Despite having published seven books in her long lifetime, Candace Wheeler (1827–1923) might not be classified as a “literary lady,” let alone a classic author. She was one of the first American women to practice as an interior and textile designer, and opened the profession to other women who followed in her footsteps.
Born Candace Thurber, her father was a Puritan abolitionist so severe that he would not allow the family to use sugar or cotton, and he applied similarly stringent standards to his children’s reading habits, decreeing that they read nothing more fanciful than the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress.
Yet, she evolved into a superlative aestheticist and the godmother of many female artists, writers, and designers. Often referred to as “the mother of interior design,” she was the actual mother of the accomplished artist and book illustrator Dora Wheeler Keith. Read More→
Though Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870 – 1942) wasn’t a literary figure, we’ve been highlighting pioneering female journalists here on Literary Ladies Guide, and she was a true trailblazer. Though she rarely contributed the texts to the news stories she took, she was a storyteller with her camera. As America’s first woman news photographer, she broke many barriers and encouraged other women to follow suit.
Jessie was the first woman to be hired as a staff photographer on a U.S. newspaper and the first American woman to get a byline as a photojournalist. She herself found nothing extraordinary about the pursuit, claiming that photography was a profession that could be mastered by any woman who “has good health, perseverance, and a nose for news.”
In 1893, a deputy sheriff knocked on Matilda Joslyn Gage’s door in Fayetteville, New York. He served her with a supreme writ, court papers summoning her to appear before a judge for breaking the law.
“All of the crimes which I was not guilty of rushed through my mind,” she wrote later, “but I failed to remember that I was a born criminal—a woman.” Her crime: registering to vote. The verdict: guilty as charged.
Matilda Joslyn Gage was born in 1826 in Cicero, New York, near Syracuse. She lived all her life in the Syracuse area but also spent time with her adult children who lived in Dakota Territory. Her home in Fayetteville, New York, is now a museum. Read More→