but left college in 1890 for a career in journalism. Starting as a janitor and messenger for a white daily newspaper, the ...

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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Tarbell, Ida M. (05 November 1857–06 January 1944), investigative journalist and historian, was born Ida Minerva Tarbell in a log cabin on her maternal grandparents’ farm at Hatch Hollow, Erie County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Franklin Sumner Tarbell, a farmer, carpenter, river pilot, and teacher, and Esther Ann McCullough, a former schoolteacher. In 1860 Franklin Tarbell, who constructed wooden tanks to hold oil, moved with his family to Cherry Run for work in an encampment (later called Rouseville) in the oil fields around Titusville, Pennsylvania....

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Whyte, William H. (01 October 1917–12 January 1999), author and editor, was born William Hollingsworth Whyte, Jr., in West Chester, Pennsylvania, one of two sons of William Hollingsworth Whyte, a railroad man, and Louise Toth Whyte. He went to St. Andrews School in Middletown, Delaware, where he edited the school paper, before he enrolled in the college at Princeton University, where he won a playwriting contest and majored in English, receiving an A.B. cum laude in 1939....