Friday, January 4, 2013

American Women Writers of Fiction 1910-1960 (A)

NOTE: This list is a work in progress. Other sections will be added and linked to as they are completed. Please feel free to suggest other authors who are not yet included by commenting below or by emailing me.

Those of you who are already familiar with my British & Irish Women Writers list will already understand the basic purpose and parameters of this list. If you're not familiar with that list, please have a look at the introduction to it here

This new list is a work in progress. New sections will be posted as I complete them (a slow process so far, so please bear with me) and appropriate links will be added. My British list now contains just under 2,000 authors, while this list, as the draft currently stands, includes a bit over 500, so there will be many, many more authors to add. If you notice that an author is missing, please feel free to let me know.


ABBOTT, JANE [LUDLOW] D[RAKE]. (10 Jul 1881 – 14 Dec 1962)
(née Drake)
1910s – 1950s
Author of more than 40 volumes of fiction, most aimed at young girls and featuring elements of romance and adventure. The Boston Herald said of Happy House (1920): "There is something of Louisa May Alcott in the way Mrs. Abbott unfolds her narrative and develops her ideals of womanhood; something refreshing and heartening for readers surfeited with novels that are mainly devoted to uncovering cesspools." Highacres (1920), meanwhile, is a school story. Other titles include Keineth (1918), Barberry Gate (1925), Harriet's Choice (1928), Bouquet Hill (1931), Miss Jolley's Family (1933), Low Bridge (1935), Lorrie (1941), and The Inheritors (1953).

AKINS, ZOË (30 Oct 1886 - 29 Oct 1958)
(married name Rumbold)
1910s – 1950s
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter, poet and novelist. Among her most famous plays are Déclassée (1919), which starred Ethel Barrymore, The Greeks Had a Word for It (1930), which formed part of the basis for the later film How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Morning Glory, which was unproduced as a play but won Katherine Hepburn her first Oscar when it was filmed in 1933, and The Old Maid (1935), based on an Edith Wharton novella, which starred Judith Anderson on Broadway and Bette Davis when it was filmed. The last earned Akins the Pulitzer Prize. She also wrote screenplays for a number of films, including Camille (1936) with Greta Garbo and Zaza (1938) starring Claudette Colbert. She published only two novels—Cake upon the Waters (1919), described as a humorous crime novel featuring a widow with a knack for trouble, and Forever Young (1941), in which, according to Contemporary Authors, "a woman reminisces about her first year at school in 1900 as the youngest girl in the class, and recalls how she helped save the school from disgrace." In her personal life, Akins married once, but her husband tragically died after only 8 months of marriage.

ALDEN, ISABELLA (3 Nov 1841 - 5 Aug 1930)
(née Macdonald, aka Pansy)
1860s – 1920s
Aunt of author Grace Livingston HILL. Author of well over 100 books spread across six decades—mostly sentimental, Christian-themed children's books, as well as a few works of religious non-fiction. Her most popular works included a series featuring Ester Reid, which included Ester Ried: Asleep and Awake (1870), Ester Ried Yet Speaking (1883), and Ester Ried's Namesake (1906), and her "Chautauqua Girls" series, which begins with Four Girls at Chautauqua (1876) and concludes with Four Mothers at Chautauqua (1913). In her 1956 work All the Happy Endings: A Study of the Domestic Novel in America, Helen Papashvily noted of Alden's work: "So frequently did the cliches of grief appear—the lock of hair, the shoe, the sun's last rays on the fading cheek, the plaintive voice asking, 'Will Papa come home?'—that some later readers found amusement in these bits of sentimentality." As Pansy, her childhood nickname from her father, she published periodical fiction for children, and for more than 20 years edited a periodical of her own called, naturally enough, Pansy.

ALDIS, DOROTHY (13 Mar 1896 – 4 Jul 1966)
(née Keeley)
1920s – 1950s
Best known for her children's fiction and children's verse, Aldis also published several adult novels. Children's fiction includes Jane's Father (1928), Cindy (1942), Poor Susan… (1942), Miss Quinn's Secret (1949), Lucky Year (1951), Ride the Wild Waves (1957), and The Secret Place (1962). Fiction for adults includes Murder in a Haystack (1930), Their Own Apartment (1935), Time at Her Heels (1937), All the Year Round (1938), and Dark Summer (1947). According to an Abe Books search, she published at least one romantic novel in tabloid format, 1943's Pattern in Dust. She also published a biography of Beatrix Potter for young readers.

