Writers of Conviction: The Personal Politics of Zona Gale, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Rose Wilder Lane, and Josephine Herbst

Synopsis

In Writers of Conviction, Julia C. Ehrhardt examines the literary careers of four American writers who have not received the critical attention they deserve: Zona Gale, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Rose Wilder Lane, and Josephine Herbst. For too long, "middlebrow" female authors have been ignored by scholars--mainly because their stories were considered to lack serious political content or social commentary--despite their popularity with the general public. Writers of Conviction reintroduces these authors to reveal a fascinating and unexplored aspect of white, middle-class female authorship: the provocative links between each writer's personal politics and her literary aspirations. Ehrhardt uses this innovative critical perspective to show that each woman became a writer in order to express her political beliefs to the largest possible audience. Combining feminist literary theory, women's history, and biographical criticism, each chapter presents a compelling study of a woman's individual journey to political consciousness and the writings that resulted from it. Rather than discussing familiar issues--such as woman suffrage and equal rights--that usually dominate our understanding of women's political activity in the early twentieth century as they surfaced in writing by canonical woman authors, Ehrhardt introduces readers to four lesser-known women and the political agendas they endorsed in both published and unpublished writings. In-depth analyses are presented on Gale's support of the municipal-housekeeping movement, Fisher's anxieties about the rise of New England tourism, Lane's criticism of the New Deal, and Herbst's denunciation of the risks involved in illegal abortion. Ehrhardtoffers a refreshing new perspective on Herbst's fiction by putting sexuality rather than class at the center of the analysis. Writers of Conviction breaks new ground by also assessing the current critical conception of legitima