(April 5, 1825 - October 6, 1907) was a bestselling and prolific American author who published 39 popular novels, as well as short stories. Her first novel sold 250,000 copies; and she had total sales of 2 million books in her lifetime, second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Portraying domestic life in small-town and rural settings, she examined gender relationships, as well as those of class and race. She also dealt with slavery and the American Civil War with a strong sense of moral justice. Since the late 20th century she has received fresh recognition and reappraisal, although her popular work was excluded from most 19th-century literary histories.Mary Jane Hawes was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1825, the fifth of Fanny (Olds) and Preston Hawes' nine children. The household was economically modest, but the parents encouraged intellectual endeavor. She may also have been influenced by her uncle, Rev. Joel Hawes (1789-1867), for many years minister at the First Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut, and known for his published sermons and other writings. Preston Hawes died when Mary Jane was 12 and she started teaching school at 13. Interested in writing from an early age, she published her first story at 15.On August 9, 1849 Hawes married Daniel Holmes, a graduate of Yale College from New York City. They moved for a time to Versailles, Kentucky in the Bluegrass Region, where they both taught for a few years. These were formative years, as Holmes used the small-town, rural setting and people she knew as inspiration for her first novel and others set in the antebellum South.
In 1852 the Holmes family returned to New York and settled in Brockport, a short distance west of Rochester, where Daniel read law and was ultimately admitted to the bar. He went into practice and also served in local politics. They had no children. Holmes' supportive marriage was one she used as a model for several portrayed in her novels.