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WALWORTH, Jeannette (Ritchie) Hadermann

Born 22 February 1837, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 4 February 1918, New Orleans, Louisiana

Wrote under: Ann Atom, Jeannette R. Hadermann, Mother Goose, Mrs. Jeannette H. Walworth

Daughter of Charles J. and Matilda Norman von Winsingen Hadermann; married Douglas Walworth, 1873

Jeannette Hadermann Walworth was one of seven children. Her father was a German political exile who came to this country in the 1820s, after supporting the attempted formation of a German republic. Not long after Walworth was born, her family moved to Washington, Mississippi, where her father became professor of modern languages at Jefferson College.

From the age of sixteen until the close of the Civil War, Walworth was a governess on Louisiana plantations. The desire for a writing career took her to New Orleans, where she wrote for the New Orleans Times under the name Ann Atom, earning little but attracting some interest. More lucrative endeavors soon followed, when two novels (written while she was serving as governess) were published. Forgiven at Last (1870) did not create more than polite interest, but Dead Men's Shoes (1872) outraged the residents of Tensas Parish, Louisiana, who believed the author had maligned a prominent family of the parish through her character portrayals.

After marriage to Major Walworth of Natchez, Mississippi, the couple lived for five years in Arkansas on the Walworth plantation, where she wrote Against the World (1873), Heavy Yokes (1876), and Nobody's Business (1878). For a short time the Walworths then lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where she wrote for the Memphis Appeal as "Mother Goose," before leaving the South for a 16-year stay in New York City.

In New York, Major Walworth established a law practice and Jeannette wrote for magazines and newspapers and also published many novels. The Walworths returned to Mississippi, where he was editor of the Natchez Democrat and she continued to write. She lived with relatives in New Orleans following the death of her husband in 1914.

A number of Walworth's novels reflect changes in the South following the war. These difficult times for both blacks and whites and the change from an agrarian life to one influenced by urban values are seen through her characters. The New Man at Rossmere (1886), Baldy's Point (1889), On the Winning Side (1893), and Uncle Scipo (1896) all have plantation settings. Perhaps because she was a journalist with more than casual knowledge of society beyond her own household, Walworth provides a kind of synthesis of the average postwar citizen's view of things. Her forte is the realistic novel, not light romance, and she is adept at giving substance to her characters and the places where they live. Many of the same character types (such as women who are noble, long-suffering, virtuous, and strong), reappear in her novels. They are not mere stereotypes, however, because she varies the patterns, and the major characters are often skillfully and at times powerfully developed.

Walworth attracted considerable attention from critics and readers for her condemnation, in The Bar Sinister: A Social Study (1885), of polygamy in Mormon Utah. It is somewhat different from her other novels in that she does not provide a happy ending for her protagonist, Anna Quinby, the legitimate wife of a Mormon convert.

Uncle Scipo: A Story of Uncertain Days in the South tells of a Yankee who goes South to check land titles for a firm that has bought 10 cotton plantations. Through a first-person account, the reader comes to know all the facets of life in the Delta country. There are good, insightful descriptions of the customs and folk-ways of the South, as well as a realistic portrayal of the post-war scene.

Walworth wrote nearly 30 novels, most set in the South. They are often melodramatic, in the accepted style of the period, and display strict religious moralizing. There are villains in plentiful supply, but usually they confess their wrongs and repent (and are compassionately forgiven by those who have been illused). Although the plots are somewhat obvious, Walworth uses a variety of characters from all levels of society, portraying them adequately and sometimes memorably.

Other Works:

Matsy and I (1883). Old Fulkerson's Clerk (1886). Scruples (1886). Without Blemish (1886). At Bay (1887). Southern Silhouettes (1887). The Silent Witness (1888). A Strange Pilgrimage (1888). That Girl from Texas (1888). True to Herself (1888). The Martlet Seal (1889). A Splendid Egotist (1889). An Old Fogy (1895). Ground-Swells (1896). Where Kitty Found Her Soul (1896). Three Brave Girls (1897). Fortune's Tangled Skein (1898). Green Withes (1899). A Little Radical (1900). His Celestial Marriage (n.d.). Stories of a Southern Country (n.d.).

Bibliography:

Roberts, O. H., "A Criticism of Jeannette Ritchie Hadermann Walworth's Novels" (thesis, 1938).

Reference works:

A Bibliography of Fiction by Louisianians and on Louisiana Subjects (1935). DAB. Living Female Writers of the South (1872).

—DOROTHY H. BROWN

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Walworth, Jeannette (Ritchie) Hadermann

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