Long, Judith Reick. (1990). Gene Stratton-Porter: Novelist and Naturalist. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society.
These days, I have been drawn to the work of Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924), a novelist and naturalist of considerable distinction in the early part of the 20th century. At her passing, publishers estimated she had more than 50 million readers in the United States and others abroad. Her work served as a significant factor in stirring public consciousness regarding nature during her time. Yet, like many women in history, her story had largely faded from sight.
Richard has found some of her books at estate auctions and antique shops. We now have 9 in our collection, including this biography. I remember hearing of the book Girl of the Limberlost when I was growing up. This novel would have been produced in 1909 when my Grandmother was in her mid 20s and newly graduated from Music Conservatory.
Gene Stratton-Porter lived in a time when industrialization and the move to the city from the country had become a high pitched fever. Her biographer Long notes that pioneer women of the vintage of Gene Stratton's grandmother did not want their daughters to live lives as harsh as their own, so the push was on for more delicate and refined tastes found in cities.
Gene Stratton-Porter did not fit in. Her love of nature, birds, moths, flowers, swamp meant that she was often found lugging a 30 pound camera into the swamp focusing on the latest find. She was a prolific writer, photographer and film-maker. And she had a considerable following. She felt herself a modern day "Moses" leading people to reconnect with the land. To date, I have read Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost; both have consistent themes of nature as healer.
Judith Long is masterful in her research and story telling. She makes Gene Stratton-Porter come alive, both in her trials and her triumphs. Long also helps create means by which the context of the lives my ancestors comes alive too. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.