Porter, Gene Stratton: A Daughter of the Land
(researched by Karen Fuller)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Gene Stratton-Porter. A Daughter of the Land. Garden City, New York: Doubleday Page & Company, 1918. Copyright Statement: Copyright 1918 by Gene Stratton-Porter Parallel First Editions: In England: Gene Stratton-Porter. A Daughter of the Land. London : John Murray, Hazell, Watson & Viney, 1918 In Canada: Gene Stratton-Porter. A Daughter of the Land. Toronto: T. Langton, 1918. Source: WorldCat
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First American edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
243 leaves, pp. [12] 3-475 [476]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Book is not edited or introduced. Author?s previous novels and nature books are listed on back of front end papers. Novels: Freckles, A Girl of the Limberlost, At the Foot of the Rainbow, The Harvester, Laddie, Michael O?Halloran. Nature Books: The Song of the Cardinal, Friends in Feathers, Birds of the Bible, Music of the Wild, Moths of the Limberlost, Morning Face. Dedication is to Gene Stratton.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Color frontispiece by Frances Rogers facing title page on glossy stock, caption: ?If I were you I wouldn?t worry about me, Robert. There are many women in the world willing to pay for your consideration; save it for them.? Other illustrations printed in dark green ink found on end papers, title page, copyright page, table of contents, dedication page, 2 page illustration with title, and unnumbered page facing page 3. Illustration on top of page 3. All are green ink, depictions of nature and agriculture, following the theme of the book.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
In general, the book is attractive and highly readable. Size of pages: 7.5 x 5 inches Size of text: 5.5 x 4 inches size of type: 95R Good readability; margins are a nice size, text is clear and evenly printed. Illustrations are well placed on page and unfaded, frontispiece centered with colors still bright, caption highly legible. The unique presentation of the table of contents over an ink illustration makes the chapter titles a bit difficult to read, but not terribly.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is white and smooth, with a straight edge. It has not yellowed noticeably over time; if there is any yellowing it is even and subtle. The wove paper has an even texture. There is no watermarking or tearing of the paper in this copy. It has held up well. The frontispiece is on glossy stock, also in good condition.
11 Description of binding(s)
Trade cloth binding, dotted-line grain. Dark green, no dust jacket. Dark yellow stamping, cover illustration of corn stalks stamped in dark yellow and black. End papers on white paper, illustrated with green ink drawings of agricultural scene. End paper illustrations identical. Transcription of front cover: A | DAUGHTER | OF THE | LAND | GENE | STRATTON-PORTER Transcription of spine (text horizontal): A | DAUGHTER | OF THE | LAND | GENE | STRATTON | PORTER | DOUBLEDAY | PAGE & CO.
12 Transcription of title page
Title page: A DAUGHTER | OF THE LAND | BY | GENE | STRATTON- | PORTER | FRONTISPIECE | BY | FRANCES ROGERS | GARDEN CITY NEW YORK | DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY | 1918 Title page verso: Copyright, 1918, by | GENE STRATTON-PORTER | All rights reserved, | including that of | translation into foreign languages, | including the Scandinavian
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
As of 2006, most of Gene Stratton Porter?s manuscripts remain in private hands. The Indiana State University Library and The Lilly Library at Indiana University each have a few letters, but their collection is mainly of her printed works. Source: Dictionary of Literary Biography
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
This copy is clean, with no inscriptions to mention. No dust jacket.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Other editions by Doubleday Page: 1921: Garden City, New York, 3-475 p. b&w frontispiece ; 20 cm. 1926: Garden City, New York ; 20 cm. (no illustrations) Source: Gene Stratton-Porter: A Bibliography and Collector's Guide
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Other printings by Doubleday, Page: 1919: Garden City, New York, 3-475 p. : ill. ; 20 cm. 1922: Garden City, New York, 3-475 p. : ill. ; 20 cm. Source: WorldCat
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Grosset and Dunlap: 1918: New York, 3-475 p. : color frontispiece ; 20 cm. 1918: New York, 339 p. ; 19 cm. 1967: New York, 339 p. T. Langton: 1918: Toronto, 475 p. : ill. John Murray, Hazell, Watson & Viney: 1918: London, 364 p. ; 20 cm. 1919: London, 315 p. ; 19 cm. American Reprint: 1976: New York, 339 p. ; 22 cm. Indiana University Press: 1997: Bloomington, viii, 339 p. ; 22 cm. Folcroft Library Editions, 1974 Classic Books, 2001 Kessinger Publishing, 2005 Quiet Vision Publishing, 2005 North Books, 2005 Sources: Books in Print, WorldCat and National Union Catalog pre-1956 imprints
6 Last date in print?
as of 2006, still in print. Source: Books in Print
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Based on Stratton-Porter's past successes, Doubleday Page predicted in a Sept. 28, 1918 Publisher's Weekly ad that A Daughter of the Land would sell 500,000 copies. However, the last contemporary ad found that specifically refers to A Daughter of the Land (Aug. 23, 1919) in Publisher's Weekly states that 200,000 copies were sold. After this date, ads in Publisher's Weekly refer to the more impressive sales number of all Stratton-Porter's books, which in a Sept. 27, 1919 ad total 7,300,000. According to Hackett's 80 Years of Bestseller's, A Daughter of the Land never reached near the 1,000,000 mark of Stratton-Porter's most popular books.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Oct. 13, 1918 New York Times ad states that more than more than 150,000 copies have sold (priced at $1.40). Nov. 6, 1918 Chicago Tribune ad states that 150,000 copies were sold before publication release date (August 17, 1918). Dec. 14, 1918 Chicago Tribune ad states that 175,000 copies have been sold. Jan. 11, 1919 Publisher's Weekly ad advertises Daughter of the Land with other books, claiming that all those listed have been in several editions already (according to research "edition" means printing here). Aug. 23, 1919 Publisher's Weekly ad states that 200,000 copies have been sold.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Aug, 17, 1918 ad in Publisher's Weekly: In her battle for the things in life that were rightfully hers she learned, just as America is now learning, that only through sacrifice and sorrow is character builded and happiness attained. Sept. 28, 1918 ad in Publisher's Weekly: A Daughter of the Land is as near the great American novel as we shall get in this generation. Feb. 1919 ad in The Bookman: A Review of Books and Life: There is not a word of war in it, yet it will draw attention to one of our chief weapons of defense--the products of the land and the big men and women who grow them. [See image of sample advertisement for full ad.]
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191060301113404.jpg
11 Other promotion
Other promotion of A Daughter of the Land, other than those ads centered around it, includes ads for other Stratton-Porter books in which it is mentioned. For example, a July 19, 1919 Publisher's Weekly ad for Stratton-Porter's nature book Homing with the Birds encourages booksellers to include it on their shelves as it will also move Stratton-Porter's novels, like A Daughter of the Land.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
This novel was not made into a play, film, or audiobook. Sources: Books in Print, imdb.com, James M. Salem's A Guide to Critical Reviews
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
1936: Dcera Zeme, translator: W.F. Waller. Publisher: Praha : Sfinx Bohumil Janda. 276 p. ; 21 cm. Czech. 1993: Dcera Zeme, translator: Anna Králová Upravila, illustrator: Hana Bidlasová Publisher: Praha : Olympia, Svoboda. 125 p. ; 21 cm. Czech. Source: WorldCat
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Gene Stratton-Porter was born Geneva Stratton on August 17, 1863 in Wabash County, Indiana to Mark and Mary Stratton. Her father was 50 and her mother 46 when they had her, their twelfth child. Like the protagonist of A Daughter of the Land, Kate Bates, she was the youngest female child in a large family. Also like Kate, her father was a prosperous farmer. Her mother was infirm from the time Stratton-Porter was five; perhaps that's why she had so much freedom about the family home. The family moved into the town of Wabash when she was eleven and her mother died soon afterward. Stratton-Porter had to attend school there (the term being twice as long as that in the country) but dropped out of the high school in 1883, just one term short of graduating. Believing herself to be as strong and unique an individual as the characters she created, she later wrote of her frustrations with the public schools that "I never had one teacher who made the slightest effort to discover [?] what I had been born to do" (qtd. in Long). Stratton-Porter's father encouraged her love of nature when she was a child, and later the cultural and social opportunities for young people in northern Indiana encouraged her (Literature Resource). It was at a Chataqua meeting that she met Charles Dorwin Porter, a druggist older than she. After courting for a year and a half, they married on April 21, 1886 and eventually settled in Geneva, Indiana. They had one daughter, Jeannette, on August 27 1887. In 1889 oil was found on Porter's farmland, allowing them to build a new house near the Limberlost Swamp which Gene designed and called Limberlost Cabin. Here she could devote time to nature study and in about 1895, she learned to photograph birds and animals in their natural setting (later her home inspired the popular 1909 novel A Girl of the Limberlost). She sent her photographs to Recreation magazine, beginning her career as a naturalist and photographer rather than a