Hamilton, Kate W(aterman)

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HAMILTON, Kate W(aterman)

Born 1841, Schenectady, New York; died 28 November 1934, Bloomington, Illinois

Also wrote under: Fleeta

Daughter of Farwell H. and Ruth A. Cady Hamilton

Kate Waterman Hamilton resided in New Jersey and Massachusetts, although her childhood was spent in Steubenville, Ohio, and she spent much of her life in the Midwest. She began writing at an early age, and her first publications were Sunday school books, the majority of them published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication and written under the pseudonym Fleeta. Unlike many women writers who began as Sunday school writers and then wrote for commercial firms, Hamilton continued to publish works in the 20th century for juvenile readers by the religious publishers, even though she occasionally wrote for commercial companies. Aside from publishing at least 42 books, Hamilton also wrote short stories and poetry for Harper's, Youth's Companion, Hearth and Home, Golden Hour, and St. Nicholas.

Two of Hamilton's best-known works are The Parson's Proxy (1896) and Rachel's Share of the Road (1882). In the former, the new minister from the city, Reverend John Sterling, has a rude introduction to his new parish in the country. After officiating at a wedding in the back hills, he breaks his leg from a fall suffered when a drunken wedding participant, Nate, kicks him down a hill. Nate repents and offers to fill the pulpit while the parson recuperates; Nate's conversion is one aspect of the story.

The most interesting characters in The Parson's Proxy are the minister's sister, Nelson Sterling, and Granny Slocum. Nelson is an intelligent and independent young woman who befriends the country people. She wonders whether her real self is the "morning girl" who made mud pies with the poor children or the "afternoon girl" who dressed in finery. And at the end of the story she chooses to marry the man who says that a woman's sphere is "what she needs to do, wants to do, and can do." Nelson's ideas may be noteworthy, but Granny Slocum is a far more interesting character. Hardly more than a stereotypical country hick at the novel's beginning, she develops into a character of wit and wisdom.

Rachel's Share of the Road presents another woman who is willing to relinquish her wealth and status to help the country people of her town. Rachel is the daughter of the powerful and wealthy railroad magnate, Judge Lyndal. Hamilton emphasizes that unlike her father and her two city cousins, Rachel sees people as individuals rather than as classes. Initially, she convinces her father to hire a man who is responsible for a family and unable to find work. Later she supports a strike (both verbally and financially) at a foundry owned by her father. Rachel's social consciousness is far more interesting than her romance, the outcome of which is certain from the beginning.

Hamilton is a bit of a mystery. Many of her works are currently inaccessible. She wrote primarily for children, and these are precisely the most difficult works to locate. Her adult works were well received, but to today's reader, her attempt to reproduce the vernacular speech of both upper-and lower-class people seems condescending; nonetheless, her characters do emerge as convincing people. Her writings suggest an interesting, but by no means unusual, view of religion; she believes that true spirituality lies in everyone and is best expressed by those furthest from organized religion. Hamilton's scenes depicting those involved in organized religion are often the most humorous or sarcastic passages of the novels. On the other hand, her overt religious messages and the inclusion of quotations (often in conversation) from hymns and scripture make her work badly dated. Hamilton's tendency toward complicated plots with hasty last-chapter resolutions also detracts from her work.

Other Works:

Mina Grey (1863). Frederick Gordon; or, Principle and Interest (1864). Norah Neil; or, The Way by Which He Led Thee (1864). The Old Brown House; or, Mother's Birthday (1865). The Blue Umbrella (1866). The Shadow of the Rock (1866). Brave Heart (1868). Greycliff (1870). Chinks of Clannyford (1872). Robin Hood and Another Hood (1877). We Three (1877). Old Portmanteau (1878). Prue's Pocket Book, and Other Stories (with E. F. Pratt, 1878). The House That Jack Built (1880). General Peg and Her Staff (1880). How the Buttoned Boots Marched (1880). Vagabond and Victor: The Story of David Sheldon (1880). Peg of the Royal Guard (1881). Tangles and Corners in Kezzie Driscoll's Life (1882). Unity Dodge and Her Patterns (1883). Wood, Hay, and Other Stubble (1886). The Royal Service; or, The King's Seal (1887). The Hand with the Keys (1890). Dick and His Cousins (1891). Giving and Keeping (with E. M. Hamilton, 1891). Nellie's Red Book (1891). Tommy and Millie (with E. M. Hamilton, 1891). Two and a Half (1891). What Dolly and Robbie Did (1891). Dr. Lincoln's Children (1892). Billy's Motto (with E. M. Hamilton, 1894). Calendar of the Days (1894). Dolly's Quest (1894). Dot's Christmas (with E. M. Hamilton, 1894). How Billy Helped the Church (with E. M. Hamilton, 1894). In Search of a Fortune (with E. M. Hamilton, 1894). Like a Story (1894). Recitations and Exercises for Children's Day and Other Occasions (1895). How Donald Kept Faith (1900). The Kinkaid Venture (1900). Mother's Day: An Order of Service Arranged (1915). Thanksgiving Ann (n.d.).


Reference works:

A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (1891). NCAB. A Dictionary of North American Authors Deceased before 1950 (1951). Appleton's Cyclopaedia of Bibliography (1900).


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