Biography articles, remarkable lives. Profiles and stories of people with important achievements or who made great contributions, from free online newspapers and popular magazines. Also some podcasts & videos.
Go to Century Past History Resources for a directory of all pages.
He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered was running a swimming school of his own. He also invented his own swim fins. His printing company printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them’Benjamins’ in his honor. (And 8 more feats)
Jamie Spatola, MF 2018
See our Biography Page for free online biographies (books) of many historical figures.
Did you know that he basically invented modern campaign organizing? Or that he helped Tennessee join the union? Or that he had a remarkably progressive outlook on women’s rights for a man of his time? (And 14 more facts)
Mark Mancini, MF 2018
Her hunger strikes and demonstrations made her one of the most influential women in the history of the Arab world. Yet few Egyptians today know her name.
David Kirkpatrick, NY Times 2018
Gwendolyn Brooks’s life and work asserted the humanity of black people in America.
Lovia Gyarkye, New Republic 2017
Long before Hollywood actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn became iconic stars, popular female opera singers of the early to mid-19th century were among the first American celebrities. One of those early American stars was Jenny Lind, nicknamed the “Swedish Nightingale.”
Regan Shrumm, National Museum of American History 2016
De Burgos, a literary foremother of the Nuyorican movement, defied societal norms and advocated for the island’s independence.
Maira Garcia, NY Times 2018
Daley, who became a switchboard operator in 1898, made sure members of Congress were just a phone call away from their constituents.
Alexandra Jacobs, NY Times 2018
Bell’s contributions to telephony are so great that they tend to overshadow his work in other fields of scientific inquiry. Bell’s interest in studying sound came from teaching those with hearing and speech impediments. He came from a family of speech teachers, and his mother and his wife were both deaf.
Leslie Poster, Smithsonian Museum of American History Blog 2015
Ron Chernow’s new biography, Grant upsets a century and half of historiography, illuminating Ulysses S. Grant as a flawed but just man who, despite his drinking problem, won the Civil War and, though scandals marred his presidency, should be remembered as one of our major chief executives. An interview with the author.
Nancy Tappan, HistoryNet 2018
They are among the most beloved children’s books in American history. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fictionalized memoirs of her experience growing up on the American frontier in the late nineteenth century—the famous Little House books—have been read and re-read by countless generations of children both here in the United States and abroad.
The Ultimate History Project
Captain Michael Healy (1839-1904) was the Coast Guard’s first African American captain.
James M. O’Toole, We’re History 2015
Ike’s son, historian John Eisenhower, recalls attending meetings with the British wartime leader and reflects on his character and accomplishments.
John D. Eisenhower, American Heritage 2017
How Patty Hearst went from wealthy heiress to gun-toting, bank-robbing, radical militant of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Richard Stockton, ATI 2019
Jay Serafino, Mental Floss 2018
Shahani, who died in 2017, worked to advance women’s causes in her native Philippines and around the world.
Jennifer Jett, NY Times 2018
Woody Holton, a Professor of History and author of Abigail Adams: A Life, helps us explore a different, largely unknown aspect of the Adams’ life: Her financial investments.
Woody Holton, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 150
Paul Robeson was one of the greatest black internationalists of the twentieth century. A gifted actor and singer, he was also an unabashed leftist and union supporter. This resulted in his bitter persecution, destroying his career and causing, to a surprising degree, his disappearance from popular–if not academic–memory.
Peter Cole, Black Perspectives 2016
She was an architect of the civil-rights struggle—and the women’s movement. Why haven’t you heard of her?
Kathryn Schulz 2017
Chester A. Arthur, twenty-first President of the United States, who held office from 1881-85. He was a little-known Vice President when President Garfield was assassinated.
Todd Arrington, We’re History 2016
The author of ‘Abigail Adams and Unruly Americans’ describes how the First Lady defied American laws that prevented women from owning property or controlling and dispensing with their own money.
