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Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman) Biography

(1852–1930), (Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman), Pembroke, The Shoulders of Atlas, Harper's Bazaar

American writer, born in Randolph, Massachusetts. She is known primarily for her regional fiction set in her native Massachusetts and in Vermont where she lived. She wrote essays, plays, poetry, children's books, and novels, including Pembroke (1894) and The Shoulders of Atlas (1908), but she is best remembered for her short stories. Many of these appeared in magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and were first collected in A Humble Romance and Other Stories (1887). Her fiction characteristically concerns the lives of her contemporary New Englanders and evokes through careful description of scenery, dialect, and milieu a powerful sense of place and of regional character. Among the issues she explored are the pressure exerted upon the inherited social codes of small-town life by a changing urban world, the effect upon personal character of a decaying Puritan orthodoxy, the ambivalent position of unmarried women, and the potential power of the meek in society. In 1902 she married and moved to New Jersey; both the change of environment and life with an alcoholic husband affected the quality of her subsequent work. In 1926 she was awarded the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction, and in the same year became, with Edith Wharton, the first woman honoured by the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso