Gertrude Franklin Atherton.One of the most vivid and entertaining interpreters of the complex characteristics of American womanhood is the versatile and entertaining writer, Gertrude Franklin Atherton. She was born on Rincon Hill, San Francisco, California, October 30, 1859, daughter of Thomas Lyman Horn, of German descent, and on her mother’s side descended from a brother of Benjamin Franklin. She was educated at St. Mary’s Hall, Benicia, California, also at Sayre Institute, Lexington, Kentucky, and by private tutors. In addition to this, she had obtained a good foundation in the classics, English especially, from the teachings of her grandfather. Before leaving school she was married to George Henry Bowen Atherton, a native of Valparaiso, Chili. After his death, in 1888, Mrs. Atherton went directly to New York city, beginning literary work in earnest. As she never received courteous treatment from the press of her own country, she settled in London in 1895, and there met with gratifying recognition. Some of her most important works are: “The Doomswoman,” 1902; “Patience Sparhawk and Her Times,” 1897; “His Fortunate Grace,” 1897; “American Wives and English Husbands,” 1898; “The Californians,” 1898; “A Daughter of the Vine,” 1899; “Senator North,” 1900. The latter is the first attempt in American fiction at a purely national novel, disregarding section. The Leeds Mercury styled “The Californians” an oasis in fiction, while the British Weekly declared Mrs. Atherton to be the ablest writer of fiction now living. The brilliancy of her portraiture and the humor and freshness of her dialogues are undeniable. A western writer says, “The early days of the missions and Spanish rule have given her a most congenial field, and she has successfully reproduced their atmosphere in her best novels; against the background of their romantic traditions she paints the world, old, strong of passion, vague, dreamy, idyllic, yet strong and elemental.”
Amelia Edith Barr.Amelia Edith Barr was born at Ulverton, Lancashire, England, March 29, 1831. She was the daughter of the Rev. William Huddleston. Her mother’s family were among the followers of the noted evangelist, George Fox. She was educated in several good schools and colleges and was graduated, at the age of nineteen, from Glasgow high school. In 1850 she was married to Robert Barr, son of a minister of the Scottish Free Kirk. In 1854 Mr. and Mrs. Barr came to America, settling at Austin, and later at Galveston, Texas. Her husband and three sons died in 1857 of yellow fever and Mrs. Barr was obliged to support herself and three daughters with her pen. Two years after Mr. Barr’s death she came to New York city and received immediate encouragement from Mr. Beecher, of the Christian Union, and Robert Bonner, of the New York Ledger. She taught school for two years, meanwhile writing various sketches and miscellaneous articles for magazines and newspapers. The work which gave her the greatest fame, “A Bow of Orange Ribbon,” appeared in serial form in the Ledger. Since 1884 she has devoted her time almost entirely to the writing of novels and short stories.
Frances Hodgson Burnett.There are very few who are not acquainted with “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” one of the sweetest children’s stories ever written, but not so many perhaps are acquainted with the interesting life story of its author, Frances Hodgson Burnett. She was born November 24, 1849, in Manchester, England, and while yet attending school she developed a talent for writing short stories and poems and even novels. When her father died her mother brought the family to America in 1865, settling at Newmarket, but a year later removing to Knoxville, Tennessee. She then completed a story which was planned in her thirteenth year, and succeeded in disposing of it to Godey’s Lady’s Book, in which it was published in 1867. Other interesting short stories followed in this and in Peterson’s Magazine, but the turning point of her literary success was “Surly Tim’s Trouble,” which appeared in Scribner’s Monthly in 1872, attracting a great deal of attention. At the invitation of the editor more of her publications were published in Scribner’s, one of the most popular being “That Lass o’ Lowries,” which appeared later in 1877 in book form. Mrs. Hodgson has been twice married, the first time, in 1873, to Dr. Swan M. Burnett, from whom she obtained a divorce in 1898, and the second time, in 1900, to Stephen Townsend, an English author. Mrs. Burnett, by winning a suit against the unauthorized dramatization of “Fauntleroy,” secured for authors of England the control of dramatic rights in their stories, for which Reade and Dickens had spent thousands of pounds in vain.
Pearl Mary Theresa Craigie.The authoress, Pearl Mary Theresa Craigie, more familiarly known as John Oliver Hobbes, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, November 3, 1867, daughter of John Morgan and Laura Hortense (Arnold) Richards. She is descended from early settlers of New York. After being educated under private tutors, Miss Richards, in 1883, went to Europe, continuing her studies in Paris. In 1887 she was enrolled as a student at University College, London, where, under the tuition of Professor Goodwin, she obtained an adequate knowledge of the classics and philosophy. In early childhood she was fond of writing. One of her first stories, entitled “Lost, A Dog,” appeared in Dr. Joseph Parker’s paper, The Fountain. This story was signed Pearl Richards, aged nine. Another of her stories, entitled “How Mark Puddler Became an Innkeeper,” appeared in The Fountain of February 10, 1881. At the age of eighteen she decided to make literature her profession and immediately took up a special study of style, especially dramatic dialogues. Her first book, entitled “Some Emotions and a Moral,” 1891, is an excellent example of success under difficulties. This book was composed during months of weary illness and amid the strain of domestic anxiety, but its success was immediate, for over eighty thousand copies were sold in a short time. Since then she has written several other novels.
