Fortune and Misery: Sallie Rhett Roman of New Orleans: A Biographical Portrait and Selected Fiction, 1891-1920

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Fortune and Misery: Sallie Rhett Roman of New Orleans: A Biographical Portrait and Selected Fiction, 1891-1920. By Nancy Dixon. Southern Literary Studies. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c. 1999. Pp. xx, 217. $26.95, ISBN 0-8071-2296-3.)

The more that the lives and writings of women in history are recovered, the more difficult it is to generalize about groups of women. This is especially true of the nineteenth-century privileged southern white women, whom earlier historians lumped together under such reductionist labels as "the southern lady." The case of Sallie Rhett Roman (1844-1921) illustrates the limitations of too narrow a categorization. Roman, the daughter of a wealthy South Carolina senator, was raised on a large plantation and married the son of the first Creole governor of Louisiana. The high costs of running a sugar plantation in Reconstruction Louisiana, even when her husband's legal practice supplemented its income, led to a financial crisis that became desperate after Roman was widowed. She was left with small children to support, and, encouraged by writing she had done as a member of a women' s literary club, she turned to one of the few professions then available to women: she became a journalist and writer of short fiction. From 1891 until 1920, the year before her death, Roman made regular contributions to the New Orleans Times-Democrat. …