Tuesday, May 7, 2024

First Western Romance Author

A Woman of Means

 She was born in 1858 and died in 1949. In the span of those years she managed to achieve these milestone:

·         Survived the sinking of the Titanic and helped row a lifeboat along with fellow passenger Molly “The Unsinkable” Brown.

·         Penned an eye-witness account of the tragedy for Collier’s magazine.

·         Wrote the first western romance novel.

·         Wrote a book on how women could make a living for themselves.

·         Was one of the first interior decorators.

·         Assisted in designing interiors of the White House.

·         After a divorce, supported herself and two children by writing books and magazine articles.

·         Published a book on interior design.

·         A member of the Archeological Society and the American Federation of Arts.

·         Board member of the Washington chapter of the National Suffrage Association.

·         She rode her horse at the head of the procession for the “Votes for Women” parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the steps Capitol Hill.

·         Worked as a nurse in Rome and Milan during World War I. One of her patients was Ernest Hemingway.

·         Her writings about her trips to Cambodia and other Far East countries laid the groundwork for the modern tourist trade in that part of the world. She became a renowned lecturer on the Far East.

·         Was a founding member of the Society of Women Geographers.

Whew! Who is she? Helen Churchill Hungerford Candee. Quite a woman! She certainly never knew the word “quit” or the words “I can’t.” She was from a fine family and married a businessman. He turned out to be an abusive alcoholic.

After fifteen years of misery and being abandoned time and time again, she sought a divorce in New York City and was denied. Taking her fate in her own hands, she traveled to Indian Territory where she’d learned she could get a divorce. After residing in Guthrie for the required ninety days, she hired an attorney and obtained a divorce. To make ends meet while waiting for her divorce, she wrote articles for Ladies Home Journal and Scribner’s. She also penned a best-selling book, How Women May Earn a Living in 1990. She followed that up with the first historical western romance, An Oklahoma Romance. An instant success, it was the story of a land claim dispute between a doctor and a politically established man. She included as secondary characters people she knew in Guthrie.

Helen was a incredible woman. It’s mind-boggling how she did so much with her life at a time when women couldn’t even vote. She’s a true inspiration.



Julie Lence said...

What a true inspiration. Thank you for sharing, Deborah.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I've never heard of her. Such an inspiration!

Deborah said...

I read her romance. It was pretty good! She started it all for us. We stand on her shoulders!