Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman (née Mary Ella Wilkins. October 31st, 1852 – March 13th, 1930) was an American writer.

She was born in Randolph, Massachusetts, but moved with her family to Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1867. Freeman graduated from Brattleboro High School, in 1870, and briefly attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, but dropped out after a year due to ill health. From 1871 to 1872, she took classes at Mrs. Hosford’s Glenwood Seminary in West Brattleboro.

When her father went bankrupt, her mother started to work as a maid for a wealthy family, and died in 1880. In her memory, Freeman changed her middle name to “Eleanor”. Around this time, she began to work as a teacher at a girls’ school, to help support her family. Freeman continued to write in her spare time, trying to earn money with her poems and stories.

The first piece she published was the children’s ballad “The Beggar King”, in the magazine Wide Awake, in 1881. She published her first adult story, “A Shadow Family”, in 1882, which won a fifty-dollar prize from the Boston Sunday Budget. In the following year, she published her first book, Decorative Plaques (1883), a collection of children’s poetry. Her stories regularly appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and Harper’s Weekly, and, her first literary success came with her story “Two Old Lovers”, published in 1883 in Harper’s Bazaar.

After the death of her father, in 1883, Freeman returned to Randolph and moved in with her friend Mary Wales, with whom she lived for almost twenty years. In 1887, she published her first collection of adult stories, A Humble Romance, and Other Stories. Jane Field, Freeman’s first novel, was published in 1892.

In 1902, Freeman married Charles Manning Freeman, a medical doctor seven years her junior, whom she had met in 1892. The couple moved to Metuchen, New Jersey, but the marriage soon started to deteriorate, due to Charles alcoholism and drug addiction. In 1920, was committed to New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane in Trenton, and Freeman legally separated from him in 1921.

In 1926, she received the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for distinction in fiction. That same year, she was one of the first women to be elected as members of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

In her lifetime, Freeman wrote short stories, novels, poetry, plays, children’s books and essays. She died of a heart attack on March 13th, 1930.

Books

  • Decorative Plaques (1883)
  • The Adventures of Ann (1886)
  • A Humble Romance and Other Stories (1887)
  • A New England Nun and Other Stories (1891)
  • The Revolt of Mother (1891)
  • Young Lucretia and Other Stories (1892)
  • The Pot of Gold and Other Stories (1892)
  • Jane Field (1892)
  • Giles Corey (1893)
  • Pembroke (1894)
  • Comfort Pease and Her Gold Ring (1895)
  • Madelon (1896)
  • Once Upon A Time (1897)
  • Jerome, a Poor Man (1897)
  • Silence, and other Stories (1898)
  • People of Our Neighborhood (1898)
  • of Our Neighbours (1898)
  • In Colonial Times (1899)
  • The Jamesons (1899)
  • Evelina’s Garden (1899)
  • The Love of Parson Lord and Other Stories (1900)
  • The Heart’s Highway: A Romance of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (1900)
  • Understudies (1901)
  • The Portion of Labor (1901)
  • A Far-Away Melody and Other Stories (1902)
  • Six Trees (1903)
  • The Wind in the Rose Bush and Other Stories of the Supernatural (1903)
  • The Givers and Other Stories (1904)
  • The Debtor (1905)
  • Doc Gordon (1906)
  • The Fair Lavinia, and Others (1907)
  • By the Light of the Soul (1907)
  • The Shoulders of Atlas (1908)
  • The Winning Lady, and Others (1909)
  • The Green Door (1910)
  • The Butterfly House (1912)
  • The Yates Pride (1912)
  • The Copy–Cat, and Other Stories (1914)
  • An Alabaster Box (1917)
  • Edgewater People (1918)
  • The Best Stories of Mary E. Wilkins (1927)
  • Collected Ghost Stories (1974)
  • Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, ed. Brent L. Kendrick (1985)
  • The Pot of Gold and Other Stories (2005)
  • Lost Ghosts: The Complete Weird Stories of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (2018)

Anthologies

About her

  • A Woman of the Century, ed. Frances Elizabeth Willard and Mary Ashton Rice Livermore (1893)
  • American Women Writers, ed. Lina Mainiero (1980)
  • Modern American Women Writers, ed. Elaine Showalter (1991)
  • Critical Essays on Mary Wilkins Freeman, ed. Shirley Marchalonis (1991)
  • In a Closet Hidden: The Life and Work of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, by Leah Blatt Glasser (1996)
  • Mary Wilkins Freeman: A Study of the Short Fiction, by Mary R. Reichardt (1998)
  • The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ed. Nina Baym (2007)

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