Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie, a Journalist in the Gilded Age

Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie, a Journalist in the Gilded Age

Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie, a Journalist in the Gilded Age

Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie, a Journalist in the Gilded Age


Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie is a collection of articles, editorials, and narratives by Elia Peattie written during her tenure at the Omaha World-Herald from 1888 to 1896, richly illustrated with photographs from the period. Elia (Wilkinson) Peattie (1862–1935) was born during the Civil War and came of age at the advent of the era of the New Woman. In many ways Peattie embodied this new age of independence for women, writing both fiction and journalism and becoming one of the first Plains women to write editorial columns in a major newspaper that addressed public issues. Not shy with her opinions about current events in the state of Nebraska in the late nineteenth century, Peattie tackled subjects such as the Wounded Knee Massacre, capital punishment and lynchings, prostitution, the Omaha stockyards, beet-field workers in Grand Island, schools and child rearing, the need for orphanages, shelters for unwed mothers, charity hospitals, and the New Woman. Editor Susanne George Bloomfield includes a biography of Peattie, who is described as "tall, dignified, and kindly, and possessing a wicked sense of humor." Peattie's work now stands as a rare and valuable history of Nebraska, showing us a lively frontier society through the eyes of a woman engaged in the life of her community and her own struggle to balance her family and career


Impertinences is a collection of editorials, columns, and stories written by Elia Wilkinson Peattie for the Omaha World-Herald during her sojourn in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1888 to 1896. It attempts to enlarge our ever-growing understanding of women’s writings at the end of the nineteenth century and to help clarify a major turning point in American history, especially in the booming West.

Peattie grew up during the Gilded Age, roughly the two decades after the Civil War, when industry expanded, the transcontinental railroad united the country physically, and waves of immigration increased America’s population. It was the age of the Victorian True Woman, when piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity defined the role of women and centered them firmly in the home. Toward the end of the century, new scientific thought ushered in the Progressive Era, and the New Woman, a product of the Woman’s Movement initiated in the late 1840s, began to challenge the status quo. Women started demanding the right to equal educational and career opportunities as well as stronger political rights and responsibilities.

Entering adulthood as the Progressive Era merged into the Gilded Age suited Peattie perfectly; she was an intellectual woman who wanted a career, but she was also a devoted wife and mother. Described as “tall, dignified, and kindly, and possessing a wicked sense of humor” (Raftery 53), Peattie exemplified an increasing number of late-nineteenth-century women who balanced their desire for independence and universal rights with their maternal, womanly instincts and needs. For the first time, American women had a choice: they could remain contentedly in the home, follow a professional career, or, as in Peattie’s case, attempt to harmonize the private and public spheres. Peattie’s struggle to grow as an individual, to gain respect as a professional, and to balance family and career is one that women still face today.

Peattie spent most of her life in the Midwest, but the nine years she spent in Omaha were important to her as a writer and as a woman at the close of the nineteenth century. While raising four children, tending a husband with recurring health problems, and helping with the family finances, Peattie authored a prodigious number of editorials, columns, short stories, poems, articles, novels, histories, plays, literary criticism, popular domestic fiction, and children’s novels and stories. One book cannot do justice to the expanse and variety of writings produced by Elia W. Peattie during her lifetime.

Although much of Peattie’s work was published to help support her family . . .

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