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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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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Allen, Henry Justin (11 September 1869–17 January 1950), politician and newspaper editor, was born in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania, the son of John Allen, a farmer, and Rebecca Goodwin. In 1870 the Allens settled on a farm in Clay County, Kansas, which they lost in 1879. The family relocated in Osage County, Kansas, where Allen graduated from Burlingame High School. Working as a barber to attend Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, he excelled at forensics, which led to his first newspaper job and forecast his later stature as one of America’s most popular public speakers. While at Baker, he met Elsie Jane Nuzman, and they were married in 1892. Only one of their four children survived to adulthood....

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Alvarez, Walter Clement (22 July 1884–16 June 1978), physician, medical researcher, and medical columnist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Luis Fernandez Alvarez, a physician, and Clementina Schuetze. When Alvarez was three, his family moved to Hawaii, where his father was a government physician in two isolated Oahu villages. Alvarez was eleven when his father established a Honolulu hospital for lepers and attempted to develop a serum to combat the disease. While assisting his father, Alvarez resolved to become a physician....

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Anderson, Margaret (24 November 1886–19 October 1973), editor and author, was born Margaret Carolyn Anderson in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of Arthur Aubrey Anderson and Jessie Shortridge. Anderson’s father was a railway executive who provided a comfortable middle-class existence for his wife and three daughters. Anderson, whose chief interest as a young woman was music and literature, was soon regarded as the rebel of the family. After three years at Western College for Women in Ohio, she dropped out and made her way to Chicago, hoping to find work as a writer. After various stints as a bookstore clerk, print assistant, and part-time critic, Anderson decided to start her own literary journal. With little money but a great deal of enthusiasm and support from friends, Anderson founded the avant-garde ...

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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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Barrett, John (28 November 1866–17 October 1938), commercial publicist and diplomat, was born in Grafton, Vermont, the son of Charles Barrett and Caroline Sanford. His father, reportedly shy and withdrawn, served for a time as a town official and a Republican state legislator but devoted most of his life to artistic pursuits. His mother, who was more outgoing, had a lively regard for politics, law, journalism, theology, and economics, and Barrett’s letters to her suggest she strongly influenced him....

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Bates, Daisy (11 November 1914–04 November 1999), civil rights activist, newspaper founder and publisher, was born Daisy Lee Gatson in Huttig, Arkansas. Her biological father and mother, reputedly John Gatson and Millie Riley, remain shrouded in mystery, and scholars have been unable to find evidence confirming her parentage. (Thus, her reported birth date varies: the one given here is widely acknowledged.) Bates grew up hearing that several white men had raped and murdered her mother and thrown the body in a pond. Leaving his infant daughter in the care of friends Orlee and Susie Smith, who became her foster parents, her father abandoned her, never to return. This was Bates's baptism into the poverty, insecurity, and racial violence that segregation fostered....

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Baum, L. Frank (15 May 1856–06 May 1919), children's author, journalist, and playwright, children’s author, journalist, and playwright, was born Lyman Frank Baum in Chittenango, New York, the son of Benjamin Ward Baum, a cooper and sawyer who had made a fortune in Pennsylvania oil, and Cynthia Stanton. He grew up on the family estate, “Roselawn,” outside Syracuse, New York. Suffering from a congenitally weak heart, he was educated at home. A stay at Peekskill Military Academy beginning in 1868—which gave Baum a lifelong antipathy to academics and the military—ended less than two years later in his having a heart attack. Back home, he published a family newspaper and periodicals on stamp collecting and the breeding of fancy chickens. In 1881 he studied theater in New York City and joined a repertory company, then managed an opera house in Richburg, New York, from 1881 to 1882, and, with his father’s financing, toured successfully with ...

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Bennett, James Gordon (01 September 1795–01 June 1872), newspaper editor, was born in Keith, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of a Roman Catholic farmer. After attending public school, Bennett at age fifteen entered the Catholic seminary at Aberdeen to train for the priesthood. He left the seminary after four years and spent the next five years reading and traveling, supported by an indulgent family, until 1819, when he impulsively decided to emigrate to the United States....

