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Adams, Henry (16 February 1838–27 March 1918), historian, novelist, and critic, was born Henry Brooks Adams in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams, a diplomat, legislator, and writer, and Abigail Brooks. He enjoyed unparalleled advantages, chief among them his famous name and many family connections: he was the great-grandson of President ...

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Arthur, Timothy Shay (06 June 1809–06 March 1885), editor, temperance crusader, and novelist, was born in Orange County, New York, the son of William Arthur and Anna Shay, occupations unknown. He was named for his maternal grandfather, Timothy Shay, an officer in the revolutionary war. By his mid-twenties, Arthur had yet to identify a profession or receive an education. In the 1830s, however, he began an intense program of self-education as well as a writing career as a journalist in Baltimore, where he quickly became a well-known and articulate champion of numerous social causes including temperance, Swedenborgianism, feminism, and socialism. In 1836 he married Eliza Alden; they had seven children....

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Banning, Margaret Culkin (18 March 1891–04 January 1982), writer, was born in Buffalo, Minnesota, the daughter of William Edgar Culkin, a Duluth newspaper executive, and Hannah Alice Young. She attended Vassar College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated in 1912. Pursuing an interest in social work, she attended Russell Sage College on a fellowship in 1912–1913, then spent the following academic year at the Chicago School of Philanthropy, which awarded her a certificate in 1914 for completion of its program. That same year she married a Duluth lawyer, Archibald T. Banning, Jr. The couple, who were divorced in 1934, had four children, two of whom survived into adulthood....

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Bissell, Emily Perkins (31 May 1861–08 March 1948), volunteer social worker and author, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Champion Aristarcus Bissell, a lawyer and banker, and Josephine Wales. Her forebears settled in Connecticut where her father, a Yale graduate, was reared. Her maternal grandfather, John Wales, served as a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1849 to 1851. Bissell was educated in Wilmington and at Miss Charlier’s School in New York City....

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Blake, Lillie Devereux (12 August 1835–30 December 1913), author and feminist, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of George Pollok Devereux, a planter, and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson. Though she was christened Elizabeth Johnson, her father called her “Lilly,” and she adopted that name with altered spelling. The Devereux were prominent slaveholders, and Lillie spent her early years on her father’s cotton plantation. After George Devereux’s death in 1837, she moved with her mother and sister to Connecticut, joining her mother’s family there. She was raised in New Haven in an atmosphere of Episcopalian respectability and Whiggish political convictions. Her education at a girls’ school was supplemented by private tutoring based on courses in the Yale curriculum....

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Bonnin, Gertrude Simmons (22 February 1876–26 January 1938), author and activist, was born on the Yankton Sioux reservation in Dakota Territory, the daughter of Ellen Tate’lyohiwin Simmons. Bonnin’s father, about whom little is known other than that he was named Felker and was white, had left the family before Bonnin’s birth. Bonnin, who later became known as Zitkala-Sa or Red Bird, lived with her mother on the reservation until the age of eight, when she attended White’s Indiana Labor Institute, a boarding school for Native American children providing instruction in English and manual labor. These early experiences of indoctrination into European-American culture and the separation from her mother would inform Bonnin’s later writings and her commitment to Native American self-determination....

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Arna Bontemps Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100856).

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Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923....

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Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist ...

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Pearl Buck Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-6033-005-A-x ).

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Buck, Pearl S. (26 June 1892–06 March 1973), author and humanitarian, was born Pearl Sydenstricker in Hillsboro, West Virginia, the daughter of Absalom Sydenstricker and Caroline Stulting, missionaries who were on furlough from their Presbyterian missionary activities in China when Pearl, their first daughter, was born in the United States. Three months later the infant was taken to China when her parents returned to their duties. Educated by her mother at home and then by a Chinese tutor, Buck later attributed much of her knowledge to the influence of her Chinese amah who, together with Chinese playmates, gave her many insights into her exotic surroundings and developed imaginative outlets. Indeed Buck claimed that in her early years she was more fluent in Chinese than in English. She received additional training at a mission school and in 1909 was sent to board for a year at Miss Jewell’s School in Shanghai. Her parents insisted that she attend college in the United States, so in 1910 she enrolled in Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she won several academic honors and graduated four years later with a bachelor of arts degree. She received a teaching assistantship at Randolph-Macon, but upon learning that her mother was seriously ill she returned to China to care for her....

