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Andrews, Stephen Pearl (22 March 1812–21 May 1886), eccentric philosopher and reformer, was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, the son of Elisha Andrews, a Baptist clergyman, and Wealthy Ann Lathrop. He attended the village school and, after the family moved to Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in 1816, was taught at home by his father. In 1828 and 1829 he studied in the classical department of Amherst Academy, where he was influenced by Professor ...

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Astor, Brooke (30 March 1902–13 August 2007), philanthropist and socialite, was born Roberta Brooke Russell in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the only child of John Henry Russell, Jr., a major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Mabel Cecile Hornby Howard. Her father, who ultimately became commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, rose in professional responsibility while serving in several important assignments after his daughter’s birth, beginning with his command of the battleship USS ...

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Barnett, Jackson (01 January 1856?–29 May 1934), wealthy American Indian, was born in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory, the son of Siah Barnett, an African-Creek farmer, and Thlesothle, a Creek woman. During his childhood the Civil War violently split the Creek people, and the countryside was ravaged. Siah Barnett fled to Kansas with the Loyal Creeks. Thlesothle died in a refugee camp near Fort Gibson as the war ended. Given into the care of maternal relatives, the orphaned Jackson spent much of his youth and early adulthood transporting people and goods across the Arkansas River at John Leecher's ferry above Muskogee. While working as a ranch hand, Barnett fell from a horse and sustained a head injury. In the 1880s or early 1890s, Barnett relocated westward to the central Creek Nation, where he built a small cabin and established himself in a network of paternal kin. A shy man with a beaming smile, Barnett formed no romantic relationships with women. He spoke both English and Creek, but he had no schooling and led an obscure life as an unskilled laborer....

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Brooke, Abraham (1806–08 March 1867), physician and radical reformer, was born at Sandy Spring, Maryland, the son of Samuel Brooke and Sarah Garrigues, farmers. The Brooke family had been leading Quakers in Maryland for several generations, and Abraham attended Quaker schools at Sandy Spring before entering medical college in Baltimore. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Lukens, a fellow Quaker from Sandy Spring; they had three children. When the Hicksite-Orthodox schism took place among Quakers, the Brookes, like most Maryland Friends, sided with the Hicksite group....

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Caldwell, Mary Gwendolin Byrd (21 October 1863–05 October 1909), philanthropist and socialite, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of William Shakespeare Caldwell, a plant operator, and Mary Eliza Breckenridge. Soon after the death of Caldwell’s mother, her father, who had made a fortune constructing and operating gas plants in the Midwest, moved the family to New York City where, shortly before his death in 1874, he converted to Roman Catholicism and enrolled his two daughters in the Academy of the Sacred Heart, their primary source of education. Under the terms of his will, Caldwell and her sister, Mary Elizabeth, were made wards of Catholic friends and, on their twenty-first birthdays, were to donate a third of their vast inheritance to the Catholic church....

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Duke, Doris (22 November 1912–28 October 1993), heiress and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, a tobacco and real estate tycoon and philanthropist, and his second wife, Nanaline Lee Holt Inman, a widow. Buck Duke, the founder and president of the American Tobacco Company, the maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, spoiled and protected Doris (his fear of kidnapping and germ infection led him to build her a private Pullman car, the ...

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Fields, Annie Adams (06 June 1834–05 January 1915), literary hostess, author, and social reformer, was born Ann West Adams in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Zabdiel Boylston Adams and Sarah May Holland, both descended from prominent early Massachusetts settlers. Her father was a Boston physician who also taught at Harvard Medical School and served on the Boston school board. Annie’s childhood pleasures included easy access to books and Sunday visits to such distinguished relatives as the Adamses of Braintree. At ...

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McCormick, Edith Rockefeller (31 August 1872–25 August 1932), philanthropist, socialite, and patron of the arts and psychiatry, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., an industrialist, and Laura Celestia Spelman. She spent her youth in Cleveland and New York City, where the family moved in 1880. In addition to attending the Rye Female Seminary, Edith received private tutoring and learned to play the cello. Unusually gifted and endowed with a strong scholarly inclination, she had mastered three foreign languages by the time she was ten years old....

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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Marge Schott owner of the Cincinnati Reds, does the wave during a game at Riverfront Stadium 1 September 1995. Photograph by Tom Uhlman. Associated Press

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Schott, Marge (18 August 1928–02 March 2004), baseball team owner, philanthropist, and eccentric, was born Margaret Unnewehr in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second child of five daughters born to Edward and Charlotte Unnewehr. The family business, the Cincinnati Veneer Company, provided the means for the Unnewehrs to live in Clifton, an upper-middle-class section of the city. Something of a tomboy, Margaret (called Marge) was enrolled in the private Sacred Heart Academy where she spent much of her energy playing sports, especially field hockey. Marge attended the University of Cincinnati for three years but left school to work for her father's business. In 1952 she married Charles Schott, a member of one of Cincinnati's wealthiest families. Together they purchased an estate in the upscale Indian Hill community where Marge would live for the rest of her life. The couple had no children....