On May 30 at 7:00 pm, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, Brooks Memorial Library and the Words Trail will celebrate live the newly released collection of short stories by Brattleboro author Mary E. Wilkins Freeman with her initially intended title Green Mountain Stories.
Published originally in 1887 as A Humble Romance and Other Stories, this new edition features an introduction and critical commentary by Freeman scholar Brent Kendrick, who will talk about Mary and the book. Mary was inspired to become a writer in high school…she would go to her father’s dry goods shop in downtown Brattleboro every day after school, which was fortuitously located next door to a bookstore. She graduated from high school in Brattleboro and later moved away after her father died, but she maintained her connection to Vermont.
Single for most of her life and without financial backing, she knew that she had to fend for herself. She was a prolific writer and wrote across multiple genres, publishing 3 plays, 14 novels, 3 volumes of poetry, 22 volumes of short stories, over 50 uncollected short stories and prose essays, and 1 motion picture play. Over the course of a career that spanned nearly 50 years, through nothing more than the power of her pen and her astute business skills, she amassed a fortune.
Her story is amazing, unequaled in nineteenth century American literature, especially among women writers.
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930) enjoyed distinguished accolades throughout her career as a short story writer and novelist. At the start of the Twentieth Century, when her career was at its peak, she and Mark Twain were considered America’s most beloved writers. She was the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Distinguished Work in Fiction in 1925, and. was among the first women to be elected to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The bronze doors at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York (installed at its West 155 Street Administration Building in 1938) bear the inscription, “Dedicated to the Memory of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and the Women Writers of America.” Freeman was associated with three geographic locations. She was born in Randolph, Massachusetts, moved to Brattleboro, Vermont with her family in 1867, where she lived until around 1884, then she moved back to Randolph when her father died. Later, she married Dr. Charles Manning Freeman and moved to Metuchen, New Jersey where she remained until her death in 1930. Of those three geographic connections, one state lays greater claim for catapulting her into literary fame. Vermont. She launched her literary career while living in Brattleboro, and she never severed her personal, financial, and spiritual connections to the Green Mountain State.
Brent L. Kendrick, Ph.D., is widely known for his scholarly work on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and is the editor of The Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, praised by The Journal of Modern Literature as “the most complete record to date of Freeman’s life as writer and woman.” He is working on a new, two-volume update–Dolly: Life and Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Vol I: The New England Years (1852-1901). Vol II: The New Jersey Years (1902-1930). He earned his Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of South Carolina. After a twenty-five-year career at the Library of Congress–where he received the institution’s Distinguished Service Award–he relocated to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and taught American Literature and Creative Writing at Laurel Ridge Community College (formerly Lord Fairfax Community College) from 1999-2022. The State Council of Higher Education in Virginia named him one of the top twelve educators in the Commonwealth. He received the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence from the Virginia Community College System in 2010 and was a Chancellor’s Professor from 2012-2014. Kendrick was the first recipient of the Susan S. Wood Professorship for Teaching Excellence (2016).