Happy birthday, Jane Goodwin Austin!

Happy birthday, Jane Goodwin Austin!

    Mary Jane Goodwin Austin was born on February 25, 1831, almost two hundred years ago. And yet there have been times in my research when she felt like a contemporary. Her letters are warm, friendly, and often quite personal. She obviously felt comfortable expressing herself in writing. Although I haven’t recently discovered any more letters, I continue to find new stories or articles that she published all the time.  A more in-depth biography of Austin (in case you missed it!) is here. I’ve been very quiet on this blog lately, but I have been working! I’ve got another article

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Reading group for Standish of Standish

Reading group for Standish of Standish

Austin’s 1889 novel, Standish of Standish, is definitely her most popular work, but it’s also an incredibly influential novel because of its impact on American culture. It’s not a coincidence that the Pilgrims began to be associated with the “first” Thanksgiving only after her book was published (but more on that in another post). Nor is it a coincidence that stories about America’s past were popular at that time; after all, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and the Pledge of Allegiance was written and promoted in 1887. In 1910, more than 30 states had laws requiring Americanization

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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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Austin versus Austen

Austin versus Austen

Today is the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, so it seems like a good time for a post distinguishing the English Jane Austen with the American Jane Goodwin Austin. “It is a truth universally acknowledged” that every article about Jane Austen has to include that phrase somewhere (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I was trying to come up with Austin Power jokes, though, so it could have been worse). The English Jane Austen was born in 1775 and published some of the best-known and most critically acclaimed novels in all of literature. Pride and Prejudice (1813) is

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Adventures in the Archives, Part 4

Adventures in the Archives, Part 4

But for all of my success stories, I’ve also had a few disappointments. Probably the most disappointing was on my last Plymouth trip, when I couldn’t access the archives at Pilgrim Hall as thoroughly as I wanted to. It might be years before that happens, but I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff there. I also recently uncovered an archival catalog listing a letter from Loring Henry Austin, Jane’s husband, to Henry David Thoreau, dated 1863. I don’t have anything dating from this period of Jane’s life except one or two short letters to publishers offering manuscripts or pitching story

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Adventures in the Archives, Part 3

Adventures in the Archives, Part 3

As much as I love to visit in person, and as vital as it is to my research, though, there are limits to my ability to travel. For the most part, I’ve paid for my own research trips. I had funding from my college and help from the Mayflower Society for my most recent trip, but other than that, I’ve paid for everything else. So I’m learning to use technology in other ways. Another clue from an old book led me on a path to a previously unknown archive in a small public library. That archive never came up in

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