She Wasn’t Defiant; She Was Confident

Brief BiographiesYou enter the room, dressed in your best. Those who can most influence your fledgling career stand before you. It’s your moment.

How do you introduce yourself? Which details do you fill in? What do you leave out? What impression do you try to create?

Emilie Loring wrote an autobiographical sketch for Penn Publishing Company’s Brief Biographies of Well-Known Authors and Illustrators (1929). The short biographies were used as advertising and book jacket copy for Penn’s nearly one hundred authors. Like today’s social media profiles, they were meant to convey an image and attract readers.

Temple Bailey cover

Temple Bailey: “I was not a strong child, and my school-life was somewhat intermittent, but my father in my out-of-school days supervised my English as carefully as my mother supervised my manners.”

So and So Family, Ethel C. Brown

Ethel C. Brown:  “I was born and have ‘lived happily ever after’ in the house on Beacon Hill, Boston, where my parents and grandparents lived before me. I am a Mayflower descendant…”

Alice Turner Curtis

Alice Turner Curtis:  “Perhaps because I was such a happy child, I think that all children who live near the sea must be happy–especially if it is a place with broad fields and rough pastures, and hills and woods.”

Dorothy Dix
“Everything had been written about women, and for women, except the truth.”

Dorothy Dix, advice columnist:  “I was sent to a flub-dub female seminary where I graduated in all the ‘ologies and ‘isms, and a love of a white organdie dress, when I was sixteen…but instead of living happily ever afterwards, a series of catastrophes shook my little world to atoms…”

Secret Stair

Pemberton Ginther, author of children’s mysteries: “Dolls puzzled me. I spent hours trying to catch them at some covert mischief–in vain.”

Soon, Emilie Loring would rise to perennial, best-seller status, but in 1929, she was still on her way up. What image should she project? Here is her entry:

Emilie Loring 1925
Author Emilie Loring

“My father was George M. Baker, whose plays are even now being acted all over the English-speaking world. His father was Albert Baker, of Baker, Harmon and French, the firm which in 1844 started the newspaper which is now the Boston Herald. Added to father’s writing, which was his evening diversion, was his connection with the publishing house of Lee and Shepard. As a child, many of my Saturdays were spent browsing round the firm’s great salesroom on the corner of Hawley and Franklin Streets, dipping into books and sometimes into manuscripts. Often I had luncheon with William Lee, the senior partner; often I perched on Mr. Shepard’s desk while we talked books.

“I married Victor J. Loring, a Boston lawyer, whose far-flung interest in civic, church and legal affairs broadened my outlook immeasurably.

“When our sons fared forth to ‘prep’ school, my husband vigorously fanned a spark of literary ambition to which I confessed. For a year I supplied a book-letter for a Boston paper. I tried an article, and lo, it hit the bull’s-eye. Encouraged, I essayed a short story. It was accepted on its forty-fifth trip. Followed stories and articles, then came my first serial, ‘The Key to Many Doors.’ It was promptly accepted and made many friends among the readers of the magazine in which it was published. Six serials followed, all of which have found a public.

“Sometimes I am convinced that the domestic career and the literary career are hereditary enemies. But I cling tight to both; the combination is, to quote Dulcy, ‘won-derful!'”

Author of:  Swift Water (in press), A Certain Crossroad, Gay Courage,                                     Here Comes the Sun!  The Solitary Horseman, The Trail of Conflict

It would be years before women would define themselves first as themselves and not as their father’s daughters and their husbands’ wives. And some may feel that the part about Victor fanning the flames of her ambition smacks a little of demonstrating “permission.”

But I don’t see it like that. There’s a bolder message here, deftly stated. From the beginning, Emilie was among authors and publishing, and she was listened to. The publishers didn’t condescend to her. Often, they sent a children’s book home with her father, George Baker, to see what Emilie thought of it. Her opinion mattered.

“Often I had luncheon with William Lee, the senior partner; often I perched on Mr. Shepard’s desk while we talked books.”

She acknowledged Victor as a source of interests and encouragement, but the credit for her writing was, rightly, her own. Her first article “hit the bull’s-eye;” her first serial novel was “promptly accepted,” and the others found their public.

One hundred years after Emilie Loring began her career, an article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” made typical assumptions:

“I realize that I am blessed to have been born in the late 1950s instead of the early 1930s, as my mother was, or the beginning of the 20th century, as my grandmothers were.”  

“The pioneer generation of feminists walled off their personal lives from their professional personas…”

“The pioneering generation of women ahead of me knew that the only way to make it as a woman was to act exactly like a man. To admit to, much less act on, maternal longings would have been fatal to their careers.”

emilie-in-garden
Emilie Loring in her garden

Emilie Loring was born in the middle of the 19th century and she didn’t wall off her personal life or act like a man. She enjoyed being attractive, homemaking, tea parties, dancing, and fashion–and carved out a successful, writing career, too. She made an intelligent study of anything in which she had an interest, determined her course of action, and drove it to a successful conclusion. She wasn’t defiant; she was confident.

“One touch of lipstick makes all women kin,” she paraphrased aloud with a delicious little laugh.  Gay Courage

“Are you jeering at home making? I love it.”  Hilltops Clear

“Clothes go to my head like laughing gas.”  Beyond the Sound of Guns

“I’ve always claimed that success in writing—provided of course one had what it takes to make a writer—is like success in marriage, largely a question of good sportsmanship, of keeping on keeping on, of giving one’s best and trying, everlastingly trying to make that best, better.”  Give Me One Summer

“Business for business hours is my slogan.”  We Ride the Gale!

Her father was her example:

“He was the busiest man she knew yet he always had an abundance of time for pleasure.” The Trail of Conflict

Emilie Loring was her father’s daughter. She kept on.

“Sometimes I am convinced that the domestic career and the literary career are hereditary enemies. But I cling tight to both; the combination is, to quote Dulcy, ‘won-derful!'”

 

 


6 thoughts on “She Wasn’t Defiant; She Was Confident

  1. Emilie was an amazing women! I think sometimes people give women “back then” more restraints then they really had. It is still hard work to accomplish what you want to do, to make your dreams happen, no matter what year one lives in. But like Emilie you “Keep on keeping on”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. To be sure, women in the United States have more legal and financial freedoms than before, and social mores continue to relax, but when we get up in the morning, my guess is that we have more in common with Emilie’s generation than is sometimes assumed. That’s why her books can speak to us; we see opportunity, feel purpose, buckle on courage and humor to direct our 21st century days.

      Like

  2. Wonderful post! Are Emilie’s 7 serial articles
    still available to purchase? Emilie seemed to have
    a husband who supported her in her writing endeavours.
    With our Lucy Maud M. I believe it was a bit of escapism.
    Both authors and others have influenced so many of us!

    Liked by 1 person

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