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The Scribbling Women is now in print. Because of this we are only posting an excerpt in the way of the introduction. In support of this website, please purchase from You will NOT be disappointed. All proceeds go to maintaining this site.



“America is now wholly given over to a damn mob of scribbling Women and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash.”

“–and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed.  What is the mystery of these innumerable editions of the ‘Lamplighter,’ and other books neither better nor worse?–worse they could not be, and better they need not be, when they sell by the 100,000.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne writing from Britain to his publisher (1855)


For My Mother

Whose collection of Victorian novels first introduced me to the work of the “Scribbling Women” and without whose aid this book could never have been written.

Table of Contents

1. “The Scribbling Age” by Andre Norton

2. Tears, Busy Tears (Susan Warner) – Bio by Andre Norton

New Home in the Country – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World” 1850

The "Apple Bee" – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World”

A Matter of Conscience – Excerpt from “The Wide, Wide World”

Mr. Carleton's Conversation – Excerpt from “Queechy” 1852

The Quilting Party – Excerpt from “Queechy”

Mr. Carleton Proposes – Excerpt from “Queechy”

Editors Note: the Bio on Susan Warner was originally published in 4 parts in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #s 7,8,9 & 10 in 1982 & 83

3. Magnolias and Melodrama (Mrs. Southworth) – Bio by Andre Norton

The Villainess Foiled! – Excerpt from “The Mother-In-Law” 1851

Capitola Defends his Honor – Excerpt from “The Hidden Hand” 1859

A Debut at the President's "Drawing Room" – Excerpt from “Ishmael” 1864

A New Star Rises – Excerpt from “Ishmael”

The Shipwreck – Excerpt from “Self-Raised” 1864

Murder Miscarries – Excerpt from “The Bridal Eve” serialized as “Rose Elmer” 1881

Editors Note: the Bio on Mrs. Southworth was originally published in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #1 in 1981

4. A Lamp is Lighted (Maria Cummins) – Bio by Andre Norton

Child of the Slums – Excerpt from “The Lamplighter” 1854

River Steamer Fire – Excerpt from “The Lamplighter”

Westward Journey – Excerpt from “Mable Vaughan” 1857

 Editors Note: the Bio on Maria Cummins was originally published in a periodical called The Book Mart ~ Volume 5 #3 in 1981

5. Cinderella Always Wins (Mary J. Holmes) – Bio by Andre Norton

The Interrupted Wedding – Excerpt from “Tempest and Sunshine” 1854

Education of a Young Lady – Excerpt from “The English Orphans” 1855

Festivities in Boston – Excerpt from “The English Orphans”

Schoolmistress – Excerpt from “Meadow Brook” 1857 

 6. The Learned Maiden (Augusta Evans Wilson) – Bio by Andre Norton

Yellow Fever Nurse – Excerpt from “Beulah” 1859 

St. Elno Murray Proposes Marriage – Excerpt from “St. Elmo” 1867

The Forsaken Wife's Revenge – Excerpt from “Infelice” 1875

7. Research Bibliography



by Andre Norton

      The first third of the nineteenth century saw the rise in America of the woman writer, daring to enter a field considered before to be wholly masculine. The century itself showed the trend in that culture and the arts (Or the appreciation and judgment on them) fell to the women and were considered almost entirely their interest -- men were so occupied with growing business affairs that it was largely considered a waste of time to show any interest in such fields.

      Five women in America knew so well -- seemingly by instinct -- what was desired in that field by the buying public (Largely of their own sex) that they became our first best-sellers and so monopolized the field that they were in some instances bitterly resented by the male authors -- as witness Hawthorne’s bitter and spiteful comment to his publisher concerning them.

      Some of these books, now well over a hundred years old, are still to be found today. For the majority of the writers had one thing in common -- they knew how to tell a story. Mary J. Holmes, Elizabeth Whetheral (Susan Warner), Maria Cummings, August Evans Wilson, Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, were the first professional feminine writers who dominated the fiction field for more than half a century. They came from varied backgrounds and were very different as to character but they had the magic-touch in their chosen field.

      Since the Victorian period is becoming more and more of interest in our own time and collectors are beginning to look about them with newly awakened attention for the minutiae of detail -- these books are the source for much which has been overlooked in the past. Here one discovers the small details of daily life, clothing, manners and customs. These five have captured for the readers of any time the essence of their own times.

      Recent letters in a book collector’s magazine have shown there is an interest in these women -- about whom the modern generation knows little or nothing. Portions of this manuscript were published in serial form in the magazine “The Book Mart”. (1981 thru 83)

      The form of SCRIBBLING WOMEN is dual -- giving a short biography of each writer and then excerpts from her works which display to the best the particular talent she displayed. There is included also a listing of her titles for any who would like to go hunting for them as collector items.

      The work was written some years ago intended for university publication. Unfortunately, through a series of events, it was lost and only recently has it been returned to the author. It should be of interest in a wide field -- in feminist circles because it deals with women who invaded a masculine field in a repressive age and triumphed -- to the social historian or general reader interested in what was the daily life of the Victorian era with morals and manners greatly stressed -- to the person looking for a new field of collecting (The latter is the approach of some who are looking for a beginner’s luck in a virgin field).

      The author at the time of writing had access to material now gone past reclaiming -- such as interviews with elderly people in one case who had known Mary J. Holmes in her old age.

 In compiling material for a work of this nature the writer has to depend on the assistance of others in gathering sources. And I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the kind aid of the following:

Libraries and Librarians:

The Cleveland Public Library

Mr. Richard G. Hensley, Chief Librarian, Division of Reference and Research

Mr. Eamon E. McDonough, General Reference

Miss Gladys R. White, Codman Square Branch

All of the Boston Public Library

Miss Lilly S. Abbott, Reference Librarian, Salem Public Library, Salem Mass.

Mrs. Florence F. Coller, Librarian, Seymour Library, Brockport, New York.

Miss Elsie Hooker, Librarian, Merrick Public Library, Brookfield, Mass.

For their personal memories and biographical details concerning Mrs. Mary Jane Holmes:

Mrs. F. Arnold Manning

Mrs. Gifford Morgan

Mrs. Helen W. Dobson

D.M. Tower, President of State Teachers’ Collage

--All of Brockport , N.Y.

Mrs. G.F. Latimer of Wikinsburg, Pa.

Mrs. Earl R. Smith of Albany, N.Y.

Mrs. Frederick Barnes of Morristown, N.Y.

With Special thanks to:

Mrs. M.H. Cannon of Waldwick, N.J., for the use of her file of contemporary Nineteenth Century Clippings.

And to:

Mr. Hermon Pitcher of Jacksonville, Fla., who so generously shared research notes garnered for his biography of Mrs. Holmes.

For aid in securing the novels for study:

Miss. Helen Seyfried and Miss Alice Hatch of the Cleveland Public Library

Mr. Hermon Pitcher

Miss Sylvia Cochran and Dr. Lucy Clark of Cleveland, Ohio

Mrs. Phyllis Miller of Pearl River, N.Y.

Editors Note: Bibliographical listing is at the end of this manuscript.

Author Images on each biography added by editor.

View a rejection letter from a publisher (PDF)

"The Scribbling Women"
Copyright ~
Donated by - Estate of Andre Norton

 Digitized and edited by Jay P. Watts aka: “Lotsawatts” ~ May 2015

Duplication (in whole or parts) of this story for profit of any kind NOT permitted.


You can read the manuscript here ~ a donation would be deeply appreciated.


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