Gladys Bates was born in 1896 in Hopewell, New Jersey. She first studied at at the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, New Jersey where Henry MacGinnis was her teacher. When she was 13, MacGinnis recommended she attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. She and her younger sister Beatrice then studied there for six years. In 1916 the sisters entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Gladys studied under Daniel Garber, and then sculptor Charles Grafly. In the summer of 1920 and 1922, she spent the summer at the PAFA Country School at Chester Springs, studying under Albert Laessle. In 1921 she was awarded the Cresson Traveling Scholarship, and traveled to England, France and Italy.&nb
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