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Andrews, Eliza Frances (10 August 1840–21 January 1931), author and educator, was born at Haywood Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the daughter of Garnett Andrews, a judge and planter, and Annulet Ball. After attending the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington, Georgia, Andrews, often known as “Fanny,” was, in 1857, one of the first students to receive an A.B. degree at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia....

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Ballard, Martha Moore (20 February 1735–19 May 1812), midwife and diarist, was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Elijah Moore and Dorothy Learned, farmers and innkeepers. Nothing is known about her early life and education. Though the Learned and Moore families were moderately prosperous, Martha’s mother signed the only document bearing her name with a mark. Martha’s father and grandfathers were town selectmen and militia officers. Her younger brother, Jonathan Moore, was Oxford’s second college graduate and for a time served as librarian of Harvard College. Her uncle Abijah Moore, a graduate of Yale College, and her brother-in-law, Stephen Barton, were physicians. Presumably Martha learned her craft through working with an older midwife in Oxford....

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Bentley, William (22 June 1759–29 December 1819), clergyman, scholar, and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joshua Bentley, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Paine, the daughter of a merchant. Bentley was raised in the home of William Paine, the prosperous grandfather for whom he was named, and he was educated at the Boston Latin School before entering Harvard College in 1773. After graduation in 1777, Bentley taught school. He returned to Harvard in 1780 as a tutor in Latin and Greek and prepared for the ministry. Ordained at the Second (East) Congregational parish in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1783, Bentley served in its pulpit until his death thirty-six years later....

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Breen, Patrick (baptized 11 June 1795–21 December 1868), diarist of the Donner Party, was born in Barnahasken Townland, County Carlow, Ireland, the son of Edward “Ned” Breen and Mary Wilson, farmers. Breen spent his youth in Ireland on the family farm, which was left to Breen, his brothers, and mother when his father died in 1816. Breen was reared to be a strict and devoted Catholic, attending chapel from the time he was a baby. His religious convictions helped him tremendously in later life....

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Bridge, Horatio (08 April 1806–20 March 1893), naval officer and author, was born in Augusta, Maine, the son of James Bridge, a judge and financier, and Hannah North. He attended local schools in Augusta before entering Hallowell Academy and then Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1825. At Bowdoin, Bridge was a classmate of ...

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Browder, George Richard (11 January 1827–03 September 1886), Methodist preacher and diarist, was born near Olmstead in southern Logan County, Kentucky, the son of Robert Browder and Helen Walker, farmers. His father had migrated to Kentucky from Virginia in 1820 as a part of the westward surge following the War of 1812. Seven months after Browder’s birth, his mother died. In 1828 his father married Sarah L. Gilmer, who, by her godly life and faithful instruction in the catechism, exerted a profound influence on young Browder and prepared the way for his conversion at the nearby Ash Spring camp meeting in 1838. Browder attended neighborhood schools and the Male Academy in Clarksville, Tennessee....

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Burr, Esther Edwards (13 February 1732–07 April 1758), diarist, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, a minister and author, and Sarah Pierrepont. Burr was the third in a family of eleven children. She was educated at home. As the child of the minister in a large town, she enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle and social prominence. The years of her childhood fell in the period of religious revivals known as the Great Awakening. In 1750 her father was dismissed from his Northampton pastorate because of conflicts with his congregation. After a period of uncertainty and hardship for the Edwardses while her father contemplated job offers from as far away from Northampton as the American South and even Scotland, the family finally relocated in 1751 to frontier Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a town on the New York border where Edwards would serve as missionary to the Indians....

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Carter, Landon (18 August 1710–22 December 1778), patriot and diarist, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of Robert “King” Carter, a planter-merchant member of the King’s Council, and Elizabeth Landon. The young Landon was sent to England for schooling when aged nine. Showing special promise as a scholar, he continued there for seven years before returning to Virginia in 1726, where he enrolled at the College of William and Mary in 1727 before settling to learn the tobacco planter and consignment business as assistant and companion to his aged father. In 1732 Carter’s father died, and Carter received a large inheritance. That year he married Elizabeth Wormeley. After Elizabeth’s death in 1740, he married Maria Byrd in 1742, and they had one child. Following Maria’s death in 1744, he married Elizabeth Beale in 1746; they had three children before she died around 1755. In all he had eight children. Carter was a widower for a long period at the end of his life, the years of his diary keeping. The three marriages brought substantial increases in property holding....

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Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller (31 March 1823–22 November 1886), diarist and memoirist, was born at “Mount Pleasant,” a plantation near Statesburg, South Carolina, the daughter of Stephen Decatur Miller, a lawyer and a politician, and Mary Boykin. At an early age she moved with her parents to “Plane Hill,” a plantation nearer Statesburg. Her father, who had served in the House of Representatives in 1817–1819, helped found the States Rights party in South Carolina in 1824. He was elected governor in 1828 and a U.S. senator in 1830. He resigned in 1833 and resumed the practice of law, partly because of the greater influence in state and federal politics of ...

