Lillie Devereux Blake: Retracing a Life Erased

Lillie Devereux Blake: Retracing a Life Erased is a biography of suffragist and writer Lillie Devereux Blake, written by Dr. Grace Farrell, a professor of English at Butler University.

About the book:

Fiction writer, journalist, and essayist, Lillie Devereux Blake (1833–1913) published seven novels, two collections of stories and essays, and hundreds of other pieces during her lifetime. She also played a major role in the struggle for women’s rights, eventually becoming Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s candidate to succeed Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Yet for all her remarkable accomplishments, Lillie Blake’s story has been all but forgotten. As Grace Farrell reveals in this richly textured biography, Blake’s creative writings did not survive the canonical purges of women authors at the turn of the twentieth century, and her contributions to the suffrage movement were simply ignored in the official histories sanctioned by Susan B. Anthony. From the traces that remain, Farrell reconstructs an extraordinary life of passion and purpose. She chronicles Blake’s literary career from Civil War correspondent to novelist and provides an inside view of suffrage politics, correcting some long held misconceptions perpetuated by Anthony and her supporters.

At the same time, Farrell expands the generic boundaries of biography by recounting not only a life and the causes of its erasure but also her own process of recovering that life. She brings the reader along with her as she follows Blake’s path in the world, touches her diary, reads her letters, and campaigns to prevent Yale University from demolishing Blake’s childhood home in New Haven.


“[Farrell] here presents an engaging critical biography, the first in 60 years. She skillfully describes Blake’s accomplishments against the background of her struggles with prevailing social attitudes. Farrell’s own experiences in researching the book offer additional perspective on Blake’s life.”―Library Journal

Also see this review from H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences Online.

Google Books offers a limited preview of the book. You can also purchase the book from a number of online sellers, including and Abe Books. It is no longer available for purchase from its publisher’s website.

ISBN 10: 1558497528

ISBN 13: 9781558497528


Novel: The Bostonians by Henry James

Henry James’ The Bostonians was originally published as a serial in Century magazine (Vol. 30, 31, 1885-1886), starting in February 1885. Much of the magazine is digitized so the serial can be accessed in part via Google at this link for Volume 29 (search “The Bostonians” or “Henry James”) and in Volume 30. (W.D. Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham ran concurrently in the Century. Howells was not only pro-suffrage but eventually a vice president of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage of the State of New York.)

Macmillan published the novel as a book the following year and there have been numerous subsequent reprints. The Internet Archive has digitized the original, which you can read free of charge. James also wrote a version as a play.

From the cover copy and blurb of the 2003 Modern Library edition (free, via Amazon, for Kindle Unlimited subscribers):

This brilliant satire of the women’s rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena’s heart and remove her from the limelight?

From the introduction to the Modern Library edition of 2003:

The Bostonians has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James. It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . [written] with a ferocious, precise, detailed—and wildly comic—realism.

For further reference, see also, “The Bostonians, the ‘Woman Question,’ and Henry James: A Critical Analysis of the Characterization of Basil Ransom” by Kyle Lascurettes for The St. Lawrence Review.

This page of the commercial newspaper archive provides a link to many of the contemporaneous books reviews of The Bostonians. Your local or school library may have access.

The Sturdy Oak: A Composite Novel of American Politics by Fourteen American Authors

This unusual work was first serialized by Collier’s Magazine in 1916 and then as a novel by Henry Holt & Company in 1917. Fourteen prominent authors each contributed a chapter, working without payment an donating donated the proceeds of the book’s sales to the women’s suffrage movement. This was in advance of the November 1917 referendum vote in New York that granted the vote to the women of the state. The authors include some of the best known and most popular writers of the day: Samuel Merwin, Harry Leon Wilson, Fannie Hurst, Dorothy Canfield, Kathleen Norris, Henry Kitchell Webster, Anne O’Hagan, Mary Heaton Vorse, Alice Duer Miller, Ethel Watts Mumford, Marjorie Benton Cooke, William Allen White, Mary Austin, and Leroy Scott.

The novel was first serialized in Collier’s Magazine in and then published as a book by Henry Holt & Company, both in 1917.

As the book’s preface tells it, although The Sturdy Oak was written to support the cause of women’s suffrage, “the novel itself is first of all a very human story of American life today. It neither unduly nor unfairly emphasizes the question of equal suffrage, and it should appeal to all lovers of good fiction.”

At this link, Google has digitized issues of the magazine and the entire novel in weekly serialization can be read in Collier’s,  Vol. 59, Part I for 1917. The chapters begin with illustrations in the September 22, 1917 issue and proceed weekly thereafter, two per week for seven weeks. Norman Hapgood and Mark Sullivan, both suffrage supporters, comprised the magazine’s editorial leadership.

You can access the novel, including a Kindle version, for free here, via Project Gutenberg.

You can also listen to and download free audio recordings of The Sturdy Oak here, via LibriVox.