Kate M. Cleary: A Literary Biography with Selected Works

Overview

In 1884 Kate Cleary moved from Chicago to Hubbell, Nebraska, where she bore six children and helped support her family by publishing hundreds of stories, poems, and articles. After her return to Chicago in 1898, Cleary continued to write stories about the American West. Susanne K. George's absorbing account recovers the life and works of a fascinating western American author. She vividly portrays Cleary's arduous decade and a half on the frontier and her last, tragic years in Chicago, where she died in 1905, at ...
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Overview

In 1884 Kate Cleary moved from Chicago to Hubbell, Nebraska, where she bore six children and helped support her family by publishing hundreds of stories, poems, and articles. After her return to Chicago in 1898, Cleary continued to write stories about the American West. Susanne K. George's absorbing account recovers the life and works of a fascinating western American author. She vividly portrays Cleary's arduous decade and a half on the frontier and her last, tragic years in Chicago, where she died in 1905, at the age of forty-two. George also describes how Cleary's career reflects the difficulties faced by women authors at the end of the nineteenth century and the unique perspectives that such women brought to the art of fiction. The second part of the book is a collection of Cleary's writings. Some of these eighteen short stories, essays, and sketches are somber, even grim, depictions of homestead and small-town life in Nebraska, with special emphasis placed on the experience's of women. Others are humorous, ironic accounts of life on the western frontier. Also included is a sampling of Cleary's verse.
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Editorial Reviews

American Studies

"Even without the Cleary texts this would be an absorbing read, as George constructs, at times using marvelous letters, the story of a young woman born in 1863 to a cultured family, who went west with her new businessman husband to live in a Nebraska town which had not existed four years previously. There she continued to write, bore six children (speaking of her fear of childbirth, the 'black shadow'), and endured the death of two of them and an eight-year-long morphine addiction started after puerperal fever. Returning after fourteen years to Chicago, she wrote more. . . . She lived her last three years in single rented rooms writing to eat and to pay off hospital bills [and] the rent of her typewriter, . . . and was often down to less than a dollar."—American Studies
Nebraska History

"Fascinating . . . Kate M. Cleary shows the disillusionment of the female artist as she carefully chronicles her personal life, her birthing pain, her misunderstood creative endeavors, and her loss of husband and children. As readers, we empathize with Kate M. Cleary's nineteenth-century world. Her sketches, short stories, essays, and poetry focus on more than the female pioneer; rather, they depict frontier life on the plains."—Nebraska History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803270961
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Susanne K. George is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She is the author of The Adventures of The Woman Homesteader: The Life and Letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart, also available in a Bison Books edition.

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    A Woman of Strength and Courage

    With thorough and painstaking research Susanne George has skillfully woven the biography of the woman writer, Kate M. McPhelim Cleary, into an interesting story. Born in Canada in 1862, Kate married Michael Cleary in 1884 and the couple moved to Hubbell, Nebraska, a small frontier town only four years old at the time of their arrival. Kate had been writing poems and stories for several years, publishing her first poem at fourteen and her first novel at fifteen. Her mother was also a writer. Kate found a dear and lifelong friend when she met Elia Wilkinson Peattie who wrote for the Omaha World Herald and whose husband was the managing editor. Kate's husband, a businessman in Hubbell became increasing withdrawn from his family, partly, it seems because of ill health and he was often in Chicago recuperating when Kate needed him most. Kate continued to write as often as she could although busy with child rearing and keeping house, often without Michael. The summer of 1865, two of their young daughters died while he was away and although she and her son were ill, she had to cope alone. The family moved back to Illinois in 1898. She kept writing despite her own ill health and other setbacks, including time in an institution for morphine addiction where she nearly lost her mind and only the intervention of her friend Elia, who twice saw the spirit of Kate's long dead mother, saved her.
    The author has reprinted some of Kate's short stories, articles, and poems in the back of the book.
    Eunice Boeve, author of Ride a Shadowed Trail

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