Frémont, Pathmarker of the West

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

XXXV
Poverty and Labor

IN this family crisis, it was Mrs. Frémont who, with characteristic vigor, came to the rescue. "I am like a deeply built ship," she used to say; "I drive best under a stormy wind." She had already discovered that she could earn money with her pen. During the Civil War she had set herself, with a frenzy of energy, to write the history of Zagonyi's brave troopers who made the charge at Springfield; and within ten days, according to family tradition, had produced the spirited little book called The Story of the Guard, the profits of which she devoted to the Sanitary Commission. Now, while the family went to live first on Madison Avenue, far uptown at Seventy-second Street, and then scraped together its resources to rent a cottage on what was called "the Esplanade" on the waterfront of Staten Island, she became a breadwinner.

Spurred on by the illness of her younger son, who was threatened with tuberculosis, and who must--the physician said--be sent to a dry high climate, she approached Robert Bonner of the New York Ledger. He offered her $100 each for a series of articles. Doubtless he thought it would be months before they were all completed, but she went home, sat down at her desk, and for days labored almost incessantly, hardly pausing for food or rest. When they were all done, she took them to the Ledger office and demanded payment in a lump sum to meet her son's needs. At once she began contributing to other magazines. In the fifteen years between 1875 and 1890, she produced article after article, story after story. She contributed tales for children to the Wide Awake, popular essays to the Ledger, historical sketches to Harper's and the Century. Some

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