ALDRICH, BESS [GENEVRA] STREETER (17 Feb 1881 – 3 Aug 1954)
(née Streeter, aka Margaret Dean Stevens)
1910s – 1940s
Novelist and prolific author of periodical fiction, whose work often focuses on pioneer life in her native Nebraska. She published stories from 1911 on (with early works appearing under her pseudonym), but her first book, Mother Mason, didn't appear until 1924. It is variously described as a story collection and a novel, about the adventures of a cheerful middle-aged wife and mother. Several of Aldrich's books became bestsellers, particularly A Lantern in Her Hand (1928) and its sequel, A White Bird Flying (1931), which focus on the difficult frontier life of heroine Abbie Deal. Miss Bishop (1933), about a Midwestern schoolteacher, was filmed in 1941 as Cheers for Miss Bishop. Her other novels are The Rim of the Prairie (1925), The Cutters (1926), Spring Came on Forever (1935), Song of Years (1939), and The Lieutenant's Lady (1942). She published two story collections in her lifetime, The Man Who Caught the Weather and Other Stories (1936) and Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories (1949), and much of her additional short fiction appeared in two more recent collections, Collected Short Works 1907-1919 (1995) and Collected Short Works 1920-1954 (1999).

ALDRICH, MILDRED (16 Nov 1853 – 19 Feb 1928)
Journalist, memoirist, and author of a single novel. A close friend of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas while living in Paris as a foreign correspondent, Aldrich retired and moved, in June of 1914, to a house overlooking the Marne river valley. Her letters to friends about her experiences when World War I began just a few months later and the First Battle of the Marne took place practically on her doorstep were adapted into her first book, A Hilltop on the Marne (1915). This was following by three more collections of her letters—On the Edge of the War Zone (1917), The Peak of the Load (1918), and When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1919), which detailed the rest of the war and the months following its end. Her one novel, Told in a French Garden, August 1914 (1916), uses the technique of Boccaccio and Chaucer, with multiple characters each telling stories. She apparently wrote a memoir called Confessions of a Breadwinner, which has never been published.

ALEXANDER, IRENE (12 Jun 1890 – 11 Nov 1973)
1930s – 1940s
Author of four novels. The Wisconsin Library Bulletin describes her debut, Villa Caprice (1932): "Entertaining light romance of a young architect whose opportunity to decorate a villa at Monte Carlo sets him on the road to professional success and wins him the girl he loves." Her other titles are Crooked Alley (1933), which appears to have elements of mystery and suspense as well, Ninth Week (1935), and Revenge Can Wait (1941). On the 1920 U.S. census, she was a schoolteacher.

ALLEE, MARJORIE HILL (2 Jun 1890 – 30 Apr 1945)
(née Hill)
1920s – 1940s
Author of 14 volumes of fiction for adults and children, much of it informed by her own Quakerism. A trilogy of novels—Judith Lankester (1930), A House of Her Own (1934), and Off to Philadelphia! (1936)—deal with a widow and her eight daughters in the mid-19th century U.S. The girls and women in Allee's fiction are frequently notable for their interest in science. The Great Tradition (1937) features several young women living together while studying biology at the University of Chicago, and was in part Allee's response to college novels which focused on parties and social life. The House (1944) is a sequel that follows one of the women into her career as a zoologist. Among her children's fiction, Susanna and Tristram (1929) deals with a teenage girl and her younger brother working with the Underground Railroad, and its sequel, The Road to Carolina (1932), traces the brother's trip into the South with a passionate abolitionist. Jane's Island (1931) and Ann's Surprising Summer (1933) are about young girls exploring their scientific interests, while The Little American Girl (1938) (which appears to be for older readers than its title might suggest) follows a girl's experiences studying at the Quaker International Center in Paris. Runaway Linda (1939) deals with an unwanted orphan, The Camp at Westlands (1941) is set at a Quaker volunteer work camp, Winter's Mischief (1942) at a country boarding school, and Smoke Jumper (1945) in the Forestry Service. Allee was married to a zoologist, undoubtedly a source of some of the background of her fiction. [Thank you to Constance Martin, who drew my attention to this author.]

