Feminize Your Canon: Fanny Fern

In 1854, one of America’s most popular newspaper columnists, the pseudonymous Fanny Fern, published “Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of The Present Time,” an autobiographical novel so thinly veiled as to be downright scandalous. In a preface, Fern announced that her book was “entirely at variance with all set rules for novel-writing,” eschewing an intricate plot, elaborate descriptions, and cliff-hanging suspense. Instead, the author likened herself to a casual visitor, dropping by unannounced with gossip to share—and, clearly, some scores to settle.

Feminize Your Canon: Mary Heaton Vorse

Our column Feminize Your Canon explores the lives of underrated and underread female authors. Originally begun by Emma Garman, it will now be written by Joanna Scutts. Mary Heaton Vorse, prolific novelist, journalist, and labor activist, spent most of her long life trying to escape her upper-middle-class origins. The heroine of her 1918 novel ’ calls the inescapability of a bourgeois upbringing life’s “blue serge lining”—a reference to the practical fabric that protected the inside of coats.

The Women Who Showed Us Life

At the entrance to the new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society’s Center for Women’s History looms a photograph that is oddly abstract and resolutely concrete, a row of conical towers forming part of the hulking Fort Peck Dam in Montana. The photograph covered the first issue of LIFE in 1936 and was captured by Margaret Bourke-White, the first and best known of the handful of female photojournalists on the magazine’s staff.
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