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Mabel Dodge Luhan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106861).


Luhan, Mabel Dodge (26 February 1879–13 August 1962), writer and patron, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Charles Ganson and Sarah Cook, members of the upper class who lived on inherited wealth. Like most Victorian women of her class, Luhan was educated to charm and groomed to marry. Stultified emotionally and intellectually at home and at the various finishing (or boarding) schools she attended, she worked throughout her life to create a world that would simultaneously establish her identity and serve as a model for the larger European and American communities that surrounded her. She moved from one “cosmos,” as she called them, to the next, with the expectation that each would provide the answer to her own and her contemporaries’ need to connect with something larger than the dying legacy of individualism left them by late Victorian culture....


Murphy, Gerald Cleary (26 March 1888–17 October 1964), painter, businessman, and friend to artists and writers, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Patrick Francis Murphy, the owner of an upper-scale leather goods store, and Anna Elizabeth Ryan. Patrick Murphy moved his business, the Mark Cross Company, and his family to New York City in 1892. Gerald’s father was a strict disciplinarian who expected his son to receive a sound education and join the family business. His mother was such a devout Catholic that she changed Gerald’s birthdate from 26 March to 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation. Murphy resisted his parents’ business and religious pressures, although he temporarily joined Mark Cross after graduating from Yale in 1912....


Wallace, Lila Bell Acheson (25 December 1889–08 May 1984), cofounder and co-owner of the Reader's Digest and philanthropist, cofounder and co-owner of the Reader’s Digest and philanthropist, was born in Virden, Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of T. Davis Acheson and Mary E. Huston. After Lila’s father completed his theological studies and became a Presbyterian minister, the family moved to the United States and became U.S. citizens. They lived in various small towns in the Midwest and West....