SARAH ORNE JEWETT, American writer born (d: 1909); an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, on the border of New Hampshire, which, in her day, was a declining New England seaport.
She published her first important story in the Atlantic Monthly at age 19, and her reputation grew throughout the 1870s and ’80s. Her literary importance arises from her careful, if subdued, vignettes of country life that reflect a contemporary interest in local color rather than plot.
Jewett possessed a keen descriptive gift that William Dean Howells called “an uncommon feeling for talk—I hear your people.” Jewett’s most characteristic works include the novella The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896); A Country Doctor (1884), a novel about a New England girl who rejects marriage to become a doctor; and A White Heron (1886), a collection of short stories. Some of Jewett’s poetry was collected in Verses (1916), and she also wrote three children’s books.
Willa Cather described Jewett as a significant influence on her development as a writer, and feminist critics have since championed her writing for its rich account of women’s lives and voices.”
Jewett established a close friendship with writer Annie Fields (1834-1915) and her husband, publisher James Thomas Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly. After the sudden death of James Fields in 1881, Jewett and Annie Fields lived together for the rest of Jewett’s life in what was then termed a “Boston marriage.” Modern scholars generally believe that the two were lovers. The two women found friendship, humor, and literary encouragement in one another’s company, traveling to Europe together and hosting American and European literati. Jewett never married.