Mary O’Hara (July 10, 1885 – October 14, 1980; born Mary O’Hara Alsop) was an American author, screenwriter, and composer, best known for the horse story for all ages, My Friend Flicka. Born in Cape May, New Jersey, she was raised in the Brooklyn Heights, New York, mainly by her father. Her mother died when she was a child.
Against her father’s wishes, in 1905 she married a distant cousin, Kent Kane Parrot. Sadly, their daughter died of skin cancer when in her early teens. The couple, who also had a son, divorced around 1920, after which, Mary began working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Following the end of her marriage to Parrot, Mary worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. The Prisoner of Zenda became the best known of the screenplays she wrote. Read More→
Jessie Redmon Fauset (April 27, 1882 – April 30, 1961) was an American editor, poet, essayist and novelist who was deeply involved with the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. Born in Camden County, New Jersey, and raised in Philadelphia, she was the daughter of a Methodist Episcopal minister. Her mother died when she was quite young.
Bright and studious, Jessie Fauset was the first African-American to graduate from the Philadelphia High School for Girls. A stellar student, she wished to continue her studies at Bryn Mawr College but the institution got around admitting a black student by securing a scholarship for her at Cornell University. There she studied classical languages, and later earned a Master’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania. Read More→
Jean Rhys (August 24, 1890 – May 14, 1979) was born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams in Roseau, Dominica, Jean Rhys is best known for her last novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, prequel and what modern critics consider a post-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Published when Rhys was 76 and shaped by her Dominican heritage and reoccurring themes of exile, loss, alienation, sexual inequality, and enslavement, it imagines the descent into madness of Rochester’s white-Creole wife Antoinette (Bertha, “the madwoman in the attic”). It won the W.H. Smith Literary Award in 1967.
Rhys described her childhood as one spent “alone except for books” and with voices “that had nothing to do” with her. Her father, William Potts Rees Williams, was a Welsh doctor. Her mother, Minna, a third generation Dominican with Scottish ancestry, was cold and disapproving towards her daughter, creating a sense of abandonment for Jean that haunted her throughout her life. Although an Anglican Protestant, Rhys attended a convent school, was fascinated by the Catholic rituals and also the integration of blacks and whites in church. The servants in her household offered the companionship her mother didn’t, while pulling her into the magic and mayhem of their Caribbean culture. Read More→
Eleanor Estes (May 9, 1906 – July 15, 1988), born Eleanor Ruth Rosenfield in West Haven, Connecticut was best known for her award-winning children’s books, notably Ginger Pye, The Hundred Dresses, and The Moffats series. The town of “Cranbury” in which the Moffat books were set was based on her life in West Haven.
Upon graduating from high school, she joined the staff of the New Haven Free Public Library. Within a few years she was promoted to Head of Children’s Services there. A scholarship allowed her to attend the library school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY. This was where she met her future husband, Rice Estes. Eleanor Estes launched her career as a children’s librarian in the New York Public Library. Read More→
Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 – February 4, 1995) was an American writer known for novels and short stories best described as psychological thrillers with elements of crime. Born Mary Patricia Plangman in Fort Worth Texas, her parents divorced just days before her birth. She acquired the name Highsmith when her mother remarried a few years later.
By age eight she was reading studies of mental illness and, finding them fascinating. Evidently, she tucked away what she learned for later use in her writing.
Highsmith received her education from Barnard College in New York City, where she majored in English, focusing on playwriting and composition. For some years after graduating, she worked as a scriptwriter for coming books, first as a job, then freelance, which left her enough time to work on her personal writing. She burst on the scene with a bang when her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950, followed just a year later by the 1951 film version directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With that, her reputation was secured. Her prolific output was dominated by thrillers that didn’t shy away from the dark places of the human psyche. Read More→