Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman

Joyce E. Warren, Author
Joyce E. Warren, Author Rutgers University Press $29.95 (374p) ISBN 978-0-8135-1763-6
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1992
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Queens College (N.Y.) English faculty member Warren ( The American Narcissus: Individualism and Women in 19th-Century American Ficton ) performs valuable detective work in the field of women's studies by rescuing Fanny Fern (1811-1872) from oblivion. Born Sarah Payson in Portland, Maine, she took on the pseudonym in the 1850s when she became the first female American newspaper columnist. Estranged from an abusive husband and refused financial aid by a father and brother who disapproved of divorce, Fern turned to writing to feed her two children. Her satiric columns, which commented on such issues as women's rights, prostitution and prison conditions, as well as her bestselling novel Ruth Hall , made her a household name. Warren quotes liberally from Fern's columns and fiction in this extensively researched, well-written academic biography. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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