ALLEN, GRACE [WESTON] (5 Nov 1905 – 11 Dec 1995)
(married names Hogarth and Sayles, aka Amelia Gay, aka Grace Allen Hogarth, aka Allen Weston)
1940s – 1970s
Artist, editor, children's author, and novelist. Born and raised in the U.S., she lived much of her adult life in the U.K. Having started as a staff artist at Oxford University Press, she became an editor for OUP and later for Chatto & Windus, Houghton Mifflin, Constable, Longman, and Collins. She published five children's titles, the first two—Lucy's League (1950), a part-school story mentioned by Sims and Clare, and John's Journey (1952), under her Amelia Gay pseudonym. The others, published as Grace Allen Hogarth, were The Funny Guy (1955), As a May Morning (1958), and A Sister for Helen (1976). She also published four adult novels, the first three—This to Be Love (1949), The End of Summer (1951), and Children of This World (1953)—as Grace Allen, the last, a mystery called Murders for Sale (1954, aka Sneeze on Sunday), written in collaboration with Mary Alice NORTON (who often published sci-fi and fantasy as Andre Norton), under the pseudonym Allen Weston.

ALLIS, MARGUERITE (6 Feb 1886 – 6 Aug 1958)
1930s – 1950s
Author of more than a dozen historical novels, often with New England or pioneer settings. Her last five novels—Now We Are Free (1952), To Keep Us Free (1953), Brave Pursuit (1954), The Rising Storm (1955), and Free Soil (1958)—traces one family's fortunes from colonial Connecticut to the Ohio frontier, through growing conflicts over slavery, and on to Kansas just before the beginning of the Civil War. Not Without Peril (1941) is based on the life of Jemima Sartwell, one of the earliest settlers of Vermont. All in Good Time (1944) deals with a Connecticut clockmaker just after the American Revolution. The Immediate Jewel (1948) is described as being "about the battle for artistic freedom in a Puritan dominated world," while Law of the Land (1948) deals with early American feminism. Her other novels are The Splendor Stays (1942), Charity Strong (1945), Water Over the Dam (1947), and The Bridge (1949). Her earliest works were non-fiction, including Connecticut Trilogy (1934) and Connecticut River (1939), though English Prelude (1936) sounds a bit harder to classify: "The English ancestors of America seen against the social, economic and spiritual background which was theirs before emigration, together with an account of a pilgrimage to the home towns as they appear to-day. Not a history. Not a biography. Not a genealogy. Not a travel book. Yet something of all four."

AMSBARY, MARY ANN (20 Apr 1921 – 13 Aug 1987)
(née Howard, aka Kay Lyttleton)
1940s – 1950s
Author of at least one adult novel under her own name, Caesar's Angel (1952), which was reviewed at Neglected Books here. In addition, she, along with Jean Lyttleton MCKECHNIE, apparently shared the Kay Lyttleton pseudonym, credited with the five-book Jean Craig series for girls—Jean Craig Grows Up (1948), Jean Craig in New York (1948), Jean Craig Finds Romance (1948), Jean Craig, Nurse (1949), and Jean Craig, Graduate Nurse (1950). It's unclear at this point which author wrote which books in the series.

ANDERSON, HELEN [E.] (5 Sept 1908 – 14 Mar 1992)
(married names Winslow & Chaney)
Not to be confused with Scottish author Helen Maud Anderson (see British Women Writers list). Apparently the author of only one novel, the lesbian-themed Pity for Women (1937), which received scathing reviews at the time (though the beginning of the Kirkus review might have gained more readers for the book than the scornful critiques discouraged: "Here is a book that makes The Well of Loneliness and Dusty Answer look like Sunday School missals, that out-Colettes Colette") but which has been of interest to scholars of lesbian fiction in recent years. Lori L. Lake notes here that it seems to be the first example of a lesbian wedding ceremony portrayed in fiction. By all counts, however, the story doesn't end happily.

ANGELLOTTI, MARION POLK (12 Nov 1888 – 21 Apr 1953)
1910s – 1920s
Author of five novels as well as additional periodical fiction. Her debut, Sir John Hawkwood (1911), is based on the adventures of the real life 14th century soldier of the same name, while The Firefly of France (1918) is based on the life of French WWI fighter pilot Georges Guynemer. Burgundian: A Tale of Old France (1912) is set in the court of King Charles VI, Harlette (1913) is "a strong tale of Duke Robert of Normandy and the beautiful peasant woman who loved him," and Three Black Bags (1922) is described by a bookseller as an "international mystery novel set in France and Germany and involving a 'beautiful and resourceful American girl'."

ARISS, JEAN [MCLELLAN] (9 May 1915 – 15 Jan 2003)
(née Fitch)
1950s – 1960s
Wife of Bruce Ariss, a noted Monterey, California artist, and author of two novels. In The Quick Years (1958), a young woman tells the story of her difficult grandfather's life—Kirkus critiqued its "erratic stream of consciousness" but said the main character rang true. The Shattered Glass (1962) is about a woman recovering from her son's death by falling in love, only to find that her new lover is an alcoholic. Ariss and her husband were close friends of John Steinbeck, and Bruce published a book, Inside Cannery Row (1988), about their friendship.

