Deland, Margaret (1857–1945)

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Deland, Margaret (1857–1945)

American writer whose popular works often contrast the past with the present. Born Margaretta Wade Campbell (later shortened her name to Margaret) on February 23, 1857, near Allegheny, Pennsylvania; died on January 13, 1945; daughter of Sample and Margaretta Campbell; educated in Pittsburgh and at the Pelham Priory in New Rochelle, New York, then studied art and design in 1875 at Cooper Union in New York City; married Lorin Fuller Deland, on May 12, 1880 (died 1917); no children.

Became assistant instructor of drawing and design at Normal College of the City of New York (now Hunter College, 1876); her poem, "The Succory," appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1885); published first book, The Old Garden and Other Verses (1886); published first novel, John Ward, Preacher (1888); following husband's death, did war-relief work in France (1917) and received the Legion of Honor for this work; elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1926).

Selected writings:

The Old Garden and Other Verses (1886); John Ward, Preacher (1888); A Summer Day (1889); Florida Days (1889); Sidney (1890); The Story of a Child (1892); Mr. Tommy Dove and Other Stories (1893); Philip and His Wife (1894); The Wisdom of Fools (1897); Old Chester Tales (1899); Dr. Lavendar's People (1903); The Common Way (1904); The Awakening of Helena Ritchie (1906); An Encore (1907); RJ's Mother and Some Other People (1908); Where the Laborers Are Few (1909); The Way to Peace (1910); The Iron Woman (1911); The Voce (1912); Partners (1913); The Hands of Esau (1914); Around Old Chester (1915); The Rising Tide (1916); Small Things (1919); The Promises of Alice: The Romance of a New England Parsonage (1919); An Old Chester Secret (1920); The Vehement Flame (1922); New Friends in Old Chester (1924); The Kays (1926); Captain Archer's Daughter (1932); If This Be I, As I Suppose It Be (1935); Old Chester Days (1937); and Golden Yesterdays (1941).

Margaretta Wade Campbell, who was named after her mother, was born near Allegheny, Pennsylvania, on February 23, 1857. Her mother died while giving birth to her, and her father, Sample Campbell, died when she was only about four years old. Margaretta, who shortened her name to Margaret when she was older, was raised by a maternal aunt, Lois Wade Campbell . (Like her sister, Margaret's mother, Lois had married a Campbell; though the two men were unrelated.) Margaret spent her childhood in a privileged household on the estate of Louis and Benjamin Bakewell Campbell in Manchester, Pennsylvania, on the Ohio River near Allegheny. She received her education in Pittsburgh and at the Pelham Priory in New Rochelle, New York. In 1875, she moved to New York City, where she attended classes in art and design at Cooper Union. The next year, she became an assistant instructor of drawing and design at the Normal College of the City of New York (now Hunter College), and stayed there until her marriage to Lorin Fuller Deland on May 12, 1880. Lorin Deland was the junior partner of the Boston printing house of Deland and Son.

Early in their marriage, the couple shocked some segments of the public by taking into their home, over the course of four years, about 60 unmarried mothers, helping them to understand, to accept, and to overcome society's censure. To assist in this effort, Margaret Deland painted china and then turned to writing verses for greeting cards. A friend sent some of her poems to Harper's New Monthly Magazine, which published "The Succory" in March 1885. More of her poems were published in magazines, and in 1886 Houghton, Mifflin published her first book, The Old Garden and Other Verses, which enjoyed great popularity. By 1899, Deland had also made a name for herself as a fiction writer,

and her first novel, John Ward, Preacher (1888), was a great success.

Around this time, the couple purchased a summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, where Deland spent part of each year for the rest of her life. With Lorin Deland's success in advertising and the income from her books, the couple enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, and both became leaders of Boston society.

Deland's fiction often contrasts the past with the present, comparing old values and customs with new ideas, urban and rural ways, and the goals of the individual and the community as a whole. Several of her novels, Old Chester Tales (1899), Dr. Lavendar's People (1903), Around Old Chester (1915), and New Friends in Old Chester (1924), are set in a town resembling Manchester, Pennsylvania, where Deland grew up; but most of the stories written before 1898 are set elsewhere. From this date until 1937, the inhabitants of Old Chester were well known and beloved by American readers.

Deland's insistence on writing about unpopular and controversial problems often earned her criticism as well as occasional praise. In her first novel, John Ward, Preacher, she attacks religious beliefs. To conclude that she was a pioneer and a rebel, however, would be a half-truth, because she held many traditional and conservative values about marriage, motherhood, and self-sacrifice. And although she examines divorce in The Iron Woman (1911), feminism in The Rising Tide (1916), pacifism in The Kays (1926) and adultery in The Vehement Flame (1922), she opposed universal female suffrage. In her essay "The Change in the Feminine Ideal" (Atlantic Monthly, March 1910), she advocates selective suffrage, based upon class, education, and economic conditions.

After Lorin Deland's death in May 1917, Margaret went to France to engage in war-relief work, and incorporated many of her experiences in Small Things (1919). For her accomplishments there, she was awarded the Legion of Honor. In 1926, she was among the first women elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. She also received honorary degrees from Rutgers University (1917), Tufts University (1920), Bates College (1920), and Bowdoin College (1921).

Margaret Deland lived to be nearly 90 years old. Her life spanned the Civil War and World War II, and she witnessed enormous cultural changes. Both her autobiographical volumes, If This Be I, As I Suppose It Be (1935) and Golden Yesterdays (1941), provide valuable historic insights into that time period.


St. Andrews, B.A. "Margaret Deland" in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 78. Edited by Bobby Ellen Kimbel and William E. Grant. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1989, pp. 147–154.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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Deland, Margaret (1857–1945)

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