Woody Holton, HistoryNet 2018
Book review and biographical article about Frantz Fanon, spokesman for the Algerian Revolution and author of ‘The Wretched of the Earth., the’bible’ of decolonisation; and inspiration to Third World revolutionaries.
Adam Shatz, London Review of Books 2017
Payne-Scott helped establish the field of radio astronomy by using radio waves to detect solar bursts, but she was forced to resign after she got married.
Rebecca Halleck, NY Times 2018
Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian 2017
It is said to have been one of the most hedonistic courts in English history – a sexual merry-go-round of flirtation, seductions and infidelities. RE Pritchard explores the sexual liaisons of Charles II and the men and women at his court…
R.E. Pritchard, History Extra 2015
Davidson encouraged women to bicycle at a time when they were told they were “by nature physically unfit.”
Amanda Hess, NY Times 2018
The illegitimate daughter of a pope and his mistress, Lucrezia Borgia was a famous beauty, notorious for the suspicious deaths and political intrigue that swirled around her and her family. But how much of the scandalous reputation was true, and how much was sheer invention?
Josep Palau I Orta, National Geographic History 2017
The Western territory made history in 1869 by giving women the right to vote. When Esther Morris became justice of the peace a few months later, she made history as well.
Jessica Anderson, NY Times 2018
Ida Tarbell was a groundbreaking investigative journalist in the golden age of muckraking, best known for her multipart exposé of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company which ran in McClure’s magazine from 1902 to 1904 before being collected in a book, ‘The History of the Standard Oil Company.’
Matthew Dessem, Slate 2016
A new book examines the life and legacy of Anne Royall, whose literal witch trial made headlines across the country.
Jeff Biggers, Smithsonian 2017
Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith
Dr. Julius Silberger, Jr., American Heritage 1980
Alexander Hamilton, a founding father and the first secretary of the treasury of the United States, died 214 years ago today from a gunshot wound. He was of indeterminate age.
Erin B. Logan, Washington Post Retropolis 2018
Mildred Wirt Benson helped invent the fictional teen sleuth who became a generational role model
Jennifer Fisher, Smithsonian 2018
The sister of American president John F Kennedy and US senators Robert and Ted Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy was born into one of 20th-century America’s most prominent political families. Presented to elite British society in the 1930s and deemed beautiful and charming by the press, the eldest Kennedy daughter would disappear from society at the age of 23, following a tragic decision taken by her father…
Marius Gabriel , History Extra 2019
Muhammad Ali was reborn at least twice. The first rebirth was his conversion, in the 1960s, to Islam (initially through the heterodoxy of the Nation of Islam; then through Sunni Islam, a more universal version of the faith). Another rebirth of sorts occurred in the 1980s and 90s, when the aging champion, increasingly enfeebled by Parkinson’s, was reclaimed by white America and the corporate establishment.
Russell Rickford, Black Perspectives 2016
Hargreaves sent her children a message from the apex: “I am on the highest point of the world, and I love you dearly.” She perished months later while descending Earth’s second-highest peak, K2.
Maya Salam, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
In 1946, the U.S. Navy considered Grace Hopper too old to be an officer. Thirty-seven years later, President Ronald Reagan promoted her to rear admiral because of her pioneering work in computers.
New England Historical Society
At the time of her birth, Elizabeth II was a princess who was never expected to succeed the throne. So how did she become queen? From her unconventional childhood to the crisis that made her a monarch, Kate Williams charts Elizabeth II’s life within the royal family before she was crowned…
Kate Williams, History Extra 2019
The Moscow journalist Masha Gessen pulls no punches in her biography of ‘Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face’.
Mick Brown, Telegraph 2012
Likely the United States’ first woman employee, this newspaper publisher was a key figure in promoting the ideas that fomented the Revolution
Erick Trickey, Smithsonian 2018
A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time
John Hall, Independent 2012
Read excerpts from letters, speeches and memoirs reflecting on each stage of his life—from the innocence of a tribal village boy to the triumphs and pressures of being South Africa’s first black president.
David Roos, History 2019
Very brief biographical profiles of Vanderbilt, Astor, Jay Cooke, Duke etc.
