Douglas, Amanda Minnie

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DOUGLAS, Amanda Minnie

Born 14 July 1831, New York, New York; died 18 July 1916, Newark, New Jersey

Daughter of John N. and Elizabeth Horton Douglas

Amanda Douglas was educated at the City Institute in New York City, and in 1853 moved to Newark, New Jersey, where she spent the rest of her life. At one time she considered a career as a designer and engraver, but illness in her family forced her to remain at home and she began to write for publication. She soon established herself as a prolific author of both short stories and book-length fiction. Her first novel, In Trust, was published in 1866. From then until almost the end of her life, she produced steadily, frequently publishing more than one book a year. She was a member of the New Jersey Woman's Press Club and the Ray Palmer club, a women's literary organization. In 1893 her novel Larry won a prize from Youth's Companion for the year's best piece of fiction for young people.

As an author Douglas developed several commercially successful series, two of which are distinctly juvenile. The Kathie stories, popular in the 1870s and 1880s, concern a "sunshiny" little girl who in a childish way exemplifies popular conceptions of womanly virtue—cheerful industry, love of "home life," and the desire to exert an improving influence on boys about her. The Little Girl books (from A Little Girl in Old New York, 1896, to A Little Girl in Old Pittsburg, 1909) are saccharine tales built around references to local and national history, reflecting the buoyant patriotism of the Teddy Roosevelt era.

The later Helen Grant series (beginning with Helen Grant's Schooldays in 1903) is designed for slightly older girls and offers an idealized version of the "new woman"—Helen is a noble, intelligent girl, universally admired, who educates herself, attends college, chooses a profession, and becomes a teacher. She is interested in politics in a high-minded nonpartisan way, "now that suffrage is an issue," and she finds higher education is no barrier to aesthetic refinement and elegant womanly taste. Douglas' final series, the long-running Sherburne series (beginning with Sherburne House, 1892) projects a conventional domestic romance through several generations in one wealthy family.

Through her novels, Douglas (like her friend Louisa May Alcott in Little Women) often compares life to the "progress" of Christian in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and describes human trials as "burdens" to be borne for their moral instruction. Though never explicitly feminist, Douglas repeatedly enjoins her readers to respect "single women," remembering they too may lead "good and useful lives" and that marriage is not the only career of service for a woman. Her stories, though repetitive and obviously commercial, are lively and well plotted, effectively designed to entertain and instruct.

Other Works:

Stephen Dane (1867). Sydney Adriance (1867). Claudia (1868). With Fate Against Him (1870). Kathie's Stories (1871). Kathie's Summer at Cedarwood (1871). Lucia: Her Problem (1872). Seven Daughters (1874). There's No Place Like Home (1875). Drifted Asunder (1876). Nelly Kinnard's Kingdom (1876). From Hand to Mouth (1878). Hope Mills (1880). Lost in a Great City (1880). Kathie's Aunt Ruth (1883). Kathie's Soldiers (1883). Kathie's Three Wishes (1883). The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (1883). Whom Kathie Married (1883). Floyd Grandon's Honor (1884). Out of the Wreck (1884). A Woman's Inheritance (1886). Foes of Her Household (1887). The Fortunes of the Faradays (1888). In the Ranks (1888). Heroes of the Crusades (1889). Osborne of Arrochar (1890). Bertha Wray's New Name (1893). Lyndell Sherburne (1893). In the King's Country (1894). Sherburne Cousins (1894). A Sherburne Romance (1895). In Wild Rose Time (1895). A Little Girl in Old Washington (1896). The Mistress of Sherburne (1896). The Children at Sherburne House (1897). Hannah Ann (1897). Her Place in the World (1897). A Little Girl in Old Boston (1898). Sherburne Girls (1898). The Heir of Sherburne (1899). Kathie's Harvest Days (1899). A Little Girl in Old Philadelphia (1899). Almost as Good as a Boy (1900). A New "Sherburne" Book (1900). Home Nook (1901). A Little Girl in Old New Orleans (1901). A Question of Silence (1901). A Sherburne Inheritance (1901). A Little Girl in Old Detroit (1902). A Sherburne Quest (1902). How Bessie Kept House (1903). A Little Girl in Old St. Louis (1903). Helen Grant's Friends (1904). Honor Sherburne (1904). A Little Girl in Old Chicago (1904). The Heirs of Bradley House (1905). Helen Grant at Aldred House (1905). A Little Girl in Old San Francisco (1905). An Easter Lily (1906). A Little Girl in Old Quebec (1906). Helen Grant, Senior (1907). A Little Girl in Old Baltimore (1907). In the Sherburne Line (1907). Helen Grant, Graduate (1908). ALittle Girl in Old Salem (1908). Helen Grant, Teacher (1909). Helen Grant's Decision (1910). Helen Grant's Harvest Year (1911). The Red House Children at Grafton (1913). The Red House Children's Year (1915).

Bibliography:

Reference Works:

A Woman of the Century (1893). DAB (1929). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).

Other reference:

Book News Monthly (Sept. 1893, Jan. 1898). On Critical Analysis (video, 1995).

—JANE BENARDETE

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