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Hatch, Mary R. Platt

HATCH, Mary R. Platt

Born 19 June 1848, Stratford, New Hampshire; died 28 November 1935, Santa Monica, California

Wrote under: M. R. P. Hatch, Mary R. P. Hatch, Mabel Percy

Daughter of Charles G. and Mary Blake Platt; married Antipas M.Hatch, 1871 (died 1896); children: two sons

Mary R. Platt Hatch was born and raised in the fertile Connecticut River valley of northern New Hampshire. She was educated at home and in the Stratford public schools; at fifteen, she entered advanced classes at the Lancaster Academy. By seventeen, Hatch was publishing widely in various journals and papers, first using the pseudonym Mabel Percy and later using her own name. Marriage, in 1871, transformed Hatch from a farmer's daughter to a farmer's wife. Her busy, demanding life soon included the care of two sons. Still, during the last two decades of the century, Hatch became an increasingly energetic and versatile writer. She published poems, "temperance pieces," essays, and stories of local color about northern New England. In 1892 she and Celia Thaxter edited the New Hampshire section of A Woman of the Century, Frances Willard and Mary A. Livermore's reference work.

The Upland Mystery (1887) was first serialized in the Portland (Maine) Transcript; it is a murder mystery based on fact—the Bugbee arsenic murders of nearby Lancaster. Hatch next wrote The Bank Tragedy (1890), which features a locked-vault murder and a brave heroine/sleuth. The Missing Man (1892), a mystery involving impersonation and e.s.p., proved to be Hatch's most popular novel, but The Strange Disappearance of Eugene Comstocks (1895) is perhaps her most compelling mystery. In the latter the missing bank teller is really a lesbian transvestite and the heroine is a gun-toting adolescent daughter of a Robin Hood-style bandit leader. The work is not only a mystery puzzle but also a fantasy fiction of a decidedly female character. Hatch's The Berkeley Street Mystery, an 1895 serial, was published in book form in 1928.

Hatch's mystery-writing career was influenced by that of Anna Katharine Green, with whom she formed "a strong and enduring friendship" early in life. Hatch dedicated one of her novels to Green and wrote perhaps the finest biographical sketch of her friend in "The Author of The Leavenworth Case " (The Writer, 1888).

After the death of her husband in 1896, Hatch sold the family farm in Northumberland and dedicated herself to the education of her sons and to her writing. She continued to write essays, poems, and short stories for serial publication. In 1905 Hatch published her Gossiping Guide to Dartmouth and to Hanover—Dartmouth being the alma mater of both of her sons.

Hatch later moved to the Boston area, where she became an active and enthusiastic clubwoman. She was a member of the Boston Author's Club—along with women like Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward and Mary Wilkins Freeman—and was one of the founders of the Harvard Woman's Club.

At the age of sixty-three, Hatch went back to college. She attended Radcliffe classes between 1911 and 1913, taking part in Dr. George P. Baker's famous 47 Workshop (a school for playwrights). The first meeting of the Harvard Woman's Club (in June of 1913) featured a presentation of one of Hatch's plays, The Dreamer. Few of her plays were published, but many were performed in Boston and Washington, and several were made into films. One example, Mrs. Bright's Visitor (1927), tells of a woman's capable handling of a potential burglary. During the 1920s, Hatch's civic and publishing activities gradually slackened, and in 1929 she moved to the home of her son, Jared Platt, in Santa Monica, California.

Hatch was a modest writer. Yet the inventiveness with which she approached the mystery story is impressive. And her strong and unusual women characters still have the power to delight feminist readers.

Other Works:

Mademoiselle Vivine (1927).

Bibliography:

Reference works:

AW.

Other references:

Granite Monthly (1889).

—KATHLEEN L. MAIO

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