Fannie Cook and Social Protest
in Missouri, 1938—1949
Why should skin color, gender, or ethnic identity limit any person's hope for fulfillment? Why must poverty kill, injustice persist, and the fight for equality end in apathy or defeat? In the 1930s and 1940s, novelist and activist Fannie Cook boldly and explicitly asked these questions. Through her fictional characters, she spoke with many voices, including that of a college-educated middle-class woman, an African American household worker, a Jewish shoe salesman, and an altruistic physician in the Missouri Bootheel. In the pages of her novels, some characters found answers or partial answers to these questions, some gave up, and some found ways to continue the search. Others, like the Bootheel doctor's wife, accepted injustice as the way of the world, asking only for privacy and protection in the limited space they called home.
“I have taken an active part in the life of my own city and State but always as two persons: one partaking, and one watching and reporting to the writer-self, ” Fannie Cook said of herself. 1. As an author, Cook valiantly tried but ultimately failed to develop a coherent ideology of racial justice and gender equality. As a social activist, she spent most of her adult life participating in movements aimed at addressing social issues in the city of St. Louis and in the state of Missouri. Her involvement in causes made her aware of the painful complexities inherent in attempting to improve the____________________