Wayne County Author Impacts 20th Century Female Progression

October 21, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history

A very popular female writer, Harriette Arnow was one of the most respected authors produced by Kentucky.  Born on July 7, 1908, in Wayne County, Kentucky, Arnow began a life fueled by her love of literature. Her full name, Harriette Louisa Simpson Arnow was conjured from each grandmother, and she was born the second of six children to Elias Thomas Simpson and Mollie Jane Simpson. Furthermore, Arnow’s ancestors for five generations were all from Kentucky, which means she came from a rich tradition of Kentuckians.

At the age of five, her family moved to Burnside, Kentucky which is northeast of her Wayne County birthplace. She attended and graduated from Burnside High School where she participated in the literacy society. To further her education, Arnow attended Berea College for two years, but was disgruntled and left due to their rules. During her two years at the college, women had to cover their legs, wear no make-up, and could only date at specific times! She left in a search for a more independent lifestyle and eventually attended the University of Louisville (UL). At UL she honed her skills of writing amazing stories which eventually led to her self-acclaimed literacy awards.

Many of her works are still read today, such as The Dollmaker and Hunter’s Horn. While living in the country, near Ann Arbor, Michigan she produced many other famous works: The Weedkiller’s Daughter (1970), The Kentucky Trace (1975), Seedtime on the Cumberland (1960), and Old Burnside (1977).  The Dollmaker received the most awards out of her library of literature. The novel was a best-seller and tied for the best novel of 1954 in the Saturday Reviews national critic’s poll.

Harriette Arnow is another great example of female progression in Kentucky. Her dedication to the literary world paid off; her many awards and honors prove the success of her writings. She also proved that to be a successful woman in the 20th century that one did not need to be a female civil rights activist.

3 responses to Wayne County Author Impacts 20th Century Female Progression

  1. It’s nice to learn about brave, progressive women from yesteryear through this website. All seem to contribute in their own individual way, and I like the fact that all the way back in the 1920’s or 1930’s when she went to Berea, Harriette broke social norms by not conforming to the strict rules!

  2. Well, if anyone wants to do more work on these topics, we have the Harriette Simpson Arnow Papers here in the UK Libraries Archives!

    Keep in mind that Kentucky has had many wonderful women writers whose works were published – all the way back to the 18th century – so, Arnow is part of a large and diverse Kentucky tradition in the arts!

    By the way, I’m not sure I know what “20th Century female progression” means… will you expand on this phrase?

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