Elena Holodny, Business Insider 2016
Brief description of Aristotle’s life and work.
Dr. Sophia Protopapa, Ancient Origins 2017
Ramabai traveled around India in the 19th century to give lectures on women’s emancipation and established one of the country’s first women’s shelters and schools.
Aisha Khan, NY Times 2018
“Ideas are powerful,” Dr. Gwendolyn Patton used to say when she talked to the younger generation about civil rights and political organizing. This simple but powerful notion undergirded Patton’s incredible activist life, one that spanned much of the late 20th century and many different facets of the Black Freedom Struggle.
Ashley Farmer, Black Perspectives 2017
An insurgent who challenged the academic establishment and became a foremost expert on the aging of galaxies, she was eventually forced to choose between family and career.
Dennis Overbye, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
Review of Ronald C. White’s ‘American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant’.
Chris Fobare, H-Net Reviews 2017
A book review of ‘E.P. Thompson: A Twentieth-Century Romantic’ by Christos Efstathiou. Thompson was a leading British historian and socialist, and author of ‘The Making of the English Working Class’.
Stefan Collini, Nation 2017
Charlotte Kelsted, Imperial and Global Forum 2017
Born into poverty, dancer Josephine Baker became an overnight sensation in a vaudeville show, launching a glittering cabaret career that took her across the globe, from Broadway to Paris. Yet Baker was no ordinary performer – she went on to become a Second World War spy, was active in the fight against segregation and even attracted the attentions of the FBI.
Ailsa Ross, History Extra 2017
She was fearless — so fearless that she paid to have a volume of poems by her and her younger sisters published under pseudonyms, an unusually ambitious act for a woman of her era.
Susan Dominus, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
As an artist she transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her.
Penelope Green, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
What the woman known as Grandma Gatewood accomplished in 1955 was remarkable. So is the untold story of what she overcame before that.
Katharine Q. Seelye, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
Adored as “the People’s William” and execrated by “the upper ten thousand,” Gladstone was the great statesman of his age.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Atlantic 1997
“Frontline” Video Documentary (1 hr 53 min) about the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy
PBS, Frontline 2013
See our collected books on History & Culture of China
Ida B. Wells was an investigative reporter who exposed the systematic lynching of black men in the South. Her work made her the most famous black woman in the country.
Podcast, NY Times 2018
The author is a biographer of English King Edward I (reign: 1272-1307). This article provides a biographical profile and addresses key issues about his rule.
Caroline Burt, History Extra 2018
Seth Kimmel, Washington Post 2017
The story of the wife of Napoleon III, Empress of France.
Victorian Paris 2017
When a call for peaceful protests came in spring 1919, a schoolgirl became the face of a nation’s collective yearning for freedom.
Inyoung Kang, NY Times 2018
She brought a scientific approach to cooking, taught countless women marketable skills and wrote a cookbook that defined American food for the 20th century.
Julia Moskin, NY Times Overlooked No More 2018
James D. McNiven, The Yankee Road
Frances Perkins Center
While alive, Emma Goldman was considered an enemy of the state. In death, she became a celebrated American icon.
Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily 2016
But he died a pauper buried in an unmarked grave.
Steve Hendrix, Washington Post Retropolis 2017
The life of Oxford scholar and author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2016
At the turn of the 20th century Tarbell was a leading investigative journalist, authoring a ground-breaking expose of the biggest company of the day, the Standard Oil Company.
Kathleen Brady, American Experience
Description by Job Archer’s daughter of her childhood on the frontier in southern Michigan in the 1840s.
Pioneer history of Ingham County, Michigan
A native of Lansing, MI, Baker became a journalist and a leader in the Muckraking movement at the turn of the 20th century. He was a progressive and friend of Woodrow Wilson, and wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning bio of Wilson.
American Experience, PBS
Leslie Camhi, New Yorker 2017
Letter written by Hamilton 28 June – 10 July 1804. He was mortally wounded by Aaron Burr on 11 July 1804.
Today’s Document, National Archives