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Richmond, Grace (Smith)

RICHMOND, Grace (Smith)

Born 31 March 1866, Pawtucket, Rhode Island; died 26 November 1959, Dunkirk, New York

Daughter of Charles and Catherine Kimball Smith; married Nelson G. Richmond, 1887

The only child of a Baptist clergyman, Grace Richmond was educated at Syracuse High School, New York, and took college work under tutors. Her father published several books on religious themes. After marriage to a physician, Richmond moved to Fredonia, New York, and had four children. In 1924, she was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree from Colby College, Maine.

Richmond began her writing career in the 1890s with short stories in women's magazines. Many of her novels were published in serial form in these magazines, especially Ladies' Home Journal. Richmond's novels upheld current popular ideals; she wrote patriotic war stories when needed, turned out several heartwarming Christmas books, and criticized nothing except dissipation (alcohol, nightclubs, drugs, aimless travel, and social climbing).

The Indifference of Juliet (1905) set the tone for many of Richmond's stories. Juliet Macy, a rich young woman, cannot agree to marry Anthony Robeson, a young man of good family who has to make his own way in the world. He tricks her into marriage by asking her to furnish a little old house he has bought for his California fiancée (nonexistent). Juliet does so, falls in love with the house, and then realizes that she wants to marry Anthony herself. They are an example to other couples: very happy in their charming, inexpensive home, they have a son and, at the end of five years of marriage, are ready to remodel the house. The home itself is at the heart of many of Richmond's novels.

In 1910, Richmond introduced her most popular character, Dr. Red Pepper Burns, the hero of six novels. A surgeon in a small city, Dr. Burns is a redhead with a hot temper and a warm heart. His wife Ellen is the "perfect" woman—motherly, womanly, ladylike, and beautiful. The couple have children, although they play little part in the stories and their sex and number is not consistent from book to book. As Richmond describes this ideal couple, "…no wonder everybody knew or wanted to know the Burnses; their position was of the best, everywhere" (Red of the Redfields, 1924). Red is the manliest of men, capable of sitting up night after night holding the hand of a dying patient.

The plots of most of these books concern some philanthropy or other of his. However, the last of the series, Red Pepper Returns (1931), focuses on the hopeless love of Dr. Max Buller, Red's longtime associate, for Ellen and that of Amy Mathewson, Red's nurse, for Red. Max creeps off to Arizona to die (apparently of exhaustion) while Amy, going blind, confesses her love to Red and is allowed to examine his handsome countenance for the last time under his surgical spotlight. He kisses her goodbye.

The most prevalent theme in Richmond's novels is the making of manly men and womanly women. There are novels with young heroines who think they want to be independent women, until they meet Mr. Right and are content to be homemakers. There are novels in which rich, spoiled young men make something of themselves by getting involved in real work. The making of a home and the raising of a family are the most important goals in life, and Richmond's men and women are in complete agreement on this.

To a reader of Richmond's work today, with some knowledge of American life and culture during the period in which she was writing, Richmond must seem like a woman who has made her daydreams public. But in a spirit of charity, let's say that perhaps Richmond's happy life did seem to her a pattern for others. One can't help but point out, though, that the typical Richmond heroine does not write novels.

Other Works:

The Second Violin (1906). With Juliet in England (1907). Around the Corner in Gay Street (1908). On Christmas Day in the Morning (1908). A Court of Inquiry (1909). On Christmas Day in the Evening (1910). Red Pepper Burns (1910). Strawberry Acres (1911). Brotherly House (1912). Mrs. Red Pepper (1913). Under the Christmas Stars (1913). The Twenty-Fourth of June (1914). Under the Country Sky (1916). The Brown Study (1917). Red Pepper's Patients (1917). The Whistling Mother (1917). The Enlisting Wife (1918). Red and Black (1919). The Bells of St. John's (1920). Foursquare (1922). Rufus (1923). Cherry Square (1926). Lights Up (1927). At the South Gate (1928). The Listening Post (1929). High Fences (1930). Bachelor's Bounty (1932).

Bibliography:

Overton, G., The Women Who Make Our Novels (1922).

—BEVERLY SEATON

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