Letter From the Editor

Dear Friends of the NEQ,

We hope that you are all safe and well. We are open for business despite being locked out of our offices and having to coordinate our editorial in isolation and remotely. Fortunately, despite being locked out of our quarters in the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston, we have been dragged into the technological present. Having long considered that the only benefit of the personal computer was that it allowed me to make wholesale edits without having to worry about renumbering footnotes, I now find that Andrew, Danny, and I can copy-edit remotely and I (especially) learned to read submissions electronically rather than in hard copy.

What might get overlooked in our isolation is the production of new scholarship on New England history and literary culture. When I was about ten, I remember being in a souvenir stand with my parents and seeing an ashtray with the following caption: “When you’re up to your butt in alligators, it’s easy to forget that your original goal was to drain the swamp.” What was hilarious to a ten-year old now seems like wisdom in these troubled times. In the current pre-occupation with managing our COVID-imposed isolation, I am concerned the scholarly enterprise gets overlooked. With this in mind I hope to enlist you in our solicitation for submissions both to the Quarterly and for the 2020 Whitehill Prize competition. Please consider finishing that article or encouraging colleagues and students to submit something for our consideration. Readers of recent issues will also note that we have tried to introduce different forms of scholarly conversations—see for example our special issue on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (March 2018) and our forthcoming conversations on Gordon Wood’s The Creation of the American Republic and Mark Peterson’s The City-state of Boston in our June 2020 number—so we would welcome suggestions as well.

Finally, we have tried to provide a forum for the discussion of teaching on our website, Innovations in Teaching, and can think of no better time for a conversation about the teaching of New England history and literary culture in this era of distance learning. We hope that you will consider this as well.

Of course, all submissions should be forwarded to in both word and pdf documents. Thanks again you to all our friends for your past support.

Stay well,


Jonathan M. Chu
Editor, The New England Quarterly

Volume 93.2: March 2020

The New England Quarterly announces the publication of Volume 93.1: March 2020. Scroll down to see the Editorial for this most recent issue.

—  Volume 93, Issue 1: March 2020  —

by Jonathan M. Chu


Yarns Spun to Order: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Pearl of Orr’s Island and the Advent of Maine Summer Tourism

by Susan Beegel

Family and Fortune: Louisa May Alcott, Inheritance, and the Legacy of Aunts

by Susan S. Williams

The Education of Ellen Tucker Emerson

by Kate Culkin

Review Essay

Union, Loyalty, and Patriotic Sacrifice in the Civil War North

by Amy Laurel Fluker

Book Reviews

Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of a Literary Nation. By Sarah Rivett.
Review by Joanne van der Woude

Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities. By Andrew Newman.
Review by Lorrayne Carroll

Invisible Masters: Gender, Race, and the Economy of Service in Early New England. By Elisabeth Ceppi.
Review by Jason LaFountain

Treasures Afoot: Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era. By Kimberly S. Alexander.
Review by David E. (Ned) Lazaro

Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution. By Kacy Down Tillman.
Review by Rebecca Brannon

Beyond 1776: Globalizing the Culture of the American Revolution. Edited by Maria O’Malley and Denys Van Renen.
Review by Mark Boonshoft

Black Cosmopolitans: Race, Religion, and Republicanism in an Age of Revolutions. By Christine Levecq.
Review by Chernoh M. Sesay Jr.

Polygamy: An Early American History. By Sarah Pearsall.
Review by Carolyn Barske Crawford

Rediscovering the Maine Woods: Thoreau’s Legacy in an Unsettled Land. Edited by John J. Kucich.
Review by Daniel S. Malachuk

Claggett: Newport’s Illustrious Clockmakers.  By Donald L. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III, with an introduction by Dennis Carr.
Review by Philip D. Zimmerman

Investment Management in Boston: A History. By David Grayson Allen.
Review by Michael Yogg

The Conspiracy of Capital: Law, Violence, and American Popular Radicalism in the Age of Monopoly. By Michael Mark Cohen.
Review by Chad Pearson

Robert Lowell in a New Century: European and American Perspectives. Edited by Thomas Austenfeld.
Review by Calista McRae

Volume 93.1 Editorial

“March marks the beginning of the Quarterly’s New Year, and our first issue of the year fortuitously centers around the cultural legacies of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, and Ellen Tucker Emerson. Susan Beegel, Susan Williams, and Kate Culkin present us with the ways the legacies of these remarkable women shed unexpected light on nineteenth century culture by examining the contexts beyond the immediacy of their literary work.

Susan Beegel’s study of the impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe upon Orr Island, Maine reveals an unanticipated legacy caused by the confluence of her literary celebrity, technological change, and the beginning of nineteenth-century tourism. Accompanied by images of artifacts from Beegel’s personal collection, “Yarns Spun to Order: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Pearl of Orr’s Island and the Advent of Maine Summer Tourism,” reminds us of the commercial markets for romance and nostalgia and of their capacities to alter our memories and shape reality. Having spent two years in Maine with little familiarity with Orr Island, Stowe began writing The Pearl after finishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Interrupted by the celebrity and controversies over Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Pearl was begun on the eve of the Civil War as a weekly serial and completed in 1862. Set on an idyllic Maine on the brink of being overwhelmed by steamships and commercialization, The Pearl took obvious liberties with geography and characters. Steamships and commercialization, of course, made possible the changing of Orr Island into what Beegel calls an almost theme park complete with inns, souvenir shops, invented sites, and archetypal characters given authenticity by The Pearl. More a study of the rise and fall of Orr Island tourism than one of Stowe—she may have visited the island no more than once—Beegel treats us to a different, less traumatic, but still significant legacy from Stowe. Harriet Beecher Stowe may not have been the little woman, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, who caused the Civil War, but she certainly was the source of Orr Island’s moment in Maine’s tourist season.

That the role of spinster aunts plays a significant role in Louisa May Alcott’s fiction and that she expressed an early and deep concern for financial sufficiency should not surprise us in the least. In its announcement in 1996 of the discovery of Louisa May Alcott’s unpublished first novel, The Inheritance, the New York Times pointed out that because Alcott had died childless, ownership of the manuscript had passed to three brothers who were great-great grandsons of Bronson Alcott.  Susan Williams in “Family and Fortune: Louisa May Alcott, Inheritance and the Legacy of Aunts” points out the irony of the Times feeling the necessity to explain that Alcott’s literary rights to The Inheritance had descended through Bronson Alcott, “a vertical male genealogical lineage that starts with Alcott’s father and incorporates two male scholars [who discovered the manuscript in the Houghton Library] through a social network of ‘kindness.’” What the Times seemed to have missed, according to Williams, was that it was the childless Alcott who had specifically planned for and determined the conveyance of the economic legacy of her work upon her death. Williams uses these two biographical details, her status as an unmarried aunt and the agent of her family’s financial security and an examination of The Inheritance and Little Women to enrich our understanding not only of the two works of literature but as a window into Alcott’s financial and probate knowledge and her understanding of the definitions of nineteenth-century family life. Williams sees in Alcott’s work the use of unmarried aunts as liminal figures capable of bridging convention and change and thus figures of unique economic consequence in a gendered inheritance system. Written when she was eighteen, The Inheritance illustrates Alcott’s concern about the legal, social, and economic roles of unmarried aunts from an early age and her sophisticated understanding of nineteenth-century inheritance law. The deliberation of her conveyance of the economic rights to her literary oeuvre to the children of her siblings, Williams argues, enriches our understanding of her ideas about gender and family life in the nineteenth century, her legal acumen, and the careful deliberation and planning she put into the preservation of family and fortune.

In “The Education of Ellen Tucker Emerson” Kate Culkin makes us aware of how Ellen Emerson’s education made possible her legacy. Discussions about the Emerson household, Culkin tells us, has left unexplored the impact of domestic life upon the work of Emerson’s father Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellen Emerson’s educational journey provides a window into the history of the family especially as to how it prepared her to care for her mother’s various illnesses and her father in his later years when his memory began to fail. Although Ellen Emerson dismissed her intellectual gifts when she assumed management of the Emerson household and became caregiver, secretary, nurse, and accountant for her parents, her education, Culkin argues, reveals and explains a legacy, the significant editorial contributions she made to her father’s work, that remains obscured. Recent scholars have noted that Ellen Emerson in helping to conceal her father’s memory losses transitioned into editor and collaborator, and Culkin’s essay both demonstrates Ellen Emerson’s modesty and explains how her education prepared her for the transition into her father’s literary guardian and for her gifts to us.

Sharp-eyed readers of our masthead will see that two of the most distinguished members of our boards of directors and of editors have stepped back from active roles with the Quarterly. In 1981, Professor William Fowler Jr. took the New Quarterly to Northeastern from Bowdoin College and who, with Linda Smith Rhoads, established the practices that guide our daily editorial work and facilitate the production of the journal still. Bill has also served as a personal mentor who not only accepted my first journal article, wrote what I expect must have been a favorable tenure review, and been a source of strength and encouragement in the Quarterly’s move from Northeastern to the University of Massachusetts Boston. Even in retirement while usually on some cruise to distant places, he remains a willing and reliable reviewer of manuscripts. Scholars, of course, recognize the monumental contributions Professor Bernard Bailyn has made to the study of early American history. We know him also as a member of our boards of editors and directors since 1961. In those capacities we have learned to appreciate his contributions to the more immediate, practical gifts he brings to the publishing enterprise and most especially in his generosity with his time and his gentle editorial advice and guidance. His support of our endeavors has been deeply appreciated. Historians better than most should understand the inevitability of change even as they regret it. The editorial staff expresses its deepest appreciation for the contributions of Professors Fowler and Bailyn and wish them both well.

In marking the beginning of our ninety-third year, the editors would like to express our thanks to all who make the Quarterly possible. We especially want to give thanks to the contributors to our 2019 Annual Appeal who represent a critical source of support. When we reported our preparations for the Annual Appeal to the Quarterly’s Board of Directors, it was pointed out to us that our donors are remarkably loyal for which we are deeply grateful. We also send our thanks to the many friends this past year who have taken the time to help with evaluating manuscripts, writing book reviews, and providing essential logistical support in many diverse ways. We hope to be worthy of your continued support.”

Jonathan M. Chu

Jonathan Chu, Editor

Check out recent author Adrain Chastain Weimer’s blogpost!

Adrian Chastain Weimer writes for the Massachusetts Historical Society blog on “Elijah’s Mantle & its Annotations: A Source for Puritan Constitutionalism” Check out the blog here.

Weimer’s related article, “The Resistance Petitions of 1664–1665: Confronting the Restoration in Massachusetts Bay,” appears in the June 2019 issue of the New England Quarterly.

Read Weimer’s NEQ article here, free for the next two months!

The Colonial Society of Massachusetts Announces the 2019 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History

February 28, 2019: 

This prize of two thousand five hundred dollars, established in memory of Walter Muir Whitehill, for many years Editor of Publications for the Colonial Society and the moving force behind the organization, will be awarded for a distinguished essay on early American history (up to 1825), not previously published, with preference being given to New England subjects. The Society hopes that the prize may be awarded annually.

A committee of eminent historians will review the essays. Their decision in all cases will be final.

By arrangement with the editors of The New England Quarterly, the Society will have the winning essay published in an appropriate issue of the journal.

Essays are now being accepted for consideration. All manuscripts submitted for the 2019 prize must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2019. The Society expects to announce the winning candidate in the spring of 2020.

Entries submitted for consideration should be addressed to:

Whitehill Prize Committee
c/o The New England Quarterly
Department of History
University of Massachusetts, Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

Click here for more information including judging criteria, submission specifications, and past winners.

“Restless Lady: the Life and Writings of Frances Parkinson Keyes”: An Undergraduate Seminar’s Collaborative Paper


In numerous conversations, the editorial staff of the New England Quarterly has wondered how it might use its online capabilities to enhance and complement its editorial charge, the advancement of scholarship on the history and literary culture of New England and be a complement to school, Advanced Placement, and college classrooms. The staff has long wanted to demonstrate the utility of the long essay form in teaching but did not have a clear idea of how to accomplish this. While the exact nature of this new department still remains unformed, we were immediately impressed by a submission to the Quarterly, “Restless Lady: the Life and Writings of Frances Parkinson Keyes,” with a long list of authors.  When we learned that this was a submission of Professor Melanie Gustafson’s undergraduate social history seminar, we felt immediately that it should be the inaugural contribution to our new online department devoted to interesting learning opportunities.

What follows is Professor Gustafson’s introduction to her course, a brief description of how she prepared her students, and the submitted essay which went through the same copy-editing pre-publication review of all our published essays. We are pleased to be able to offer the story of Frances Parkinson Keyes as an example of a successful and imaginative use of the undergraduate seminar.

Melanie Gustafson is associate professor of history at the University of Vermont. The recipient of the PhD from New York University, she is a specialist on women and political parties in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and, among other works, the author of Women and the Republican Party, 1854–1924.
What was the genesis for this project? What were your teaching objectives?

This collaborative paper on the writer Frances Parkinson Keyes resulted from a challenge I gave students in a seminar in US social history since 1965. My overall objective for this course is to get the students to understand how historians research and write histories that are factually sound and intellectually meaningful but also engaging, demanding, and, sometimes, disarming. I want them to think about the power of storytelling and how historical narratives are constructed in ways that allow us to seethe past. I stress to the students that they should keep a central question in mind as they do their weekly readings: “How has the author of this work allowed you to seethe world that is under investigation?

Our first joint reading was William Cronon’s brilliant, beautiful article “Kennecott Journey: Paths Out of Town,” (in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, ed. William Cronon et al. [New York: W.W. Norton, 1992], 28-51) and students were also asked to explore his website ( My objective with the article was to move students beyond the subject (the social, environmental, and economic changes that occurred in the Kennecott area) to thinking about how the article was crafted. How has Cronon described and explained change over time? Students talked about how Cronon’s article was both a local and global history. One student commented that the environmental and intellectual journey Cronon had taken us on had a physicality to it. All agreed they could seethe Kennecott Valley. From the website, students learned that Cronon is a dedicated teacher who generously shares what he knows.

The challenge came in week three. The students had read the Australian anthropologist Greg Dening’s “‘P 905.A512 x 100’: An Ethnographic Essay,” a 1995 investigation of American Historical Review. What makes his article so engaging, and useful in the classroom are his humorous musings about the process of historical investigation itself. My main objective was to have students think about seeingthrough ethnography and, because I wanted them to again look at the scholar behind the work, I paired Dening’s article with his 2009 History Workshop Journalobituary, written by his colleague Tom Griffiths. I directed their attention to these two sentences: “[Dening] aimed to expose his students to exciting and sometimes bewildering freedoms: freedom from the overlay of others’ interpretations, freedom to ransack insights from other disciplines, freedom to experiment and fail. In one small Pacific History honours class in 1978, he challenged his six students to write a book together as their assessment, and they did.” (294)

I suggested to my seminar students that we too might write a book together. Would they be interested in such an experiment? They laughed. When I pressed on with the idea and modified the challenge to an article, they looked scared. They raised objections, the most legitimate being that they already had a subject they wanted to pursue for their own research paper and, besides, they were sick of group projects and wanted to do what historians do best: solitary research and writing. I countered that the research could be done independently and even much of the writing, but our work could be collaborative because we would be working towards a single goal: a publishable article to which everyone contributes. Ten students would research and draft ten sections and then come together to reconstruct their works into one cohesive narrative.

Two strategies brought all the students on board. I explained that our project could have a digital component. They would learn about how to create a digital exhibit and archive on the web publishing platform Omeka, which was developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Second, they would be able to follow their own research interests because I had in mind a research subject whose life was so large that it demanded scholars with a range of interests. I assured them that when they put together all the pieces of her history they would have both an intimate, close look at a woman’s life and global history that spanned the twentieth century. And thus they were introduced to Frances Parkinson Keyes.

The Jack and Shirley Silver Special Collections Library at the University of Vermont houses the papers of Frances Parkinson Keyes, a prolific popular novelist and political journalist whose family roots were in Vermont. Wide-ranging political activities and international travels made her a perfect subject for a class of students interested in, among other topics, the American Revolutionary Era, the Nazi Holocaust, women’s education, and local history. Still, Keyes was not an easy sell. Her fame is in the past. Her gender made her suspect as an important historical figure. The first pages of her novels were (as one student stated) “boring.” I persisted. I set out a chronology that showed her presence in Spain during its Civil War, in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, and in Washington during the era of the woman suffrage victory, the Washington Naval Conference, and the Marian Anderson controversy. Students began examining Keyes’s extensive archive. Excellent cataloguing made it easy for them to focus on their own areas of interest. They did genealogical research. They created a bibliography of her writings. They began making discoveries. Their individual and collective enthusiasm grew.

What was the biggest challenge in doing this collaborative project?

Our greatest challenge was developing an argument for the collective paper. After examining the Keyes papers, the students chose their subject areas and started doing background reading in secondary sources. As they read and sifted through her papers, they contributed to a chronology of her life and times. A chronological narrative of her life soon took shape, first through documents, which were chosen for the digital archive, and then through their class discussions, where they began seeing common themes. They then started formulating their questions for their subject areas, but in our group discussions they were hesitant, with good reason, to make claims on the developing narrative. The problem was time. The students needed more time to think about their individual findings. They needed more time to feel they could make a claim on what was a collaboratively-created chronological narrative. In the end, they chose to highlight the theme of a “restless lady.” The theme captures Keyes’s wanderings as well as her ambitions.

What would you do differently next time? What advice do you have for instructors interested in engaging with a similar classroom project?

I would make a choice between engaging the students in a collaborative written essay or a digital exhibit and archive. I added the digital component because Hope Greenberg of the UVM’s Center for Teaching and Learning, and I had previously co-taught digital history to first-year students. In those cases, the work was structured around creating a single Omeka exhibit. This seminar, in contrast, demanded that the students keep up with weekly readings, do significant secondary reading on their specific area and our collective subject of Keyes, conduct primary research and ready those documents for scanning, uploading, and metadata, and write individually and collectively. No wonder we ran out of time. My advice for instructors interested in having students write a collaborative essay is to discuss historical argument early and often. For that, we can again turn to William Cronon’s website, specifically the section “Learning Historical Research” (, which he created with a class of his own students. They put it bluntly: “The sooner in your research process you can start grappling with these deeper issues of argument and narrative, the more you’ll learn and the subtler your understanding of your question will become.”

What the students of UVM’s History 272 have given you here is a compelling narrative. We hope others will follow our lead and continue researching the life and times of Frances Parkinson Keyes. She is a fascinating subject which needs a good argument.

Restless Lady: The Life and Writings of Frances Parkinson Keyes

Rachel Alberico, Caitlin Blake, Marissa Bucci,
Margo Butler, Gerard Colby, Kathleen Doyle,
Alexander Ellis, Hope Greenberg, Melanie Gustafson,
Kassandra LaPrade Seuthe, Ashlee Payne, Catherine Rayner

Restless Lady
Frances Parkinson Keyes, July 13, 1921. Image provided by the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC–DIG–npcc–29970


The title of this essay comes from the writer Frances Parkinson Keyes’s 1962 short story collection The Restless Lady, and Other Stories. Keyes was a prolific writer who published thirty novels and twenty-five nonfiction books, as well as many more short stories and magazine articles.[1] A columnist for Good Housekeeping and Yankee magazines and a frequent contributor to many others, her first novel, The Old Gray Homestead, was published in 1918, and she was consistently on the bestsellers lists after 1936.[2] Her best-known novel, probably because it was the only one to make it to film (on television), is Dinner at Antoine’s.[3] When Keyes (pronounced like “sighs” or skies” because of its original spelling “Keies”) learned that Houghton Mifflin wanted her first book, she pledged that she would look at writing as both a trade and a trust, that she would never write only for money no matter how much she needed it, and that her writing would never be “shabby or scandalous” or “inaccurate or unfair or unkind.”[4]

Doing extensive research and living as close as possible to her subjects went hand-in-hand for Keyes. She told an interviewer for Life that she would not write about a place where she had not shopped, cooked, or lived.[5] The Los Angeles Times reported that when Keyes “decides upon the locale for a novel, she goes there to live, doing her research and … learning … local customs and dishes.”[6] Keyes set her early novels in the place she knew best: the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. In the preface to the combined 1951 edition of her first two novels, The Old Gray Homestead and The Career of David Noble, Keyes wrote that “Hamstead” is a “village similar to the two in which I spent a great part of my early life and with which my inherited affiliation goes back nearly two hundred years.” Those two villages—Newbury, Vermont and Haverhill, New Hampshire—have been more recently described as “fraternal twins, born at the same time, closely related and sharing so much, yet having subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences.”[7]

Collaboration was crucial to Keyes’s success as a writer. She relied on knowledgeable individuals to help with research and employed secretaries (occasionally drafting her sons) to meet publishing deadlines. Always generous in crediting those who assisted her, she privately provided monetary compensation for their contributions. She called Hermann Deutsch, who collaborated with her from about 1945 until just before her death, “one of my best editorial advisors,” and she gave him fifty percent of her royalties for Dinner at Antoine’s.[8]

During the 2014 spring semester, we researched the Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers on deposit at the University of Vermont’s Special Collections, studied Keyes’s writings, and examined primary and secondary sources about Keyes and her times.[9] Essays written individually about different aspects of Keyes’s life were shared and revised through a collaborative effort. Basic themes emerged: ambition; perseverance; pragmatism; a love of urban culture held in balance with a reverence for rural life; loyalty to family and friends, especially women colleagues; and a strong sense of place and dedication to history and historic preservation, especially that of the Connecticut River Valley. We have chosen to highlight these themes in some key moments in Keyes’s life. While much has been left out, we encourage readers wanting to know more about her ideas and connections to New England to read the novels, short stories, and essays of this restless lady.


Frances Parkinson Wheeler Keyes was born in 1885 to Louise Fuller Johnson and John Henry Wheeler in Charlottesville, Virginia, where her father was a professor of classics at the University of Virginia. Two years later, her father became ill, and the family moved to Newbury, Vermont. Louise’s mother’s family was from Newbury, although Louise had grown up in New York City where her father was in business. His grandfather Thomas Johnson was one of the founders of Newbury. A historical sketch by Keyes in the Granite Monthly, a New Hampshire magazine that published a number of her early articles and stories, describes how George Washington summoned Thomas to blaze the trail that became the Bayley-Hazen Military Road from Wells River toward St. Johns, Canada.[10] Captured by the British in 1781, Thomas returned to Newbury after his release but found his neighbors questioning his loyalty because of rumors that he had been shown leniency during his captivity. Nevertheless, Johnson prospered politically and financially. He built a house in Newbury for his son David in 1806, and it was to this house that Frances moved in 1887. Writing about the house in her 1972 autobiography, Keyes stated, “there have not been many houses in the United States where family possession has been so enduring.”[11]

The Wheeler side of Frances’s family consisted of “clergymen, teachers, and judges.”[12] Keyes was especially proud of her grandmother and namesake Frances Parkinson Wheeler, who grew up in rural New Hampshire, graduated from Nashua Academy, taught at several academies in the area, and then attended Mary Lyon’s Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.[13] Keyes later wrote that her grandmother’s educational achievement was “the longed-for goal of almost every intellectually ambitious young woman in New England.”[14]

Setting an example with her hard work and frugal ways, Grandmother Wheeler, who married a Congregational minister from Charlotte, taught young Frances how to read, initiated her studies in foreign languages, and tackled her dreaded subject of mathematics.[15] Keyes’s love of her grandmother is evident in their correspondence. In 1899, fourteen-year-old Keyes wrote a poem for her eighty-year-old grandmother, “From Your Namesake.” Seven years earlier, Keyes was practicing her penmanship by writing her name and letters in the ways taught to her by her grandmother. Before that, at age four, her grandmother taught her to read from the Bible, and years later Keyes used the same method to teach her young boys to read.[16]

John Henry Wheeler, the son of Frances and Melancthon Wheeler, was a Harvard graduate who had just received his PhD in Bonn when he met and married Louise Johnson. They moved to Charlottesville, Virginia when John Henry accepted a position as professor of Classics at the University of Virginia.[17] After he became ill and was unable to continue to work, the family moved to Newbury, where John Henry soon died. Louise then married Albert Pillsbury, a prominent Boston lawyer, and Keyes began seasonal migrations between Newbury and Boston.[18] In 1897, Louise and Albert divorced, but Frances continued to attend Miss Bertha Carroll’s Day School and then Miss Winsor’s School in Boston.[19] Keyes later remembered that she was not a “naturally brilliant student,” but she considered herself “conscientious and hardworking, with a good memory and a certain facility for learning languages.” She assessed herself as good at “expressing” herself “on paper” but concluded that her “good marks were the result of unremitting labor.”[20]

The mission of Miss Winsor’s School was to prepare women to be self-supporting, and its students were encouraged to continue their education at women’s colleges. Keyes wanted to attend Bryn Mawr, but a combination of back troubles and headaches and an inability to handle the stress of her studies resulted in failing grades on portions of her entrance exam.[21] The health concerns that Keyes first displayed during her school years continued throughout her life, and she often suffered from debilitating physical problems.[22] Keyes continued at Miss Winsor’s for another year, but her path was already taking a different turn. Sometime in 1901 or earlier, Frances began a relationship with Henry (Harry) Wilder Keyes, whom she had known since she was a young child. In October 1902, Harry wrote Frances, “I love you,” and sometime after that they were secretly engaged.[23]

Harry lived with his widowed mother and sister on their family farm in Haverhill, New Hampshire. His father, Henry, started out as a merchant in Newbury but moved across the Connecticut River when he bought the General Moses Dow Farm, went into Democratic state politics, and became involved in the building of railroads. Farming, politics, and railroads were good ways to make and lose money in the nineteenth century, and Henry Keyes seems to have done both.[24]

In “Moses Dow, Citizen of Haverhill,” Keyes presents the history of the farm and its founder.[25] Dow was Haverhill’s first lawyer, became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and was much respected in the Connecticut River Valley. Keyes records how Moses Dow and Thomas Johnson were the “first men in this locality who bought pianos for their daughters, and who had them brought up from Boston, and set up in their houses, at great expense.”[26] Keyes also records that one of the daughters “married into the Hazeltine family, and her daughter … became the wife of Haynes Johnson, a son of Col. Thomas Johnson of Newbury, which was considered a ‘great match’ in those days.”[27] Not mentioned in the article is a “celebrated” 1821 breach of promise of marriage case brought by Moses Dow’s daughter Mary against Joseph Bell, a lawyer who boarded at the Dow farm before making his own “great match” with Catherine Olcott.[28] Perhaps Keyes thought that repeating facts about the case, which Mary Dow lost after two trials, violated her instruction to herself to never write about anything that was “shabby or scandalous.”

Or maybe the Mary Dow story cast too gloomy a shadow over the history of the Moses Dow Farm, which the Keyes family had renamed Pine Grove Farm. After graduating from Harvard, Harry took over running the farm and followed his father into business, as a banker not a railroad president, and into politics, becoming a Republican rather than a Democrat. Harry rose from Haverhill Township Board of Selectmen to the State House of Representatives. In 1917, he became governor of New Hampshire and the progressive measures he took to ameliorate conditions for the state’s residents during World War I contributed to his election to the US Senate and talk that he might someday occupy the White House.[29]

Troubles followed Frances and Harry’s announcement to their families of their intention to marry.[30] Louise was not happy to learn that her seventeen-year-old daughter wanted to marry a man twenty-two years her senior, and she took Frances to Europe for four months to separate the couple. Despite her mother’s resistance, Frances and Harry were married in Newbury’s Congregational Church on June 6, 1904. Before the ceremony, Frances exacted a promise from Harry that if they had a daughter she would be allowed to go to college. Frances instead gave birth to three sons: Henry Jr. (1905), John Parkinson (1907), and Francis, called Peter (1912). All three sons attended Harvard University.


Keyes dates the beginning of her writing career to when, at age seven, she and a friend wrote a pageant that they performed for Louise. Her mother encouraged her youthful writing, treasuring Frances’s story The Rebel Captain’s Sweetheart and sending her patriotic verses to a local newspaper.[31] During an 1895 European trip, her mother transcribed and sent St. Nicholas Magazine a short piece Keyes wrote about their travel in the Netherlands.[32] Throughout the 1890s, Keyes’s correspondence with her mother often included stories, fairy tales, or references to other work in progress.[33]

As Keyes continued to write, however, she found her mother less receptive and even dismissive of her work. In Roses in December, Keyes recounts how Louise, after discovering that she had sent some of her verses to the Boston Transcript, shredded them “into tiny bits” and threatened to remove her from Miss Winsor’s School. Her mother’s actions “tore something in my heart,” Keyes wrote. “I never again showed her my verse. Indeed, I never again showed her anything I had written, until it had first been approved by some authority which she would recognize. And even then I did so seldom and warily.”[34]

After her first novel was published, Keyes’s circle of those who discouraged her writing widened. She told a reporter that Harry “regarded my predilection for scribbling with an eye as unfriendly and disparaging as my mother’s.” [35] Fearing his disapproval, she wrote in the attic of their farmhouse and hid her papers in her underwear drawer. She was living, she later said, a “life of deception.”[36] The reporter concluded: “Nobody believed she could write and nobody wanted her to write.”[37]

Deceptive or not, in November 1917 Keyes became a public writer when her first article, “The Pride and Form of Mourning,” was published in The Chronicle, a new publication that aimed “to become the medium through which intelligent people who are not professional writers may speak to the public on the topics of the day.”[38] The editor Richard Fletcher wrote to the wives of governors asking for their opinions on mourning dress. Keyes answered the query by endorsing the idea that women who had lost loved ones in a war should wear a gold star as a symbol of their sacrifice.[39] After seeing her article in print, Keyes asked herself what would happen if she became more serious and systematic about her writing and her efforts to “penetrate” into print.[40]

Keyes gave many answers to questions abour her motivations and opportunities for writing in her first autobiography, Roses in December, including the encouragement of her grandmother, confidence instilled by friends, and her reading of a broad range of texts from Goethe to Dickens to Margaret Sidney [Harriett Lothrop], the author of Five Little Peppers.[41] In All Flags Flying, she discusses the excitement and growing confidence that followed from the acceptance of her articles by The Chronicle, the Granite Monthly, and the Atlantic Monthly. There were also practical reasons for writing. The Keyes family was not wealthy and Frances’s attempts to economize only went so far to pay incoming bills. After a Boston store declined the family’s credit when she attempted to buy a dress to wear at her husband’s inauguration, Keyes declared, “somehow, as soon as possible, I must find a way of paying for my own clothes.”[42] She did. Atlantic Monthly gave her seventy dollars for her first article which she used to pay family medical bills. When she received $400 from Houghton Mifflin for her first book, she paid more bills and also bought new clothes to meet the demands of her position as the wife of a United States senator. Payment for her second article in the Atlantic Monthly paid for taxis that allowed her to call on over six hundred political wives in Washington.[43] The strain of family finances made checks from editors and publishers an important incentive for working on another piece of writing.

Another reason for writing is found in Keyes’s reaction to the acceptance of her first novel, The Old Gray Homestead.[44] With its publication, she wrote a “second great change had taken place in my life. The first had occurred when I became a bride and merged my being with my husband’s. Now this union still existed, and I had, besides, a destiny of my very own.”[45] Marriage and motherhood were central parts of Keyes’s life after 1904, but they were not her whole life. Writing was her personal destiny.

When dealing with the subject of Keyes’s early development as a writer, one more (but certainly not the last) reason to explore can be found in the stories she told about her Aunt Nancy. During her childhood, Frances became close to her “cousins,” a term she used to describe “all the descendants of General Jacob Bayley and Colonel Thomas Johnson” as well as the Hales, the Darlings, the Cobbs, and other families in Newbury.[46] Frances especially liked the town’s older women. They were not “highly educated in a scholastic sense, or widely traveled or even moderately wealthy,” she wrote, but they “determined the pattern of life” in the town and were “industrious and frugal and, withal, hospitable, kindly, enlightened and, in several cases, extremely devout.” From them, Frances learned “that a woman does not need any of the attributes or advantages, which I have admitted its members lacked, to be an active force and a guiding star; she may achieve both ends through simple goodness and homely wisdom coupled with courage and contentment and illuminated by faith.”[47] The women of Newbury were collectors and tellers of stories, and according to Keyes one of the best storytellers was “an old lady whom we all called Aunt Nancy.” She told stories about “a lovely young queen who rode through the streets of a great city in a golden coach and about an empress who lived in a palace of another great city and yawned behind her painted fan when she became bored during the long ceremonies at which she was called upon to preside.” What Keyes learned only later was that the stories she thought were an old lady’s fairy tales were actually reminiscences of a woman’s youthful journey through Europe.[48]

Aunt Nancy, Anna Nancy Cumming Johnson, was the daughter of David Johnson. During her convalescence after having her right foot amputated, Johnson wrote Letters from a Sick Room, an inspirational book anonymously published by the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society.[49] Although fitted with an artificial foot, Nancy’s family believed her disability “precluded any other life but teaching.”[50] While teaching, she wrote two more books.[51] In 1847, during a stay at a Brattleboro water cure resort, Johnson met the educational reformer Catherine Beecher. Johnson found in Beecher someone equally ready “to escape the routine of teaching and the constraints of the lives they had been leading,” and the two women joined forces to establish women’s colleges on the frontier.[52] Together they traveled west and, when Beecher later returned east, Johnson stayed on in Iowa where she was the “principal, cook, housekeeper, financier, and one of the three teachers” of a struggling school for women.

A year later, Johnson was living in Saratoga Springs, taking the waters, and writing to avoid a return to teaching. Her observations about Saratoga’s social life were published in a local newspaper where they caught the attention of Henry J. Raymond (an 1840 graduate of the University of Vermont), who co-founded the New York Times in 1851 and was its editor until his death in 1869. Raymond helped Johnson publish under the pen name Minnie Myrtle a collection of her stories, Myrtle Wreath, Or Stray Leaves Recalled, and an ethnographic study, The Iroquois, Or the Bright Side of Indian Character.[53] Raymond also hired Johnson as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, which published her European travel articles under the initials A. J.[54]

A sketch of Nancy Johnson that appeared in the 1902 History of Newbury includes a long recollection and assessment by Mrs. A[lexander]. G. Johnson. According to Mrs. Johnson, during Nancy’s European travels her “mind first began to break down.” She had “an immense amount of energy and pride” but was “too anxious” to be “independent.” Her intellect was “something wonderful. But it was a great mistake for her to be left so alone. She needed (like all geniuses) a kind, honest, practical friend to stand by her, and take care of her.”[55]

In the early 1920s, Edna Hale, a Johnson cousin, decided it was time to tell a different story about Aunt Nancy and asked Keyes, who had by then published articles about other residents of Newbury, to participate in the project. The letters by Aunt Nancy that Hale had in her possession were mailed back and forth between the two women. At one point, Keyes wrote Hale that she found it interesting “that I, two generations later, was doing much the same sort of thing that she did with such success in those early days when it was so much more of an achievement for a woman to be an author, especially a journalistic author.”[56] Despite being drawn to this personal story, Keyes returned the documents with apologies that she was too busy to deal with them.[57] Finally, in 1939, Keyes returned to Aunt Nancy’s story and composed an article for the National Historical Magazine, which she was then editing for the Daughters of the American Revolution. In this recounting, Aunt Nancy’s story is a tale of fortitude, where success pivots not on fate but intention. Nancy Johnson was, according to Keyes, an “obscure cripple” who “carved out a career” as a writer that was “phenomenal” in the mid-nineteenth century and still “remarkable” in 1939. In this rendition, Aunt Nancy is a career woman “buoyantly” writing and serves as a lesson to women about how “achievement is not dependent on health or success or opportunity.” In the conclusion to her article, Keyes concentrates on Aunt Nancy’s abilities as a storyteller to explain how her aunt inspired her own career as a writer. The stories Aunt Nancy told the young people of Newbury “spurred these children on, in time, to try their own fortunes in a waiting world—among them a grandniece, who was, in time, to fight her own way up from invalidism, to try and build a profession on dreams and determination, and to go forth, as the representative of a great magazine, to visit courts and to sail the seven seas.”[58]

It took Keyes fifteen years to write about her Aunt Nancy Johnson, and then she chose to do so twice. While her busy schedule could explain why it took so long, if one compares how Keyes wrote about Johnson in 1939 to her incorporation of Johnson’s story into her 1960 memoir, other factors enter the picture. By 1939 Keyes was a best-selling novelist, a frequent contributor to leading women’s magazines, and editor of a journal that she hoped would rival National Geographic. In the 1939 article, Aunt Nancy is an inspiring, strong career woman. In Keyes’s 1960 memoir, Roses in December, the emphasis is less on Aunt Nancy’s achievements.  While good storytellers like Aunt Nancy could inspire young people, Keyes describes her great-aunt as a courageous woman who had “the intelligence to forge to the front as a writer” and focuses upon Aunt Nancy’s early problems. The most tragic section of Keyes’s 1960 tale is about how the family refused to post Nancy’s romantic letters to a man they considered as fictional as her stories of her life abroad. Aunt Nancy lived “a gallant and wonderful life,” Keyes wrote, and “it grieves me to realize that, during its twilight, she was doubted by her own people.”[59] The 1960 version of Aunt Nancy’s story became a way for Keyes to reflect upon a time when she too might be doubted or dismissed.

The leitmotif of Roses in December, like Aunt Nancy’s challenges, is how Keyes’s path to becoming a writer was strewn with obstacles because “nobody believed she could write and nobody wanted her to write.”[60] She had long lived in a family climate where her personal feelings and choices, like Aunt Nancy’s, were not respected.[61] One way to prevent this situation from continuing was to establish her reputation as a writer. She had done that by 1939, when she became a best-selling novelist, and over the next two decades, she had enlarged her place in public culture. Like Aunt Nancy, she had carved out a remarkable career. But what about the future? The only way to secure that was to tell her own story and she did so through her memoirs. In this way, as her son Henry wrote in the forward to All Flags Flying, she made herself the heroine of her own story.[62]

At the same time that Keyes was corresponding with Edna Hale about Nancy Johnson, she was also writing to Eva Greer about her grandmother. Greer was from Newbury, the mother of her childhood friends Charles and Earl, but she was not a “cousin.” She had, however, read The Old Gray Homestead. It was the first book with a rural New England setting, Greer told Keyes, she had read that did not “make fun of the ‘natives’” or “get sentimental about them.”[63] Greer hoped that Keyes could achieve something similar with her grandmother’s story.

Keyes may have been receptive to Eva Henderson Greer because she needed new material for her novels. The Old Gray Homestead had had positive reviews and good sales, but Keyes found her editors at Houghton Mifflin reluctant to publish other manuscripts she had completed. R. N. Linscott informed Keyes that The Career of David Noble was not what they hoped for but they wanted to hold onto the manuscript and talk with her “about it again later on.”[64] Linscott also told her that there is enormous demand for the “quiet happy story of country life” and, since she had made her start as an author of farm life, she should continue in that way.[65]

At Pine Grove Farm Keyes worked on a new story she called Lady Blanche Farm.[66] Houghton Mifflin rejected the manuscript and informed her that they were also sending back The Career of David Noble, which editor Ferris Greenslet said did not have the “big punch necessary for a wide sale.” Linscott tried to soften the blow by telling Keyes that she was “particularly successful” with her local color and Yankee humor and that he hoped someday to read the story in book form.[67] Linscott’s diplomatic letter was offset by the fact that inserted into the returned manuscript of The Career of David Noble was a memorandum from Linscott to B. H. Ticknor of the Riverside Press. The memorandum called the manuscript a “little too crude and immature” for publication but warned that “if we turn it down we probably will not get a chance at another of her” stories.[68] Keyes returned the misplaced note to the publisher but received “not an apology.” She concluded that publishers “are not governed by the same rules that apply even in politics” and vowed that she would “never undertake any writing for a publisher which involved time and effort unless the verbal request that I should do so was reinforced with a written one and at least a token payment of hard cash.”[69]

In the wake of this experience, Eva Greer contacted Keyes with an intriguing tale that would provide another storyline for a novel set in the Connecticut River Valley. Elizabeth Burr was the daughter of a wealthy cotton manufacturer from Scotland, and her early life, according to historians of Ryegate, Vermont, was full of “much mystery and romance.”[70] In The Safe Bridge, Elizabeth Todd’s father banished her to the Ryegate home of Judge Cameron because she had spent the night in Glasgow’s military barracks with an English officer, Basil Keith. Todd explains to her father that she was chaperoned throughout the night but he does not believe her. In Ryegate, when she tells her sad tale to the sympathetic James Anderson, who works for Judge Cameron, she opens herself to a new love. They marry, have children, and suffer difficulties. In the concluding chapters to the novel, Basil Keith reappears to challenge the bond between Elizabeth and James.

The Safe Bridge is filled with historical characters known to residents of Ryegate, Newbury, Haverhill, Wells River, and other Connecticut River towns. Some of the names are changed. Judge Cameron is based on James Whitelaw who founded Ryegate along with members of the Scots-American Company of Farmers.[71] James Anderson is based on James Henderson, a company member who contracted with Whitelaw and David Allen to work for one year in Ryegate.[72] Also appearing in the book are Indian Joe who befriends Elizabeth as she travels past Newbury and various Johnsons and Bayleys who become Elizabeth’s mentors as she adapts to her new life.[73] Colonel Thomas Johnson is mentioned in the first pages of the novel. Henry Keyes, Harry’s father, and Edward Johnson, Frances’s grandfather, appear in the final pages. It is a love story of contrasts and about a time and place of Keyes’s imagined past.[74]


In 1919, Harry Keyes was elected to the US Senate, and the family relocated to Washington, D.C. Frances Keyes’s daily calendars and correspondence show an organized and efficient political spouse. Although Keyes emphasized the obstacles that she had to overcome in becoming a writer, her organizational abilities are evident in the correspondence and other documents that detail her life before and after she moved to Washington.

Harry’s position as a US senator gave Keyes a rare access to the capital’s vibrant political and social life, but it was her ability to write as a political journalist balancing meticulous reporting with passionate opinion that secured her place among progressive women and men and advanced her career. Her writings and her frequent speeches emphasized New England values: industry and ingenuity, patience and prudence, self-reliance and frugality, and, probably most important to Keyes, fortitude. In the wake of World War I, Keyes promoted these values as a way out of individual and collective despair.[75]

Keyes arrived in Washington as the country was debating President Wilson’s proposal to join the League of Nations. The presidential campaign season was heating up; Prohibition was no longer an issue but a reality; and the House of Representatives and Senate had, after a half-century of hearings, passed the woman suffrage bill sending the proposed constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. Between the passage of the suffrage bill in Congress and its final ratification by the states, the Atlantic Monthly published a second article by Keyes. “On the Fence” is a thoughtful enquiry into the possible impact of woman suffrage.[76] After arguing that wartime had increased women’s self-respect and public esteem, Keyes presents research to show that women’s lot was not as positive as many might think: most women were burdened by the drudgery of housework; over 20,000 women died in childbirth each year because of the lack of medical care; and isolated farm wives had the highest incident of insanity in the country. She argues that women “need economic independence very much indeed” but concludes that “we need mothers much more.” For this reason, she remained “on the fence” about suffrage, fearing that if women rushed “headlong into the busy world” their course of action might bring about “many empty nurseries.” “Motherhood,” she concluded, “always has been, and always will be, the greatest factor in civilization. It has never needed to be recognized as such more than it does now.”[77]

“On the Fence” brought Keyes to the attention of Washington’s progressive women.[78] She was invited to join the League of Women Voters (LWV), established out of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in February 1920, but she seems never to have been an active member. She was also invited into the membership of the League of American Pen Women, begun in 1897; in May 1920 she was elected its vice-president.[79]

Much of her time during her early days in Washington involved learning about the rituals of social calling, the hierarchical rules of political entertaining, and gauging who had power and why. Keyes, fluent in French and German, became a welcome guest at embassy dinners and luncheons given by diplomatic wives.[80] Her experiences from this era are recorded in her 1937 book, Capital Kaleidoscope, which one reviewer stated was written with “frankness and journalistic ease on topics of sure interest.”[81]

Keyes’s public life in Washington in the early 1920s was shaped by the era’s gendered political culture. Women, because of their history of disfranchisement, were open to bipartisan activism on behalf of a political agenda that placed women and children’s interests first. As Maud Wood Park, the president of the League of Women Voters, stated, women “have a lot of catching up to do in legislation since men exclusively have been making laws in this country for more than 150 years.”[82] Keyes shared Park’s belief that women’s “special experience and knowledge” made them better qualified than men to speak out on the needs of mothers and children.[83]

At the top of the women’s agenda was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy bill, which gave states matching federal funds to promote the health care of mothers and infants. An umbrella organization of women’s groups called the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee (WJCC), led by Park and Florence Kelley, coordinated the work on behalf of the bill.[84] Among the first ten organizations to join the WJCC were the League of Women Voters, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the National Consumers’ League. The Ladies’ Home Journal called the WJCC, which claimed to represent ten million women through its member organizations, the “most powerful lobby in Washington.”[85]

The story of Keyes’s involvement in the lobbying effort for Sheppard-Towner is a crucial chapter in her evolution as a writer. It marked the beginning of her long association with Good Housekeeping magazine and its editor William Frederick Bigelow.[86] Known today as the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act, the bill is a milestone in the history of social welfare in the United States, “a link in a chain of ideas and actions from Roosevelt to Roosevelt.”[87] The bill was intended to address the pressing fact that worldwide in 1918 the United States ranked seventeenth in maternal mortality and eleventh in infant mortality.

Advocates understood that the bill faced significant resistance, and they marshaled an intense lobbying effort to secure its passage.[88] Keyes, Bigelow believed, was in a remarkable position to participate in a campaign to collect testimonials on behalf of the bill from notable individuals. He specifically wanted her to get senators’ wives interested in the bill. “I am sure that you can do that,” he wrote her.[89] Keyes accepted his request that she use her connections to lawmakers’ wives and convince them to talk their husbands into voting “Yes” on the bill.[90] The correspondence between Bigelow and Keyes indicates that she did very effective work. “You have made an exceedingly good beginning,” Bigelow wrote Keyes.[91]

When the Senate Committee on Public Health and Quarantine held hearings on the bill in May 1920, Keyes, unexpectedly, was asked to testify.[92] Her statement was brief and focused on her knowledge of rural women’s health care needs. She testified again in December, joining a roster of notable supporters—including Bigelow, Maud Wood Park, Montana representative Jeannette Rankin, Julia Lathrop of the Children’s Bureau, and Florence Kelley of the Consumers’ League.[93] Keyes began by asserting that she did not want to be regarded as a writer or representative of any women’s organization, and certainly not as a senator’s wife. She was there as a woman whose rural origins allowed her to represent the voices of New England farmers’ wives. These women and their families, she argued, were the ones for whom the bill was most likely to provide necessary aid. To make her point, Keyes told two poignant anecdotes regarding the experiences of women who had suffered from situations that this bill was intended to address.[94]

Keyes cleverly addressed the fears of many of the men in the room by stating that, although she did not mean to “threaten that if men do not vote according to women’s ideas they will not be reelected,” it would be “dangerous not to pass it.” Edward E. Denison of Illinois asked Keyes if “women are going to make war on us” if the billed failed. She responded by noting that there was talk of a woman’s party and a proposal that men and women should vote against each other (which she made clear she thought would be a disaster) and therefore it was “not only a possibility but a probability.”[95] Uncertainty about the power of the women’s vote made Keyes’s statement potentially effective. Lawmakers, unsure about the political problems they might personally face in the shifting political culture of the day, were wary of alienating the large coalition of women voters.

Following her congressional appearances, Bigelow wrote Keyes about his plan to put her writing skills to greater use.[96] Keyes had already written one article for Good Housekeeping. “The Fortress of the Farm,” which included an interview with Secretary of Agriculture Edwin T. Meredith that appeared in the July/August 1920 issue. “The farm is the fortress that stands between the world and its most deadly foe—starvation,” Keyes wrote, as she introduced readers to the structure and workings of the Department of Agriculture. The article included an editor’s note that Keyes was not only the wife of a politician who was also “a farmer on an extensive scale,” she “knows farm problems at first hand.”

Once settled that Keyes would write a monthly column, she and Bigelow discussed audience, content, and their aims for the column.[97] They made a deliberate choice to fashion each column as a letter to a friend in an effort to make it seem less politically controversial and more informational. “Your suggestion that the political letters be written to a friend is the best one yet,” Bigelow wrote Keyes, “particularly since the friend you have in mind is a woman who ‘thinks and reads a good deal and is vitally interested in just this sort of thing—a woman who is now a farmer’s wife but who grew up in Boston.’ That seems to be an ideal combination.”[98]

In her first “Letters From a Senator’s Wife,” which appeared in the March 1921 issue, Keyes explained how her participation in the lobbying effort for Sheppard-Towner had changed her political ideas.[99] “You know I never sought nor desired the right to vote,” she wrote, “that I felt formally that the ballot for women would bring only doubtful blessings in its train. But if it will bring passage of bills like this—and it has—I am willing—I am glad—to confess that I was mistaken in the judgment I pronounced.”[100]

According to one account, “Letters from a Senator’s Wife” increased Good Housekeeping’s circulation by about 100,000 readers.[101] Keyes’s columns of the early 1920s described the social-political life in Washington and bills before Congress. They celebrated women’s individual and collective achievements and brought attention to ongoing efforts for a child labor amendment (which Keyes supported) and the equal rights amendment (which she opposed). She reported on the Conference on Limitation of Armaments, the Pan-American Conference of Women, and the meetings of the Cause and Cure of War.[102] She discussed marriage, motherhood, and her own and other women’s illnesses. Fortitude, self-reliance, and persistence were key words in her articles.

In June 1923, Keyes announced to Good Housekeeping’s readers she would be traveling to Rome for the Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and in August readers were able to read not only about the conference but also about her interviews with Benito and Rachele Mussolini.[103] Benito Mussolini, who had become Italy’s Fascist leader the previous November, was reluctant to grant interviews to foreign correspondents but, through her political connections, Keyes was able to gain access to the dictator, and she wrote positively about his leadership and family. The interviews were, she later wrote, her “first scoop” and when she returned home she took another step forward in her career when Bigelow appointed her as one of Good Housekeeping’s associate editors.[104]

Successful as a journalist, the money Keyes earned paid for expenses at Pine Grove Farm, doctors’ bills, private school tuitions, and the duties that went with being a senator’s wife. It reinforced Keyes’s confidence that that she could balance her duties as a mother, senator’s wife, and writer.[105] It also created a public relations problem. In the fall of 1921, a newspaper article reported that “Earnings of Senator Keyes’ Wife, Noted Author, Exceed Her Husband’s In Washington.”[106] Whether or not this was true, it was not the kind of publicity that Keyes needed or probably wanted. In All Flags Flying, she relates that during this time Harry told her that “it would be more helpful” if she “were strong enough to do the washing and save money that way, instead of trying to earn it by writing.” She was “deeply hurt” but tried to be sympathetic, believing that Harry missed New Hampshire and the farm; he was not happy in Washington, where sports were played for money and politics seemed too progressive.[107] More and more, Frances and Harry went their separate ways.


During congressional terms, Keyes was in Washington, and in the summers she went to the farm in New Hampshire and visited with family in Vermont. She continued writing her novels and meeting magazine deadlines. Her journalism took her deep into the politics of Washington, but she wanted to expand her horizons. She began discussing with Bigelow the possibility of making a round-the-world trip and reporting on her experiences in her monthly column. Her desire to travel was not just wanderlust. It stemmed from her experiences covering international conferences, interviewing foreign leaders, and listening to political debates.

In May 1925, newspaper reports announced Keyes was about to take a year-and-a-half “Round-the-World Swing.”[108] It was an expensive undertaking and even though Good Housekeeping would be paying her expenses, as well as her son Henry’s, and providing her with remuneration for her articles, Keyes still had to make an initial financial investment in the trip. In April, Keyes told Bigelow that she had run out of funds to pay for what was needed in preparation for the trip and asked him to assist her in buying a new watch and trunk.[109] To raise more funds for her trip, Keyes contracted with Better Homes and Gardens magazine to write a monthly column called “Homes of Outstanding American Women.” She wrote almost all of her columns, featuring notable women such as Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt, politician Ruth Hanna McCormick, and writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher, before she left the country.[110]

The correspondence between Keyes and Bigelow provides a behind-the-scenes picture of her travels, which began in Cuba, continued through the Canal Zone, and took her west to Hawaii, Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and Java. Then it was on to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and other countries in Europe.[111] Her articles demonstrate that Keyes was given the grand tour when she arrived in a new destination, but she also visited villages and talked with people from all walks of life whenever possible. She made note of Chinese resentment of European violations of their nation’s sovereignty and discussed the desire of Filipinos to see the end of US colonial rule. During her visit to Italy, she again interviewed Mussolini and again showed her admiration for him. In March 1927, however, she retracted her previous positive comments.

In September 1927, Keyes sailed from Marseilles for New York City on the final leg of her round-the-world voyage. For two years, Keyes had filled the pages of Good Housekeeping with articles that provided readers with an introduction to a world about which many had very little knowledge.[112] But she was not finished with her travels. During the second half of 1929 and first half of 1930, Keyes traveled to Spain, Portugal, and South America with her son John whose photographs accompanied the essays in her first travelogue, Silver Seas and Golden Cities: A Joyous Journey through Latin Lands. In early 1931, Keyes secured Bigelow’s support for an assignment to Europe and the Middle East.[113] It would be the last major global trip Keyes would make on the behalf of Good Housekeeping. The endeavor was not the success she hoped for.

The trip started out well enough. Accompanied by her son Peter, Keyes sailed for Paris with an itinerary that included stops in Norway, Germany, France and the Middle East. While she was in Brittany, delayed communications from Bigelow prevented Keyes from securing the confirmation she needed to begin the second leg of her tour. Then, when she finally arrived in Beirut in November, she became seriously ill because of inoculations, and the required medical treatment caused further delays.[114]

Keyes then came into conflict with Bigelow about the article she planned to write about her observations of the Persian Empire.[115] Bigelow “had conjured up a mental image of Persia, which had absolutely no relation to the place it is, but he could not be swerved from the contemplation of this image,” Keyes wrote a friend.[116] A keen observer of her surroundings, Keyes aimed for precision and sincerity in her work; that was the pledge she had made to herself when her first novel had been published in 1919.[117] Bigelow and Keyes were unable to reconcile and the article on Persia was not published. Keyes’s final travel article, “Irack, The Land Amid the Rivers,” appeared in July 1932, and, after this juncture, her articles began to appear less frequently in the pages of Good Housekeeping.

Throughout the 1920s Keyes continued to work on writing novels and in 1928 signed a contract with Horace Liveright, Inc. that she described as “not only just but generous.”[118] The first novel published by Liveright was Queen Anne’s Lace, which had already been rejected by Houghton Mifflin. The next year, Liveright published Lady Blanche Farm, eleven years after Houghton Mifflin had rejected that as well, and then Senator Marlowe’s Daughter. This last book helped establish Keyes as a bestselling novelist of international renown, but not before it was drawn into a crisis that threatened her business relationships and altered the trajectory of her writing career.

Although 1928 had been a year of record sales, success was short lived for Liveright. Horace Liveright, whose lavish spending strained his company’s resources, was devastated by the stock market crash and by spring 1933 was near bankruptcy.[119] The timing could not have been more inopportune for Keyes. In January 1933 she had signed a contract offering Liveright the rights to Senator Marlowe’s Daughter, and at the end of March she submitted her completed manuscript to Julian Messner, a vice president of the publishing house who had become a close personal friend while they had worked together editing her manuscripts.[120] Not one month later, a rival publisher informed Keyes of “conflicting rumors” about Liveright’s solvency.[121] Although royalties for works published by Liveright had not been paid in over a year, Keyes had looked the other way because of the support from the firm in general and from Messner in particular. Worse still, no advance had been paid to Keyes upon the signing of the contract for her new work but instead was to be remitted to her at the time of publication.[122] Keyes had made a serious business misstep, one she had vowed never to do again after her wretched early experience with Houghton Mifflin. The manuscript was no longer in her possession, and there was a possibility that she would never receive compensation for it and the work would never be published.

The loss of Senator Marlowe’s Daughter would have been a disastrous setback for Keyes who was, as always, facing large bills. Fortunately, with Messner’s help, the manuscript was restored to her possession. Yet Liveright’s bankruptcy caused great and lasting distress for Keyes, who later wrote, “I would rather never have another book published as long as I live than ever go through such an experience again.”[123] As Keyes weighed her options in selecting her next publisher, she remained faithful to the business relationship she had established with Julian Messner. Keyes wrote to her son Peter that Messner “has been very good to me, and I cannot abandon him so long as there is the possibility that he will go on publishing.”[124] When Messner established his own firm, Keyes committed to working with him and established a professional alliance that would last for more than two decades.[125] This loyalty reveals much about Keyes’s character and her commitment to a process of reciprocity that advantaged both parties.

With the Liveright business settled, Keyes set sail for Europe to research The Great Tradition, a sequel to Senator Marlowe’s Daughter, and gather material for the prestigious annual address of the National Geographic Society which she had been invited to deliver.[126] During her travels through Berlin, Keyes came into contact with the Carl Schurz Vereinigung (Carl Schurz Society), which was founded in 1926 to further German-American friendship.[127] Bettering relations between Germany and the United States was a cause that Keyes had taken up when she wrote about her 1931 trip to Germany in Good Housekeeping. The task of contextualizing the political and economic “chaos” of Weimar Germany would be left to experts, she stated. She wanted instead to provide her readers with “a better comprehension of a place and a people from whom we have become estranged and concerning whom we lack both sympathetic and intelligent information.”[128]

Much had changed when Keyes returned to Germany in the fall of 1933. Germany was no longer a parliamentary democracy, Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor), and measures had been enacted to persecute marginalized groups, including Jews and political opponents.[129] Keyes appears to have avoided behavior that might have been perceived as an endorsement of the new regime.[130] When Keyes finally spoke before her audience at Constitution Hall on behalf of the National Geographic Society in January 1934, she praised Germany as a “greater country,” a country more unified, and where “one feels that they are on the way to a period of growth and revival.” Keyes also expressed the hope that “her lecture would promote better understanding between the American and German people.”[131]

Keyes made two additional trips to Germany. In 1937, she was commissioned by the Federal Housing Administration to write a report on German housing conditions.[132] In 1938, she returned to gather more material for The Great Tradition.[133] This trip was more productive than she imagined, and she arrived home with “40,000 words” and “a wealth of colorful impressions.” She also had the opportunity to visit the Tenth Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg where she “had a ring-side seat at the most exciting event in recent times.”[134] The Great Tradition was finally released in November 1939. The reviewer for the Washington Post called it “the best fiction yet to come from Mrs. Keyes’s prolific pen.”[135]

Between 1931 and 1939, Keyes faced great personal changes. Harry Keyes died in June 1938, and her mother, in October 1939.[136] The growing independence of her sons decreased her sphere of family responsibilities. Keyes began participating in organizational work with like-minded women. As a “most distinguished” member of the Women’s National Press Club, Keyes, through its annual “stunt parties,” pilloried political life in Washington. Developing a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt,[137] she was invited to social gatherings and occasionally to intimate teas hosted at the White House.[138] When Roosevelt had visited Keyes in 1934, she took note of the ways in which the author made the most of her foreign travels. Writing to Lorena Hickock, Roosevelt remarked, “Mrs. K. has some nice collections of maps, crucifixes, fans, & dolls in foreign costume & for her lecture she has the real costumes displayed on mannikens [sic], rather clever, it makes your trips pay. We must use our brains to do what we want & make it pay for itself!”[139]

In 1937 Keyes accepted a position as editor of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s National Historical Magazine and sought to broaden the publication’s appeal. “The time has passed when people can be asked to subscribe to a magazine from a sense of duty,” Keyes stated. She wanted it to be important “from the standpoint of history as the National Geographic is from that of geography” and believed articles by prominent writers would make it “less stiff and less glazed.”[140] After Keyes published an article by Eleanor Roosevelt, the DAR leadership admonished her for her deference to a woman “who with her husband is doing her best to ruin and destroy our country and who are enemies of all the D.A.R. hold sacred.”[141] In December 1939 Keyes stated that she could no longer effectively navigate around “certain obstacles and restrictions” that inhibited her work and resigned both her position as editor and her DAR membership.[142]

Subsequent reports suggested that Keyes was unhappy with the budget allotted to her for the magazine. Concerns over the pay of her staff were also cited as deciding factors; Keyes allegedly “tried time and time again to get more money for the girls who worked in [her] office.”[143] Support for women with whom she worked, and advocacy for their fair compensation, would have been a characteristic response by Keyes, who had long promoted the work of women colleagues.[144]

However, Keyes also alluded to other grounds for severing her association with the DAR. In her resignation letter, Keyes wrote, “I would not be sincere as an individual if I did not admit that I am not in accord with certain policies and actions which seem to be in variance with activities and aims for which I long had so much respect.”[145] Keyes wrote that she had first wanted to step-down in April. The timing of this consideration coincided with Marian Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939. Anderson, an acclaimed African-American singer, had been denied permission to perform at the DAR’s Constitution Hall in February. This prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to renounce her DAR affiliation. Roosevelt stated that the “question is, if you belong to an organization and disapprove of an action that is typical of a policy, should you resign or is it better to work for a changed point of view from within the organization?” Roosevelt concluded that “to remain a member implies approval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.”[146] Whether Keyes was similarly inspired in her decision to leave the organization remains unclear. However, an article published on December 23, 1939, in the Afro American, reveals that there were some who linked Keyes’s resignation to the unjust treatment of Marian Anderson. Under the heading, “Another Good Woman Leaves the D.A.R.,” the author suggests that Keyes was among those “democratic and liberal-minded women who find the D.A.R. atmosphere objectionable.”[147]

In 1945, when Keyes turned sixty, she began living part of each year in New Orleans at the historic Beauregard House which she immediately began renovating. Among the changes she made was the installation of a garden fountain that she had shipped from Wells River, Vermont.[148] Another significant change in this era was her conversion to Catholicism. She had been exploring Catholicism for many years and wrote a number of articles and stories about Catholic saints. The most famous is Bernadette, Maid of Lourdes, which was republished under a number of different titles.

As she aged, traveling became harder for Keyes, but she continued to make her seasonal journeys between New England and New Orleans. In 1958, she began to use a wheelchair. Franklin Roosevelt, she said, was an “inspiration” to her.[149] She collected honors, entered into contracts for translations of her works, and responded positively to those who approached her to engage in new writing ventures. Doubleday brought out The Frances Parkinson Keyes Cookbook.[150] In 1959, Life magazine crowned her one of the three American “Queens of Fiction.” The “Queens,” who also included Edna Ferber and Taylor Caldwell, were “the standard-bearers of the big, old-fashioned novel, the kind that releases onto a variegated landscape swarms of characters who climb, crawl, fight, weep, stagger and triumph through a cavalcade of marriages, infidelities, deaths, grandchildren, earthquakes, whooping coughs and wars.”[151] In June 1968, just a month before she turned eighty-three, Keyes was interviewed while attending a celebration of the publication of her fiftieth book, The Heritage. She was asked how many books she had sold during her career. “I have heard the total put at 50,000,000,” she replied, “but I don’t know.”[152]

Frances Parkinson Keyes died on July 3, 1970 in New Orleans. She was buried in Newbury, Vermont at the Oxbow Cemetery alongside members of her family. As part of her 1918 pledge to do the very best work she could do, Keyes stated: “I would never let even a scrap of paper leave my hands if what I had written on it was not just as good as I could make it—not as good as I should like to make it, of course; not as good as I hoped to make it some day; not as good as what most other writers were doing; but the very best that was in me.”[153] In an interview with Harvey Breit in 1950, Keyes talked about the continuing importance of her “solemn pledge” that she would “never let anything leave my hands that didn’t represent the most sincere and earnest effort of which I am capable. At that time.” She placed an emphasis on the words “at that time,” repeating them in quick succession. “‘At that time,’ Mrs. Keyes continued, ‘because I look back at the things I did and I wonder how they got published.’”[154]

[1] Our research of first editions leads us to conclude that Frances Parkinson Keyes [hereafter FPK] published a total of fifty-five books. This total includes thirty novels and twenty-five non-fiction works but not reprints (she occasionally published the same work under different titles), foreign editions, and translations of her works.

[2] Senator Marlowe’s Daughter (1933) became a bestseller in England in 1935, but Honor Bright (1936) was her first American bestseller. For a study of Keyes’s readers, see Christine Pawley, “A ‘Bouncing Babe,’ a ‘Little Bastard’: Women, Print and the Door-Kewaunee Regional Library, 1950-1952,” in Women in Print: Essays on Print Culture of American Women from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, ed. James P. Danky and Wayne A. Wiegand (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), 208–25. Keyes’s readership is worthy of further study. The Texas journalist Molly Ivins wrote that she read Keyes’s novels found in her local library. Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? (New York: Random House, 2010), xiv. Texas politician Kay Bailey Hutchinson read Keyes in high school and college. See Interview with Kay Bailey Hutchinson, HarperCollins, at

[3] Kirkus Reviews, June 8, 1954; Boston Globe, June 9, 1968. Dinner at Antoine’s sold two and a half million copies by 1968.

[4] FPK, All Flags Flying: The Reminiscences of Frances Parkinson Keyes (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972), 102–3; FPK, The Old Gray Homestead (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919); Ann McKinstry Micou, A Guide to Fiction Set in Vermont (Montpelier: Vermont Humanities Council, 2005). On the original spelling of Keyes, see William F. Whitcher, History of the Town of Haverhill, New Hampshire (n.p.:, 1919), 557.

[5] Robert Wernick, “The Queens of Fiction,” Life, April 6, 1959, 139–52.

[6] Clementine Paddleford, “River Recipes,” Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1946.

[7] Richard M. Roderick, “Crossing the River,” in Haverhill/Newbury 250th Committee, Two Towns: One Community. Haverhill, New Hampshire & Newbury, Vermont, 1763–2013: Souvenir Companion to a Year of Community Celebration, December 31, 2012–December 31, 2013 (North Haverhill, NH: Haverhill/Newbury 250th Committee, 2013), 5–7, the quotation appears on 5.

[8] Carolyn Kolb, “Frances Parkinson Keyes and Crescent Carnival,” Louisiana Cultural Vistas (Fall 2010): 82–91. Deutsch was a writer for the New Orleans Item and other periodicals. See FPK, Author’s Note to Blue Camellia (New York: Messner, 1957). The Keyes-Deutsch correspondence is in the Hermann Bacher Deutsch Papers, Special Collections, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.

[9] Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, Silver Special Collections, University of Vermont Library, Burlington, VT (Hereafter FPK Papers). We would like to thank Chris Burns, Prudence Doherty, Daisy Benson, as well as other faculty and staff at Special Collections, the University of Vermont Library, and the Center for Teaching and Learning for research assistance and guidance. Our original online exhibit can be viewed at

[10] FPK, “The Story of Colonel Thomas Johnson,” Granite Monthly 52 (1920), 316–24; FPK, “The Story of Colonel Thomas Johnson,” Granite Monthly 52 (1920), 355–67. Founded by Henry Harrison Metcalf, the Granite Monthly was considered the New Hampshire “state” magazine . Keyes’s editor was Harlan C. Pearson, Metcalf’s son-in-law. FPK’s correspondence with Pearson is in the FPK Papers. Henry Harrison Metcalf, One Thousand New Hampshire Notables (Concord, NH: Rumford Printing Company, 1919), 548. For more on Thomas Johnson, see Frederic P. Wells, History of Newbury, Vermont, from the Discovery of Coos County to Present Time (St. Johnsbury, VT: Caledonian Company, 1902). The Johnson Family of Newbury Papers, 1775–1886, are on deposit in the Vermont Historical Society, Barre, VT.

[11] FPK, All Flags Flying, 47.

[12] FPK, “Satisfied Reflections of a Semi-Bostonian,” Atlantic Monthly, December 1918, 728–36, quoted on 730.

[13] FPK, “Satisfied Reflections of a Semi-Bostonian,” 730.

[14] FPK, “Frances Parkinson,” Granite Monthly, 3rd Quarterly Issue, 1918, 7. “Alumnae Notes,” The Mount Holyoke, April 1905, 345. At the time, Mt. Holyoke issued certificates of completion not degrees. Grandmother Frances Parkinson Wheeler, born in Columbia, New Hampshire in 1819, was the daughter of Henry Parkinson, a Princeton-trained schoolteacher from Londonderry who taught in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Keyes, “The Story of ‘Master’ Henry Parkinson,” DAR Magazine, March 1920, 150–55.

[15] Alonzo H. Quint, et. al., eds., “Rev. Melancthon Gilbert Wheeler,” Congregational Quarterly (Boston: Congregational Rooms, 1870), 409–14; Triennial Catalogue of the Theological Seminary, Andover, Massachusetts, 1870 (Andover, MA: Warren F. Draper, 1870); John M. Comstock, The Congregational Churches of Vermont and Their Ministry, 1762–1914 (St. Johnsbury, VT: Caledonian Company, 1915), 183. Melancthon Gilbert Wheeler’s father was Hon. Zadok Wheeler, a side judge in Chittenden County. Journals of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont (Windsor, VT: Alden Spooner, 1814), 54. His mother, Mary Holbrook Wheeler, was the daughter of a Boston schoolteacher. FPK, Roses in December (New York: Doubleday, 1960), 101.

[16] FPK, Roses, 42–43. FPK, “From Your Namesake,” March 1899; letter practicing penmanship, 1892; writing her name, June 1892; FPK to Grandmother Wheeler, May 11, 1895, Box 2, FPK Papers.

[17] A Catalogue of the Doctors of Philosophy and of Science and of the Master of Arts and of Science of Harvard University, 1873-1898 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1898), 23; General Catalogue of Bowdoin College, 1794–1889 (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 1889), 14; Album Des Bonner Kreises: Als Handschrift Gedrucht, 1854–1906 (Bonn, GER: Universität Bonn, 1906), 33–34.

[18] Albert Enoch Pillsbury served as Massachusetts Attorney General, in the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, and was a candidate for governor in 1893. New York Times, December 24, 1930.

[19] The school was founded by Mary Pickard Winsor in 1886.

[20] FPK, Roses, 239. Frances often wrote to her mother about how she felt about her studies. When she did well, she was ecstatic: “I got an A on a theme on Friday though Miss Kinsman declared she wouldn’t give an A.” When she did less than excellent, she was miserable: “I am doing perfectly wretchedly at school and am about wild over it; I only got a B+ on my Algebra exam.” FPK to Mother, January 13, 1901; February 6 and 27, 1901; Box 2, FPK Papers.

[21] FPK, Bryn Mawr Examination, June 1902, and FPK to Mother, June 4, 1902, Box 2, FPK Papers.

[22] FPK to Mother, October 31, 1900; January 31, 1901; 13 and February 24, 1901,Box 2, FPK Papers.

[23] Henry Wilder Keyes [Hereafter HWK] to FPK, October 15, 1902, Box 1, FPK Papers. Mary Winsor wrote to Keyes to thank her for keeping her engagement a secret while she was still at school. Mary Winsor to FPK, n.d., Box 1, FPK Papers.

[24] Henry Keyes was a large stockholder and president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad from 1869 until his death in 1870. For background see Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011).

[25] FPK, “Moses Dow, Citizen of Haverhill,” Granite Monthly, 3rd Quarterly Issue, 1918, 141–44.

[26] FPK, “Moses Dow,” 142. Keyes states her information is from “The History of the Town of Newbury,” which may refer to Wells, History of Newbury, Vermont, a source she credits in her Granite Monthly article on Thomas Johnson. Wells writes that Dow bought his piano for his daughters before 1819 and David Johnson bought a piano for his daughters about 1834 (346).

[27] FPK, “Moses Dow,” 142.

[28] Ellery A. Hibbard, “Joseph Bell, A Biographical Sketch,” Proceedings of the Grafton and Coos County Bar Association, New Hampshire At Its Annual Meeting Held at Plymouth, January 29, 1892 (no place: Grafton and Coos County Bar Association, 1892), 285–96, quoted on 287; Rev. J. Q. (John Quincy) Bittinger, History of Haverhill, N.H. (Haverhill, NH: Cohos Steam Press, 1888), 263; Arthur Livermore, Seventy Years Ago: Reminiscences of Haverhill Corner (Woodsville, NH: News Print, 1902), 9–12.

[29] Henry H. Metcalf, ed., One Thousand New Hampshire Notables (Concord, NH: Rumford Printing Company, 1919), 211; Harlan C. Pearson, “Official New Hampshire, 1919–1920,” Granite Monthly (January 1919), 14–26; Nancy Capace, Encyclopedia of New Hampshire (Santa Barbara, CA: Somerset Publishers, 2000), 131–32.

[30] FPK to HWK [1903], Box 1; FPK to Mother, August 23 and October 22 1902, Box 2, FPK Papers.

[31] FPK, Roses, 169.

[32] Louise Pillsbury to Fannie Hill, October 13, 1895 with enclosure, FPK to St. Nicholas Magazine, [August 16, 1895], Box 2, FPK Papers.

[33] Mother to FPK, September 29, 1895; FPK to Mother, [189?], Box 2; “The Girl That Was Not Pretty,” [189?]; “A Mathematical Love Story,” [late 1890s]; “The Girl that Elizabeth Drew,” [late 1890s]; “Description of a Young Girl at the Piano,” 1902; “The Queen on her Coronation Day,” 1902, Box 5, FPK Papers.

[34] FPK, Roses, 169–72.

[35] Maud McDougall, “Woman Who Couldn’t Hide Under a Basket,” Oregonian, August 29, 1920.

[36] FPK, All Flags Flying, 53, 135, 140. By focusing on the attic as a place for writing, Keyes was appropriating the Romantic idea of solitary and misunderstood geniuses forced to forge their own paths toward intellectual enlightenment and fulfillment. See Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (New York: Pantheon Books, 2008).

[37] McDougall, “Woman Who Couldn’t Hide.”

[38] McDougall, “Woman Who Couldn’t Hide”; FPK, All Flags Flying, 99. Unable to find an extant copy of The Chronicle, our research is based on other sources. See Catalogue of Copyright Entries (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917), 1503.

[39] Grace Darling Seibold, who lost a son in World War I, established the American Gold Star Mothers in 1928. In an interview, Keyes stated that she did “not claim to have originated the idea of the gold star for mothers,” but no one suggested it to her. It “seems to have started in several different parts of the country at once.” McDougall, “Woman Who Couldn’t Hide.” On the earlier suggestion of a gold star see Issues and Events: American Liberal Review, September 1, 1917: which explained that a “trade paper advises our women not to wear mourning for patriotic as well as economic reasons.” See also “Mourning in Wartime,” Colorado Springs Gazette, December 10, 1917, a reprint of an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

[40] FPK, All Flags Flying, 99–00.

[41] See for example Keyes’s “Bibliography Journal” for 1902 and 1903, Box 5, FPK Papers. She mentions other texts throughout her writings.

[42] FPK, All Flags Flying, 75–76, 88–89.

[43] FPK, All Flags Flying, 102, 141.

[44] Keyes submitted two earlier manuscripts, The Sequel and The Shield of Faith, to Houghton Mifflin. Both were turned down. Houghton Mifflin to FPK, April 8, and July 22, 1918, Box 4, FPK Papers. FPK, All Flags Flying, 101. “The Sequel” was published as a serial in Granite Monthly in 1919 and “The Shield of Faith” appeared in the Atlantic in February 1921.

[45] FPK, All Flags Flying, 103.

[46] FPK, Roses, 57.

[47] FPK, Roses, 147–48.

[48] FPK, Roses, 64.

[49] Anonymous [Nancy Johnson], Letters from a Sick Room (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1845). For a discussion of this text and background on the culture of invalidism, see Maria H. Frawley, Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

[50] Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catherine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973), 195.

[51] Anonymous [Nancy Johnson], Little Things (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1845); Anonymous [Nancy Johnson], Simple Sketches (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1846).

[52] Sklar, Catherine Beecher, 197.

[53] Minnie Myrtle [Nancy Johnson], Myrtle Wreath, Or Stray Leaves Recalled (New York: Charles Scribner, 1854), and The Iroquois, Or the Bright Side of Indian Character (New York: D. Appleton, 1855). This Minnie Myrtle is not to be confused with Theresa Dyer Miller, the wife of Joaquin (C.H.) Miller, who also wrote under this name.

[54] The title of her column was “Letters from Over the Sea.” New York Times, June 29, 1857; 7, 8, 11, and July 13, 1857. Her European experiences also led to the publications of Peasant Life in Germany (New York: Charles Scribner, 1859) and Cottages of the Alps, or Life and Manners in Switzerland (New York: Charles Scribner, 1860). For the larger context of transatlantic women writers, see Beth L. Lueck et al., eds., Transatlantic Women: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Great Britain (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2012). For women foreign correspondents, see Giovanna Dell’Orto, Giving Meaning to the World: The First U.S. Foreign Correspondents, 1838-1859 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002).

[55] Wells, History of Newbury, Vermont, 595.

[56] FPK to Edna Hale, October 3, 1923, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[57] FPK to Edna Hale, October 3, 1923, October 15, 1924, May 1, 1925, October 27, 1927, January 30, 1934, June 14, 1934, and March 30, 1935, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[58] FPK, “My Aunt Nancy: A ‘Lady Journalist’ of the ‘Timid Fifties,’” National Historical Magazine, August 1939, 14–26.

[59] FPK, Roses, 64–66.

[60] McDougall, “Woman Who Couldn’t Hide.”

[61] On how women authors and editors asserted themselves as professionals see Linda Peterson, Becoming a Woman of Letters: Myths of Authorship and Facts of the Victorian Market (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

[62] FPK, All Flags Flying, vii.

[63] FPK, All Flags Flying, 139.

[64] R. N. Linscott to FPK, March 4 and 15, 1919, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[65] R. N. Linscott to FPK, May 9, 1919, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[66] Ferris Greenslet to FPK, July 9, 1919, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[67] Ferris Greenslet to FPK, October 27, 1919; R. N. Linscott to FPK, October 31, 1919; Box 4, FPK Papers. F. A. Stokes published The Career of David Noble in August 1921, and Lady Blanche Farm appeared in 1931 with the firm of Horace Liveright.

[68] “Memorandum, R. N. Linscott to B. H. Ticknor, Riverside Press,” July 16, 1919, Box 4, FPK Papers. The Riverside Press was the printing arm of Houghton Mifflin.

[69] Linscott did offer an apology. R. N. Linscott to FPK, November 8, 1919, Box 4, FPK Papers; FPK, All Flags Flying, 141.

[70] Edward Miller and Frederic P. Wells, History of Ryegate, Vermont (St. Johnsbury, VT: Caledonian, 1913), 384–85.

[71] Whitelaw became the second surveyor-general of Vermont. Ian C. Graham, Colonists from Scotland: Emigration to North America, 1707–1783 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1956), 29–32.

[72] Barbara De Wolfe, ed., Discoveries of America: Personal Accounts of British Immigrants to North America During the Revolutionary Era (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 96.

[73] Joy Leland Michelson, “Who Was Indian Joe?” in Haverhill/Newbury 250th Committee, Two Towns: One Community. Haverhill, New Hampshire & Newbury, Vermont, 1763–2013: Souvenir Companion to a Year of Community Celebration, December 31, 2012–December 31, 2013 (North Haverhill, NH: Haverhill/Newbury 250th Committee, 2013), 37–41.

[74] FPK to Evangeline Greer, December 7, 1933; FPK to Earl Greer, January 28, 1936, Box 1, FPK Papers. After the publication of The Safe Bridge, Keyes provided monetary compensation to Eva Greer and, after her death, to her sons for providing the documents that gave shape to her story.

[75] Joseph A. Conforti, Imagining New England: Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

[76] For the larger public discussion of this issue, see Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). When he became Senator-elect, Harry Keyes came out in favor of woman suffrage. New York Times, May 16, 1919.

[77] FPK, “On the Fence,” Atlantic Monthly, February 1920, reprinted in Youth and the New World: Essays from the Atlantic Monthly, ed. Ralph Phillip Boas (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921), 253–69.

[78] New York Times, May 25, 1919. Keyes also garnered press attention when she received an honorary doctoral degree from George Washington University. “Honor Bestowed on Miss French,” Idaho Statesman, April 27, 1921.

[79] See “History: Pen Women Then and Now,” National League of American Pen Women,; FPK, All Flags Flying, 134; C. Mitchel Taliaferro, “Women and the Power of the Pen,” The Trend: A Bulletin of Current History and Letters (Philadelphia), September 21, 1922, 287.

[80] FPK, All Flags Flying, 152–53.

[81] Robert Van Gelder, “Books of the Times,” New York Times, June 17, 1937.

[82] “Explain Infancy Bill to City Club,” Washington Post, December 9, 1920.

[83] New York Times, August 18, 1921.

[84] For general background on the WJCC, see Jan Doolittle Wilson, The Women’s Joint Congressional Committee and the Politics of Maternalism, 1920-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007). On the NLWV, see Louise M. Young, In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920–1970 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989); Susan Ware, “Introduction,” Papers of the League of Women Voters, 1918-1974, Part III, Series A, National Office Subject Files, 1920–1932, ed. Anne Firor Scott and William Chafe (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1986).

[85] Charles Selden, “The Most Powerful Lobby in Washington,” Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1922, 5, 93–96.

[86] W. F. Bigelow to FPK, March 18, 1920, Box 3, FPK Papers. Good Housekeeping was one of the “Big Six” women’s magazines of the era and under Bigelow’s tenure from 1913 until 1942; it advocated for women’s education, the expansion of their occupational opportunities, and legislation to make workplaces and homes safer and healthier. Other “Big Six” magazines were Ladies’ Home Journal, Delineator, Pictorial Review, Woman’s Home Companion, and McCall’s. Bigelow moved to Good Housekeeping, which was owned by the Hearst Company, from Cosmopolitan, also owned by Hearst, in 1911. Jennifer Burek Pierce, “Science, Advocacy, and ‘The Sacred and Intimate Things of Life’: Representing Motherhood as a Progressive Era Cause in Women’s Magazines,” American Periodicals 18 (2008): 69–95; Marjorie and Donald L. Hinds, Magazine Magic (Laceyville, Pa.: Messenger Book, 1972); Nancy A. Walker, Shaping Our Mothers’ World: American Women’s Magazines (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2000); Mary Ellen Zuckerman, A History of Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States, 1792–1995 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998).

[87] J. Stanley Lemons, “The Sheppard-Towner Act: Progressivism in the 1920s,” Journal of American History 55 (1969): 776–86; J. Stanley Lemons, The Woman Citizen: Social Feminism in the 1920s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973).

[88] Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).

[89] Bigelow to FPK, March 22, 1920, Box 3, FPK Papers.

[90] William Frederick Bigelow, “What the Editor Has to Say,” Good Housekeeping, March 1920.

[91] Bigelow to FPK, March 25, 1920, Box 3, FPK Papers.

[92] S. 3259, 66th Cong., 2nd Sess., Senate Hearing, May 12, 1920, printed as US Senate, Protection of Maternity and Public Health, Hearing before the Committee on Public Health and Quarantine, Statement of Mrs. Keyes (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1920), 22–25. See also Woman Citizen, May 22, 1920, 1290.

[93] H.R. 10925, 66th Cong., 3rd Sess., Senate Hearing, December 20–23, 28–29, 1920, printed as Public Protection of Maternity and Infancy, Hearings Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the United States House of Representatives, Statement of Mrs. Henry W. Keyes of New Hampshire (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1921), 43–48. For background see Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Molly Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).

[94] Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, 1890–1935 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 94.

[95] Public Protection of Maternity and Infancy, Hearings Before .  .  .   the House of Representatives, Statement of Mrs. Henry W. Keyes, 43–48.

[96] Keyes later wrote that Maud Wood Park talked with Bigelow after her first congressional appearance and that was thanks to Park that she was “slated as a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping.” FPK, All Flags Flying, 157.

[97] Bigelow to FPK, April 7, 20 November 1920, Box 3, FPK Papers.

[98] Bigelow to FPK, December 1, 1920, Box 3, FPK Papers. Frank Luther Mott stated that Keyes wrote “chatty epistles” but “also occasionally touching upon real issues of government.” A History of American Magazines 5 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968): 134.

[99] Keyes’s first letters were published in book form in 1924. FPK, Letters from a Senator’s Wife (New York: D. Appleton, 1924). Katharine Sprague Alvoord, “Letters from a Senator’s Wife by Frances Parkinson Keyes,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 11 (1924): 437–38.

[100] FPK, All Flags Flying, 166.

[101] Wernick, “The Queens of Fiction,” Life, 139–52.

[102] On the Pan-American Conference, see Marjorie Shuler, “The Women of the Americas Make History,” American Review of Reviews, June 1922, 635–38; Megan Threlkeld, “The Pan American Conference of Women, 1922: Successful Suffragists Turn to International Relations,” Diplomatic History 31 (2007): 801–28.

[103] International Woman Suffrage Alliance, Report of Ninth Congress, Rome, Italy, May 12th to 19th, 1923 (Dresden, GER: B. G. Teubner, 1923), available online in Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin, eds., Women and Social Movements, International—1840 to Present.

[104] FPK, All Flags Flying, 229.

[105] That confidence was first evident after she received the check for “On the Fence.” That money, she later wrote, prevented her from believing that her duties as a political spouse, “rather than further efforts to become a real writer,” ought to be her “greatest concern.” FPK, All Flags Flying, 141.

[106] Bisbee (Arizona) Daily Review, October 1, 1921.

[107] FPK, All Flags Flying, 135–36. Ironically, sometime in the early 1920s, Keyes appeared in an article in The Saturday Evening Post, “The Road to High Adventure: A Talk with Mothers by Frances Parkinson Keyes,” which was “published on behalf of the Laundry Industry of the American Laundry Machinery Company, Executive Offices, Cincinnati, Ohio.”

[108] Boston Daily Globe, May 17, 1925.

[109] FPK to Bigelow, April 14, 1925, Box 3, FPK Papers.

[110] The first, “Homes of Outstanding American Women,” with Mrs. Alfred J. Brosseau of the DAR, ran in August 1927.

[111] “Tentative Itinerary for World Trip,” n.d., Box 4, FPK Papers.

[112] The articles are available in full on Cornell University’s website, “The Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, History,” at

[113] FPK to Peter Keyes, March 5 1931, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[114] FPK to Peter Keyes, October 3, 1931; November 1 and 12, 1931, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[115] Bigelow to FPK, January 29, and February 11, 1932, Box 3, FPK Papers.

[116] FPK to Mary Jordan, February 20, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[117] FPK All Flags Flying, 103.

[118] Henry Keye Jr. to FPK, June 26, 1928; FPK to Julian Messner, April 15, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[119] Thomas Dardis, Firebrand: The Live of Horace Liveright (New York: Random House, 1995), xvi.

[120] Publishing Contract, January 6, 1933; Julian Messner to FPK, March 25, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[121] FPK to Julian Messner, April 25, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[122] FPK to Peter Keyes, April 30, 1933, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[123] FPK to T. M. Smith, June 14, 1934, Box 4, FPK Papers. Keyes was responding to Smith, who had resuscitated the Liveright Publishing Corporation and was courting her for future projects should she be “unhappy” with Julian Messner. Liveright Publishing was bought by W. W. Norton in 1974.

[124] FPK to Peter Keyes, April 30, 1933, Box 1, FPK Papers.

[125] FPK to Julian Messner, July 8, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers. On the establishment of the Messner publishing house see “Book and Authors,” New York Times, September 17, 1933. For obituaries of Julian Messner and Kathryn G. Messner, who succeeded him as president of the Julian Messner, Inc., see New York Times, February 9, 1948 and August 5, 1964. Kathryn Messner’s publishing coup was the publication of the sensational and controversial Peyton Place by Grace Metalious in 1956.

[126] FPK to Julian Messner, June 8, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[127] C. E. Carpenter, “A Delawarean in Naziland,” Delmarva Star, February 17, 1935; Rennie Brantz, “German-American Friendship: The Carl Schurz Vereinigung, 1926–1946,” International History Review 11 (1989): 229–51.

[128] FPK, “Discovery and Rediscovery,” Good Housekeeping, January 1932, 42.

[129] Keyes had become aware of the Nazi regime’s measures prior to her journey. She had received an urgent telegram from Günther Reinhardt; “WOULD LIKE TO ASK YOU A GREAT FAVOR—HAVE HAD TREMENDOUS WORRIES OF FAMILY’S SAFETY,” the telegram read. Reinhardt, a New-York based publishing contact, was a German-Jewish émigré whose prominent and accomplished family in Germany had been dismissed from their positions, and their assets frozen following the introduction of the discriminatory April Laws. Although only acquaintances, Reinhardt hoped that Keyes, the wife of an American senator, might have enough influence with American officials who could assist his loved ones who were among the early victims of Nazi persecution. Gunther Reinhardt to FPK, April  25, 1933, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[130] After false reports were circulated in the Washington press that Keyes was to interview Hitler, she contacted the Carl Schurz Society to address the “confusion.” See Edith Robertson to FPK, November 13, 1933, Box 4; and FPK to E. de Haas, December 25, 1933, Box 1,  in FPK Papers.

[131] “National Youth Feeling Moves German People,” Washington Post, January 26 and 27, 1934.

[132] FPK to E. de Haas, July 6, 1937, Box 1, FPK Papers. It is not clear who asked Keyes to write this report, but it was probably a patronage appointment. For the larger context of women’s involvement in New Deal politics and more specifically how women’s networks recruited women into government positions see Susan Ware, Beyond Suffrage: Women In the New Deal (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).

[133] FPK to Ambassador Hans Dieckoff, June 25, 1937, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[134] Hope Ridings Miller, “Frances Parkinson Keyes Returns from Europe,” Washington Post, October 20, 1938. The 10th Party Congress would be the last Nuremberg Rally. An eleventh rally would be cancelled as a consequence of Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.

[135] Hope Ridings Miller, “A Germanic Galahad,” Washington Post, November 12, 1939.

[136] “Ex-Senator Keyes of New Hampshire,” New York Times, 20 June 1938; “Keyes is Dead,” Washington Post, June 20, 1938.

[137] Who’s Who in Washington (Washington, DC: Consolidated Publishing, 1921), 215–16; “Madame Chairman,” Washington Post, June 30, 1937; “Cocktail Parties to Precede Press Club Fete,” Washington Post, March 2, 1939.

[138] FPK to Peter Keyes, April 30, 1933, Box 1, FPK Papers. Correspondence between FPK and Eleanor Roosevelt is in the Frances Parkinson Keyes Correspondence, VC22638, Manuscripts and Special Collections, New York State Library, Albany, New York.

[139] Eleanor Roosevelt, Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock, ed. Rodger Streitmatter (Boston, MA De Capo Press, 2000), 77, 101.

[140] Jessie Ash Arndt, “Mrs. Reyes [sic] Tells D.A.R. Paper Plans,” Washington Post, October 13, 1937; Christine Sadler, “Mrs. Keyes Takes Post on Magazine,” Washington Post, September 15, 1937.

[141] Anne Tuohy to FPK, March 4, 1938, Box 4, FPK Papers.

[142] “Mrs. Keyes Resigns as Editor of the D.A.R.,” New York Times, December 7, 1939.

[143] “Mrs. Keyes Left D.A.R. Over Funds, Writers,” Washington Post, December 8, 1939.

[144] For examples see FPK’s correspondence with Emily Newell Blair and Eleanor Carroll, both in Box 1, FPK Papers.

[145] “Mrs. Keyes Resigns as Editor of the D.A.R.”

[146] Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, February 27, 1939, available online at the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, George Washington University, The number of DAR members dropped appreciably at this point. See Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, The Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 140.

[147] “Another Good Woman Leaves the D.A.R.,” Afro American, December 23, 1939.

[148] In 1948, Keyes established the Keyes Foundation to ensure the house’s continued preservation. The property is now known as the Beauregard-Keyes House and is a house museum open to the public. Samuel Wilson, Jr., The Beauregard-Keyes House (New Orleans, LA: Keyes Foundation/Laborde Printing, 1993.

[149] Boston Globe, June 9, 1968.

[150] Her honors included honorary doctorates from Bates College and the University of New Hampshire, the Siena Medal as outstanding Catholic woman, and honors from the French and Spanish governments. “Spain to Honor Author Keyes,” Washington Post, October 2, 1958. On cooking articles and books see Ida Lee Dunne, The American Hostess Cookbook (Garden City, NY: Halcyon House, 1948), 36–37; “Earle MacAusland is Dead at 90,” New York Times, June 6, 1980; Charlotte Turgeon, “Of Muffins and Cavier,” New York Times, September 11, 1955.

[151] Wernick, “The Queens of Fiction,” Life, April 6, 1959, 139–52.

[152] Boston Globe, June 9, 1968.

[153] FPK, All Flags Flying, 103.

[154] Quoted in Harvey Breit, “Talk with Mrs. Keyes,” New York Times, December 10, 1950.