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Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman

Joyce W. Warren

12 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0813517648 / ISBN 13: 9780813517643
Published by Rutgers University Press, 1994
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Publication Date: 1994

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Good

About this title


Fanny Fern is a name that is unfamiliar to most contemporary readers. In this first modern biography, Warren revives the reputation of a once-popular 19th-century newspaper columnist and novelist. Fern, the pseudonym for Sara Payson Willis Parton, was born in 1811 and grew up in a society with strictly defined gender roles. From her rebellious childhood to her adult years as a newspaper columnist, Fern challenged society's definition of women's place with her life and her words. Fern wrote a weekly newspaper column for 21 years and, using colorful language and satirical style, advocated women's rights and called for social reform. Warren blends Fern's life story with an analysis of the social and literary world of 19th-century America.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Warren (English/Queens College) performs a true literary service here by re-creating the life of America's first female newspaper columnist--a witty, brave, and defiant writer whose life proves both inspirational and heartening even now. Born in 1811 in Maine as Sarah Payson Willis Parton (``Fanny Fern'' was a pen name), Fern was raised in Boston in strictest Calvinist fashion by a severely religious father and a more spirited and humorous mother. Stumbling into the best education then available for American women, at the Hartford Female Seminary, Fern returned home after graduation to learn what she ironically dubbed the ``Lost Arts'' of ``bread-making and button-hole stitching.'' Married at 25, she bore three children and looked forward to a happy, traditional middle-class life--but was dealt a major blow when early widowhood, a disastrous second marriage that she felt compelled to end, and the resulting loss of reputation and income left her a destitute, virtually friendless single mother. It was the desperate need to earn money that prompted Fern, now 40, to try her hand as a writer. Her witty, astonishingly frank satirical essays on life as a 19th-century female caught on instantly with readers, leading to a highly paid newspaper column, a bestselling novel, and several adult and children's books--all written under the Fanny Fern pseudonym. Triumph in her career and a third, happy marriage failed to erase Fern's memories of poverty and discrimination, though, and she became an eloquent activist for women's rights, tussling, in her heroic-female fiction and her tart and amusing essays, with issues of fairness and equality until her dying day. Dismissed as a ``sentimentalist'' by 20th-century male critics, Fern, claims Warren, was the most threatening and aggressively feminine writer of 19th-century America. Fern's experiences, evoked here in lively and engaging prose, should provide inspiration for those who follow. (Twenty-one b&w illustrations.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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