Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) combined her talents as a writer, poet, and public speaker with a deep commitment to abolition and social reform. She sustained a long and prolific publishing career at a time when it was rare for women, particularly women of color, to have a voice. She used her in a multitude of powerful ways, and as a result, she’s been referred to as “the mother of African-American journalism.”
The 1854 collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) was possibly her most successful, having gone through many editions. “The Two Offers” was the first published short story by an African-American woman. And Iola Leroy (1892) was one of the first novels by a black woman to be published. Read More→
Frances Watkins Harper (1825 – 1911, also known as Frances E.W. Harper or Frances Ellen Watkins Harper) was an ardent suffragist, social reformer, and abolitionist in addition to her renown as a poet and author.
She wrote prolifically from the time she published her first collection of poetry in 1845, at the age of twenty. A freeborn African-American from Baltimore, Maryland, she dedicated her life to social causes, including abolition, women’s suffrage, and the quest for equality.
The dynamic Frances Harper became involved in anti-slavery societies in the early 1850s and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Read More→
Ethan Frome (1911) by Edith Wharton is a somber tale indeed, but so beautifully told that many readers return to it again and again. An original review in the San Francisco Call from the year the book was published sketches the outline of the novella:
“Twenty years before the tale opens we learn that Ethan Frome has been crippled in a terrible accident … Ethan had his old parents to take care of and after their death he married the young woman who had helped him to nurse them … In a few years she needed assistance, so a young poor relation, Mattie Silver, came to live with them. Slowly she and Ethan fell in love. What happens next isn’t ‘happily ever after.’” Read More→
Excerpted from Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist by Brooke Kroeger, the most comprehensive biography to date on the pioneering investigative journalist, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran (she later spelled her name Cochrane) on May 5, 1864, in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania:
Nellie Bly was one of the most rousing characters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the 1880s she pioneered the development of “detective” or “stunt” journalism, the acknowledged forerunner of full-scale investigative reporting.
While she was still in her early twenties, the example of her fearless success helped open the profession to coming generations of women journalists clamoring to write hard news. Read More→
From the Times Books description of Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist by Brooke Kroeger (1994): Nellie Bly was “the best reporter in America” according to the New York Evening Journal on the occasion of her death in 1922. One of the most rousing characters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Nellie Bly was a pioneer of investigative journalism.
She feigned insanity and got herself committed to a lunatic asylum to expose its horrid conditions. She circled the globe faster than any living or fictional soul. She designed, manufactured, and marketed the first successful steel barrel produced in the United States. Read More→
In the classic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft argued for equality of men and women: Men and women, in her view, are born with ability to reason, and therefore power and influence should be equally available to all regardless of gender. This was a unique and radical view in 1792 when the book was first published.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophical literature. Read More→
“My name is Claudine, I live in Montigny; I was born there in 1884; I shall probably not die there.” This iconic opening line from Claudine at School (Claudine à l´Ecole ) by French author Colette (1873 – 1954) has become more familiar to English-speaking audiences thanks to the 2018 biopic, Colette.
In 1900, Colette began publishing the series of Claudine stories that defined the teenage girl of the era. In grounbreaking fashion, these books explored the sexual and mischievous side of a young woman coming into her own. Read More→
P.L.Travers (1899 – 1996) loved fairy tales and myths from childhood on, and no doubt reading them from childhood on fueled her imagination. Her Mary Poppins series of books have entertained generations of readers, ever since the first volume was published in 1934. As one character in Mary Poppins Opens the Door says of the magical nanny, “She’s a fairy-tale come true.”
Mary Poppins was the basis of the beloved 1964 Disney musical film, which the famously cranky author was none too happy with. What might she have thought of the 2018 film Mary Poppins Returns? It’s doubtful she would have been very pleased with it, either. Her persnickety personality aside, Travers created some of the most memorable characters in children’s literature. Read More→