Olivia Howard Dunbar

Olivia Howard Dunbar (married name Olivia Howard Dunbar Torrence. February 21st, 1873 – January 6th,1953) was an American writer.

Little is known about her life. Born in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Dunbar graduated from Smith College in 1894, and, in 1896, she moved to New York City. She started working as a journalist, author, and literary critic, and published essays, short stories, and articles in periodicals such as Harper‘s, The New York World, Lippincott’s, Putnam’s, Scribner’s, New England Magazine, and The Dial.

Dunbar was also active in the women’s suffrage movement, and was a member of the Heterodoxy Club, a feminist debating group founded in Greenwich Village, in 1912, by Marie Jenney Howe, and frequented by Susan Glaspell and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, among others. Dunbar also belonged to a literary group that included poets Edwin Arlington Robinson and Ridgely Torrence.

Torrence was the poetry editor for The New Republic, and she married him in 1914. The couple was friends with poets Anne Whitney and Robert Frost, among others, and their house was a meeting point for writers and artists.

Dunbar died in 1953, at 79. Her work is now largely forgotten.


  • The Dream Baby (1904, short story)
  • The Decay of the Ghost in Fiction (1905, essay)
  • The Shell of Sense (1908, short story)
  • The Sycamore (1910, short story)
  • The Present Status of the Ghost Story (1912, essay)
  • The Long Chamber (1914, short story)
  • A House in Chicago (1947, biography)
  • The Shell of Sense: Collected Ghost Stories of Olivia Howard Dunbar, ed. Jessica Amanda Salmonson (1997)


  • Famous Modern Ghost Stories, ed. Dorothy Scarborough (1921)
  • What Did Miss Darrington See?: An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction, ed. Jessica Amanda Salmonson (1989)
  • Restless spirits: ghost stories by American women, 1872 – 1926, ed. Catherine A. Lundie (1996)
  • A Hideous Bit of Morbidity: An Anthology of Horror Criticism from the Enlightenment to World War I, ed. Jason Colavito (2008)
  • Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Ground-breaking Female Writers, 1852-1923, ed. Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton (2020)


  • The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction, by Dorothy Scarborough (1917)
  • Radical Feminists of Heterodoxy: Greenwich Village, 1912-1940, by Judith Schwarz (1986)
  • Scare tactics: supernatural fiction by American women, by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock (2008)

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