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Calkins, Clinch (15 July 1895–26 December 1968), poet, polemicist, and novelist, was born Marion Clinch Calkins in Evansville, Wisconsin, the daughter of Judson Wells Calkins, a politically liberal owner of a general store, and Julia Clinch, a lover of music and literature. Calkins graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1918, packed artillery shells in a Milwaukee plant, and then returned to Madison to teach in the university’s English and art history departments and to do social work. She submitted a poem, “I Was a Maiden,” to an annual competition in the ...

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Calvert, George Henry (02 June 1803–24 May 1889), author, was born on his family’s estate near Bladensburg, Maryland, the son of George Calvert, a planter and politician, and Rosalie Eugenia Stier. As a child, Calvert was raised to be mindful of his aristocratic heritage—his paternal great-grandfather was the fifth Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, and on his maternal side he was a descendant of Peter Paul Rubens—and his childhood years were spent in a style befitting a young man of wealth and gentility. In 1819 Calvert entered Harvard College, where he remained until 1823, at which time he was dismissed along with thirty other students for participating in the “Great Rebellion,” a protest aimed at limiting the restrictions over student activities, but which ultimately led to the students protesting the quality of the education that they were receiving at Harvard. After leaving Harvard, Calvert journeyed to Europe and stayed with an uncle in Antwerp before spending fifteen months studying history and philosophy at the University of Göttingen. Concurrent and subsequent to his time at Göttingen, Calvert traveled to Weimar, where he met Goethe, and he then visited Edinburgh, Paris, and Antwerp again before returning to America in 1827. Calvert settled in Baltimore, where he served as editor of the ...

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Cannon, Cornelia James (17 November 1876–01 December 1969), novelist and birth control activist, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Henry Clay James and Frances Haynes. While her father practiced law and speculated in land, her mother helped out the family fortunes by painting; some of her watercolors are now at the Minnesota Historical Society. Cannon grew up in St. Paul and Newport. At Radcliffe College Cannon studied philosophy with ...

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Elliott, Sarah Barnwell (29 November 1848–30 August 1928), writer and women's rights advocate, writer and women’s rights advocate, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the daughter of the Right Reverend Stephen Elliott, Jr., first Episcopal bishop of Georgia, and Charlotte Bull Barnwell, his second wife. At the time of Elliott’s birth, her father was in charge of a school for young women. After the Civil War and her father’s death, Elliott moved with her mother and sisters to Sewanee, Tennessee, in the Cumberland mountains, where her brother was teaching at the newly opened University of the South, a school their father had helped to found. Elliott lived in Sewanee for much of the rest of her life, with the exception of her residence in New York from 1895 to 1902, years in which she pursued a full-time writing career. She never married. Her most advanced educational opportunity came in attending lectures at Johns Hopkins University in the summer of 1886....

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Frank, Waldo David (25 August 1889–09 January 1967), author and cultural critic, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, the son of Julius J. Frank, a successful Wall Street attorney, and Helene Rosenberg. Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Frank took an early interest in writing, finishing his first novel at age sixteen. After spending a year at a private prep school in Lausanne, Switzerland, Frank entered Yale University in 1907. While at Yale, he served as drama critic for the New Haven ...

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106490).

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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (03 July 1860–17 August 1935), feminist critic and author, was born Charlotte Anna Perkins in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Frederic Beecher Perkins, a man of letters and librarian, and Mary Ann Fitch Wescott. Her great-grandfather was theologian Lyman Beecher...

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Griffith Browne, Mattie (01 January 1825?–25 May 1906), antislavery writer and women's suffrage activist, was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Griffith. Her father was a tavern-keeper and farmer. Various estimates have been made of her correct birth year, but no exact date has been established. Mattie and her older sister, Catherine, were orphaned in childhood, losing first their mother and then their father in 1830....

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Edward Everett Hale Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99518).