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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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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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La Farge, Oliver Hazard Perry (19 December 1901–02 August 1963), anthropologist, author, and advocate of American Indian reform and welfare, was born in New York City, the son of Christopher Grant La Farge, an architect, and Florence Bayard Lockwood. A descendant and namesake of ...

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Leech, Margaret Kernochan (07 November 1893–24 February 1974), historian and novelist, was born in Newburgh, New York, the daughter of William Kernochan Leech, a milkman, and Rebecca Taggert (or Taggart). Leech grew up in the adult world of Newburgh’s Palatine Hotel, where, she later recalled, “we were rather nice hotel children” (Nichols, p. 8). After graduating from nearby Vassar College in 1915, Leech went to New York City, where she answered the complaints of subscribers to ...

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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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Sandoz, Mari (11 May 1896–10 March 1966), novelist and historian, was born in Sheridan County, Nebraska, the daughter of Jules Ami Sandoz and Mary Elizabeth Fehr, Swiss immigrant homesteaders. Sandoz grew up in an impoverished household, ruled by her violent-tempered father. The family led a painful existence, but Mari later realized that growing up in that place and time gave her poignant writing material. Living near an old Indian and trapper crossing on the Niobrara River, not far from two Indian reservations, she learned the area’s history and also the art of storytelling from the old friends of her father who stopped to exchange tales of their experiences with him. She also learned of the recent disappearance of the Indians’ way of life as settlers established their own civilization in the region....

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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....