SARAH ORNE JEWETT, American writer died (b. 1849); A 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 nineteen, 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 established a close friendship with writer Annie Fields (1834-1915) and her husband, publisher James T. 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.” She is famous, as well, for her comment, “What has made this nation great? Not its heroes but it’s households.”
Some modern scholars have speculated that the two were lovers. In any case, “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. On September 3, 1902, Jewett was injured in a carriage accident that all but ended her writing career. She died three months after being paralyzed by a stroke in 1909. The Jewett family home in South Berwick, built in the late eighteenth century, is preserved as a National Historic Landmark.