Edwin Markham, the youngest of ten children, was born in Oregon City on 23rd April, 1852. When he was a child his family moved to California. Markham attended rural schools before finding work as a farm labourer.
In 1868 he entered California College and after graduating four years later, became a teacher at San Luis. This was followed by periods in Santa Rosa and Coloma before being appointed headteacher of a school in Hayward.
Markham also wrote poetry and his work was published in the Overland Monthly and Scribner's Magazine. In January 1899, he most famous poem, The Man with the Hoe, appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.
Markham's first collection of poems, The Man and the Hoe and Other Poems, appeared later that year. This was followed by further collections including Lincoln and Other Poems (1901), California the Wonderful (1915), Gates of Paradise (1920), Ballad of the Gallows Bird (1926), Eighty Poems at Eighty (1932) and Collected Poems (1940).
Markham's concern for the welfare of the underdog made him popular with radicals and Benjamin Flower described him as "democracy's greatest poet". Children of Bondage, a book that Markham wrote with Ben Lindsey, George Creel and Owen Lovejoy on the exploitation of young workers, is considered to have influenced the federal government's attempts to control child labour.
Edwin Markham died in 7th March, 1940.