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Ambrose, Stephen Edward (10 January 1936–13 October 2002), historian and biographer, was born in Decatur, Illinois, the middle son of Stephen Hedges Ambrose, a family physician, and Rosepha Trippe Ambrose. Rosepha raised her sons on a family farm in Whitewater, Wisconsin, during World War II after her husband enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Stephen Ambrose greatly admired the returning veterans who had served in the global conflict. The teamwork they had learned in the service, Ambrose would later write, enabled these men to build “modern America” (...

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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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Gertrude Atherton Arnold Genthe, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0120).

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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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Bacon, Leonard Woolsey (01 January 1830–12 May 1907), minister and author, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Leonard Bacon, a minister, and Lucy Johnson. Bacon graduated from Yale College in 1850. Beginning in September of that year he accompanied his father on a year-long tour of Europe and the East. When he returned to the United States, Bacon spent two years at Andover Theological Seminary and one year at Yale Divinity School, graduating from the latter in 1854. He turned next to medical study and received a degree from Yale Medical School in 1856....

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Bainton, Roland Herbert (30 March 1894–13 February 1984), historian of the Protestant Reformation, was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England, the only son of James Herbert Bainton, a Congregational pastor, and Charlotte Eliza Blackham. Bainton’s family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia (1898), and then to Colfax, Washington (1902). He received the traditional British-inspired education in the classics, beginning the study of Latin at twelve and adding German at thirteen. The elder Bainton encouraged his reading and inquiry, and their discussions continued by mail after Bainton entered college. Bainton graduated from Whitman College (B.A. in classics, 1910–1914), Yale Divinity School (B.D., 1914–1917), and Yale University (Ph.D. in Semitics and Hellenistic Greek, 1917–1921)....

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Baker, Carlos Heard (05 May 1909–18 April 1987), educator, author, and literary critic, was born in Biddeford, Maine, the son of Arthur Baker and Edna Heard. He grew up in what he called a “yankee and the nineteenth century German” tradition and had a great passion for literature even as a child. While still a college student, he published a collection of poems, ...

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Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston (29 March 1831–10 March 1919), author and teacher, was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, the daughter of the Reverend William Henry Huddleston and Mary Singleton. When Barr was young, her family moved often, according to her father’s assignment as a Methodist minister. Although her early education was frequently interrupted by relocations, returns on the Reverend Huddleston’s investments allowed Barr to attend the best private schools wherever the church sent the family. Furthermore, reading sophisticated books and treatises to her father reinforced her formal schooling and contributed to an excellent early education. This childhood security ended abruptly in 1847, when a family friend absconded to Australia with the Reverend Huddleston’s fortune, and Barr had to earn her own living as a “second teacher” at a school in Downham Market. Soon the family’s monetary situation improved and enabled Barr, in 1849, to attend Normal School in Glasgow to learn the Stowe teaching method, with its emphasis on moral training, lifelong learning, and understanding rather than rote learning. Marriage, in 1850, to Robert Barr, a prosperous young Scottish wool merchant, ended her teacher-training program. Nevertheless, teaching, on a formal or informal basis, was an important part of Barr’s life for the next twenty years....

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Barzun, Jacques (30 November 1907–25 October 2012), historian, essayist, and cultural critic, was born Jacques-Henri-Louis-Roger Barzun in Créteil, near Paris, France, to Henri-Martin and Anne Rose Barzun. His father was a poet who, with other aspiring young writers, had founded a colony of artists called L’Abbaye after the dilapidated house they occupied in the small Parisian suburb. After moving to the nearby town of Passy, the Barzun family hosted a diverse group of musicians, painters, sculptors, and poets—...

