Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Stories of Horror: Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and Luella Miller

Book stack for the LOHF Podcast announcement

Join Toni as she travels back to 1800s New England and meets Lydia Anderson who has a strange story to tell about Luella Miller.

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Mary Ella Wilkins was born to Warren Edward Wilkins andEleanor Lothrop on October 31st, 1852 in Randolph Massachusetts.  She had one sibling Anna Wilkins. Due to financialhardship the family had to move to Battleboro, Vermont in 1867 when Mary was 15.

After the families move to Battleboro Warren opened a drygoods store but, by 1873 but the store failed to thrive. Due to financial hardshipthe Wilkins’s moved into the home of Reverend Thomas Taylor in order forEleanor to take a position as a housekeeper. When the family had been there forthree years Mary’s sister took ill and passed away.

Mary never fit into the mold set for women in the 1880s. Sheraged against the example that he mother set for her. She didn’t think thatwoman should be passive and only perform household duties. This rebellious streakcaused a lot of friction between herself and her mother. Many times, Mary wouldhave to be punished for reading instead of performing her household chores. Thisprobably frustrated Mary’s mother quite a bit because Anna was the exact oppositeof Mary. Mary was permitted to finish high school and even attend one year ofcollege at Holyoke Female Seminary school from 1870-1871. She had to returnhome due to an illness.

Mary did finish her college education at Glenwood Seminaryin West Battleboro. Once finished with her education, Mary wanted to help thefamily financially. She started to submit her stories for publication. Thefirst of Mary’s short stories to be published was a child’s story named The BeggarKing.

By 1883 Mary’s mother and father had both passed away,leaving her with no living relatives. She moves back to her home town where shemoved to the Wales family farm. It was during this time that Mary was excusedfrom any household duties to focus on her writing. During the 20 years that Marylived on the farm she was a prolific author. Publishing on a regular basis.

Mary met and married her husband Dr Charles M. Freeman when she was 49. After her marriage she moved to her husband’s home in Metchun, New Jersey.  Initially, her marriage was happy, but it quickly began to fall apart. Charles wasn’t the man that he presented to Mary when they met. He was an alcoholic philanderer who pushed Mary to write to support his vices. Between their marriage in 1902 and their legal separation in 1922 Mary had Charles committed a number of times for mental instability and alcoholism.

During her long and prolific career Mary published: 15volumes of short stories, 5 short stories not included in a collection, 14novels, 3 volumes of poetry, 3 plays and 8 children’s books and prose essays.

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman passed away March 13th,1930 in Metchun, New Jersey of a heart attack.

As an aside, Mary wanted to honor her mother Eleanor after her death. She changed her middle name from Ella to Eleanor.

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