Mary Eleanor Wilkins-Freeman.“Wonderful in concentrated intensity, tremendous in power,” this record of the heart tragedies of a dozen men and women is not surpassed in our literature for its beauty of style, the delicacy of its character delineations, and the enthralling interest of its narrative. It is the praise merited by “Pembroke,” the greatest work that has come from the pen of the author, Mary Eleanor Wilkins. She was born of Puritan ancestors January 7, 1862, in Randolph, Norfolk county, Massachusetts, and received her early education in Randolph, later removing to Brattleboro, Vermont. She afterward attended Mount Holyoke seminary, South Hadley, Massachusetts, but previous to this she had already begun her literary work, writing poems and then prose for Youth’s Companion, St. Nicholas, Harper’s Bazar and finally for Harper’s Magazine. “A Humble Romance and Other Stories,” 1887, placed Miss Wilkins in the class with Mrs. Stowe, Miss Jewett and other conspicuous authors as a delineator of New England character. The simplicity and the astonishing reality of her story brought a new revelation to New England itself. Her literary style displays a fearlessness of the critic and the dominating thought to be true to her ideal. “The Pot of Gold and Other Stories,” 1891, and “Young Lucretia,” 1892, are among her popular juveniles. “The New England Nun and Other Stories,” called forth the most lavish praise. Her next work of importance, as well as her first novel, was “Jane Field,” 1892. When “Pembroke” appeared, in 1894, it was praised almost indiscriminately in England, some critics even venturing to say that George Eliot had never produced anything finer.
Anna Katherine Greene.The simple stories and poems, written in her childhood, were the beginning of the career of the authoress, Anna Katherine Greene, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, November 11, 1846, daughter of James Wilson and Anna Katherine Greene. Her early education was obtained in the public schools of New York city and Buffalo, and she completed her course of study in Ripley Female College, Poultney, Vermont, graduating in 1867. Returning to her native city, she engaged in literary work, and, in 1878, produced her first important novel, “The Leavenworth Case.” She attracted immediate attention in literary circles. It had been carefully prepared and was given to the public only after repeated revisions. It had a phenomenal sale—already, in 1894, exceeding seven hundred and fifty thousand copies. From that time on there was a great demand from the publishers for books from her pen, and during the next seventeen years she wrote and published fifteen novels. The story of “The Leavenworth Case” was dramatized and produced during the season of 1891 and 1892, her husband, Charles Rohlfs, to whom she had been married in 1884, sustaining the leading part, Harwell. The book is also used as a text-book in Yale university to demonstrate the fallacy of circumstantial evidence.
Sarah Orne Jewett.A writer paid a just tribute to the subject of this sketch when she wrote: “The secret of Sarah Jewett’s great success outside of its artistic perfection, is the spirit of loving kindness and tender mercy that pervades it.” She was born at South Berwick, Maine, September 3, 1849, daughter of Theodore Herman Jewett. Her parents were both descendants of early English emigrants to Massachusetts. Sarah, owing to delicate health in childhood, spent much of her time communing with nature, where she received material and the inspiration that eventually made her such a popular writer. She was educated at Berwick academy, in her native city. When a mere girl she began her career as an author by contributing to Riverside Magazine and Our Young Folks. At nineteen she sent a story to the Atlantic Monthly, and has been averaging nearly a book a year ever since. Miss Jewett adopted the pseudonym “Alice Elliott” in 1881, but after that she used her own name instead.
Constance Cary Harrison.Constance Cary Harrison, who is better known to the reading public as Mrs. Burton Harrison, was born in Fairfax county, Virginia, April 25, 1846. She was educated by private governesses, and while under their tuition gave proofs of being the possessor of literary ability. During the Civil war she lived with her family in Richmond, Virginia. At the end of the conflict she went abroad with her mother to complete her studies in music and languages. Mrs. Harrison has traveled much and has lived in nearly all of the continental capitals. She married Burton Harrison, a well-known New York lawyer, and since her union to him has resided in the metropolis. Her works are many and range from children’s fairy stories to works on social questions, and again from small comedies to books on municipal problems.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward.Heredity and environment conspired to make Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward a woman of letters. Her father, the Rev. Austin Phelps, was pastor of the Pine Street Congregational church of Boston at the time of her birth, August 31, 1844. In 1848 he became a professor in the theological seminary at Andover, Massachusetts, and thus his daughter Elizabeth grew up among a circle of thinkers and writers. She received most of her education from her father, but also attended the private school at Andover and the seminary of Mrs. Prof. Edwards, where she took a course of study equal to that of the men’s colleges of to-day. At the age of nineteen she left school and engaged in mission work at Abbott Village and Factory Settlement, a short distance from her home. It was here she began an acquaintance with the lives and needs of working people, which resulted in books such as “Hedged In” and “Jack, the Fisherman.” Her first story was published in the Youth’s Companion when she was only thirteen years old. In 1864 she published “A Sacrifice Consumed,” in Harper’s Magazine, which earned her right to the title “author.” The book which has given her greatest fame, “The Gates Ajar,” was begun in 1862 and was published in 1868. Nearly one hundred thousand copies were sold in the United States, and more than that number in Great Britain. It was also translated into a number of foreign languages. Probably Mrs. Ward has written more books worth while than any other woman writer of her time. In 1888 Miss Phelps was married to Herbert D. Ward, and has co-operated with him in writing several romances.
Compiled from sources in the public domain.
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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915