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Delano, Amasa (21 February 1763–21 April 1823), New England mariner and author, was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Delano and Abigail Drew. His father, a well-to-do shipbuilder, joined the American army when the Revolution broke out and was almost immediately taken prisoner. “Treated with great harshness and severity,” he was released before the war ended and resumed his trade. Meanwhile, over his father’s objections, Delano had entered the army at the age of fourteen and shipped out on the privateer ...

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Doten, Alfred (21 July 1829–12 November 1903), journalist and diarist, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Doten, a ship captain, and Rebecca Bradford. The family was socially stable and financially comfortable, and the children were well educated. Alfred was briefly apprenticed to a carpenter when his schooling was completed and also spent a summer fishing for cod on the Grand Banks. In 1849, attracted by the news of gold, he took ship for California as a crew member....

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Drinker, Elizabeth (27 February 1735–24 November 1807), diarist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William Sandwith, a merchant, and Sarah Jervis. Elizabeth Sandwith grew up in relative comfort as an upper-class Quaker child in a city where members of the Society of Friends still influenced cultural and political life. Better educated than most women of her time, she received instruction from ...

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Ellis, Edward Robb (22 February 1911–07 September 1998), journalist, author, and diarist, was born in Kewanee, Illinois, the son of John Talcott Ellis, an improvident musician, and Lalla Robb Ellis. In 1912 his parents divorced. When he was a sophomore in the Kewanee High School, he and two friends held a contest to see who could keep a diary the longest. The two friends soon quit, but Ellis kept his, beginning on 27 December 1927, for the next sixty-eight years. He edited the high school newspaper and graduated in 1929....

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Emerson, Mary Moody (25 August 1774–01 May 1863), aunt and influential teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, aunt and influential teacher of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born in Concord, Massachusetts, the daughter of Reverend William Emerson and Phebe Bliss. Before he left home to serve as chaplain in the Continental army, William Emerson sent Mary, the fourth of five children, to live with his mother. After he died of a fever, Mary remained with her grandmother, and when she died Mary was sent to live with an impoverished aunt on her farm in Malden. She thus began life as she always lived it, in exile. The extreme poverty and drudgery of her youth was made even more difficult after a second, apparently insane aunt was sent to live at the Malden farm. In 1780, when Mary’s mother married her husband’s successor, Dr. ...

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Ferguson, Elizabeth Graeme (03 February 1737–23 February 1801), writer and translator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Graeme, a prominent physician, and Ann Diggs, stepdaughter of Sir William Keith, the first provincial governor of Pennsylvania. In the environment of her father’s large estate, “Graeme Park,” Elizabeth developed into a well-read and cultivated young woman. According to one memoir, her literary activity began “to divert her mind” from a broken engagement to ...

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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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Green, Ely (11 September 1893–27 April 1968), author, black activist, and clairvoyant, was born near Sewanee, Tennessee, the son of a college student, Edward H. Wicks, later a Texas attorney, and Lena Green, a fourteen-year-old kitchen servant and daughter of a privy cleaner who had been a slave. In Green’s own words, he “was a half-white bastard.” His mother died when he was eight. He was reared by Mattie Davis, a sympathetic neighbor who worked as a domestic. He did not finish the second grade but was largely self-taught. His phenomenal vocabulary came about because, so he said, “I studied from every man who would talk to me.”...

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Grimké, Charlotte Forten (17 August 1837–23 July 1914), educator, diarist, and essayist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Mary Virginia Wood and Robert Bridges Forten, who were free blacks. Her father, a mathematician, orator, and reformer, was the son of wealthy sailmaker ...

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Harmon, Daniel Williams (19 February 1778–23 April 1843), fur trader and diarist, was born in Bennington, Vermont, the son of Daniel Harmon and Lucretia Dewey, innkeepers, whose roots in New England reached back more than a century and a half. Harmon’s parents were pious stalwarts of the Congregational church. During the revolutionary war, his father fought with the victorious Americans at the Battle of Bennington. Later, the family moved to Vergennes. What turned Harmon north into British territory is uncertain, but tales of Canadian travelers, parental restrictions, and wanderlust probably helped. In 1799 or early 1800 he journeyed to Montreal and entered the fur trade with the North West Company. Leaving Lachine (Montreal Island) for the West on 29 April 1800, he began a remarkable diary of life in the North American wilderness....

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Heaton, Hannah Cook (1721–1794), diarist and farm woman, was born in Southampton, Long Island, New York, the daughter of Jonathan Cook, a surgeon, and Temperance Rogers. Little is known of her early life or education. In 1743 she married Theophilus Heaton, Jr., of North Haven, Connecticut. They and their two sons lived on farms in North Haven for the rest of their lives....