Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Songs of a Housewife

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"A fascinating tapestry woven from the lives of women who had won the right to vote a mere six years earlier. In Songs of a Housewife, we hear the voice of an emerging feminist, a voice that stubbornly and--given the political climate of the 1920s--courageously insists that women be respected. Fans of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings will be surprised and ultimately delighted by this long overdue collection."--Connie May Fowler, author of Sugar Cage and Before Women Had Wings

"Makes available for the first time [the] ...

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Overview

"A fascinating tapestry woven from the lives of women who had won the right to vote a mere six years earlier. In Songs of a Housewife, we hear the voice of an emerging feminist, a voice that stubbornly and--given the political climate of the 1920s--courageously insists that women be respected. Fans of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings will be surprised and ultimately delighted by this long overdue collection."--Connie May Fowler, author of Sugar Cage and Before Women Had Wings

"Makes available for the first time [the] early work of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. . . . Reveals themes, attitudes, phrases, habits of speech . . . and a predilection for irony that characterizes [her] later work."—Peggy W. Prenshaw, Louisiana State University

"Rawlings’s poetry is surprisingly good. . . . solid, traditional poetry about subjects that will never go out of fashion."—Joel Myerson, University of South Carolina

More than a decade before writing The Yearling and Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a young housewife-journalist living in Rochester, New York.  In 1926, the Rochester Times-Union did a trial run of her column-in-verse, Songs of a Housewife.  To the editor’s surprise, the column proved immensely popular; over the next two years, Rawlings published a poem a day, six days a week, and gained a wide syndication.  When she moved to Florida in 1928, however, the poems were forgotten and--until this collection of roughly half of them--never reprinted.
In the 250 poems collected here, Rawlings presents homespun advice on such subjects as the trials and tribulations of being a cook, mother, friend, relative, and neighbor.  She dedicates many to her favorite subjects: gardening, cooking, pets, and nature.  Throughout, her goal is to entertain, to educate, and to give a voice to the housewife who sees her role as a creative and important one.  In the process, of course, she also invariably reveals a great deal about herself, and devoted readers will be curious to see how the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings they know and love is evident here, in these early and spirited poems.
Because little is known about Rawlings’s life during this period, Songs of a Housewife is valuable as commentary on her evolving attitudes as a woman and as a writer, and many of the same themes appear in her later works.  As a reflection of the life of a middle-class woman struggling to carve out an independent and fulfilling role for herself, these poems also offer a rare insight into the life of women in the late 1920s.

Rodger L. Tarr is University Distinguished Professor of English at Illinois State University.  His most recent publications are Short Stories of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (UPF, 1994) and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: A Descriptive Bibliography (1996).

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
There was a time when the major newspapers of this country published poetry regularly. Some even had poets on staff: Frank P. Adams at the Chicago Journal, William Nesbit at the Baltimore American, and Edgar Guest at the Detroit Free Press, to name a few. It is in this tradition of respected light verse that Rawlings met a daily deadline at the Rochester Times-Union for nearly two years, beginning in 1926. Six days a week readers found wit and humor and more than a little common sense in her "Songs of a Housewife" ("The woman who can make good pie/ Stands on her own Gibraltar"). Syndicated in more than 50 papers nationwide, she could claim literally thousands of readers for what, by all accounts, was an immensely popular feature. It is important to remember the times during which these poems were written. The Twenties was the Age of the Modern American Woman; the feminist movement that preceded it gave rise to self-esteem, assertiveness, and great expectations. Rawlings's foray into the workplace may seem a small victory, but it was one of the early hard-won battles. First steps, interesting to look back on.Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813014913
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 6/15/1997
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.53 (h) x 1.13 (d)

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