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Susan Glaspell, a not-quite-forgotten feminist writer

John Hossack, a well-to-do farmer near Indianola, Iowa, was attacked with an ax while he slept in his bed on the night of Dec. 1, 1900. His wife, Margaret, was in bed beside him but said she heard nothing of the intruders who did it until they were in another part of the house. Margaret, […]

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Susan Glaspell, a forgotten feminist writer, and Lawrence Block, successful and prolific: newsletter, January 15, 2021

  A common saying among woodworkers – one you have probably heard – is “measure twice, cut once.” That saying counsels us to be careful. But there is another saying that is less well-known and maybe just as important: “Let the tools do the work.” What that saying tells us is that sometimes we can […]

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Reader on a bench

Happy New Year, a great female Restoration writer, journalism drives through Crazytown, and more 2020 review: newsletter, January 1, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 1, 2021.   Happy new year. During this time of year, we often hear the word “resolutions,” and we may be encouraged to “make resolutions.” Possibly like many of you, I have found that making resolutions is frustrating and ultimately unproductive. […]

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Aphra Behn: a marginalized voice restored

She is thought to have been the first woman to make her living purely by writing. But that one fact — whether or not it is actually true — does not do justice to the person or to the work of Aphra Behn. Behn lived from 1640 to 1689, a time known as the Restoration […]

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Rebecca Harding Davis and the beginnings of American realism

If you know anything about journalism history, you probably know the name Richard Harding Davis. He was a reporter in the early 20th century known for his coverage of the Spanish-American Wa, the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I. He was also one of the most handsome men of his day. His […]

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Playing the cello2

The woman at the start of American realism, the women of Edward Hoch, and the death of Erskine Childers: newsletter, December 11, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 11, 2020. No room in the inn. Anyone familiar with the Christmas nativity story has heard the phrase “no room in the inn.“ The phrase is a short explanation for why Jesus was born in a stable, but over the centuries […]

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Charles Lindbergh

Unity and the lack thereof – American style

In the immediate aftermath of political campaigns, the winner (and sometimes even the loser) appeals for “unity,” which often means in real-speak, “I want you to agree with me now that I am in power.” Such appeals, possibly well-meant, rarely have much effect on either supporters or opponents. But it sounds good, and it’s expected. […]

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The writing of Hans Brinker, Gayle Lynd’s long journey, and a Walter Mosley short story: newsletter, September 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,521) on Friday, September 25, 2020.   The year continues to bring its oddities. Major League Baseball is finishing its shortened season this week and will begin playoffs next week. The configuration is like no other, and I won’t try to explain it. I’m not […]

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Josephine Tey and her masterpiece of paranoia in postwar England

Those Americans of us who watch a lot of British-produced television — from Upstairs, Downstairs to Downton Abbey to Belgravia and many more besides — are often impressed, if not horrified, by the number of servants required to help the British upper-classes get through the day. Butlers, cooks, scullery maids, chambermaids — the list of […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge and her extraordinary editorship of St. Nicholas magazine (part 2)

The publishers of The Century Magazine, in 1872, had given Mary Mapes Dodge a golden opportunity — a “blank check,” as we would say today. She was determined to make the most of it. They wanted her to create a magazine for children, and they were convinced that Dodge was the right person for the […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge, the Silver Skates, and St. Nicholas magazine (part 1)

Mary Mapes Dodge, suffering from the disappearance and then death of her husband in 1857 and facing the need to support herself and her two sons, wrote one of the most beloved children’s novels of all time — Hans Brinkler or The Silver Skates. For that, she will always be remembered. But what she did beyond the […]

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Abandoned schoolhouse

More on Mary Mapes Dodge, Josephine Tey and paranoia, and a couple of podcast recommendations: newsletter, September 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,529) on Friday, September 18, 2020.   Getting a book that you have anticipated for a while and then having it live up to your expectations is a particular delight. That happened to me with the arrival of Ian Toll‘s Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge, Robert Louis Stevenson, and thoughts on forgiveness: newsletter, September 11, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, September 11, 2020.   Nearly two decades after the infamous 9/11, I am struck by how far it feels from that awful event. For those of us who lived through it, the day was one of those we will always remember. Yet, […]

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Mary King Ward and the life she lived

Mary King Ward is remembered because of the way in which she died. She should be remembered for the way in which she and for the accomplishments she achieved as a 19-century female scientist. Ward died in 1869, thought to be the first automobile traffic fatality. That fact overshadows the many aspects of her life […]

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Cat on watch

A top 19th century female scientist and writer remembered, the history of Aunt Jemima, and Richard Ben Cramer on Joe Biden: newsletter, August 28, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 28, 2020. Sometimes you win the lottery, and then sometimes you get really lucky. Our household is still in a joyous state over the birth of our grandson a couple of weeks ago. It’s a big win, as they say these days. Thanks, […]

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Arc de Tromple

Changing American attitudes toward slavery, police reporting reconsidered, and reader reactions: newsletter, July 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 17, 2020.   The world gets crazier and the pandemic, in America, gets worse. My heart is with those who have to make difficult decisions, from sending their kids to school to ordering businesses to shut down. I pray for their […]

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American Slavery As It Is: The book that changed American attitudes

Theodore Weld, his wife Angelina Grimké, and her sister Sarah Grimké were tired of the spin — although they didn’t use that term back in 1838. They were tired of people saying that black was white, up was down, and night was day. And they were tired of people believing the spin because that’s what […]

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Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The real Mary Westmacott, capitalizing Black when referring to race, Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable meeting: newsletter, July 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,557) on Friday, July 10, 2020. “The Best Year Ever” is probably not a description that you are willing to apply to 2020 just yet, but that thought occurred to me this week as I was gathering in the bounty from our garden. We are […]

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Marguerite Higgins and “no place for a woman”

When Communist forces crossed the border into South Korea in 1950, Marguerite Higgins got on a plane in Tokyo, where she was head of the New York Herald Tribune bureau, along with three other reporters, all of them male. One of them told her not to go. At the last moment, G– tried to dissuade me from going along, […]

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Marguerite Higgins finds a place for a woman in a combat zone, Stevie Wonder, and what Lincoln looked like: newsletter, May 22, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 22, 2020. This summer is likely to turn into my Wolf Hall summer. I have waited too long to dive into Hilary Mantel’s widely-acclaimed trilogy of historical fiction about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel published the third volume of the trilogy (The […]

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