Louisa May Alcott and Jane Goodwin Austin

Louisa May Alcott and Jane Goodwin Austin

Louisa May Alcott and Jane Goodwin Austin

Two things hooked me on Jane Goodwin Austin. First, she created the story of the first Thanksgiving. Second, she was friends with Louisa May Alcott. As a little girl, I loved to read old books. I had all the early Nancy Drews, Bobbsey Twins, and the Little House series, as well as anything I could acquire by LM Montgomery. And of course, I read a lot of Alcott’s novels. In fact, I read Little Women every winter as a sort of ritual. My trip to Concord in the mid-1980s solidified my passion. Once I actually saw New England and visited

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A Peep at the Pilgrims in 1636: A Tale of Olden Times

Quick Facts: Date of Publication: 1824, the same year as Hobomok Author: Harriet Vaughan Foster Cheney Setting: Mostly around Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1636 just before the Pequot War Plot Synopsis: Miriam Grey is a young Puritan woman in Plymouth. Loved by all in the community for her sweetness and beauty, she is a faithful daughter and cheerfully endures the deprivations of pioneer life for the sake of her father, to whom she is very obedient. She falls in love with the English Edward Atherton, who is visiting Miles Standish, his relative. But like Standish, Edward is not Puritan, and Miriam’s

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Hobomok

Quick Facts: Date of publication: 1824, the same year as Harriet Vaughan Cheney’s A Peep at the Pilgrims in 1636: A Tale of Olden Times, and only a year after James McHenry’s The Spectre of the Forest, or Annals of the Housatonic, the earliest Pilgrim/Puritan novel I’ve identified Author: Lydia Maria Child, her first publication Setting: Naumkeak, now present-day Salem Massachusetts, in 1629, just before the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and later Plymouth, through about 1633 Plot Synopsis: Mary Conant, the daughter of a harsh Puritan, loses her lover, Charles Brown, when he is banished from the colony

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Do the British Tell Better Stories?

Sometimes my Facebook news feed can be uncanny. I haven’t been Googling for information about fantasy and the supernatural in American fiction, but I have been thinking about it now that we’re watching Penny Dreadful and Stranger Things on Netflix. This morning Colleen Gillard’s article “Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories” from January 6, 2016, popped up in my feed, and I’ve been thinking about it for the last few hours. I don’t disagree with Gillard’s general premise, but with more consideration of context and literary history, it could have been so much richer. Gillard blames the Puritans (it

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A Peep at the Pilgrims, Part Two

Scribner’s American Historical Novels claims that Peep is one of “the best and most detailed of the early nineteenth-century novels of the Puritans [and] probably the best novel of its kind until Standish of Standish.” And while Sedgwick and Child both mention historical figures of Plymouth in their novels, neither writer focused specifically on Plymouth Pilgrims. The fact that Cheney did is interesting because she did it so early on. Cheney’s novel, published in 1924 and the same year as Child’s, pre-dates the publication of Bradford’s journal and the increasing interest in Pilgrims it generated. Indeed, many of the newspaper and

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A Peep at the Pilgrims: Part One

While I’m passionate about recovering the works of forgotten women writers, I also concede that some works have been forgotten for a reason. Harriet Vaughan Foster Cheney’s A Peep at the Pilgrims in 1636: A Tale of Olden Times probably won’t spark much interest among modern readers unless they like the didactic, heavily moralizing style of the earlier nineteenth century. Although the plot centers around the burgeoning (and forbidden!) romance developing between the English Edward Atherton and the Puritan Miriam Grey, there is suspenseful intrigue when Grey is captured by the Pequots, and various characters provide comic relief, the novel

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