Sharon M. Harris
2018 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Rebecca Harding Davis is best known for her gritty short story “Life in the Iron-Mills,” set in her native Wheeling, West Virginia. Far less is known of her later career among elite social circles in Philadelphia, New York, and Europe, or her relationships with American presidents and leading international figures in the worlds of literature and the stage. In the first book-length biography of Davis, Sharon M. Harris traces the extraordinary life of this pioneering realist and recovers her status as one of America’s notable women journalists. Harris also examines Rebecca’s role as the leading member of the Davis family, a unique and nationally recognized family of writers that shaped the changing culture of later nineteenth-century literature and journalism.
This accessible treatment of Davis’s life, based on deep research in archival sources, provides new perspective on topics ranging from sectional tensions in the border South to the gendered world of nineteenth-century publishing. It promises to be the authoritative treatment of an important figure in the literary history of West Virginia and the wider world.
Preface: The Real Rebecca Harding Davis
1. Southern Roots (Ancestry to mid-1861)
2. Treason and Fame (April 1861-March 1863)
3. A New Life (May 1863-May 1865)
4. New Ventures (June 1865-December 1867)
5. A National Author (1868–1870)
6. A Conservative Progressive (1871–1875)
7. Centennial Celebrations and The Failure of Reconstruction (1876–1879)
8. Exposing Government Corruption (1880–1884)
9. An Era of Nonfiction (1885–1889)
10. “A Message to Be Given” (1890–1893)
11. A Return to Novel-Writing (1894–1896)
12. War Years (1897–1899)
13. Transitions (1900–1904)
14. The Widowed Writer (1905–1910)
15. Final Pages: Richard, Charles, and Nora
Sharon M. Harris is professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of A Feminist Reader: Feminist Thought from Sappho to Satrapi, Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, and Rebecca Harding Davis’s Stories of the Civil War Era.
Los Angeles Review of Books
"The most exhaustive biography to date on this pioneering and yet understudied American author."
The Journal of Southern History
“An important and exciting biography of a major literary figure. Harris’s detective work fills many gaps in Davis’s life and work, and her book should appeal to readers interested in nineteenth-century literature, American women writers, and the history of print culture and the book.”
Alicia Mischa Renfroe, Middle Tennessee State University
"A welcome addition to Davis scholarship. Harris's depth of research is extraordinary, providing new material for those wishing to advance the study of Davis's work."
Robin L. Cadwallader, St. Francis University of Pennsylvania