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Flint, Margaret (Leavitt)

FLINT, Margaret (Leavitt)

Born 22 December 1891, Orono, Maine; died 27 February 1960, West Baldwin, Maine

Daughter of Walter and Hannah Ellis Leavitt; married Lester W.Jacobs, 1913, children: six

Margaret Flint was educated at Tome Institute in Port Deposit, Maryland, and attended the University of Maine. After raising a family of six children, she began to write at the age of forty-four. Her first novel, The Old Ashburn Place (1936), won the Dodd Mead-Pictorial Review prize for the best first novel of 1935.

During the 1930s there was, as in all times of serious economic depression in America, considerable interest in returning to the land. The times were right for novels about farm life and country values, and thus Flint began her career at a time especially disposed to value her material. All of her novels, except her second, Valley of Decision (1937), concern rural life in the fictional town of Parkston, Maine. Her last published work, Dress Right, Dress! (1943), is not so much a novel as a piece of propaganda, written for the Women's Army Corps, in the form of a recruit's diary.

The Old Ashburn Place is probably Flint's best novel. The hero, Charles Ashburn, a fifty-year-old bachelor, recalls his life as he wonders how it happened that he's lonesome and old. There were six children in his family, and the chronicle of their fortunes makes up this book. At the heart of the plot is Charles's love for a neighboring rich girl, Marian Parks, who of course marries someone in her own class, and his affair with his brother Morris' wife. This novel is a family chronicle seen from the point of view of the least successful of the family, a bachelor who raises Rhode Island Reds and lives by a code set down by his mother (who had been a schoolteacher) that all must be clean and good in his life.

While Flint's novels do not have happily-ever-after endings, they do uphold traditional values: the land, the home, marriage, children. Her best people are solid, responsible types who flirt with other ways but come back to the land. Charles Ashburn, for instance, should have married a woman like himself, but he was attracted to another type and could not compromise. In Deacon's Road (1938), young Eph Squire should marry Lois Ashburn, Charles's niece, but first falls in love with her cousin Shirley Wells, a city girl. He comes to his senses, however, gets the family farm, marries Lois, and thus does not end up like Charles Ashburn.

Two female leading characters, Thurlow Parks in Breakneck Brook (1939) and Judith Squire in Enduring Riches (1942), have to face difficult decisions on whom to marry. Thurlow finally realizes that her childhood sweetheart, Henry Witham, is the man for her; her older, harder sister, a city person, gets the man Thurlow thought she wanted. Judith Squire marries at thirty-four, stays in her rural family home, has children, and, like Charles Ashburn raises chickens, but has a real struggle to manage her impossible, exuberant husband. Flint makes it clear men are expected to be difficult, but a real woman doesn't want a nambypamby man (like the minister who falls in love with Judith).

The land serves as the background for the values of Flint's characters, but her major focus is on individuals coming to terms with what life has brought them. Her novels do not offer the reader escape into pastoral retreats. She takes the country life as it is, and writes about people living it.

Other Works:

Back o' the Mountain (1940). Down the Road a Piece (1941). October Fires (1941).

Bibliography:

NYT (28 Feb. 1960).

—BEVERLY SEATON

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