Willa Cather (1873 – 1947) was born near Winchester, VA, where her family had lived and farmed for generations. The course of her life was altered when she was nine years old. Her father bought a ranch in Nebraska, uprooting the family and leaving behind the genteel, tranquil, and traditional life they had been accustomed to. The prairie was wild and free, yet more hazardous, with the struggle to tame the land and its attendant blizzards, droughts, and storms.
This new way of life made a deep impression on Cather, and would come to inspire some of her most iconic novels later in her life. After abandoning her initial ambition to study medicine, she embarked on a life of letters, first working as a journalist, critic, and editor. Her first published book was a collection of poems titled April Highlights (1903), remaining her only volume of poetry. Read More→
Most often, book clubs (aka book groups) choose recent publications for discussion, many straight off the current bestseller list. And this is understandable, given all the great books coming out. It’s hard enough to keep up with all the new publications, but can we make the case for discussions of classic literature by women authors?
Some suggestions in this post are by authors of the past that are still well known, while others have fallen under the literary radar. Either way, these novels make for fantastic reading and stimulating discussion. Books remain classics for a reason, after all. With universal themes of what it means to be a woman — and what it means to be human — these great stories are timeless. 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→
Mary Poppins, one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature, came from a story that its author, P.L. (Pamela Lyndon) Travers made up while minding two young children.
Mary Poppins, the first book in the series, was published in 1934 to instant success and launched a series starring the magical nanny as the central character. In it, she’s blown to Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London by the East wind, and becomes part of the Banks family’s household.
There she takes charge of the children, changing their lives and that of their parents. The books, all illustrated by Mary Shepard, have been a mainstay of classic children’s literature from the time of their publication. Read More→
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 – 1957) has a permanent place in the American imagination for her Little House series of books for young readers. Born in a log cabin on the edge of an area called “Big Woods” in Pepin, Wisconsin, her life was the inspiration for her semi-autobiographical novels.
Laura’s publishing career began at the ripe age of sixty-five and consisted of the 8-volume set of Little House books (9, if you count Farmer Boy) and a small number of autobiographical volumes. The first installment, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1931; the best known of the series, Little House on the Prairie, was published soon after. Read More→