"...And Ladies of the Club"

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"...And Ladies of the Club"
And Ladies of the Club, Putnam cover.jpg
First trade edition (1984)
Author Helen Hooven Santmyer
Cover artist from Culver Pictures
Country United States
Language English
Genre Family saga
Publisher
Publication date
  • 1982
  • 1984
  • 1985
Media type
Pages
  • 1,344 pp
  • 1,176 pp
  • 1,433 pp
ISBN
OCLC 8050632
813/.52 19
LC Class PS3537.A775 A82 1982

“...And Ladies of the Club” is a novel, written by Helen Hooven Santmyer, about a group of women in the fictional town of Waynesboro, Ohio who begin a woman's literary club, which evolves through the years into a significant community service organization in the town.

The novel, which looks at the club as it changes throughout the years, spans decades in the lives of the women involved in the club, between 1868 and 1932. Many characters are introduced in the course of the novel, but the primary characters are Anne Gordon and Sally Rausch, who in 1868 are new graduates of the Waynesboro Female College. They marry soon after the opening of the book, and the decades that follow chronicle their marriages and those of their children and grandchildren. Santmyer focuses not just on the lives of the women in the Club, but also their families, friends, politics, and developments in their small town and the larger world.

Background[edit]

Writing[edit]

Santmyer wrote four novels, two published to little notice, in the 1920s. She did not like Sinclair Lewis's negative portrayal of small town America in his Main Street, and conceived of Ladies as an antidote.[1] But working full-time, she wrote very little until her retirement in 1959.

A collection of her nostalgic reminiscences of Xenia was published as Ohio Town by Ohio State University Press in 1963. The director of the press, Weldon Kefauver, encouraged her to write more. In 1976 she submitted eleven boxes containing bookkeeping ledgers, her manuscript of Ladies in longhand. Kefauver accepted the novel, but wanted it trimmed. By then, Santmyer was spending much of her time in a nursing home, and she dictated changes to her friend Mildred Sandoe. The Press published the novel, printed 1500 copies, and sold a few hundred, priced at $35, mostly to libraries. In 1983, Santmyer was forced for health reasons to move permanently into a nursing home.[1]

Ladies was awarded the 1983 Ohioana Book Award in the category of fiction,[2] but otherwise gained little attention at the time.

Success[edit]

One local library patron, in returning the book, told the librarian it was the greatest novel she had ever read. Another patron overheard this, checked out the book, agreed with the assessment and called her son in Hollywood. The son saw great potential, convinced a Hollywood acquaintance of the same, and the two purchased movie, TV, and republication rights, and convinced G. P. Putnam to republish the book. Before republication, the Book-of-the-Month club chose Ladies as their main selection, and suddenly Santmyer and her novel were a media sensation, including front page coverage in the New York Times.[1][3][4]

The paperback edition, published by Berkley in 1985, sold more than 2 million copies between June and September, making it the best-selling paperback in history at the time.[5]

Reception[edit]

Most reviews were enthusiastic. A few were grudging and even hostile.[6][7][8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c McDowell, Edwin (1984-01-12). "Happy End for Novelist's 50-Year Effort". New York Times. p. A1. 
  2. ^ "Ohioana Book Award Winners: Fiction". Ohioana Library. Retrieved 2014-10-02. 
  3. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (1986-02-22). "Helen Hooven Santmyer, 90, Author and Educator, Dies". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Schott, Webster. "An Epic of Hometown, U.S.A.". Washington Post Book World. p. 5. 
  5. ^ Fisher, Doug (1986-02-22). "Author Helen Hooven Santmyer dies at 90". AP News Archive (Beta). Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  6. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (1984-06-04). "Books of the Times: ...And Ladies of the Club". New York Times. 
  7. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1984-06-10). "‘...Ladies of Club’: life, death, boredom on Main Street". Chicago Tribune. p. M43. 
  8. ^ Malone, Michael (1984). "And Ladies of the G.O.P". Nation 129: 52–4.