This week our focus is on inspirational women, past and present. While rummaging through our library for new books to recycle into journals, I stumbled across two books by Marietta Holley (1836-1926).
Aside from being some of the oldest printings we have in our library (1893 and 1895), these struck me because the author’s name appears as “Josiah Allen’s Wife.” I decided to do some research, who is this woman? Was having the author name as somebody’s wife serious or satirical? What I found was intriguing and I wanted to share it with you.
Holley was a prolific writer of comedy and satire. She published 28 works between 1872 and 1921. During the height of her career Holley was considered an equal to the likes of Mark Twain and Edgar Nye, the two most popular American authors of that era.
Marietta Holley was not married to any Josiah Allen, she used this as a pseudonym (Josiah was actually the fictional husband of her main protagonist, Samantha). Holley used fiction and humor to highlight some of the important issues of her day, such as prohibition and women’s rights. The use of this pseudonym is a comedic illumination of the subjugation of women, especially during that era, as the property of their husbands. Once married, women would seldom be referred to by their given name. Instead, they would be called somebody’s wife, or somebody’s mother.
Despite her popularity during the height of her career, she was largely forgotten by the time of her death in 1926. I’m glad that I stumbled across these works, otherwise I likely would have never have discovered Holley’s fiction. I look forward to delving into her works more deeply, and I hope that some of you can find enjoyment in her writing as well. We will soon be creating these two books from the late 1800s into journals with some of our favorite excerpts still intact.
Justin Barnard is a graduate student at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is studying for a Master of Arts in English as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in Professional Writing. Justin has been published in The Times Union, The Daily Gazette, The Journal of Critical Thinking, and recently presented research at the What is Life? Conference held at the University of Oregon at Portland. Find him on Twitter @JustinBWrites.