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Dorothy McLeod MacInerney

Blake, Mary Elizabeth (01 September 1840–26 February 1907), author, was born Mary Elizabeth McGrath in Dungarven, Ireland, the daughter of Patrick McGrath, an artisan in marble, and Mary Murphy. Mary’s family immigrated to Quincy, Massachusetts, when she was ten. Her father’s trade prospered, enabling him to provide his children with good educations. Mary attended Quincy High School from 1855 to 1859, Emerson’s Private School in Boston from 1859 to 1861, and the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Manhattanville from 1861 to 1863. Her major interests in school were music and modern languages. Upon graduating, Mary began teaching and writing poems, which were published in local newspapers. In 1865 she married John G. Blake, a prominent Boston physician; they had eleven children....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Coggeshall, George (02 November 1784–06 August 1861), sea captain and author, was born in Milford, Connecticut, the son of William Coggeshall, a shipmaster, and Eunice Mallett. A Revolutionary War veteran, William Coggeshall was financially ruined when one of his vessels was seized by a British cruiser for trading at a French island, and another was captured by France for trading with English colonies. As a result, George Coggeshall and his six siblings were left destitute. Thus, he was denied a formal education and was forced to teach himself by reading every book available. A devoted son, Coggeshall determined that he would go to sea as soon as possible, thereby reducing the family’s expenses and affording him a chance to recoup his father’s losses....

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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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Olaudah Equiano. From the frontispiece of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, 1794. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54026).

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Equiano, Olaudah (1745–31 March 1797), sailor, abolitionist, and writer, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born in eastern Nigeria, the son of an Ibo village chief. When he was eleven, people from another Ibo village captured Equiano and his sister, beginning a six-month period during which he was separated from his sister and sold from one master to another until he reached the coast. There Equiano’s African masters sold him to white slave traders headed for Barbados. From Barbados he traveled to Virginia, where he was bought by Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel. During the spring 1757 voyage to England, Pascal gave Equiano the name Gustavus Vassa, which he used throughout his life, yet Equiano still included his African name on the title page of his autobiography....

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Washington Irving. Pictured at age twenty-seven. Engraving by J. de Mare. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95735).

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Irving, Washington (03 April 1783–28 November 1859), author, was born in New York City, the son of William Irving, a Scottish merchant, and his English wife, Sarah Sanders, who had emigrated to America in 1763. A middle-class family of very modest means, the Irvings gradually prospered in the economic expansion that followed the American Revolution. In time the father’s business, heavily dependent on imports from England and France, became the family business, in which his five sons were involved in varying degrees at various times. Irving was the youngest child, and his mother and three sisters lavished affection and attention on him in his early years. The father, however, a Presbyterian deacon and elder, dominated the family until his death in 1807, imposing on the household a strict religious discipline, which his youngest son strongly resisted. Although Irving was interested in literature from an early age, authorship in the United States was generally seen as at best an avocation. Thus in 1799 he began an apprenticeship with a lawyer, partly as an escape from the family business. But literary pursuits, a troublesome lung condition, and social distractions delayed his qualifying for the bar for several years....

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Mackenzie, Alexander Slidell (06 April 1803–13 September 1848), naval officer and author, was born Alexander Slidell in New York City, the son of John Slidell, a merchant, and Margery Mackenzie. Alexander went by the family name until midlife, when, in 1838, he successfully petitioned the New York legislature to change his surname to Mackenzie, in order to benefit from a legacy that a childless maternal uncle provided....

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Manly, William Lewis (06 April 1820–05 February 1903), author, was born near St. Albans, Vermont, the son of a farmer whose name is unknown and Phoebe Calkins. Manly sometimes spelled his name Manley, and a Manly family historian said the name should be spelled that way (Johnson and Johnson, p. xv). But Manly is the commonly recognized spelling and the one on the title page of ...

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Olive Hoogenboom

Simon, Kate (05 January 1912–04 February 1990), writer, was born Kaila Grobsmith in Warsaw, Poland, the daughter of Jacob Grobsmith, a skilled shoemaker, and Lina Babicz, a corsetiere. Braving wartime travel to save the life of her ailing young son, Lina Grobsmith along with her two children came to the United States in 1916 by steerage, joining her husband who had arrived three years earlier....

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Thompson, Era Bell (10 August 1906–30 December 1986), author and editor, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Stewart C. Thompson and Mary Logan. In 1914 she moved with her family to Driscoll, North Dakota, where her father was a farmer and, from 1917 to 1921, a private messenger for Governor ...

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Warner, Charles Dudley (12 September 1829–20 October 1900), author and editor, was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, the son of Justus Warner and Sylvia Hitchcock, farmers. In 1837, three years after her husband died, Sylvia Warner took her two sons to a guardian in Charlemont, Massachusetts, and, in 1841, on to her brother in Cazenovia, New York. Warner attended classes at the Oneida Conference Seminary in Cazenovia, enrolled at Hamilton College, and graduated in 1851 with a B.A. While still a student he published articles in the ...