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Bierce, Ambrose Gwinnett (24 June 1842–1914?), author and journalist, was born in the Horse Cave settlement in Meigs County, Ohio, the son of Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood, farmers. The family was poor and moved several times, eventually settling in Elkhart, Indiana. His parents were strongly evangelical Protestant, but Bierce early resented his religious indoctrination and moved toward agnosticism. He briefly attended the Kentucky Military Institute in 1859. He enlisted at once in the Union army when the Civil War began in 1861 and was soon appointed a sergeant. He was later commissioned a second lieutenant and had risen to first lieutenant when invalided out of the army because of wounds in January 1865. He was brevetted major by President ...

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Blair, Eliza Violet Gist (1794–05 July 1877), newspaperwoman and political hostess, was born in either Virginia or in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the daughter of Nathaniel Gist, an Indian agent and planter, and Judith Cary Bell. Eliza’s father died in 1797, and a decade later her mother married ...

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Blair, Francis Preston (12 April 1791–18 October 1876), newspaper editor and presidential adviser, was born in Abingdon, Virginia, the son of James Blair, a lawyer and, later, attorney general of Kentucky, and Elizabeth Smith; he was usually called Preston. Reared in Frankfort, Kentucky, Blair graduated with honors from Transylvania University in 1811. In 1812 he married Eliza Violet Gist ( ...

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Bly, Nellie (05 May 1864–27 January 1922), reporter and manufacturer, was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Michael Cochran, a mill owner and associate justice of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Kennedy Cummings. Judge Cochran, the father of fifteen children by two wives, died suddenly without a will in 1870, leaving Mary Jane with little money. Mary Jane’s abusive third marriage to John Jackson Ford ended in divorce in 1878, and “Pink,” as Elizabeth Jane was known, at age fifteen, went off to Indiana (Pa.) Normal School, adding a final ...

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...

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Bourke-White, Margaret (14 June 1904–27 August 1971), pioneer photojournalist and industrial photographer, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Edward White, an amateur photographer and an engineer and inventor for a printing press manufacturer, and Minnie Bourke, a teacher. Originally using the name Margaret White, she added her mother’s maiden name in 1927....

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Bowles, Samuel (09 February 1826–16 January 1878), newspaper editor, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Bowles, the founder of the Springfield Republican in 1824, and Huldah Deming. The boy’s formal education was modest. He attended the local schools in Springfield, making satisfactory progress in his studies. He was a diligent student, a trifle slow in absorbing material, but he usually retained most of what he learned. He enjoyed school and had a strong desire for a college education. His headmaster offered encouragement, but Bowles’s hopes were dashed by his father, who thought college was unnecessary. College would also have been a financial hardship on the family. Throughout his adult life, in the pages of his newspaper, Bowles rationalized his lack of higher education by denigrating its value in the making of a newspaper editor....

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Bradlee, Benjamin Crowninshield (Ben) (26 Aug. 1921–21 Oct. 2014), newspaper editor and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Frederick Bradlee, Jr., an investment banker, and Josephine de Gersdorff Bradlee, both of whom came from wealthy and established backgrounds. Ben, as he was always known, grew up with two siblings in a comfortable home in the upper-class Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. He was educated privately, first at the Dexter School and then at St. Mark’s boarding school, where he played baseball. His upbringing included French and music lessons and frequent exposure to Boston’s cultural offerings. The family’s financial status changed dramatically, however, when they lost most of their investments following the collapse of the stock market in ...

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Brinkley, David (10 July 1920–11 June 2003), broadcast journalist, was born David McClure Brinkley in Wilmington, North Carolina, the son of William Graham Brinkley, a railroad worker, and Mary MacDonald West. Brinkley's father died when the boy was eight, leaving him in the care of a dour, deeply religious mother. Brinkley, seeking escape through reading, spent hours at the Wilmington Public Library. He also enjoyed writing. Encouraged by his high school English teacher, Brinkley worked part‐time at Wilmington's afternoon newspaper, the ...