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American Women with Stories from the Prairie and from Good Times in the City Are Fun to Read
American Voices, American Women

Curling Up with a Good Book Can Be a Mini Summer Vacation!There's a sweet, tiny, little, square, yellow house at the end of our street. That is where the little old lady of our neighborhood lives. She has lots of crocuses growing in her garden. Every spring she shares the flowers with us at Easter time. She's also very snoopy and always tells my kids what they shouldn't be doing.

When I was growing up I never actually saw the little old lady of our neighborhood because she sounded scary to me. Everyone said she lived with 100 cats and when she fed them she set the opened cat food can on the floor and never, ever picked up the used can again. The idea of the awful smell scared me most of all.

Now that I'm grown up I imagine that I'm the little old lady in the neighborhood. The one, who never got married, never gave birth to children and the one who has the cleanest, shiniest house in the whole town, let alone the whole neighborhood!

I met such a lady in the short story by Mary Wilkins Freeman called the "New England Nun." Her name is Louisa. She sews with tiny neat hand stitches. She prepares her tea very carefully every day and pours it from a beautifully set tray with a nice little cake or two. And her house is clean, even cleaner than the houses in commercials and movies.

Listen and see if this doesn't sound like heaven to you, too.

"She (Louisa) had throbs of genuine triumph at the sight of the windowpanes which she had polished until they shone like jewels. She gloated gently over her orderly bureau drawers, with their exquisitely folded contents redolent with lavender and sweet clover . . ."

Ah, smells so good.

I like lots of the stories in the anthology of short stories called "American Voices, American Women."

Another story is titled "Lilacs" by Kate Chopin. I can smell lilacs all the while I'm reading the story.

I've noticed that when I read the stories, all written by women, I imagine using all five of my senses. Not something I had ever noticed so much in short stories by men.

Lee R. Edwards and Arlyn Diamond collected these short stories into one book at a time when the thought that women authors have something to offer was not generally accepted. Many of the women had been ignored although the dilemmas and conflicts in their short stories are just as engaging as those in short stories written by men.

The short story anthology "American Voices, American Women" was published in 1973. The editors who put together this collection tell us in the introduction, "We finished reading for this collection with a drastically changed sense of what we mean by the tradition of American literature . . ." They felt this way because they realized without women authors half the American tradition is missing.

You might be wondering why I like a book with stories written so long ago. It's because women in the last century and the century before faced the same problems we face today. Here are some examples from a few short stories found in "American Voices, American Women."

A New England Nun (1891)
By Mary Wilkins Freeman

Can dreams come true?

Louisa Ellis was taken aback when her fiancé returned after working abroad for fourteen years so they
would have enough money to marry.

A Woman of Genius (1912)
By Mary Hunter Austin

Should we marry or follow our talents?

Olivia starts telling us her story from the end. "For after all, I have emerged . . . bodily the worse, but still
with wings to spread and some disposition toward flying
."

The Godmother (1901)
By Kate O'Flaherty Chopin

Is there a moment a lover can say, In the morning at 3:15 was the exact minute of heart break? Or is it a
slower sort of withering away of the heart?

She kept his horrible secret and loved him in spite of his mistake.

Plum Bun (1929)
By Jessie Redmon Fauset

Should we marry early or take our time for a long engagement, just to be sure?

Angela was looking forward to a long engagement until her fiancé played on her good heartedness
towards him and convinced her to marry right away.

Lilacs(1896)
By Kate O'Flaherty Chopin

Shouldn't other women be our best companions not our worst enemies?

The beautiful and sophisticated Mme. Adrienne Farvival disappeared each spring as soon as the
lilacs blossomed. No one could guess where she was going.

One Good Time (1900)
By Mary Wilkins Freeman

Do we always have to be good girls?

Narcissa was well into middle age when her father died. Her father had stood in the way of her
marriage to her loyal beau, William Crane, so many years. When her father's insurance money
arrives will she use it for a dowry or has she got something else in mind?

The Revolt of Mother (1891)
By Mary Wilkins Freeman

Do we always have to use drama so our husbands will pay attention?

Mrs. Penn has been waiting and waiting, not so patiently, for the building of the new farmhouse.
Her husband on the other hand has started a new project.

  • In 1973 women authors were just beginning to be taken seriously.
  • The American Tradition in literature includes stories from both the prairies and the cities.
  • Sometimes living alone is the way to have perfect control.

The Susan Glaspell Society

The Kate Chopin International Society

The Dorothy Canfield Children's Book Award

Jessie Redmon Fauset and the Harlem Renaissance