In the spring of 1916, as the workers for woman suffrage were laying plans for another attack on the bastions of male supremacy, the idea for The Sturdy Oak was born. Based on the rules of an old parlor game, wherein one person begins a narrative, another continues it, and another follows, this collaborative effort by the leading writers of the day, such as Fannie Hurst, Dorothy Canfield, and Kathleen Norris, is a satiric look at the gender roles of the time.
There is much in The Sturdy Oak that reflects the New York campaign for suffrage of 1916–1917. The setting is the fictional city of Whitewater in upstate New York. Idealistic reformers are pitted against a ruthless political machine, and the traditional picture of man as “the sturdy oak” supporting woman, “the clinging vine,” is ridiculed in the portrayal of an engaging couple, George and Genevieve Remington. Nonetheless, the purpose of the book is not primarily ridicule but reform, and the reader is taken through the steps by which a confirmed anti-suffragist is gradually transformed into a supporter of the suffrage cause.
Beyond its historical interest, The Sturdy Oak is imbued with a political and social currency that makes it applicable even today. And because of the skill of the writers of this composite novel, even eight decades after its initial publication The Sturdy Oak is still, as the New York Times said in 1917, “irresistibly readable.”
Elizabeth Jordan (1865-1947) was a journalist for the World who reported on the trial of Lizzie Borden in 1893 and later served as editor of Harper's Bazaar. More info →
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Cora Sandel, born Sara Fabricus in 1880, did not publish her first novel until 1926. Alberta and Jacob, first novel of the trilogy, is the story of an adolescent girl’s rebellion against the self–conscious gentility of her family in the far north of Norway during the last years of the nineteenth century. Imaginative and intelligent, Alberta Selmer longs for the knowledge and self fulfillment that her provincial surroundings cannot give her.
Between the two world wars, the retail world experienced tremendous changes. New forms of competition, expanded networks of communication and transportation, and the proliferation of manufactured goods posed challenges to department store and small shopkeeper alike. In western New York, and in Buffalo and Rochester in particular, retailers were a crucial part of urban life, acting as cultural brokers and civic leaders. They were also cultivators of area pride.
The Depression that follows the 1929 stock market crash is emptying Paris of many American expatriates. Two exceptions are Dorothy and James T. Farrell, the naïve young couple who have fled their home in Chicago for the fabled liberation that Paris seems to offer. In this telling account drawn from interviews, diaries, and letters home, Edgar Marquess Branch presents a composite view of the life of a young author yet to complete his masterpiece, Studs Lonigan.