Banning, Margaret Culkin

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BANNING, Margaret Culkin

Born 18 March 1891, Buffalo, Minnesota; died 4 January 1982

Daughter of William Edgar and Hannah Young Culkin; married Archibald Tanner Banning, 1914 (divorced); LeRoy Salsich, 1944; children: four (two died in early childhood)

Raised in a Roman Catholic family, Margaret Culkin Banning spent most of her life in the Midwest. After graduation from Vassar College in 1912, she moved to Chicago, where she earned a certificate from the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy in 1913. Her first marriage ended in divorce. She gave birth to four children, two of whom died in early childhood. As a popular and financially successful writer, Banning raised her surviving two children alone.

In the 1940s, most of Banning's efforts reflected war issues and she devoted her talents primarily to nonfiction, offering studies of women's participation in war and defense. Her novels reflect both a personal and a social history, as well as most of the major ethical and domestic issues which confront women. Her major characters are women. In her early novels, they face conflicts between marriage and career, social need and personal desire for birth control versus the church's anticontraception stance, and the restrictions of the church on remarriage.

From the mid-1940s on, her most frequent character is a middle-aged Catholic woman who, after an unhappy first marriage, successfully pursues a career and eventually marries her former lover. These circumstances offer Banning latitude to develop a variety of themes: women and work, divorce, fidelity, religious convictions, nature of love, sexuality, birth control, and two of her late favorites: difference of youth and age, and youth in different periods in history. In every novel, Banning explores serious social and personal issues, generally without moral judgements and from a perspective that suggests the complexities of those issues.

In Spellbinders (1922), Banning presents another aspect of the theme: women's participation in political affairs and its influence on sexual relations. The four "spellbinders" are women who undertake to organize other women to participate in politics. She portrays the conflicts of childbirth and Catholicism realistically and presents marriage primarily as an economic necessity for women. Since the 1950s, Banning has returned to earlier themes, investigating their many facets. The Will of Magda Townsend (1973) is a fictionalized autobiography in which all her earlier themes reappear and take on different meanings in the new context of youth in conflict with age.

Banning's fiction spans more than half a century. Taken together, her work presents an accurate picture of middle-class, white American women that serves as a social history.

Other Works:

This Marrying (1920). Half Loaves (1921). Country Club People (1923). A Handmaid of the Lord (1924). The Women of the Family (1926). Pressure (1927). Money of Her Own (1928). Prelude to Love (1929). Mixed Marriage (1930). The Town's Too Small (1931). Path of True Love (1932). The Third Son (1933). The First Woman (1934). The Iron Will (1935). Letters to Susan (1936). You Haven't Changed (1937). The Case for Chastity (1937). Too Young to Marry (1938). Enough to Live On (1939). Out in Society (1940). Salud: A South American Journal (1941). A Week in New York (1941). Letters from England (1942). Women for Defense (1942). Conduct Yourself Accordingly (1944). The Clever Sister (1947). Give Us Our Years (1949). Fallen Away (1951). A New Design for the Defense Decade (1951). The Dowry (1955). The Convert (1957). Echo Answers (1960). The Quality of Mercy (1963). The Vine and the Olive (1964). I Took My Love to the Country (1966). Mesabi (1969). Lifeboat Number Two (1971). The Splendid Torments (1976). Such Interesting People (1979)


Reference Works:

CB (1940). Twentieth Century Authors, First Supplement (1955).

Other reference:

Margaret (1966). Margaret Culkin Banning (film, 1958).


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Banning, Margaret Culkin

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