novelist. She was also hired by Outing magazine, and was a consultant on photographic techniques for National Geographic. Her first known published works appeared circa 1900 (age 37) in the magazines that she also took pictures for. Her first novel was The Song of the Cardinal in 1903, but it was the publication of one of her best-known novels in 1904, Freckles, that established her as a success. In the ending Stratton-Porter first wrote, Freckles is killed by a falling tree in his beloved forest when lumbermen encroach on the natural setting. But the book would not be published until Freckles got married at the end instead. This is a lesson Stratton-Porter seems never to have forgotten. Her popularity rose quickly, and she furthered her naturalist mission by interspersing novels with non-fiction nature studies, an agreement she reached with her publishers Doubleday Page. When the Limberlost Swamp was drained in 1913, the family moved to Sylvan Lake. While there Stratton-Porter wrote A Daughter of the Land (1918), which deals with the issue of women as landowners, but it did not sell as well as previous novels. It was around the time of its publication that the Sylvan Lake area was being converted into farmland. Stratton-Porter moved to California, buying land on Catalina Island and in the Bel Air region of Los Angeles; here she could oversee the adaptation of her most popular novels into films. She organized her own film company, Gene Stratton Porter productions. She also began writing editorials for McCalls championing women's capabilities but emphasizing their first responsibility to home and family. She died in a crash between her limousine and a streetcar on December 6, 1924. Her manuscripts remain in private hands; see supplementary materials for more information. Sources: Contemporary Authors Online (Gale Biography Resource Center) Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary (Wilson Web Biography Reference Bank) American National Biography Online Literature Resource Center--Author Resource Pages (Gale) Gene Stratton Porter: Novelist and Naturalist, by Judith Reick Long
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Although Gene Stratton-Porter's books boasted phenomenal sales and a loyal following, most critics were not kind to her fiction. Some seemed bitter that, despite the shortcomings they perceived, Americans read her novels with enthusiasm. A 1915 Bookman article wrestles with understanding her popularity, concluding that the sincerity of her enthusiasm, especially for nature, is contagious (Cooper). Critics saw her books as all the same, one critic writing that each new book "is a ?new Lincoln' as ?A Daughter of the Land' is a new Stratton-Porter.'" He sees nothing unique worth mentioning in the novel, insisting only that it supplies taffy on a generous scale, containing sentimentality that readers mistake for high emotion (Walcott). Critics are not entirely cruel, however, acknowledging that Stratton-Porter is "a public institution, like Yellowstone Park, and I should not think she would care any more than a mountain for adverse criticism. She does, though" (Phelps). Knowing this, a sympathetic researcher cringes a bit on reading this review of A Daughter of the Land from the New York Times: A Daughter of the Land is a simple, unsophisticated little story about simple, commonplace people, leading lives whose monotony the author occasionally breaks with a fire or an automobile accident. No doubt those who have enjoyed Gene Stratton-Porter's earlier books will like this one. Looking a bit more closely at the reviews reveals, however, that A Daughter of the Land is distinguishable in its reception from Stratton-Porter's other novels. The same critic who wrote the above passage writes that "the novel gives what seems to be an accurate picture of daily life in a farming community, and it has some fairly well drawn characters." One critic defies anyone to read the novel from beginning to end "without enthusiasm for the story." As with all critical praise for her, this compliment is chased with an insult, as he explains that one must not be discouraged in reading by the crude style and lack of stylistic art because it is the conception of the story that is so interesting, like "a great architectural idea disguised by a bad drawing" (Phelps). Of the style, another critic writes that there is "more reality and terse writing and less exuberant sentiment in this story than in some of the writer's earlier books" (Reely). Clean praise for Stratton-Porter is hard to find, and it doesn't have much substantial to say. The critic from the Springfield Republican (qtd. in Book Review Digest 359) reads like a Publisher's Weekly ad: A Daughter of the Land is notable because it is simple and elemental, because it has sincerity and breadth, and because the story tells itself without resort to the artifices and trickery so often called to the aid of plots and scenes wanting in inherent spontaneity. The story is purely American in theme and inspiration. Sources Cited: Book Review Digest 13 (1917-1918): 359. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1906-. Cooper, Frederic Taber. "The Popularity of Gene Stratton Porter." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life August 1915. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. "Latest Works of Fiction." New York Times 4 August 1918. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Phelps, William Lyon. "The Why of the Best Seller." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life December 1921. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. Reely, M.K. "The New Books." Outlook 25 September 1918: 145. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. Walcott, John. "Current Taste in Fiction: A Quarterly Survey." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life June 1919. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Although Gene Stratton-Porter's books boasted phenomenal sales and a loyal following, most critics were not kind to her fiction. Some seemed bitter that, despite the shortcomings they perceived, Americans read her novels with enthusiasm. A 1915 Bookman article wrestles with understanding her popularity, concluding that the sincerity of her enthusiasm, especially for nature, is contagious (Cooper). Critics saw her books as all the same, one critic writing that each new book "is a ?new Lincoln' as ?A Daughter of the Land' is a new Stratton-Porter.'" He sees nothing unique worth mentioning in the novel, insisting only that it supplies taffy on a generous scale, containing sentimentality that readers mistake for high emotion (Walcott). Critics are not entirely cruel, however, acknowledging that Stratton-Porter is "a public institution, like Yellowstone Park, and I should not think she would care any more than a mountain for adverse criticism. She does, though" (Phelps). Knowing this, a sympathetic researcher cringes a bit on reading this review of A Daughter of the Land from the New York Times: A Daughter of the Land is a simple, unsophisticated little story about simple, commonplace people, leading lives whose monotony the author occasionally breaks with a fire or an automobile accident. No doubt those who have enjoyed Gene Stratton-Porter's earlier books will like this one. Looking a bit more closely at the reviews reveals, however, that A Daughter of the Land is distinguishable in its reception from Stratton-Porter's other novels. The same critic who wrote the above passage writes that "the novel gives what seems to be an accurate picture of daily life in a farming community, and it has some fairly well drawn characters." One critic defies anyone to read the novel from beginning to end "without enthusiasm for the story." As with all critical praise for her, this compliment is chased with an insult, as he explains that one must not be discouraged in reading by the crude style and lack of stylistic art because it is the conception of the story that is so interesting, like "a great architectural idea disguised by a bad drawing" (Phelps). Of the style, another critic writes that there is "more reality and terse writing and less exuberant sentiment in this story than in some of the writer's earlier books" (Reely). Clean praise for Stratton-Porter is hard to find, and it doesn't have much substantial to say. The critic from the Springfield Republican (qtd. in Book Review Digest 359) reads like a Publisher's Weekly ad: A Daughter of the Land is notable because it is simple and elemental, because it has sincerity and breadth, and because the story tells itself without resort to the artifices and trickery so often called to the aid of plots and scenes wanting in inherent spontaneity. The story is purely American in theme and inspiration. Sources Cited: Book Review Digest 13 (1917-1918): 359. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1906-. Cooper, Frederic Taber. "The Popularity of Gene Stratton Porter." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life August 1915. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. "Latest Works of Fiction." New York Times 4 August 1918. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Phelps, William Lyon. "The Why of the Best Seller." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life December 1921. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. Reely, M.K. "The New Books." Outlook 25 September 1918: 145. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. Walcott, John. "Current Taste in Fiction: A Quarterly Survey." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life June 1919. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Gene Stratton Porter's novel A Daughter of the Land was a bestseller in 1918, but its sales were low in comparison to Stratton-Porter's biggest books, not sustained over time, and it is not often discussed today by fans of her work or those in academia. It is unique from Stratton-Porter's other novels in several ways, and it may be this uniqueness that accounts for its lack of popularity. This is not to say that it is a brilliant book that went unrecognized; while it touches on issues that might be considered controversial or forward-thinking, it still utilizes many of Stratton-Porter's predictable devices and it still ends in the marriage of the female protagonist. When the book was published, however, several critics agreed that its characterization and ideas were interesting and even good, despite being flawed overall. The book was praised for being more realistic and less sweet than her most popular books (see reception history for more details). Today, readers see those same differences and some memorable elements, perhaps making the feeling of unrealized potential more obvious. But what may be most interesting to a modern reader are the social anxieties always at work in the novel, between urban and rural, ideologies that aren't realized satisfactorily, a need for Kate to be a strong woman who does the work of a man but becomes a superior housewife, and the odd relationship between Bates family members. Like many of the forgotten bestsellers of the early 20th century, this is a novel that needs to be culturally and historically contextualized to be sympathetic and of interest. Stratton-Porter's fiction was lambasted as being overly sweet and unbelievable, stilted in its plot contrivances, and many critics wondered why it was so popular. In retrospect, it is obvious that her popular novels fit easily into contemporaneous anxiety about the corrupting influence of urban life, and the redemptive quality of the rural. Most contemporary critics understood this, writing that Stratton-Porter's sincere love of nature and her gift for describing it redeem her fiction and account for its popularity. One critic writes that because there is more sentimentality in the world than is generally admitted, "it is rather pleasant to return to nature vicariously through the pages of Mrs. Porter's stories, explore the woodlands and swamps" (Cooper). The most notable difference between A Daughter of the Land, then, and Stratton-Porter's other novels is that this is not a nature novel. Rather than focusing on characters who dwell in and contemplate nature, Stratton-Porter takes pains to distinguish the agricultural life from the natural one in portraying the lifestyle of the Bates family. It is not as romantic, and it does not elevate the rural above the urban nearly as effectively. It seems clear that, unlike some of her other novels, this book cannot inspire a subsequent nature study as A Girl of the Limberlost did for Moths of the Limberlost. When Stratton-Porter introduces the reader to Kate Bates, she does so by explaining that "she knew less of the woods than the average city girl" (4). And it is only because she takes a moment to rebel against her father's heavy workload that she has a chance to sit and contemplate nature at all; when she sits on a log to think, it is "a most unusual occurrence for her" (4). Although these moments in nature serve to clear Kate's head, they do not occur often, and there are none of the soaring descriptions of nature found in Stratton-Porter's other books. Without depending on the strength of her nature descriptions, Stratton-Porter relies on plot and characterization to convey her ideology. Like many of Gene Stratton-Porter's characters, and like the author claimed to be herself, Kate Bates represents the ideal of the hard-working, self-made woman. The ideal of the self-made American is promoted many times. After years of unfortunate circumstances, Kate sits with her son, thinking about their sad level of poverty, and she asks, her head suddenly clearing, "Adam, how long are we going to stay in the beggar class? [?] I'm big and strong, you're almost a man, why don't we do something?" (237). Along with the idea that gumption is all a poor person really needs, the novel also promotes the idea that hardship makes you a better person, so much so that lack of hardship may make for a useless person. Kate spends most of the novel having a hard time, so that happiness is just out of her reach. After many years spent in fruitless toil, when Kate's father's death allows her to reunite with her mother and siblings after a long estrangement, her mother Mrs. Bates says that Kate must make the family decisions now, as she's the only one who can be fair (192). And after the extended Bates family has again had many difficult experiences, Mrs. Bates observes that "sometimes it seems to me that the more we get hurt in this world the decenter it makes us" (249). No one could miss the forcefulness of these ideas, and they are used liberally in contemporary advertising to connect to any hardship readers experienced through World War One. An August 17, 1918 ad in Publisher's Weekly explains that "in her battle for the things in life that were rightfully hers she learned, as America is now learning, that only through sacrifice and sorrow is character builded and happiness attained" (555). In observing the self-made ideology throughout the novel, one cannot help but feel that it is never proved out in the events of the story. Throughout Kate's life people die and things explode (sometimes it seems these awful things only happen so that Kate can experience