ARMER, LAURA [MAY] ADAMS (12 Jan 1874 – 16 Mar 1963)
(née Adams)
Artist, illustrator, and author of children's fiction and non-fiction focused on Navajo culture, which she often illustrated or co-illustrated with husband Sidney Armer. She is most famous for her first book, Waterless Mountain (1931), about a Navajo boy who wants to be a medicine man, which won the Newbery Medal and has frequently been reprinted. Later children's titles were Dark Circle of Branches (1933), The Traders' Children (1937), which was somewhat autobiographical and featured characters based on Armer and her husband, The Forest Pool (1938), and Farthest West (1939). She also published the non-fiction Cactus (1934), about different species of desert plants, and Southwest (1935), described by Kirkus as "an inspirational book, which catches the hidden meaning and underlying significance of the beauties of the country and the philosophy of the people." In Navajo Land (1962), published when she was in her late 80s, is a short memoir of her early visits to American Indian sites in Arizona. Some of Armer's artwork can be seen here.

ARMSTRONG, CHARLOTTE (2 May 1905 – 18 Jul 1969)
(married name Lewi, aka Jo Valentine)
1940s – 1960s
Bestselling author of nearly 30 acclaimed crime novels, most of them tales of suspense rather than whodunnits. According to Contemporary Authors, when her early novel The Unsuspected (1946) was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, readers were so intrigued that they began contacting Armstrong to guess the plot or suggest twists. Other particularly acclaimed novels include Mischief (1950), about a deranged babysitter, A Dram of Poison (1956), in which a varied cast of characters search for a lost batch of poisoned olive oil before it can kill, The Witch's House, about an adolescent girl living in a fantasy world, and The Turret Room (1965), about a man newly released from a mental hospital who is framed by his ex-wife and her family. The Unsuspected was filed with Claude Rains in 1947, and Mischief became the Marilyn Monroe film Don't Bother to Knock (1952). Armstrong was also a screenwriter for the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Other novels include Lay On, MacDuff! (1942), The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943), The Trouble in Thor (1953, written under her pseudonym), The Seventeen Widows of Sans Souci (1959), Something Blue (1962), The Gift Shop (1967), and The Balloon Man (1968).

ARNOW, HARRIETTE [LOUISA] SIMPSON (7 Jul 1908 – 22 Mar 1986)
(née Simpson, aka Harriette Simpson)
1930s – 1970s
Novelist who often focused on the migrations of rural Southerners to cities, the difficulties encountered there, and the changes to rural communities that resulted. Her most famous novel, The Dollmaker (1954), about the matriarch of a Kentucky family who follows her husband to Detroit and then struggles to keep her family together, was a major critical and commercial success. Joyce Carol Oates has labelled it "our most unpretentious American masterpiece," and actress Jane Fonda produced a TV movie version of the novel in 1984. Arnow considered the book to be the concluding volume of a trilogy begun with her Mountain Path (1936, published as Harriette Simpson) and Hunter's Horn (1949). Her other novels are The Weedkiller's Daughter (1970) and The Kentucky Trace (1974), the latter set during the American Revolution. A previously unpublished early novel, Between the Flowers, appeared in 1999, and her Collected Short Stories were published in 2005. She also published well-received non-fiction about the early settlements in Tennessee and Kentucky, in Seedtime on the Cumberland (1960) and Flowering of the Cumberland (1963). Old Burnside (1978) featured her own recollections of her childhood in Burnside, Kentucky.

ASHMUN, MARGARET [ELIZA] (10 Jul 1875 – 15 Mar 1940)
1910s - 1930
Textbook writer, biographer, children's author, novelist, and author of periodical fiction and poetry. Best known for her Isabel Carleton series for teenage girls, which has been compared to the work of Louisa May ALCOTT. Those books are Isabel Carleton's Year (1916), Heart of Isabel Carleton (1917), Isabel Carleton's Friends (1918), Isabel Carleton in the West (1919), and Isabel Carleton at Home (1920). In the 1920s, she published four novels for adults—Topless Towers: A Romance of Morningside Heights (1921), Support (1922), The Lake (1924, aka The Lonely Lake), and Pa: The Head of the Family (1927). The latter two in particular received critical acclaim. Her final book was the biographical Singing Swan: An Account of Anna Seward and Her Acquaintance with Dr. Johnson, Boswell, & Others of Their Time (1931).

