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Helen Steiner Rice, often referred to as the "poet laureate of inspirational verse", was born Helen Elaine Steiner on May 19,1900 to Anna and John Steiner of Lorain, Ohio. Even as a little girl, she loved to write rhyming couplets and preach about God's love to her family. Pretty, pert and precocious, young Helen became a conscientious and outstanding high school student. Her teachers, some of whom were suffragists supporting women's right to vote, encouraged the teenager to set high goals. She dreamed of attending college - her high school yearbook noted that she hoped to become a Congresswoman - but her plans changed unexpectedly when her father died in the flu epidemic of 1918, the same year she graduated from high school.

Instead of attending college, Helen became the family breadwinner and supported her mother and sister. Initially she was employed at the Lorain Electric Light and Power Company where she demonstrated how to create attractive lamp shades. Energetic and enterprising, Helen asked to be trained as a bookkeeper. Having mastered those skills, she started designing eye-catching display windows and, having proved that her insights in marketing were sound, she became the company's advertising manager. In time she was invited to be a spokeswoman for the Ohio Public Service Company and, in her twenties, crisscrossed the country giving speeches. In addition to promoting the advantages of the electric lighting industry, she also spoke about the importance of the opinions of women as consumers and about the value of women's talents in the workplace.

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*Biographical material by Virginia Wiltse, co-author of Ambassador of Sunshine,
published in 1994 by Fleming H. Revell, a Division of Baker Book House.

 

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