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Woolson, Constance Fenimore

Cleveland

Born: February 4, 1840

Ohio connection: Former Resident

Constance Fenimore Woolson, daughter of Charles Jarvis and Hannah Cooper Pomeroy Woolson, was born in 1840 in Claremont, New Hampshire. James Fenimore Cooper was her great uncle, which would help open doors to a writing career, as the relationship was considered by publishers to be very significant, especially in England. Not long after her birth, her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she lived until moving to New York City to attend Madame Chegaray’s School, where she graduated at the top of her class in 1858. Woolson began writing in earnest after the death of her father in 1869. She and her mother and sister did a great deal of traveling around the eastern half of the country, spending time in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia. Devastated by her mother’s death in 1879, Woolson left the United States. From 1880 until her death in 1894, she lived in Florence, Venice, Rome, Switzerland, the Black Forest, London, Warwickshire, Cheltenham, and Oxford. She also made trips to Greece and Egypt. Her early writings are focused on life around the Great Lakes region. Nine of the stories are collected in Castle Nowhere: Lake-Country Sketches. Her experiences in northern Ohio and the Great Lakes region, including many summer journeys to Mackinac Island in Michigan, profoundly influenced her work. Fourteen of Woolson’s stories were based on her southern experiences. Ten of the stories are collected in Rodman the Keeper: Southern Sketches. “Old Gardiston” and “King David” are two other stories considered to be among the best of her southern writings. Woolson also wrote numerous stories set in European countries, such as The Front Yard and Other Italian Stories; A Florentine Experiment; and A Transplanted Boy. Suffering from a severe and prolonged attack of influenza, Woolson either jumped or fell to her death from a second story window on January 24, 1894.