ATHERTON, GERTRUDE [FRANKLIN] (30 Oct 1857 – 14 Jun 1948)
(née Horn, aka Frank Lin)
1880s – 1940s
Popular and prolific novelist sometimes compared in her time to the likes of Henry James and Edith WHARTON. Carl Van Vechten even compared her favorably to Wharton, suggesting "Mrs. Wharton, with some difficulty, it would appear, has learned to write; Mrs. Atherton was born with a facility for telling stories." Atherton's earliest novels were melodramas, but thereafter she began exploring themes of early feminism and often set her work in California both during and after Spanish rule. One of her bestselling novels was Black Oxen (1923), about an older women who regains her youth following glandular therapy. It was made into a silent film of the same name that same year. Other titles include The Doomswoman (1893), Patience Sparhawk and Her Times (1897), American Wives and English Husbands (1898), Senator North (1900), The Bell in the Fog and Other Stories (1905), a collection of tales of the supernatural, Ancestors (1907), Julia France and Her Times (1912), The Avalanche (1919), The Jealous Gods (1928), The Foghorn (1934), and The Horn of Life (1942). The Valiant Runaways (1898) appears to be an adventure story for boys.

ATWATER, MARY MEIGS (28 Feb 1878 – 5 Sept 1956)
(née Meigs)
Best known for her role in reviving the craft of handweaving in the U.S., and for her publications on that subject, Atwater also published a single mystery novel, Crime in Corn Weather (1935), which John at Passing Tramp reviewed here. It was recently reprinted by Coachwhip Publications.

AUSTIN, MARY HUNTER (9 Sept 1868 – 13 Aug 1934)
(née Hunter, aka Gordon Stairs)
1900s – 1930s
Essayist, nature writer, playwright, and novelist. Her reputation has grown in recent decades as she has become known as an important early feminist. She reacted against a Midwestern upbringing, following her family's relocation to California, by joining artist communities and becoming acquainted with other feminist thinkers such as Charlotte Perkins GILMAN, Emma Goldman, and Margaret Sanger. Her first published work, at age 21, was the essay "One Hundred Miles on Horseback," about her first encounters with California's landscapes. The Land of Little Rain (1903) and Lost Borders (1909) walk the line between short stories and nature writing, and The Basket Woman: Indian Tales for Children (1904) was written for children, as was her later The Trail Book (1918). Her novels are Isidro (1905), Santa Lucia (1908), Outland (1910, published in the U.K. under her pseudonym), A Woman of Genius (1912), The Lovely Lady (1913), The Ford (1917), No. 26 Jayne Street (1920), and Starry Adventure (1931). A novella about Christ, The Green Bough, appeared in 1913, and another novella, Cactus Thorn, written in 1927, was only published in book form in 1988. She published various other non-fiction on feminist, political, and religious themes. Her memoir is Earth Horizon (1932).

AYDELOTTE, DORA (10 Jan 1878 – Nov 1968)
1930s – 1940s
Author of seven novels, with settings mostly drawn from Oklahoma's pioneer history. Titles are Long Furrows (1935), Green Gravel (1937), Trumpets Calling (1938), Full Harvest (1939), Run of the Stars (1940), Across the Prairie (1941), and Measure of a Man (1942). In her time, she garnered comparisons to Willa CATHER, and the University of Oklahoma Libraries have noted: "Because of Dora Aydelotte and many, many more women writers of her era, early Oklahoma women's history has been preserved in a natural and unvarnished setting that truly represents Oklahoma history from a woman's point of view."


  1. Scott, very much enjoyed your British Women authors list. Adore Barbara Pim. Wondering if you have considered B.J. Chute’s, Greenwillow for the American author listing? A very gentle and charming story. One of my favorites.

  2. I have a book called The Ladies Leave the Castle by Astor Athen, first published by Gifford, London 1948, and later by the Thriller Book Club. Astor Athen sounds like a pseudonym and from reading it I get the impression that the writer was a woman. I turned to your list for information but the name isn´t on it. Does this mean this was not a woman writer after all?

  3. Sorry for the delay. I have looked into Athen in the past year or so, but we failed to find any information about the author. Interesting to know it seems like it's by a woman writer. Perhaps I should go ahead and add the name to my list on my next update.

  4. Gwen Bristow: Jubilee Trail is one of my favorite books. Frances Parkinson Keyes--read most of her books in the 60's and 70's!


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