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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Barnes, Charlotte Mary Sanford (1818–14 April 1863), playwright and actress, was born in New York City, the daughter of John Barnes and Mary Greenhill, British actors who achieved success on the New York stage as early as 1816. At age three Charlotte appeared on stage in her mother’s arms in ...

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Beatty, Bessie (27 January 1886–06 April 1947), radio broadcaster, journalist, and author, was born Elizabeth M. Beatty in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Thomas Edward Beatty and Jane Mary Boxwell. Her parents had immigrated from Ireland to the Midwest and then to Los Angeles, where Thomas Beatty became a director of the first electric street railroad in the city. In 1903 Bessie Beatty matriculated at the Highland Park campus of Occidental College, determined to be a writer. She was active in campus literary societies and wrote several articles for student publications before taking a position in her senior year as a reporter for the ...

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Bernstein, Aline Frankau (22 December 1880–07 September 1955), set and costume designer and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Frankau, an actor, and Rebecca Goldsmith. Joseph Frankau, who was of German-Jewish ancestry, first named his daughter Hazel, but her mother changed it to Aline. Educated in the New York public schools and raised in the theater, as a child Aline wanted to be an actress, but her father encouraged her talent for drawing instead. After the early deaths of her parents (both had died by 1897), Aline became the ward of her aunt, Rachel, a drug addict. She attended Hunter College as a student of fine art. Tom Watson, a family friend and a member of the board of directors of the New York School of Applied Design, arranged for her to study drawing on scholarship at the school. She later studied portrait painting with ...

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Joyce Brothers. Dr. Joyce Brothers, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding a book she wrote, 1957. Photographic print by Phyllis Twacht. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117953).

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Brothers, Joyce (20 October 1927–13 May 2013), psychologist, television and radio personality, and columnist, was born Joyce Diane Bauer in Brooklyn, New York, to Morris K. Bauer and Estelle Rappaport Bauer, a Jewish couple who shared a law practice. She and sister, Elaine, were raised in Queens, where Joyce was an honors student at Far Rockaway High School....

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Carrington, Elaine Sterne (14 June 1891–04 May 1958), author and radio scriptwriter, was born in New York City, the daughter of Theodore Sterne, a merchant, and Mary Louise Henriquez. Even as a young child, Elaine displayed a natural talent for storytelling. Before writing her first words she created fanciful tales to tell her grandmother and romantic stories for her father’s dinner guests. In her teens Elaine began writing instead of telling. A deluge of manuscripts arrived at publishing houses from Elaine Sterne, G. A., the initials standing for “Great Author.” A novel, a musical comedy, and many other stories were all rejected until she sold “King of the Christmas Feast” to ...

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Chase, Ilka (08 April 1905?–15 February 1978), actress and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Francis Dane Chase, a hotel manager, and Edna Woolman Chase, editor of Vogue magazine. She was given her unusual first name in honor of a Hungarian friend of her mother. Chase, whose parents divorced when she was a child, was educated at a succession of boarding schools, including convent schools in Manhattan and Suffern, New York, run by the Sisters of the Holy Child, and Mrs. Dow’s School, Briarcliff Manor, New York. Most summers were spent at her grandmother’s estate at Brookhaven, Long Island. At age sixteen Chase was sent to finishing school in Groslay, France, and later attended a convent school at Neuilly, outside Paris. In 1923 she returned to New York to make her society debut at the Cosmopolitan Club....

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Collinge, Patricia (20 September 1894–10 April 1974), actress and writer, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the daughter of Frederick Channon Collinge, a musical director and conductor, and Emmie Russell. She was privately educated in Dublin. It was there, admitted free to plays as a professional courtesy to her father, that she first saw and loved theater. At the age of ten she made her first professional appearance at London’s Garrick Theatre, playing Ching-a-Ling in a 1904 Christmas pantomime, ...

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Jane Cowl Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1914. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0155-B-007).

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Cowl, Jane (14 December 1884–22 June 1950), actor, producer, and writer, was born Grace Bailey in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Charles A. Bailey, a provision dealer and clerk, and Grace Avery, a singer and voice teacher. Around 1887 the family moved to Brooklyn, where Jane published verses in ...

