|MWSU | Library||WOMEN WRITERS ALONG THE RIVERS, 1850-1950|
Women Writers Along the Rivers
Mateel Howe Farnham (1883 - 1957)
Farnham grew up in Atchison, Kansas, as the daughter of Ed Howe, newspaper editor and owner of the Atchison Globe. Ed Howe's newspaper in Atchison dealt mainly in human interest stories and town gossip.(53) It is fair to assume that Farnham learned much about Midwest life from living in Atchison and associating herself with her father and his paper.
Farnham left Atchison in 1904 to live with her mother (then divorced from Ed Howe) in Portland, Oregon. While there, she wrote features for the Atchison Globe concerning the Portland Exposition.(54) Farnham returned to Atchison several times to visit her father or to meet him for a vacation together.
Three of Farnham's novels: Rebellion (1927), Wild Beauty (1930), and Lost Laughter (1933), took place in small Midwestern towns, and all relate to the customs and gossip found in such towns. Each novel depicted a young, independent woman fighting for survival in small town surroundings.
Farnham was married in 1910 to an industrial engineer; she and her husband made their home in Connecticut and New York. At the time of Rebellion's publication, Farnham wrote that she believed that women novelists were as good as male writers:
Ten years ago I would never have had the courage to submit anything I wrote in competition with men. But last year I never even thought of myself as a woman novelist. I just considered myself a novelist among other novelists. (55)
Farnham's works were popular with critics and the public; Rebellion was considered her finest novel. Farnham was awarded a $10,000 prize in 1927 by Dodd Mead Publishing for being that year's most promising young writer.(56) Soon after the novel's publication, (which concerned a father/daughter relationship much like Howe's and Farnham's), a rift between newspaper editor and novelist occurred which was never repaired.(57) In an unprinted preface to the novel, Rebellion, Ed Howe wrote: "The nearest approach to that beautiful thing, an angel, is a little girl of ten or twelve. . . . And Mrs. Farnham was one of the dearest of the millions of girl children who have blessed the world. . . .We have both so greatly changed.(58)
The Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, KS, has a large file folder of clippings about Mateel Howe Farnham, her novels (several were serialized in popular women's magazines) and her relationship with her father.
These novels by Farnham are available
in the Women Writers Along the Rivers archives, at the St.
Joseph Public Library, the Atchison, Kansas, Public Library,
and/or the Benedictine College Library, Atchison, Kansas.
53 S. J. Sackett, E. W. Howe. (New York: Twayne, 1972), p. 23.
54 Father Angelus Lingenfelser, Manuscript about Mateel Howe Farnham, in the Women Writers Along the Rivers archives, p. 2.
55 Mateel Howe Farnham, quoted in "Women Novelists Outshine Men," "Ed Howe's Girl' Thinks," newspaper clipping, n. d., no title, Author Card 1, Clippings File, Kansas State Historical Society Library, Topeka, KS.
56 Lina Mainiero, "Farnham, Mateel Howe," in American Women in Literature (New York: Unger, 1979), 2:13.
57 Sackett, p. 147.
58 Ed Howe, "My Only Daughter," printed pamphlet in the Kansas State Historical Society Library, n.p., n.d., p. 2.
From: Women Writers Along the Rivers 1850-1950
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