American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960 - Vol. 1

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER

1879-1958

DOROTHY CANFIELD, named after the heroine of Middlemarch, was born Dorothea Frances Canfield on February 17, 1879, in Lawrence, Kansas.She and an older brother, James, were the children of James Hulme Canfield, a university professor, and Flavia Camp Canfield, an artist.A distinguished and cultivated family, they traveled widely, and Flavia kept a studio in Paris.

Graduated from Ohio State University in 1899, Dorothy went on to receive a Ph.D. in French from Columbia University in 1904, having written a dissertation on Corneille and Racine.In 1907 she married John Redwood Fisher and settled on a Vermont farm inherited from her great-grandfather. Civic-minded and dedicated to education, Fisher introduced the Montessori method of teaching to the United States and was the first president of the Adult Education Association and the first woman to serve on the Vermont State Board of Education.Morally compelled, with her husband, to volunteer during World War I, she founded a Braille press for blinded soldiers and a children's hospital in France.She later established the Children's Crusade for Children during World War II, a conflict that took Fisher's son.

Fisher's literary career began with the publication of stories and articles in popular women's magazines while she was a graduate student. Her first novel, Gunhild ( 1907), attracted little attention. The Squirrel Cage ( 1912), however, was better received and enabled her to support her family. Her husband, also a writer, became her consultant and editor as her success increased. Fisher's popular reputation grew with the publication of The Bent Twig ( 1915), Home Fires in France ( 1918), and a collection of stories based on her experiences in France during World War I, The Day of Glory ( 1919). With The Brimming Cup ( 1921), Fisher achieved wide popular and critical acclaim. It was the second most purchased novel in the country, behind Sinclair Lewis's Main Street. The Home-Maker was among the 10 best-selling novels of 1924. She received an 0. Henry Memorial Award in 1944 for " The Knot‐ Hole," a short story published in the Yale Review. Fisher remained for decades one of America's best-known writers of short stories, novels, children's books and magazine articles.

As a Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) judge from 1926 until 1951, Fisher firmly established herself as an important figure in American letters beyond her own writing. She introduced the works

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