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Jordan, Kate


Born 23 December 1862, Dublin, Ireland; died 20 June 1926, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey

Daughter of Michael J. and Katherine Jordan; married Frederic M. Vermilye, 1897

Kate Jordan came to New York from Dublin at the age of three, when her professor father accepted a position at an American college. Always imaginative, she told classmates she was born on the high seas in a pirate ship, causing her teacher to warn Jordan's mother that "either she will one day write fiction or she is one of those natural liars to whom truth is unattractive." Jordan's father so successfully converted her to fiction that her first story was published when she was twelve.

Stories like the popular "The Kiss of Gold" (1892) brought Jordan recognition as a short story writer. After her marriage to a New York broker, she continued writing under her own name, producing plays, novels, a long list of stories in popular magazines, and one children's book, The Happifats and the Grouch (1917). A world traveler, Jordan lived for long periods in England and France, joining writers' clubs in London and New York. After her husband died, Jordan, failing in health and unable to finish the novel she had been working on, committed suicide by taking poison.

In A Circle in the Sand (1898), Anne Garrick is a talented woman determined to succeed as a journalist and novelist. Her romantic life is less smooth than her professional life, but she ultimately turns down the man she once wanted to marry (who had fallen for her scheming cousin) and rushes to Brazil to join his half-brother, redeemed from a dissolute life by her faith in him. A Circle in the Sand comments on current feminism when Anne insists that she is not the "new woman," whom she hates, but the "awakened woman," who wants progress but "believes that marrying the man she loves… is the culmination of the purpose for which she was created." Despite melodramatic use of coincidences, Jordan holds her reader with well-drawn scenes, skillfully created characters, and just enough suspense.

Much of Jordan's work involves vast swings of fortune and other fictional staples. In The Next Corner (1921), Jordan develops character more fully than in some of her other work and produces fine local color, but the plot, though engrossing, is full of marvelous coincidence. It includes murder just before an elopement, the devastating effect of war on the wife's attempt at self-support, and her life of dread while awaiting a mysteriously overdue letter.

Jordan's plays were less successful than her novels. Theatre mgazine considered The Masked Woman (1922) "well constructed… save for long and tedious portions of conversation," but Life felt it "might just as well never have been brought out." Among her popular plays, apparently unpublished, were A Luncheon at Nick's (1903), The Pompadour's Protégé (1903), and The Right Road (1911).

The plots of Jordan's novels and stories are melodramatic and manipulative but enhanced by deft characterization, convincing psychological development, and good dramatic sense. The Boston Transcript gracefully described her in 1921 as a "born storyteller who can touch the veriest trifle and turn it out, not a joy forever, but a pleasure in the moment." This summary is still valid.

Other Works:

The Kiss of Gold (1892). The Other House (1892). Time, the Comedian (1905). The Creeping Tides (1913). Against the Winds (1919). Trouble-the-House (1921).


Reference works:


Other references:

Bookman (June 1913).


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