One of the earliest collections of North American folklore, A Treasury of Eskimo Tales, is the work of author Clara Kern Bayliss, who had two passions: folklore and education. She was born Clara Kern in 1848 and grew up on a Michigan farm to become one of the few women to graduate from high school in her area. After high school, she continued her education to college as the first woman to receive a diploma from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. While a student, she met a British immigrant named Alfred Bayliss and they soon married.
Before she was an author, Clara Kern Bayliss was a passionate advocate for education and literacy. Her husband was a school superintendent in Indiana, and she taught classes. She later gave birth to two daughters, with the second born in 1873. The next year, she completed her M.S. at Hillsdale College. Eventually her husband became Illinois Superintendent of Public Instruction, and when he worked on a publication called The Child-Study Monthly, she began editing the work and adding her own pieces, speaking about the importance of education for children as well as a community as a whole.
In the 1890’s, she begin writing her collection of children’s books, passionate about sharing other culture’s heritage with readers. Among her titles were Old Man Coyote, Philippine Folktales, Lolami in Tusayan, A Treasury of Indian Tales, and Two Little Algonquin Lads. In 1911, her husband died after being thrown from a horse, but Clara kept up her passion for helping others through education, and assisted in funding a local orphanage. She died in 1948, a few days away from celebrating her 100th birthday.