Cuthrell, Faith Baldwin

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CUTHRELL, Faith Baldwin

Born 1 October 1893, New Rochelle, New York; died 18 March 1978, Norwalk, Connecticut

Wrote under: Faith Baldwin, Faith B. Cuthrell

Daughter of Stephen C. and Edith Finch Baldwin; married Hugh H. Cuthrell, 1920

Faith Baldwin Cuthrell spent a fashionable girlhood in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. She could read at three, and at six was writing a drama, "The Deserted Wife." She first published verse in her teens, prose in her twenties. Cuthrell's books, stories, poems, and articles appeared steadily from 1921 to 1977, bringing her enormous popular and financial success. Many of her novels were made into films. She was a founder and faculty member of the Famous Writers School in Westport, Connecticut.

Cuthrell's family history emerges in The American Family (1935), based on her grandfather's diaries. Tobias Condit takes his wife to China in the 1860s to work as a missionary. Their son is sent to America to be educated, returning to China as a doctor. The sequel, The Puritan Strain (1935), centers on Dr. Condit's daughter Elizabeth.

Courtship and marriage with their attendant joys and crises are Cuthrell's favored themes. Her first novel, Mavis of Green Hill (1921), shows the maturation of a childlike bride, once an invalid, into a passionate wife. Something Special (1940) explores the threats to a union of 14 years. Satisfactory resolutions are always brought about. Cuthrell's novels are usually told from the woman's viewpoint and reveal an intimate group of women's problems.

Salient problems are the work women do and its relation to love and marriage. Cuthrell's heroines are secretaries, hostesses, nurses, actresses, real estate brokers. They sell bonds and securities, design dresses, and run beauty salons. White Collar Girl (1933) speaks of the wasted talent of girls from affluent families who stay in their hometowns to wrap up fudge in the Goodie Shoppe. Private Duty (1935) describes the working girl's lot, the long days, the social life crammed into after-hours, the little sleep. Rich girls might work for pleasure: "To be a working girl and socially secure gave one a certain cachet. Working without the social security made all the difference." Career By Proxy (1939) queries whether a wealthy girl ought to work, thus taking employment from one who needs it. In Hotel Hostess (1938), an unsympathetic male supposes women usually work for frivolous reasons, or because they are "exhibitionists."

Conflict between career and marriage is a frequent theme. Cuthrell's suitors and husbands generally regard the woman's work as unnecessary, or inimical to their mutual happiness. Cuthrell writes searchingly of the emotion on both sides. More often Cuthrell's heroines vainly strive to keep both marriage and career going, finally abandoning the career. In Self-Made Woman (1939) the clash is acute, the resolution uneasy. The wife capitulates to her dominant, sexually magnetic husband with "an awareness of defeat."

The West Wind (1962) patiently explores the corrosive effect on a childless marriage of a husband's single casual act of infidelity. The wife, fear-ridden and bitter, forgives her husband daily and thus makes their life impossible. Their spiritual isolation and agony ultimately give way to acceptance.

Cuthrell's nonfiction, following her husband's death, includes the inspirational, semiautobiographical Face Toward the Spring (1956) and Many Windows: Seasons of the Heart (1958).From July 1958 to December 1965 she wrote the monthly feature "The Open Door" for Woman's Day magazine, which she expanded to produce Testament of Trust (1960), Harvest of Hope (1962), Living by Faith (1964), and Evening Star (1966). Reflective and discursive, these "almanac books" follow the year's cycle. Cuthrell shares her thoughts on the seasonal activities and weather, on gardens and rooms, on love, sorrow, books, travel, memories, prayer, and people.

Among Cuthrell's last works are the six Little Oxford novels: Any Village (1971), No Bed of Roses (1973), Time and the Hour (1974), New Girl in Town (1975), Thursday's Child (1976), and Adam's Eden (1977). Seasons are breathtakingly beautiful in this suburban town, a "collage" of Westchester, Connecticut, and Long Island. Life is friendly and comfortable. A cast of characters reappears; new people pass through or settle, usually the heirs, relatives, or friends of the inhabitants. The principal action is the forming of a marriage, or an adjustment to marriage of a sympathetic young pair (maturer lovers marry or remarry offstage), who will in subsequent novels have already started a family and become part of the backdrop for the next set of lovers.

