Kate Field: The Many Lives of a Nineteenth-Century American Journalist

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Kate Field was among the first celebrity journalists. A literary and cultural sensation, she reported the news while frequently becoming news herself because of her sharp wit and vibrant presence. She wrote for several prestigious newspapers, such as the Boston Post, Chicago Tribune, and New York Herald, as well her own Kate Field's Washington. Field's friends and professional acquaintances included Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot. Legendary novelist Henry James patterned the character of Henrietta Stackpole after her in The Portrait of a Lady.

In this eloquent and immensely readable biography, Gary Scharnhorst offers a fascinating, often poignant portrait of a fiercely intelligent and enormously independent woman who contributed significantly to America's intellectual and social life in the late nineteenth century. Kate Field was an outspoken advocate for the rights of black Americans and founder of the first women's club in America. She campaigned to make Yosemite a national park and saved John Brown's Adirondack farm for the nation. Field's activities will interest students and scholars of nineteenth-century American literature, women's studies, and journalism, as well as patrons of public and academic libraries.

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Editorial Reviews

Resources for American Literary Study
Through this splendid biography, Scharnhorst has taken the first big step in restoring Kate Field to her rightful place in American literary and cultural history.
Ben Downing
Gary Scharnhorst's biography of Field, the first in over a century, is exactly what it should be: an articulate, no-nonsense account. Though Scharnhorst makes some effort to depict her as an "unorthodox feminist," he's mostly content to pick his way through her long, various, roller-coaster career.
—The New York Times
The Times Literary Supplement
"This study adds to our knowledge of nineteenth-century professional women while painting a colourful picture of one who made a vivid, but fleeting, impression on so many of her better-known contemporaries.
Library Journal

Kate Field, a journalist and celebrity in 19th-century America, has disappeared from our collective memory. Scharnhorst (English, Univ. of New Mexico; Bret Harte) draws on a wide range of primary documents to reconstruct her life, filling in a missing piece of cultural history. Field grew up in a theatrical family; her father was occasionally a journalist and newspaper owner, and her first writings were published in the family newspaper. Throughout her life, she freelanced for a number of prestigious publications, including the Chicago Tribuneand the New York Herald. From 1890 to 1895, she edited and published the weekly Kate Field's Washington, which gave her free rein to lobby for her own causes. Not an easy person to categorize, she argued for black rights yet was passionately opposed to immigration. She founded a woman's club after she was refused entrance to the New York Press Club during a visit by Charles Dickens, but she was never a supporter of universal suffrage. She associated with literary celebrities such as the Brownings, Anthony Trollope, and Dickens and was herself the subject of press coverage. A focus on the details of her daily life, such as her lecture schedule, and many summaries of her writings weigh this biography down, making it difficult to get a broader sense of the woman who was Kate Field. Academic libraries with women's and journalism history collections should purchase.
—Judy Solberg

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815608745
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Writing American Women Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Scharnhorst is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of New Mexico. He has written biographies of Horatio Alger, Jr., Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Bret Harte.
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Table of Contents


1 Beginnings 1

2 Florence 16

3 Interregnum 35

4 New York and New England 53

5 At Large 73

6 "Free Lance" 195

7 England 116

8 New York Redux 138

9 Zion 157

10 Out West 174

11 Washington 194

12 Chicago and Beyond 217

13 Hawaii and Home 235

Notes 253

Bibliography 285

Index 289

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