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Crothers, Rachel (12 December 1870–05 July 1958), playwright and director, was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the daughter of Eli Kirk Crothers and Marie Louise De Pew, both physicians. Crothers’s birth date is sometimes given as 1878, but the 1870 date is confirmed by both her death certificate and the U.S. Census. She was the youngest in a prosperous family of English and Scottish descent. When Crothers was six, her mother began taking medical courses, eventually becoming the first female doctor in the Bloomington area. Crothers’s plays would later be populated by many women endeavoring, like her mother, to reconcile professional and maternal roles....

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Dee, Ruby (27 Oct. 1922–11 June 2014), actor, author, and civil rights activist, was born Ruby Anne Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, to Edward Nathaniel Wallace, who held various positions with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Gladys Hightower. When the unstable Gladys left the family, her father married Emma Amelia Benson, a former teacher....

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Donnelly, Dorothy Agnes (28 January 1880–03 January 1928), actress, playwright, and librettist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Thomas L. Donnelly, a theatrical manager, and Sarah Williams, an actress. After the early death of her father, Donnelly was raised in the home of her uncle Fred Williams, stage director for ...

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Ephron, Nora (19 May 1941–26 June 2012), screenwriter, film director, journalist, and humorist, was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents, Henry Ephron and the former Phoebe Wolkind, were a successful screenwriting team best known for scripting such light-hearted fare as ...

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Field, Kate (01 October 1838–19 May 1896), journalist, actress, and editor, was born Mary Katherine Keemle Field in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Joseph M. Field, an actor, journalist, and theater manager, and Eliza Riddle, an actress. After early schooling in St. Louis, at the age of sixteen Field went to Boston to visit her mother’s sister Cordelia, the wife of a millionaire, Milton L. Sanford. Sanford sent her to Lasell Seminary, Auburndale, Massachusetts (1854–1856), and introduced her to the world of the socially elite....

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Fisher, Carrie (21 Oct. 1956–27 Dec. 2016), actress and writer, was born Carrie Frances Fisher in Beverly Hills, California, to Eddie Fisher, a popular singer and the grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants, and Debbie Reynolds, a Hollywood actress whose forebears were Anglo-Saxon Protestants of modest means. At the time of Carrie’s birth, Fisher and Reynolds, who had married to great fanfare a year earlier, were a celebrated young couple, labeled “America’s sweethearts” by the media. The public doted on newspaper and magazine coverage as well as film footage of the seemingly perfect couple and their adorable little daughter. The arrival little more than a year later of a son, Todd, only enhanced their image....

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Minnie Maddern Fiske In the role of Becky Sharp. Photograph by Arnold Genthe, c. 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G4085- 0413 P&P).

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Fiske, Minnie Maddern (19 December 1864?–15 February 1932), actress, playwright, and director, was born Marie Augusta Davey in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Thomas Davey, an actor-manager, and Minnie Maddern, a musician and actress. As an infant she performed during the entr’actes in her parents’ company. Her dramatic debut occurred at the age of three, as the duke of York in ...

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Franken, Rose Dorothy (28 December 1898–22 June 1988), author and stage director, was born in Gainesville, Texas, the daughter of Michael Lewin (occupation unknown) and Hannah Younker. When Rose was young, her parents separated, and her mother took her four children to New York to live with her family in Harlem. According to Rose Franken’s autobiography, she was originally named Rosebud Dougherty (the middle name after her father’s best friend), but possibly because of tensions resulting from her parents’ separation, the name caused her “deep bitterness” and she soon “nipped the ‘bud’ ” and changed her middle name to Dorothy. After attending the School for Ethical Culture, Rose was scheduled to enter Barnard College in September 1915, but she decided instead to marry Dr. Sigmund Walter Anthony Franken, an oral surgeon. Shortly after the wedding, Dr. Franken was diagnosed as having tuberculosis, and the couple spent the first ten months of their marriage at the Trudeau Sanatorium on Saranac Lake in New York. Three boys were born to the couple over the next thirteen years....