Cuthrell produced highly professional popular fiction, skillfully plotted, swift-paced, and entertaining. She captures the accents of daily speech, from plain talk to breezy dialogue. Her characters are middle-and upper-class Americans, living in Manhattan penthouses, luxurious country estates, and suburban communities. Cuthrell explores matters of concern to women—work, money, love, marriage, motherhood, divorce, dignified age. Her heroines are self-possessed women of mettle, some quietly independent, others spitfires. Individuals, couples, families, and neighbors resolve their difficulties. Cuthrell's inspirational works praise the seasons, the pleasures of books, dwellings, and precious objects, and the importance of solitude and friendship alike.

Other Works:

Laurel of Stonystream (1923). Magic and Mary Rose (1924). Sign Posts (1924). Thresholds (1925). Those Difficult Years (1925). Three Women (1926). Departing Wings (1927). Rosalie's Career (1928). Betty (1928). Alimony (1928). The Incredible Year (1929). Garden Oats (1929). Broadway Interlude (with Achmed Adullah, 1929). Judy: A Story of Divine Corners (1930). Make-Believe (1930). The Office Wife (1930). Babs: A Story of Divine Corners (1931). Skyscraper (1931, film version, 1932). Today's Virtue (1931). Mary Lou: A Story of Divine Corners (1931). Self-Made Woman (1932). Week-End Marriage (with Achmed Adullah, 1932, film version, 1933). Girl on the Make (1932). District Nurse (1932). Myra: A Story of Divine Corners (1932). Beauty (1933, film version, 1933). Love's a Puzzle (1933). Innocent Bystander (1934). Within a Year (1934). Wife vs. Secretary (1934). Honor Bound (1934). The Moon's Our Home (1936, film version, 1936). Men are Such Fools! (1936, film version, 1938). Girls of Divine Corners (1936). Omnibus:Alimony; The Office Wife; Skyscraper (1936). The Heart Has Wings (1937). That Man Is Mine (1937). Twenty-Four Hours a Day (1937). Manhattan Nights (1937). Enchanted Oasis (1938). Rich Girl, Poor Girl (1938). White Magic (1939). Station Wagon Set (1939). The High Road (1939). Letty and the Law (1940). Medical Center (1940). Picnic Adventures (1940). Rehearsal for Love (1940). Temporary Address: Reno (1941). And New Stars Burn (1941). The Heart Remembers (1941). Blue Horizons (1942). Breath of Life (1942). Five Women in Three Novels (1942). The Rest of My Life With You (1942). You Can't Escape (1943). Washington, USA (1943). Change of Heart (1944). He Married a Doctor (1944). Romance Book (1944). A Job for Jenny (1945). Second Romance Book (1945). Arizona Star (1945). No Private Heaven (1946). Woman on Her Way (1946). Give Love the Air (1947). Sleeping Beauty (1947). They Who Love (1948). Marry for Money (1948). The Golden Shoestring (1949). Look Out for Liza (1950). The Whole Armor (1951). The Juniper Tree (1952). Widow's Walk (1954). Three Faces of Love (1957). Blaze of Sunlight (1959). The Lonely Man (1964). There Is a Season (1966). The Velvet Hammer (1969). Take What You Want (1970). One More Time (1972).

Bibliography:

Cooper, P., Faith Baldwin's American Family (1938). Van Gelder, R., "Interview with Faith Baldwin" in Writers and Writing (1946).

Reference Works:

TCA (1942, 1955). CA (1969).

Other reference:

CSM (11 Jan. 1947). Colliers (27 May 1944). Cosmopolitan (Aug. 1959). Good Housekeeping (Oct. 1943). NRTA Journal (Sept.-Oct. 1975). NY Post (2 Sept. 1972). NYT (25 Oct. 1973, 20 March 1978). Pictorial Review (Dec. 1935). Saturday Evening Post (14 March 1936). Saturday Review of Literature (11 April 1936, 29 April 1939). Time (8 July 1935). Writer (May 1940).

—MARCELLE THIÉBAUX

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