Maine's first novelist, York native Sally Sayward Barrell Keating Wood (1759-1854), was known as Madam Wood.
She first wrote under the name "A Lady of Massachusetts," it being improper for "ladies" to write anything as risque as fiction. Later, she became "A Lady of Maine."
Her novel "Julia, and the illuminated baron: a novel founded on recent facts, which have transpired in the course of the late revolution of moral principles in France," was published in 1800.
She insisted that "no one social, or one domestic duty has ever been sacrificed" because of her writing. She apparently wrote most of her works after the deaths of her first and second husbands.
While living in Brunswick in 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin," credited with helping to spur on abolitionists and the Civil War.
The book sold 10,000 copies in its first week.
During her career, Stowe wrote more than 30 books, all while being a wife and a mother to seven children.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House on Federal Street in Brunswick was the home of Harriet and her husband Calvin Stowe.
Calvin, a graduate of Bowdoin College, returned to the college to teach from 1850 to 1853. They previously had lived in Cincinnati, a community active in the Underground Railroad. Her experiences there helped form her abolitionist views.
Her father, Lyman Beecher, preached abolitionist sermons and many of her siblings were involved in reform causes.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is the story of a benevolent slave owner who ends up selling some of his slaves to a heartless slave trader. In their new environments, the slaves suffer a variety of abuses. Some escape.
The book was first published in serial form and was a tremendous success then and as a book.
However, Stowe and the book also were criticized as inaccurate. Stowe also published a compendium of her sources for the book in an effort to defend her fictional story as accurate.
Calvin Stowe encouraged his wife to write and supported her in that career.
After their years in Brunswick and publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the Stowes moved to Andover, Massachusetts, then to Hartford, Connecticut, where they retired.
Eugene L'Africain created this lithograph showing eminent American women of 1884, compliments of the Travelers Insurance Company.
The women pictured are Mary A. Livermore, Maine writer Sarah Orne Jewett, Grace A. Oliver, Helen Hunt, Nora Perry, Lucy Larcom, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Louise Chandler Moulton, Louisa M. Alcott, and two women with Maine connections, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe.
Kate Douglas Wiggin, who was born in Pennsylvania, spent her childhood in Hollis and later returned to Maine and this home.
Wiggin is best known for her book "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," published in 1903.
She left Maine as a young woman and went to California where she was involved in the emerging kindergarten movement, starting that state's first kindergarten.
Wiggin left California in 1884 after her marriage. Her husband died about five years later and she embarked on travels and experiences that led her to a writing career.
Wiggin often wrote about country life such as she experienced in Maine. "The Peabody Pew" is a romance centered around a family's pew at a country church.
In 1904, Wiggin received an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College. In 1923, she was president of the Society of Bowdoin Women, an organization of wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of Bowdoin alumni.
Rebecca Sophia Clarke (1833-1906), who wrote under the pseudonym "Sophie May," was born in Norridgewock.
From ages 18 to 28, she taught school in Indiana. Deafness led to her return to Maine and her writing career.
She began by sending stories to a children's magazine. The stories proved so popular, they were published in book form.
Rebecca Clarke (Sophie May) and her sister Sarah Clarke lived in this house in Norridgewock. Sarah also wrote children's books under the pseudonym "Penn Shirley."
Sophie May is best known for her "Little Prudy" and "Dotty Dimple" books. The latter were published from 1867-69.
A native of Rockland, Edna St. Vincent Millay grew up in Camden and rocketed to fame with her poem "Renascence."
She graduated from Vassar in 1917, then moved to New York City, where she continued to write and to experience Bohemian life.
In 1923, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
At Camden High School, Millay played basketball briefly, but was more interested in literature and drama.
She was editor of the school magazine from 1905-1909 and published some of her writing.
She published "Renascence" in 1912 in an anthology.
Millay's "First Fig," written in 1920 is well known and oft quoted:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends --
It gives a lovely light!
Shaker Sister Aurelia came with her parents to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community from Strong in 1836. She remained a Shaker until her death.
A teacher and promoter of Shaker products, Sister Aurelia found time to promote her religion through her literary gift.
In 1899, she published a collection of her letters and essays entitled "The Aletheia: Spirit of Truth." It remains one of the clearest expositions on the Shaker faith.
Louise Helen Coburn (1856-1949), the second woman to graduate from Colby College, is best known as a writer for her "Skowhegan on the Kennebec," a two-volume history.
She also wrote science books and pamphlets (she was a botanist) and poetry.
When Gladys Hasty Carroll, a native of South Berwick, published "As the Earth Turns" in 1933, her fortunes changed.
Carroll (1904-1999) had been writing children's literature, but the novel about a Maine farm family was chosen for the Book of the Month Club and the rights sold to a Hollywood Studio.
Carroll graduated from Bates College in 1925 and earned an honorary degree from Bates in 1945.
She and her husband lived in Minnesota when she wrote "As the Earth Turns." They soon returned to Maine.
Her book "Dunnybrook," about the Emery Bridge area of South Berwick, also received favorable review. It is named for her home.
South Berwick residents did not like the film version of "As the Earth Turns," so they produced their own outdoor dramatic version of the book.
Proceeds from the productions went to community projects.
The plays ended with World War II.
Blue Hill native Mary Ellen Chase (1887-1972) in 1935 published "Silas Crockett," the story of a Maine seafaring family, which became her best-known work.
She also wrote children's books, literary criticism, and three autobiographical books.
She was a 1909 graduate of the University of Maine.
May Sarton (1912-1995), a native of Belgium, moved to York in 1973 and lived there until her death.
She wrote more than 50 books, including novels, poetry, and journals. Among them are "Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Sing," written in 1965, and known as Sarton's "coming out" novel.
Well-known among her journals are "Journal of a Solitude," "At Seventy" and "At Eighty."
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