trials and travails) but Kate finally inherits family money and land not once, but twice, from both her father and mother. How can a person be self-made who receives so much help in finally attaining large goals? A contemporary critic asked just such a question about Stratton-Porter herself, following the publication of a lengthy promotional pamphlet on Stratton-Porter's life. In his book American Nights Entertainment, Grant Overton questions whether Stratton-Porter is actually self-made (as she claims to be), having received so much encouragement and help over the years. He concludes that she may make the claim to be self-made based on the strength of her personality. Such a drive has its drawbacks, he writes (271). Her ego kept her always busy, so that she "was a naturalist first and a novelist afterward, that she underwent the preoccupations of a wife and mother, that she toiled in swamps and wrote books, kept other people alive with her money as well as her courage and vitality," and the list goes on (273). Overton's tone is sarcastic, but he conveys the ambitious activity in which Stratton-Porter was always involved. Although the conclusion of most of her novels was the marriage of a self-made female character, Stratton-Porter became more involved in her career, not her family, as her life progressed towards its end. Perhaps her fiction and writing conveyed an ideal that she didn't want to live herself, no matter how much she professed to believe it. The anxiety regarding what a woman's priorities should be is fleshed out ambiguously in A Daughter of the Land. It is this aspect of the novel which may no longer attract modern readers; it feels dated and unsympathetic. Stratton-Porter's biography shows that she is on the fence about women's issues. Richards writes that she was aware of women's rights, but not a suffragette. Although her own life did not embody this ideal, she believed that a woman's place was in the home. Only two of her novels show women exerting power in the men's world: A Daughter of the Land is one of them (Richards 120). Despite the presence of strong female characters like Kate, her sister-in-law Agatha, and Mrs. Bates, Stratton-Porter's ideas about what roles women should fulfill, and an odd sort of guilt over what her female characters do or don't accomplish are realized in her sister Nancy Ellen and her daughter Polly. Kate spends much of the novel fighting with her mother and father over the unfair treatment she receives because she is not a boy; this unfair treatment and her reaction against it are the main thrust of the story. To explain her initial rebellion (inspired by an overheard sermon that advises she "take the wings of morning") she confronts her brother and sister-in-law with what they already know is true: "things are blame unfair in our family, anyway! You have got to be born a boy to have any chance worthwhile." She goes on to explain "I have worked for years, knowing every cent I saved and earned above barely enough to cover me, would go to pay for Hiram's land and house and stock; but he wouldn't turn a hand to help me" (16). However, we do not get to know Hiram or the other brothers who benefit from Mr. Bates' prejudices nearly as well as the sisters. Although the main problem with her parents traditional rules is that girls get nothing, because she is also the youngest, Kate gets especially little. She spends equal time lamenting her standing as youngest girl and lashing out at her next older sister Nancy Ellen. It is their opposing natures and often strained relationship that drives much of the novel. Nancy Ellen likes pretty clothes and things almost to a fault. When she gets her first pretty dress, she "so appreciated herself in pink that the extreme care she used with that dress saved it from half the trips of a dirt-brown one to the washboard [?] marvel of marvels, it did not shrink, it did not fade, also it wore like buckskin" (33). Like her beautifully maintained dress all things have come easily to Nancy Ellen. She is perceived to be lovely and smart, allowing her to become a teacher before Kate even though Kate is smarter. Her dreamy husband, handsome and a doctor, Robert, falls into her lap when she meets him in the blackberry patch (34). The lack of hard work may have allowed her to turn out all right if she had had a brood of children to keep up with following marriage, but Nancy Ellen is unable to have children. And Stratton-Porter does not spare us the results. As Nancy Ellen becomes more spoiled and Robert's eye wanders, Kate begs her to be on the look out for a child to adopt. Nancy Ellen finally agrees, but her new happiness when she finds a child distracts her, and as she's driving while looking at a photograph of the child, she drives her new car into the fresh sand of the river levee, to her death (314). She didn't work hard and become sensible soon enough. In the end, Kate marries her widower Robert and plans to move into her dead sister's house; Stratton-Porter gives the distinct impression that Robert should have married the hard-working sister in the first