Victoria Woodhull: Rabble Rousing Suffragist and First American Woman to Run for President

Victoria Woodhull, photo by Mathew Brady, ca 1870

Shirley Chisholm may have been the first woman to seek the presidential nomination from one of the two major political parties — that was in 1972 — but exactly one hundred years before that, Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927) was the first woman to launch a national presidential campaign. She did so under the banner of the Equal Rights Party.

And running for president long before women even had the right to vote was just one chapter in an incredibly colorful, yet largely forgotten American life.

Victoria was a suffragist, publisher, stockbroker, orator, and agitator. She was also accused at various points of being a bigamist, prostitute, spiritual charlatan, and adulteress. Read More→


Fanny Burney

English author Fanny Burney in 1782

Fanny Burney (June 13, 1752 – January 6, 1840), born Frances Burney, was a British novelist, diarist, and playwright best remembered for her first novel, Evelina (1778).

Born in Lynn Regis, now known as King’s Lynn, her father, Dr. Charles Burney, was a musician of note. Her mother, Esther Sleepe Burney, died when Fanny was ten, and this marked the time when she began writing in earnest.

Fanny’s literary output included four novels eight plays, a biography, and some twenty-five volumes of journals and letters. She was an influence on novelists of manner and satire who came a bit later, notably, Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray. Read More→


A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (1909)

A girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (1863 – 1924) was the author’s third novel, published in 1909 as a sequel to Freckles (1905), both of which are stories for “children of all ages.”

Gene was enchanted by the great outdoors from an early age, and was encouraged by her parents to explore her surroundings. Her love of nature served as the foundation for her career as a naturalist, photographer, and writer.

In the course of her early explorations, Gene came upon the Limberlost Swamp near her home in rural Indiana. There she discovered birds, butterflies, and wildflowers that captured her imagination. Read More→


The Ghetto by Lola Ridge, Radical Poet

Lola Ridge

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the first and most important book by Lola Ridge,The Ghetto and Other Poems. In the epic-length title poem, the Irish-American poet known for her radicalism celebrated the Jewish immigrants of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Terese Svoboda, author of Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Radical Poet Lola Ridge (2018) wrote of her:

“A bigamist as well as an anarchist, Ridge left her son in an orphanage in L.A. soon after her arrival in the U.S., when she went to work for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger in New York. Ten years later, she protested Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution in Massachusetts, and faced down a rearing police horse.

Solo and broke in the next decade, she traveled to Baghdad and Mexico – and took a lover at sixty-one. Her five books of poetry contain poems about lynching, execution, race riots, and imprisonment.” Read More→


Madeleine B. Stern’s Brilliant Analysis of Little Women

Louisa May Alcott - a biography by Madeleine B. Stern

Louisa May Alcott: A Biography by Madeleine B. Stern (1999) is considered the definitive biography of the famous author of Little Women (1868). Presented here is Stern’s brilliant analysis of Little Women.

Tracing the life of Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) the writer, Stern gives penetrating insight not only into Alcott’s life, but her very essence as a writer.

As a writer myself, I have found much wisdom in these pages and have marveled at Alcott’s ability to “simmer a story” in her head while fulfilling duties around the house, and then later sitting down to spill it out on paper to submit without editing.

Read More→


A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: Two 1929 reviews + quotes

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf has stood the test of time, though the fact that it remains relevant is a sorry statement of contemporary culture. Following are presented two reviews from both sides of the Atlantic, plus a selection of quotes.

Based on two lectures Woolf delivered in the late 1920s at Newnham and Girton Colleges, two women’s colleges in Britain, it has since become a classic feminist text.

First published in 1929 by Hogarth Press, a publishing company in the U.K. that the author herself ran with her husband, Leonard Woolf, it was also published by Harcourt, Brace in the U.S. that same year.

Read More→


Ariel by Sylvia Plath — a review and analysis

Ariel was the second published collection by Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963). It came out two years after she took her own life at age thirty. Following is an analysis of Ariel by Sylvia Plath as well as a review, both from 1965, the year in which it was first published.

Plath’s poetry, considered part of the “confessional movement,” was influenced by Robert Lowell as well as by her friend, the poet Anne Sexton, who also explored dark themes and death in her work (and who, like Plath, committed suicide). Depression had been a constant companion, leading to a life of struggle that was reflected in her work. 

Once Plath started to publish, her star quickly rose in the world of poetry. Her first collection, The Colossus, was published in 1960. Its poems were intense, personal, and delicately crafted. In Ariel, the beauty of craft remains even as it reveals the fissures growing in the poet’s psyche. According to the Penguin Companion to American Literature: Read More→


A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945) — Two Reviews

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000) was just twenty-eight years old when her first book, A Street In Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Following are two original reviews from 1945 of A Street in Bronzeville, which are typical of the universal praise it received.

The title of this poetry collection, whose title was a reference to  Chicago’s South Side where the poet grew up, was very well reviewed and led to her winning a Guggenheim Fellowship. 

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetic work included sonnets, ballads, and blues rhythm in free verse. She also created lengthy lyrical poems, some of which were book-length. Each poem is an exquisitely crafted portrait of fictionalized (but true-to-life) characters and landmarks of the community.  Read More→


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