American National Biography Update: April 2020

Believing that the life of a nation is told by the lives of its people, the American National Biography consists of over 19,000 scholarly biographies of significant, influential, or notorious figures from American history.

The latest update to the American National Biography features five new essays, with a focus on important American writers and critics. It includes one of the nation’s foremost film critics, Pauline Kael; the noted black nationalist writer and poet Amiri Baraka; Esther Rome, co-author of the feminist bestseller Our Bodies, Ourselves; Chicano poet, artist, and civil rights activist José Montoya; and poet John Ashbery, whose collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1976.

Pauline Kael (1919–2001), one of the most iconoclastic, controversial, and revered film critics in the history of American print journalism. She was known for the exuberant writing style, her vision of the movies as an unparalleled populist national theater, and her desire in the late 1960s and 1970s to generate a new seriousness and sophistication in American film audiences, directors, and critics.  She made movies and movie-going seem at the center of American culture. No critic had done so before with her panache, wit, and zeal.

Amiri Baraka, (1934–2014), born Le Roi Jones, one of the most influential African American writers of the twentieth century. A poet, playwright, and jazz critic, Baraka galvanized the Black Arts Movement, making an indelible contribution to modern African American culture and consciousness.

Esther Rome (1945–1995), women’s health activist who helped found the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Its 1973 book Our Bodies, Ourselves was a revelation, arguing that women were the best experts on women’s health at a time when the vast majority of physicians and medical professionals were male. Rome continued to work on women’s health issues for the rest of her life.

José Montoya (1932–2013), who in 1969 co-founded Rebel Chicano Art Front (RCAF), a Chicano artist collective that sought to bring a consciousness towards laborers’ rights and Chicano identity through public art. Montoya also wrote many iconic poems that represented Chicano culture.

John Lawrence Ashbery (1927–2017), part of a group of postwar poets who added new lyrical forms to contemporary American poetry, even as those forms proved inaccessible to many contemporary readers. As he explains in “The Lament upon the Waters” “the problem isn’t how to proceed/ But is one of being.”

 

 

American National Biography: March 2020 Update

Believing that the life of a nation is told by the lives of its people, the American National Biography consists of over 19,000 scholarly biographies of significant, influential, or notorious figures from American history.

The latest update to the American National Biography adds six new biographies of lives spanning from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. New additions include Eugene Cernan (1934–2017), astronaut who was the second American to walk in space and the first to circle the earth. On his next mission, in 1969, he piloted the Apollo 10 lunar module, coming within 50,000 feet of the surface of the moon. He would reach the moon on his third trip to space. All told, seventy three of the 566 hours Cernan logged in space were on the surface of the moon. His time included 22 hours of moonwalks, more than any other astronaut. In 1972, upon leaving the moon for the final time, and making him to this point the last person to walk on the moon, Cernan said, “We leave as we came, and God willing, we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

Tisquantum (ca. 1590-Nov. 1622), the Native American interpreter and emissary referred to in the original ANB essay as Squanto. Historian Neal Salisbury has written this new essay, which reflects the advances in scholarship that have occurred over the last two decades. English authors, particularly William Bradford and Edward Winslow, shaped the popular image of Tisquantum as the broker of Anglo-Wampanoag peace in Plymouth colony. That image dominated scholarship on Tisquantum until the late twentieth century. More recent scholars show a man no less singular but far more complicated and hardly heroic.

Chris Burden (1946­–2015), a sculptor who pioneered body and endurance art. He gained international renown in 1971 with Shoot, in which Burden asked his marksman friend, artist Bruce Dunlap, to graze his arm with a bullet, using a .22 rifle from a distance of 15 feet. At 7:45 P.M. Dunlap missed his aim and the bullet penetrated Burden’s upper left arm. He was rushed to hospital. Shoot represented Burden’s response to pervasive violence in the United Stats during the 1960s.

Anne Anastasi (1908­­–2001), psychologist, psychometrician, and educator who was a key architect of mass educational and psychological testing in the twentieth century. Across her remarkable 71-year career, she published two hundred journal articles and many books that reshaped her field, including Differential Psychology (1937), Psychological Testing (1954), and Fields of Applied Psychology (1964).

Rudi Gernreich (1922–1985), designer of women’s fashion and swimwear whose bold, futuristic fashions were innovative body-conscious designs that not only anticipated the social changes of the 1950s and 1960s. He also provoked change by challenging social taboos and conventions. His vision of the liberated body and freedom from gender-norm constraints in dress were revolutionary and have inspired designers ever since.

Esther Wheelwright (1696–1780), religious leader and Indian captive who was the rare colonial North American woman to live in three different cultures in the eighteenth century: Indigenous, French, and British. She became the first and only foreign-born Mother Superior of the Ursuline convent in Québec.  Ursuline religious life gave the former child captive an opportunity for leadership and prominence not offered to most women in colonial North America.

Believing that the life of a nation is told by the lives of its people, the American National Biography consists of over 19,000 scholarly biographies of significant, influential, or notorious figures from American history.

American National Biography: February 2020 update

Believing that the life of a nation is told by the lives of its people, the American National Biography consists of over 19,000 scholarly biographies of significant, influential, or notorious figures from American history.

The latest update to the American National Biography, released Thursday 27th February, adds six new biographies of men and women who worked as educators and academics. New additions include:

Paul Samuelson (1915–2009), the MIT economist who in 1970 became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics (technically the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel). The leading representative of the Keynesian age, his scholarly and popular writing reshaped mid-twentieth-century economic thought.

Fabiola Cabeza De Baca (1894–1991), whose work teaching in rural New Mexico evolved into working for the New Mexico Agriculture Extension Services, where she visited and lived in people’s homes, empowering women by teaching them to combine modern technologies with traditional practices. Her writings preserved New Mexican history and culture.

Octavius Catto (1839–1871), teacher at the Institute of Colored Youth in Philadelphia whose incredible career included serving as major and inspector general for the 5th Brigade, 1st Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard during the Civil War, fighting successfully to integrate Philadelphia’s trolley system in the 1860s, and even co-founding and playing for the Pythian Base Ball Club, the city’s second black baseball team.

Mary Daly (1928–2010), a controversial radical feminist philosopher and theologian who spent thirty-three years teaching at (and clashing with the administration of) Boston College, finally leaving in 1999 when the university refused to let her teach men and women in separate classes.

Robert Leslie Wharton (1871–1960), a Presbyterian missionary who established religious schools in Cuba, including La Progrresiva in Cardenas. Ultimately, La Progresiva served over 2000 students with a Christian workers training school, a vocational school, and a junior college.

Mary Elizabeth Carnegie (1916–2008), African American nurse who established Virginia’s first baccalaureate nursing program at Hampton Institute, and, beginning in 1945, transformed the nursing curriculum at the Florida A & M school of nursing. She became the first African American elected to the Florida State Nurses Association Board of Directors, before joining the editorial staff at the American Journal of Nursing, where, over the next 35 years, she would advance up the ranks to Senior Editor.

Jo Payne, Head of Biographical and General Reference, Oxford University Press