Amy E. Hudock
A news clipping in the files of the Washington Historical Society in Washington, D.C. reports that early in her marriage Emma Southworth and her new husband, Frederick, called a one-room log cabin on the wild frontiers of Wisconsin home. On their first night in the dilapidated cabin, Frederick, having found they had no matches to light the fire, left Southworth sitting outside the front door, enjoying the beautiful spring evening, when "[a]ll at once a sense of the appalling stillness abroad startled her, when a long, low murmur like the winds in the tree tops, so filled her with dread that she rushed into the house and barred the door. Pulling the cotton curtain carefully aside she looked out and saw the scintillating hungry eyes of a pack of wolves" (undated clipping, Southworth Papers, Washington Historical Society). Realizing that they desired a recently butchered piece of meat, she moved the temptation to a more secure part of the cabin as the hungry wolves continued to dig and claw at the weak perimeter for over an hour before her husband and his gun returned to liberate Southworth and the fresh meat. The image of Southworth keeping a pack of howling wolves at bay indicates the essence of her personality: She responded to threats to her happiness and livelihood with typical courage and perseverance.
Despite the social conditioning that might have birthed a more passive, dependent, and submissive young woman, Southworth's life lessons taught her strength enough to ward off wolves--both real and metaphorical. Her mother, Susannah Georgia Wailes, married Charles L. Nevitte, a forty-five-year-old established Washington, D.C. businessman, when she was only fifteen years old. The age difference, Susannah's mother's move into her son-in-law's home, and Southworth's later withering portrayal of such unions in her fiction suggest the