place. Perhaps more unsettling is the fate that meets Kate's daughter Polly. Although Kate has always bristled at the way she was treated as a girl, she appears to do the same thing to Polly, favoring her son Adam. However, it is because her daughter looks like her hated mother-in-law (another strong female character) that Kate claims to like Adam better?he looks like a Bates. Though she loves Adam while showing little affection for Polly, she does have a plan for her life, expecting Polly to do what she thinks is right, rather than allowing Polly to make decisions. Although Kate wants different things for her daughter, she wants to dictate those things just as her parents did to her. And just as Kate was, Polly is expected to do much of the housework and prepare dinner. When for the "first time" dinner is late because Polly took a few moments to fails to spend time with Henry, the farmboy she falls in love with, Kate is especially cruel. She "sweeps her with a glance" and says "Just as I think you're going to make something of yourself [by becoming a teacher] and be of some use, you begin mooning" (264). During the confrontation she won't even look at her daughter, and misses understanding how little Polly wants to go off to school. The lack of communication results in Polly's elopement and abandonment of the Bates household. She is terribly unhappy and grows sick in her new marriage, and oddly, Stratton-Porter describes how well the house runs without Polly's contribution: "they were growing in physical force, they were efficient, the attended their affairs strictly. Their work was always done on time, their place in order, their deposits at the bank frequent" (292). Polly soon dies in childbirth, after reuniting with her mother, and the new baby, also called Polly, is able to be raised up by Kate just like a Bates. Before this can be successful, Kate spends a lot of time getting the baby healthy, for as she explains to Adam "the baby is full of poison which can be eliminated only slowly" (299). The implication is that the baby would have died in the hands of a lesser family; this happy resolution is only possible through the first Polly's death. Stratton-Porter wrote generally of her work that its purpose was to uplift her popular audience, that she cared little for what critics considered art but believed that "the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to force him to lay it down with a higher ideal of life than when he took it up" (quoted in Meehan 304). Critics have stated that enduring books like A Girl of the Limberlost, besides their appeal through nature, "ring with the universal song of hope" (Long 187), which keeps readers coming back for more. But it seems that what critics praised as terse, realistic and even dark in A Daughter of the Land was less appealing to Stratton-Porter's fans: Kate's difficult life with an alcoholic husband, her young daughter's death, Mrs. Bates' rebellion against her dead husband and her lifetime of regrets may have been too much for reader's wanting escapist fiction. Today, though these elements are of interest, the pleasure of their complexity is decreased through what contemporary readers may have seen as ordinary but the modern reader interprets as dark and confusing: Kate's prejudices, Nancy Ellen's failure as a wife and death, and Kate's inexplicable choice of an alcoholic husband over another wealthy suitor (the rejected industrialist). These and other elements show social anxieties also revealed in similar bestsellers, but they do not make for light reading. Sources Cited: Cooper, Frederic Taber. "The Popularity of Gene Stratton Porter." The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life August 1915. ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online. Long, Judith Reick. Gene Stratton-Porter: Novelist and Naturalist. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 1990. Meehan, Jeannette Porter. The Lady of the Limberlost: the Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1928. Overton, Grant. "Naturalist vs. Novelist: Gene Stratton-Porter." American Nights Entertainment. New York: Appleton, Doran, Doubleday, and Scribner, 1923. Richards, Bertrand F. Gene Stratton Porter. Ed. Kenneth E. Eble. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980. Stratton-Porter, Gene. A Daughter of the Land. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.
Supplemental Material
The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Archives has correspondence between Stratton-Porter and a Miss Walker who painted moths and butterflies for the Buffalo Museum of Science. Source: National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections Some correspondence and manuscripts of Stratton-Porter are included at Iowa State University in the 6 document box archive of Rochonne W. Abrams, who collected some of Gene Stratton Porter's documents in research for her book, Good Earthkeeping: American Women Pioneers in Ecology.
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illustrated end papers
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