A Celebration of Women Writers

Completed Build-A-Books:

The Enchanted April (1922)
by Elizabeth von Arnim (1866-1938)

Rain–poached sole for dinner–buying boots for the poor–and then! "To those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine, Small mediaeval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the Month of April." What would you do? Absolutely delightful!

Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873)
by Amelia B. Edwards (1831-1892)

Part of the attraction of travelling, for Amelia Edwards, was the challenge of reaching areas that were almost entirely untouched and inaccessible; overcoming difficulties that others would not face. Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873) describes a journey through the Dolomites, a mountainous area largely unknown to travellers. Together Edwards and her woman companion braved flies, mud, cold, heat, poor roads (or no roads at all), resistant or hostile male servants and villagers, and other difficulties and privations. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Castle Rackrent, an Hibernian Tale (1800)
by Maria Edgeworth (ca.1767-1849)

Castle Rackrent is a window into the Ireland of the mid 1700's, an account of the decline and fall of a family of Irish landlords, aptly named the Rackrents. It is told from the viewpoint of their steward, Old Thady; and his account shows us his own family's history, as well as his landlord's. By writing the first "regional" novel, Edgeworth inspired Scott and others.

The Peterkin Papers (1886: 2nd edition.)
by Lucretia P. Hale (1820-1900)

The Peterkins are one of the most sorely tried, and hilariously laughed at, families in print. Whether they are trying to remedy the accidental salting of Mrs. Peterkin's coffee, or anticipate the possible needs of a family picnic, chaos invariably overtakes them–until the Lady from Philadelphia comes to their rescue with her never-failing good-sense.

Lady Bridget in the Never-Never Land (1915)
by Rosa Praed (1851-1935)

Escaping from the boredom of London society and the misery of a failed romance, Lady Bridget arrives in Queensland looking for new experiences–and finds them with Colin McKeith, a bushman from Moongar Station. But the Never-Never Land will test them and their relationship to its limits. Rosa Praed challenges views of women and marriage, and raises issues about unionized labour and the treatment of Aborigines in this adventure-packed novel.

The Hidden Hand (1859)
by E.D.E.N. Southworth (1819-1899)

E.D.E.N. Southworth's many novels were wildly popular; reknowned for their sensationalism and drama. They're also quite funny! The Hidden Hand, her best known work, features deserted wives, lost children, roving desperados, evil villains, and death-bed confessions – and that's just the first two chapters! Southworth's intrepid heroine, Capitola Black, laughs at perils and scorns dangers.

The Semi-Attached Couple (1860)
by Emily Eden (1797-1869)

The Semi-Attached Couple, just married, must deal with personal differences and the meddling of friends and political associates, if they are to build a happy relationship. As a Whig political hostess for her brother, Lord Auckland, Emily Eden was deeply familiar with the kind of life she describes. Written in the 1830's, this novel was published in 1860, ten years after Eden retired from political life. Reminiscent of Jane Austen's works, though not as expertly crafted, Eden's novels are notable for her detailed observation and witty social commentary.

The Wide Wide World (1850)
by by Susan Warner [aka Elizabeth Wetherell] ] (1819-1885)

The Wide Wide World (1850) by Susan Warner [aka Elizabeth Wetherell] First published in 1850, Warner's combination of domestic novel and evangelical tract was overwhelmingly popular. It captured the values of the Victorian Era: teaching that Christian self-denial and duty to others would lead, in the end, to happiness and joy. The child-heroine Ellen Montgomery is essentially abandoned to the neglect and abuse of careless relatives, yet, by the end, she has gained the love of valued friends. Ultimately, Ellen learns not only to control her own passions, but also to balance her duty to others against the responsibility she owes herself in acting in accordance with her religious beliefs and her affections.

The History of Joseph
by Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737)

Several people have indicated an interest in working on poetry. Elizabeth Singer Rowe's The History of Joseph is a long poem: each of its books outlines a different episode from Joseph's betrayal, his life in Egypt, and reconciliation to his family. Women take significant roles throughout the story: Jacob's daughter, Seramarias, Potiphar's wife, and others are strongly portrayed.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850)
dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883); edited by Olive Gilbert

Born in New York, a former slave, Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883) worked for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights. She is famous for her "Ar'n't I a Woman?" speech, delivered at the Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth is her dictated autobiography, as it was written down (and edited) by white abolitionist Olive Gilbert.

Hospital Sketches (1863)
by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Raised in an abolitionist family, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) out-did her heroine Jo March, when, at age thirty, she applied to join the Civil War nursing service. She arrived in Georgetown, D. C., on December 14, 1862, not long after the battle of Fredericksburg. One month later, she was invalided home with typhoid fever. Her letters home were revised for publication as Hospital Sketches (1863): an important and readable account of what it meant to be a nurse during the civil war.

Fighting France (1915)
by Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

A upper-crust New Yorker who lived in Europe for many years, Edith Wharton is best known for her American society novels. When World War I began, she chose to return to her adopted country, France. She used her social connections to visit the front lines, and published an first person account of conditions there, Fighting France, in 1915. In 1916, Wharton was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French government, for her organization of relief efforts for war orphans and refugees.

Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World (1778)
by Fanny Burney (1752-1840)

Fanny Burney (1752-1840) was the daughter of a fashionable London music-master. A worthy predecessor of Jane Austen, she both criticizes and laughs at the manners, morals, and marriages of her day. Burney's young heroine, Evelina, must make her entrance into London society while her antecdents–and therefore her social status–are undisclosed. In describing the ambiguity of her position, and the uncertainness of her protectors, Burney warns her readers of the potential dangers of the social world. And with a hero like Lord Orville, how could this first novel help but be an immediate popular success ?

The Garden Party, and Other Stories (1922)
by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

Virginia Woolf said she was professionally jealous of Katherine Mansfield, and critics speculate about how the short story would have evolved, had she lived longer. Many of the incidents in "The Garden Party and Other Stories" (1922) are based on her own life, growing up in New Zealand, and later living in Britain and Europe. Special thanks go to Eric Eldred, who contributed much of this on-line edition.

Roughing It In The Bush (1852)
by Susanna Moodie (1803-1884)

Susanna Moodie (1803-1884) was one of three literary English sisters, two of whom emigrated to Canada in the 1800's. Like many other settlers, they expected to create genteel homes reminiscent of England's landed gentry. The realities of pioneer life were a considerable shock! Moodie applied her literary talents to writing an account of Canadian life to help–and warn– other possible emigrants. Her account of Roughing It In The Bush is both colorful and humourous. Development of this on-line edition has been made possible by the donation of a copy from Gary Young.

Chronicles of Avonlea (1912)
by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

Lucy Maud Montgomery is known and loved all over the world for "Anne of Green Gables" and its sequels. In addition to the books which focus on Anne, Montgomery published two collections of short stories set in Anne's home town of Avonlea. Here she recounts stories and scandals with considerable humor and occasional melodrama. Neighborhood and family disputes, thwarted lovers, and marriages (eventually) achieved: all reveal Montgomery's quick eye for the absurd. What did Lucinda Penhallow finally say to her fiance Romney after 15 years ?

Twenty Years at Hull-House (1910)
by Jane Addams (1860-1935)

As a young woman, Jane Addams (1860-1935) moved to a working-class, immigrant, neighborhood in Chicago to establish Hull-House, an experimental social settlement. In Twenty Years at Hull-House, Addams describes her early life and the first twenty years of her settlement work. She mixes pointed critiques of the social and political systems of her time with perceptive anecdotes. They illuminate the affection, understanding, compassion, and respect which she had for the people she worked with. Jane Addams become famous not only for her innovative work in social reform and social justice, but also for peace-work, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Monday or Tuesday (1921)
by Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

English novelist Virginia Woolf is known throughout the world for her writings. Monday or Tuesday is one of her earliest works. This collection of very short stories marks a transition from her early more traditional style to the experimental forms for which she is reknowned. In these short pieces, we see her using the flow of consciousness and the uncertainly identified characters that mark her later work.

Understood Betsy (1917)
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879-1958)

This children's book by Vermont writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher has retained a steady following since its publication. Elizabeth Ann, brought up in the city by her nervous aunts, must be sent away because of illness in the family. She travels to Vermont to join her "horrible Putney cousins", where, much to her surprise, she finds herself becoming increasingly happy and independent. It's an engaging and well-written book, which makes its points without condescending to either children or adults. The melodrama and moralizing that characterized many early children's books are noticeably missing here. Details of Vermont life in the early part of the century enrich the whole.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom