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Catherwood, Mary Hartwell


Born: December 16, 1847

Ohio connection: Birth

Mary Hartwell Catherwood was born in Luray, Ohio, in 1847. Her parents, Marcus and Phoebe Thompson Hartwell, both died when she was 11, leaving her and two siblings to be raised by grandparents in Hebron, Ohio. She was highly motivated, beginning a career as a schoolteacher at age 14. She also did tutoring, saving money to attend college. She received a B.A. from Granville Female College in 1868. She continued to teach until 1874, after which she turned to a career in writing. She began to move around the country, living in New York, Ohio, and finally in Illinois, where she married James Catherwood in 1877. She became a prolific writer of short stories and novels for both children and adults. Her early books were largely local-color stories from the Great Lakes region. In the 1890s, she turned to romantic historical fiction, a genre that was to become wildly popular. Many of her writings focused on the French in America and their Native American neighbors. Catherwood’s female characters tended to be self-reliant, independent women, a theme that would become more prominent in the literature of the twentieth century. Some of Catherwood’s books are A Woman in Armor, The Dogberry Bunch, Rocky Fork, The Secrets at Roseladies, Old Kaskaskia, The Days of Jeanne d’Arc, Mackinac and Other Stories, Queen of the Swamp and Other Plain Americans, and Lazarre. Mary Hartwell Catherwood died in Chicago on December 26, 1902.