Terhune, Mary (Virginia) Hawes

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TERHUNE, Mary (Virginia) Hawes

Born 21 December 1830, Dennisville, Virginia; died 3 June 1922, New York, New York

Wrote under: Marion Harland

Daughter of Samuel P. and Judith Smith Hawes; married Ed-ward P. Terhune, 1856; children: six, three of whom died in childhood

Mary Hawes Terhune was tutored at home and began contributing regularly to Richmond papers at fourteen. She wrote a version of her first published novel at sixteen and had published two very successful novels when she married a Presbyterian minister at twenty-six. She continued to write while she successively moved with her husband to Newark, New Jersey; Spring-field, Massachusetts; and Brooklyn, New York. He assisted her in her work, providing "the first reading and only revision of her manuscripts, before they are given into the hands of the printer." She bore six children, three of whom survived childhood. Daughters Christine Terhune Herrick and Virginia Terhune Van de Water followed their mother as writers on domestic matters, and son Albert Payson Terhune became "the collie's Balzac," an enormously popular author of dog stories.

Alone (1854), the first of Terhune's many novels and her most popular, follows the trials of Ida Ross, who must live "alone" at fifteen after the death of her widowed mother, "a being more than human—scarcely less than divine." The first scene of the book depicts Ida throwing herself upon her mother's coffin as it is lowered into the grave. She must leave her plantation home and live in Richmond with a cynical, worldly guardian who has raised his daughter to be as coldhearted as himself. For a time, under their influence, Ida becomes almost misanthropic, but she blossoms again when she meets the loving and merry Dana family. She finds and loses and finds again her true love, the Reverend Morton Lacy, and they are happily married at the novel's end. Alone depicts life in Richmond and a prewar plantation—slaves are all happy, devoted family "servants." In a closing scene Ida strikes the book's keynote: "A woman is so lonely without a home and friends! They are to us—I do not say to you [men]—necessaries of life."

Many of Terhune's 25 novels and three collections of short stories have the same antebellum Southern background and sentimental message: women can and should be educated and able to support themselves, but their truest position is dependence and their proper sphere the home. Her most famous book on household affairs, Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery (1871), became a bestseller and was translated into French, German, and Arabic. She advocates learning by doing, attention to the presentation of food and a varied menu, and she deprecates the "vulgar prejudice against labor-saving machines." Here, the housewife can consult a 13-page essay on how to handle her servants; she can find out how to clean and cook a catfish or restore luster and crispness to black alpaca and bombazine. The style is informal, the advice practical.

Terhune's books of advice are by no means confined to the culinary and domestic. Eve's Daughters; or, Common Sense for Maid, Wife, and Mother (1892) covers all facets of the growing girl's physical, mental, and moral health, including the way in which a mother should educate her daughter about sex: "Get some good familiar treatise upon Botany,—I know of none better than Gray's 'How Plants Grow,'—and read with her of the beautiful laws of fructification and reproduction."

Eve's Daughters also counsels women through marriage and motherhood to menopause—the "climacteric"—and a postmenopausal "Indian Summer." In the chapter "Shall Baby Be?" Terhune voices her convictions on the sin of childlessness; she believed American mothers had a duty to bear "troops" of boys and girls to withstand the invasion of "massed filth"—"Irish cottiers and German boors, and loose and criminal fugitives from everywhere."

Terhune's ideas on women's roles seem as dated today as her methods for healing cuts, but her cookbooks and domestic advice profoundly influenced Americans for half a century.

Other Works:

The Hidden Path (1855). Nemesis (1860). Miriam (1862). Husks (1863). Moss-Side: Husbands and Homes (1865). Colonel Floyd's Wards (1866). Sunnybank (1866). The Christmas Holly (1867). Phemie's Temptation (1869). Ruby's Husband (1869). At Last (1870). The Empty Heart: "For Better, for Worse" (1871). True as Steel (1872). Jessamine (1873). From My Youth Up (1874). Breakfast, Luncheon, and Tea (1875). My Little Love (1876). The Dinner Year-Book (1878). Loiterings in Pleasant Paths (1880). Our Daughters: What Shall We Do with Them? (1880). Handicapped (1881). The Cottage Kitchen (1883). Judith: A Chronicle of Old Virginia (1883). Cookery for Beginners (1884). Common Sense in the Nursery (1885). Country Living for City People (1887). Not Pretty, but Precious (1887). Our Baby's First and Second Years (1887). A Gallant Fight (1888). House and Home (1889). Stepping-Stones (with V. F. Townsend and L. C. Moulton, 1890). With the Best Intentions (1890). His Great Self (1892). The Story of Mary Washington (1892). Mr. Wayt's Wife's Sister (1894). The Premium Cook Book (1894). The Royal Road (1894). Home of the Bible (1895). Talks Upon Practical Subjects (1895). Under the Flag of the Orient (1895). The Art of Cooking by Gas (1896). The National CookBook (with C. T. Herrick, 1896). The Secret of a Happy Home (1896). An Old-Field School-Girl (1897). Ruth Bergen's Limitations (1897). Some Colonial Homesteads and Their Stories (1897). The Comfort of Cooking and Heating by Gas (1898). Where Ghosts Walk (1898). Charlotte Brontë at Home (1899). Cooking Hints (1899). Home Topics (1899). More Colonial Homesteads and Their Stories (1899). William Cowper (1899). Dr. Dale (with A. P. Terhune, 1900). Hannah More (1900). John Knox (1900). In Our County: Stories of Old Virginia Life (1901). Marion Harland's Complete Cook Book (1903). Everyday Etiquette (with V. Van de Water, 1905). When Grandmamma Was Fourteen (1905). The Distractions of Martha (1906). Marion Harland's Cook Book of Tried and Tested Recipes (1907). The Housekeeper's Week (1908). Ideal Home Life (with M. E. Sangster et al., 1910). Marion Harland's Autobiography (1910). The Story of Canning and Recipes (1910). Home Making (1911). The Helping Hand Cook Book (1912). Should Protestant Ministers Marry? (1913). Looking Westward (1914). A Long Lane (1915). The Carringtons of High Hill (1919). Two Ways of Keeping a Wife (n.d.).


Baym, N., Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-1870 (1978). Griswold, W. M., A Descriptive List of Novels and Tales, Dealing with the History of North America (1895). Halsey, F. W., Women Authors of Our Day in Their Homes (1903). Pattee, F. L., The Feminine Fifties (1940).

Reference works:

AA. The Living Female Writers of the South (1872). The Living Writers of the South (1869). NAW (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995). Southland Writers (1870). Women of the South Distinguished in Literature (1861).

Other references:

Harper's (Nov. 1882). NYT (4 June 1922).