Jordan, Elizabeth Garver (1865–1947)

views updated

Jordan, Elizabeth Garver (1865–1947)

American editor and author. Born Mary Elizabeth Carver Jordan on May 9, 1865, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; died on February 24, 1947, in New York City; the eldest of two daughters of William Francis Jordan (a businessman and real-estate broker), and Margaretta (Garver) Jordan; graduated from St. Mary's High School, Milwaukee, 1884; never married; no children.

Selected works:

(short stories) Tales of the City Room (1895); (short stories) Tales of the Cloister (1901); (short stories) Tales of Destiny (1902); May Iverson, Her Book (1904); Many Kingdoms (1908); May Iverson Tackles Life (1913); (play) The Lady from Oklahoma (1913); Lover's Knots (1916); Wings of Youth (1917); The Girl in the Mirror (1919); The Blue Circle (1920); Red Riding Hood (1924); Black Butterflies (1926); Miss Nobody from Nowhere (1927); The Devil and the Deep Sea (1928); The Night Club Mystery (1929); The Fourflusher (1930); Playboy (1931); Young Mr. X (1932); Daddy and I (1934); The Life of the Party (1935); The Trap (1936); (autobiography) Three Rousing Cheers (1938); First Port of Call (1940); Faraway Island (1941); Herself (1943); Miss Warren's Son (1944); The Real Ruth Arnold (1945).

Born in 1865 and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Elizabeth Jordan graduated from Catholic school intent on becoming a nun. Her father, however, encouraged her to write and helped get her a job as the editor of the woman's page at Peck's Sun, a paper run by George W. Peck, author of Peck's Bad Boy. When she became bored with the work, her father used his influence once again to place her as secretary to the superintendent of the Milwaukee schools. All the while, Jordan was writing stories, several of which were published in the Chicago Tribune and the St. Paul [Minnesota] Globe.

In 1890, Jordan took her career into her own hands and left for New York, where she landed a job on Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. One of her early assignments, an interview with America's first lady Caroline Harrison , wife of Benjamin Harrison, at the Harrisons' vacation home in Cape May, New Jersey, was so well received that Jordan was made a full reporter. Her talent as an interviewer further led to a series of Sunday features, "True Stories of the News," human interest stories that she obtained in hospitals, jails, and asylums. In addition to her features, Jordan also worked as a reporter, covering events like the Lizzie Borden trial and writing a full-page summation on the murder of Helen Pott who was thought to have been poisoned by her fiancé, a medical student. Jordan gained a reputation for her ability to write under the pressure of a difficult deadline. During this period, Jordan also produced short stories, many of which were drawn from her own experiences as a reporter. They were collected under the title Tales of the City Room, published in 1895.

In 1900, Jones left the World (where she had worked her way up to assistant Sunday editor) to succeed Margaret Sangster as editor of Harper's Bazaar, a position Jordan held for the next 13 years. She continued to write, producing a series of novels (including May Iverson, Her Book, the first of several featuring the popular heroine), short-story collections, and even a play, The Lady from Oklahoma, which had a brief run on Broadway in April 1913. She also devised a round-robin novel, The Whole Family (1908), to

which authors William James, William Dean Howells, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward , and Henry Van Dyke all contributed a chapter.

When Harper's was sold to William Randolph Hearst in 1913, Jordan became a literary adviser for Harper & Brothers. There, she was instrumental in introducing the works of Zona Gale, Eleanor Porter , and Dorothy Canfield Fisher , although her major coup was the discovery of Sinclair Lewis, with whom she worked closely on revisions for his first novel Our Mr. Wrenn. In 1915, Jordan collaborated with Anna Howard Shaw , president of the National Women's Suffrage Association, on Shaw's autobiography The Story of a Pioneer. Jordan also edited The Sturdy Oak (1917), a novel based on the suffrage movement.

Elizabeth Jordan never married, residing in an elegant house in Gramercy Square with her mother Margaretta Jordan , two other professional women, a butler, and a secretary. Despite her long work hours, she found time for ice skating, golf, and travel. She was a noted hostess and had a large circle of loyal friends, including authors Frances Hodgson Burnett and Henry James.

In 1918, Jordan was lured away from Harper & Brothers with the offer of $25,000 per annum to be a script consultant with Goldwyn Pictures at its Fort Lee, New Jersey, studio. As it turned out, the position was an uneasy fit, and she abandoned it when Goldwyn moved its headquarters to California. Turning to her writing in earnest, she produced almost a novel a year for the rest of her life, including an autobiography Three Rousing Cheers (1938). In 1922, she began a theater column for the Catholic weekly, America, which she continued until her retirement in 1945. Elizabeth Jordan died on February 24, 1947, age 81.


Belford, Barbara. Brilliant Bylines. NY: Columbia University Press, 1986.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

About this article

Jordan, Elizabeth Garver (1865–1947)

Updated About content Print Article