Bess Streeter Aldrich, Nebraska Novelist

During the few years I lived in Nebraska–which was in the last century–I learned as much as I could about the state’s history and culture.

But somehow I totally missed one of the state’s most accomplished women authors.

Let me introduce you to Bess Streeter Aldrich, a prolific writer whose stories were featured in such popular women’s magazines as The Lady’s Home Journal, McCalls, and Saturday Evening Post. Her articles on the art of writing also appeared in The Writer.

According to her official website, Mrs. Aldrich’s stories “emphasized family values and recorded accurately Midwest pioneering history” (Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation Website). She was one of the highest-paid women writers of her time.

“Regardless of the popular literary trend of the times, write the thing which lies close to your heart.”

Bess Streeter Aldrich

A few quick details:

  • She was born on February 17, 1881 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the youngest of eight children, and graduated from Iowa State Normal School (now University of Northern Iowa)..
  • She and her husband Charles moved to Elmwood, Nebraska a couple of years after their marriage in 1907.
  • Charles’s sudden death in 1925 left her with four children, ages four to sixteen, to support. Her writing income put all four through college..
  • The University of Nebraska awarded her with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in Literature in 1934.
  • She was named to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1973–almost twenty years after her death in 1954.

Mrs. Aldrich faced the same challenges way back then that writing moms do today. She once said that “many a story was liberally sprinkled with dishwater as she jotted down words or ideas while she worked” (Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation Website).

Her sixth novel, Miss Bishop, published in 1933, was adapted to the silver screen in 1941. The movie is called Cheers for Miss Bishop.

The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story, a 1983 television movie starring Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury, was based on Mrs. Aldrich’s short story, “The Silent Stars Go By.” Earl Hamner Jr. of The Waltons fame is listed along with Mrs. Aldrich as a writer for the show which was nominated for two Golden Globe awards.

Fans of Mrs. Aldrich may visit both her historic home and the museum dedicated to her legacy. Both are located in Elmwood, Nebraska, a small town–population 634 according to the 2010 census–located east of Lincoln and south of Omaha.

{Photo Credit of The Elms By Ammodramus – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27460261}

 

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