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Beer, Thomas (22 November 1888?–18 April 1940), writer, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of William Collins Beer, a corporate attorney and lobbyist, and Martha Ann Alice Baldwin. Though born in western Iowa, Thomas Beer spent most of his childhood in Yonkers, New York, with summers in Nantucket and on his grandfather’s farm in Bucyrus, Ohio. Wealth and position from his father’s Wall Street business gave Beer a distinct sense of social superiority, which he manifested in personal relations and cultural criticisms. Despising the bourgeoisie, the working-class masses, and the chic lifestyles of the Jazz Age, Beer projected an image of extreme conservatism and tesselated sophistication. At Yale, class of 1911, he was class poet, lifelong friend of the actor Monty Wooley, editor of the literary review, and contributor of twenty stories, essays, and poems. After college he spent five years as a dilatory student in the Columbia law school and as clerk in his father’s law firm, but when his father died at his professional nadir in 1916, Beer turned to letters. His first important short story—“The Brothers”—was published a few months later in the ...

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Henry Walton Bibb. Lithograph on paper, 1847, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Bibb, Henry Walton (10 May 1815–1854), author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South; later, as a free man, his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States. But such early instability also made the young Bibb both self-sufficient and resourceful, two characteristics that were useful against the day-to-day assault of slavery: “The only weapon of self defense that I could use successfully,” he wrote, “was that of deception.”...

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Bonner, Marita Odette (16 June 1898–06 December 1971), educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, she applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school faculty adviser and was one of the few African-American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, she won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a B.A. in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930, when she married William Almy Occomy, a Brown graduate. The couple moved to Chicago, where they raised three children....

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Brant, Irving Newton (17 January 1885–18 September 1976), biographer, journalist, and historian, was born in Walker, Iowa, the son of David Brant, the editor of the local newspaper, and Ruth Hurd Brant. Irving Brant decided on a career in journalism. He was educated in local schools and at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, from which he earned a BA in 1909....

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Brodie, Fawn McKay (15 September 1915–10 January 1981), writer, educator, and editor, was born in Ogden, Utah, the daughter of Thomas Evans Brodie and Fawn Brimhall McKay, both of whom were Mormons. Her father was a chronically indebted farmer, a respected church leader, and later a state senator and public utilities commissioner. She earned her B.A. at the University of Utah in 1934, was an instructor in English at Weber State College (now Weber State University, Ogden, Utah), and obtained her M.A. in English at the University of Chicago in 1936. She married Bernard Brodie in 1936. During the next several years, her husband, who had earned his Ph.D. in 1940 in political science at the University of Chicago, taught at a variety of places, served in the U.S. Navy, and became a writer and a consultant on matters of national defense, weaponry, and foreign affairs. Meanwhile, the Brodies had three children....

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Brown, John (1810?–1876), field hand and author, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of slaves Joe and Nancy. For most of his life as a slave he was called Fed or Benford. At around age ten he and his mother were moved to nearby Northampton County, North Carolina; eighteen months later he was sold alone and sent to Georgia, never again to see any of his kinfolk....

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Brown, Sterling Allen (01 May 1901–13 January 1989), professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He was graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and notably with ...

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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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Elizabeth A. Archuleta and Susan E. Gunter

Campbell, Walter Stanley (15 August 1887–25 December 1957), historian and author, was born Walter Stanley Vestal near Severy, Kansas, the son of Walter Mallory Vestal, a lawyer, and Isabella Louise Wood, a teacher. His father died shortly after his birth. In 1895 his mother met James Robert Campbell, whom she married in August 1896, and Walter assumed his stepfather’s name. James Campbell’s research work for H. H. Bancroft fostered Walter Campbell’s love for the Old West and developed his sympathetic views toward Native Americans....

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Cantwell, Robert Emmett (31 January 1908–08 December 1978), writer and historian, was born in Little Falls (now Vader), Washington, the son of Charles James Cantwell, a teacher and engineer, and Nina Adelia Hanson, a former teacher. His paternal grandfather founded Little Falls in the 1840s. In 1912 the family moved to Onalaska, a lumber-company town, where Charles Cantwell became a builder, then the superintendent of the lumber mill and the town. Later he was the superintendent of Carlisle, another company town nearby. Robert Cantwell attended schools in Onalaska, Chehalis, and Aberdeen, all in Washington, and beginning at age sixteen studied for one year at the University of Washington in Seattle, where his older brother James was also a student. Their father’s illness forced them to leave school, however, and Cantwell spent the next four years primarily as a veneer clipper operator in a plywood factory in Hoquiam, Washington. His father died in 1927....