ZONA GALE was born in Portage, Wisconsin, on August 26, 1874, the only child of Charles and Eliza Beers Gale.A frail, solitary, and meditative child, Gale wrote stories, poems, and literary impressions, which she kept in notebooks. In 1895, Gale graduated from the University of Wisconsin and became a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, continuing her studies until she earned a master's degree in 1899. She became a highly regarded journalist and left Wisconsin in 1901 to join the staff of the New York Evening World, following the pattern of other midwestern writers like William Dean Howells, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, and Hamlin Garland, who left small towns for New York.
In 1902, Gale became Edmund Clarence Stedman's secretary in order to pursue a career writing fiction. Her stories were soon published in Outing, Smart Set, and Success magazines. As part of the Stedman literary circle, Gale met the writer Ridgely Torrence.They almost married, but after two years of courtship, Gale broke off their relationship in 1904; she did, however, correspond with him throughout her life. In 1906 Gale published her first novel, Romance Island.
In Portage, living in her parents' home, Gale wrote collections of stories published as Friendship Village ( 1908), Friendship Village Love Stories ( 1909), When I Was a Little Girl ( 1913), Neighborhood Stories ( 1914), and Peace in Friendship Village ( 1919). In 1911, The Delineator magazine awarded Gale a $2000 first prize for her story "The Ancient Dawn." A novel, Mothers to Men, appeared that same year, followed in 1912 by a novelette, Christmas. The same village characters reappear in all these works, which make the characters' superstitions and bigotry appear comic and harmless.
From 1912 to 1920, Gale participated in many civic projects, including the pacifist movement; the struggle for women's suffrage; the movement for reform legislation; and the development of the Wisconsin Dramatic Society, one of the first regional theater movements. Her one-act play, The Neighbors, was produced in 1914 by the society.
The novel Birth, published in 1918, marked a change in Gale's fiction. The sweetness of the Friendship Village stories was replaced by literary realism and a strain of mysticism. Miss Lulu Bett ( 1920), judged by most critics to be her best novel, depicts a newly educated