Anne Boyd Rioux is a professor at the University of New Orleans and the author/editor of four books, including Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist and Miss Grief and Other Stories, both published by W. W. Norton. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities awards, one for public scholarship. She is currently writing Reading Little Women, a “biography” of the novel, for publication with W.W. Norton in 2018 to celebrate the book’s 150th anniversary. Rioux also writes reviews and essays for general and academic audiences, specializing in biography and women writers. She is a member of the National Book Critics’ Circle and is represented by Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.
In her teaching and writing, Rioux is passionate about the recovery of 19th-century American women writers who wrote wonderful, sometimes provocative, and often daring works that have been unavailable and unread for generations. While this began as a scholarly interest, Rioux realized that her mission extended beyond the walls of academia because she thinks it is important for women writers today to know about these amazing foremothers who have been kept hidden from them. The author she is most committed to rescuing from obscurity is Constance Fenimore Woolson.
Constance Fenimore Woolson was born in New Hampshire in 1840. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and died in Venice in 1894. The terrain she covered in her life and in her writings was immense. She wrote about the Great Lakes, New York City, the Reconstruction South, American exiles in Europe, and even Cairo and Corfu. She was friends with some of the era’s most eminent writers, including Henry James, John Hay, and Edmund Clarence Stedman.
Woolson’s five novels were published serially in Harper’s magazine and then in book form by Harper & Brothers publishing house, as well as in England and Germany. Her novel Anne is a female Bildungsroman that sold ten times as many copies as Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, which was published at the same time. Anne deserves to be read along with the novels of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, and George Eliot. Her novel East Angels also deserves renewed attention. It is a beautifully written response to The Portrait of a Lady set in the wilds of Florida. Woolson also excelled in the short story form. Stories such as “‘Miss Grief,'” exploring the neglect of women writers in a male-dominated literary world, and “Rodman the Keeper,” about the uneasy reconciliation of North and South after the Civil War, are masterpieces that deserve to be widely read today.
When Woolson died, obituaries appeared in newspapers all over the United States and Europe. She was widely considered a “true artist” whose “name stands at the head of the list of American literary women,” as newspapers declared at the time. Today, she is taught in college courses in the U.S., Italy, and England, and is studied by scholars in the Constance Fenimore Woolson Society, but she deserves to be more widely known as a major American writer of the nineteenth century.