Kate H. Winter
On July 16, 1836, Marietta Holley was the seventh and last child born into a farm family in rural upstate New York near a village then known as Bear Creek. In an area that was still New York's frontier, her father, John Milton Holley, and her mother, Mary Taber, managed a modest living with the help of their children, and as a girl, Marietta learned domestic skills and farm work while she furtively wrote poems and stories on whatever scraps of paper she could find. At fourteen she finished her formal schooling in the one-room district school and began a lifelong habit of wide reading that fed her literary ambitions and enlarged her world. When her brothers left for the California gold fields in the 1850s, Holley helped support her sisters and aging parents by giving music lessons and bartering handcrafts. Innately shy, and nearly silenced by a speech impediment, she continued to write poetry in the popular style. At the age of twenty-one she saw her first work in print in the local newspaper, appearing under the pseudonym "Jemyma," the first of her pen names. Later she more boldly used "M. H." and the British spelling of her father's name, "Hawley." In 1867, Peterson's magazine first published one of her poems with "Marietta Holley" appended to it, and she began to realize a small income from her writing. Heartened by the response to her work, in 1869 she sent out two short stories written in the style of the dialect humorists and bearing her newest pseudonym "Josiah Allen's Wife." The choice of name was a shrewd one, disguising Holley herself and making her outspoken protagonist--a woman's rights advocate--seem less threatening than the zealous suffragists, thereby gaining a new audience for their feminist arguments. From that point on, her work ap
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Publication information: Book title: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers:A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Contributors: Denise D. Knight - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 224.