Abraham Cahan was born in Russia on July 7, 1860. In its obituary of him in 1951, the New York Times described him as a Socialist leader, novelist, critic and newspaperman who, for many years, had been an outstanding figure of New York's East Side. His literary career, as distinguished from his journalistic one, began at the Forward, according to his autobiography, but his interest in literature had begun to develop much earlier. Cahan began by translating some of his own Yiddish stories into English. William Dean Howells invited him to his home, and Cahan was encouraged to show him a novella, which he had written and called Yankel, the Yankee. The older novelist read it, liked it, and suggested shortening the title to Yekl. Cahan himself wrote reports on East Side life for a large number of American newspapers and magazines before returning to the Forward on his own terms.