Biography of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman was born in Randolph, Massachusetts in 1852, and she moved with her family to Brattleboro, Vermont at a young age. She attended the all-women college Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) but only lasted one year. She then returned to her family's home in Vermont, to teach at a local girls' school. Over the ensuing years, Mary began to write, initially publishing poems in children's magazines and then transitioning to adult fiction. During those years, she began to earn a reputation for her work, which supplemented her family's small income. Once her mother and her father died, Mary moved back to Randolph, Massachusetts.

In Randolph, Mary moved in with another Mary: a close friend, Mary Wales. Scholars have speculated that the two women were romantically involved. Either way, Mary Wilkins lived on Mary Wales's family farm for twenty years, which allowed her to spend most of her time writing. Her first major literary success was during these years when Harper Bazaar published her short story "Two Old Lovers" in 1883. An acclaimed collection of stories followed, and "A New England Nun" was published several years later.

This period was interrupted when, at nearly fifty years old, Mary married Charles M. Freeman, a physician-turned-businessman from New Jersey. They had put off their marriage over an engagement period of nine years. When they finally did marry, and Mary moved to New Jersey, the marriage quickly went south. First of all, the move to New Jersey took Mary out of the New England context in which she placed her writing, and thus deprived her of her inspiration. At the same time, Charles's alcoholism quickly became apparent and worsened. Mary supported the couple by continuing to write until Charles was institutionalized and she obtained a legal separation. She continued to live in New Jersey until her death of a heart attack in 1930.

Study Guides on Works by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman