Getting Started

First things first. Who was Constance Fenimore Woolson? Maybe you have heard of the story “Miss Grief.” Maybe you have heard about her close friendship with Henry James. Maybe you read something once about how she committed suicide in Venice in 1894. In any case, if you have heard of her, you’re probably thinking, didn’t she have a tragic life? Wasn’t she some second-rate writer chasing Henry James around Europe? As my biography will explain, her death may have been tragic, but her life was anything but. And she was simply one of the best women writers of the nineteenth century, often compared in her day to George Eliot. Finally, while she may have sought James out, their fourteen-year friendship was anything but one-sided. He once told a friend that of the three or four people in the world who truly knew him, she was one of them.

But I’m not writing about Woolson just to write about her relationship with James. I’m writing about her because she wrote amazing stories–about a young woman artist in Rome, a female lighthouse keeper in the Great Lakes, or a musician seeking the strains of music he hears in the Florida swamps. And I’m writing about her because she dared to devote her life to writing serious literature when very few women had been able to do so. She deserves to be much better known today than she is. Two decades after her death, a writer to the New York Times announced, “Miss Woolson has done too much for America and Americans to be forgotten and ignored.” It’s now been almost 120 years since her death. It’s time we remembered.


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  1. I am so happy to hear and read this! It sounds like the perfect thing to do. Looking forward to the book, but now also your blog postings.

  2. I am looking forward to learning more about your progress, Anne. I am SO glad you are doing this, and hope that at some point we can all be helpful, not just congratulatory.

    1. Thanks, Patti! You can “follow” the blog via e-mail. (There is an icon on the left hand side of the page.) I appreciate you interest and offer of help. It’s nice to know the Woolites are out there!

  3. Thank you for sharing your process through this blog. I have been blogging about Louisa May Alcott for a couple of years and am inching towards a book. It’s always so cool to meet others who feel such passion for someone in the past that they are willing to devote endless hours to make that person known and appreciated. Kudos and good luck in your quest. I will be reading. :-)

    1. Thanks, Susan, for your interest in my blog. Alcott is one of my favorite writers as well! I wrote about her in my book Writing for Immortality: Women and the Emergence of High Literary Culture in America. I was interested in continuing to work on her, but there is so much more out there about her than there is about Woolson, so I chose to work on Woolson. I’m glad to see all of the new and wonderful work on Alcott, though. She was a fascinating woman!

      1. Indeed she is. Reading about Alcott all the time, I am not familiar enough with other writers of her time. I look forward to learning more about Woolson. I’ll have to check your book that features Louisa.

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