Reading about “almost” famous women

I read Erika Robuk’s The House of Hawthorne in one day. I could not put it down. It wasn’t a thriller or a mystery. It was an historical romance (but not with the big “R”).


It wasn’t about Nathaniel, but about Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, a talented painter who married a talented writer. Although it was fiction, the author used journals and letters to flesh out the story of these two creatively-driven people.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen is a fictional account of a possible liaison between the poet, Frances Osgood, and Edgar Allan Poe.

mrs poe

Both of these books were well-written and led me into unknown territory…creative women of history that were not Bronte, Alcott, Dickinson, etc.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon is another creative woman that is not well-known today. She was one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “…damn mob of scribbling women…” who were outselling him. Braddon was successful in the 1800s but time seems to have forgotten the writer who originated the amateur sleuth mystery.

Would Sophia Hawthorne had produced more beautiful paintings if she hadn’t been so involved with raising children?

Would Frances Osgood’s poems ever be taught outside of her relationship with Poe?

Would ME Braddon be taught in English classes if she were a he?

Last night as I read in bed, next to my own writer husband, I mused that the Hawthorne’s first home, The Old Manse, from which they were evicted, is an historical monument to the writer (not his wife, the painter). “I wonder, if one day, this house could be an historic site.” My loving and egalitarian Morgan laughed. “Only because of you,” he said. “More likely because of Heather,” I answered.

I guess we won’t be charging admission to our house any time soon.

But I did order Robuck’s Call Me Zelda…another woman that history has deemed to make just a footnote to her more famous and creative(?) husband.

Time for these women to be brought out of obscurity and taught in schools….along side their more famous male counterparts.


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