Alice MacGowan

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Alice MacGowan
Alice MacGowan, from a 1908 publication.
BornDecember 10, 1858
Perrysburg, Ohio
DiedMarch 10, 1947
Los Gatos, California

Alice L. MacGowan (December 10, 1858 – March 10, 1947) was an American writer.

She was born in Perrysburg, Ohio, the daughter of John Encil MacGowan and Malvina Marie Johnson.[1] The family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee,[2] where her sister Grace was born.[3] Alice was educated in public schools in addition to being home schooled by her father,[1] a Colonel with the Union Army[4] during the American Civil War and editor of the Chattanooga Times from 1872–1903.[5] She was living with her sister at Upton Sinclair's Helicon Home Colony in 1907 when it burned to the ground. Both were taken to Englewood Hospital to recover.[6]

She became a writer of short stories and novels, while collaborating with her sister Grace on most of her works.[7] Together they would write over 30 novels, about a hundred short stories, and some poetry.[5] The subject matter of their writings included Westerns, mysteries, historical novels, and social novels.[4] Briefly married to a much older man,[4] Alice lived in Texas working as a governess.[2]

In 1908 the MacGowan sisters and their mother moved to the semi-remote colony of artists and literati at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, which included such influential figures as Mary Hunter Austin, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, George Sterling, Francis McComas, Xavier Martinez, Sinclair Lewis, and Nora May French.[8] The sisters apparently avoided the more lascivious activities of this Bohemian enclave because a satirical commentator from the Los Angeles Times placed Alice and Grace in the “social faction” known as the “Eminently Respectables.”[9] As if to reinforce this image the Times described a 1911 Carmel Christmas party where Jack London, the MacGowan sisters, and the “diminutive dog” Fluffy Ruffles sat at the same table eating lady fingers.[10] On the more serious side Alice actively supported various local charities as well as the Carmel Arts & Crafts Club, and fought the removal of village trees, the paving of the quaint gravel streets and all “encroachments . . . of an advancing civilization.”[8] In May 1914, just two months before the start of the highly publicized William Merritt Chase summer school of art in Carmel, the San Francisco press and the New York Times reported that Alice had been intentionally poisoned at her home.[11][12] The respected Carmel artist Jennie V. Cannon recounted that there had been several previous attempts to murder Alice, who “was popular with everybody.”[8] The perpetrators were never caught.

Carmel proved to be a writer’s paradise and Alice produced several best sellers. She co-authored five detective stories with the one-time mayor of Carmel, Perry Newberry (see Bibliography below). Their runaway success, “Two by Two”, was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and was published in 1922 by Stokes in New York under the title “The Million Dollar Suitcase.”[8][13] In April 1922 she lectured with Newberry on the "thriller in literature" at Paul Elder’s Gallery in San Francisco.[14]

The two sisters stopped writing together around 1910.[2] Alice collaborated with Garnet Holme on a dramatization of her novel The Sword in the Mountains, titled Chattanooga.[4]

Alice and Grace resumed collaboration with The Straight Road (1917) and The Trail of the Little Wagon.[4][15] But the sisters novels became less popular during the Great Depression, and in 1935 they sold their house in Carmel and moved to Los Gatos, California with Grace's daughter, Katherine. Alice died there in 1947 at age 89.[4]


  • The last word[15] (1903)
  • Return[1]
  • Judith of the Cumberlands[15] (1908)
  • Wiving of Lance Cleaverage[15] (1909)
  • The sword in the mountains[15] (1910)
  • The million-dollar suitcase[15] (1922) with Perry Newberry
  • A girl of the plains country (1924)
  • The mystery woman[15] (1924) with Perry Newberry
  • Shaken down[15] (1925) with Perry Newberry
  • The seventh passenger (1926)
  • Who is this man? (1927) with Perry Newberry


  1. ^ a b c Leonard, John William (1914), Woman's Who's who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914–1915, American Commonwealth Company, p. 520, ISBN 0252093135.
  2. ^ a b c Baym, Nina (2011), Women Writers of the American West, 1833–1927, University of Illinois Press, p. 289, ISBN 0252093135.
  3. ^ "Well Known Daughters of Famous Men: Mrs. Grace MacGowan Cooke", The Milwaukee Sentinel, p. 6, October 4, 1910.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Dramov, Alissandra (2013), Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Early Years (1903-1913), Author House, pp. 154, 215, ISBN 149182414X.
  5. ^ a b Hartzell, John Calvin (2005), Switzer, Charles I., ed., Ohio Volunteer, Ohio University Press, p. 16, ISBN 0821416065.
  6. ^ "Sinclair Colony to try Tent Life", The New York Times.
  7. ^ Alderman, Edwin Anderson; Harris, Joel Chandler; Kent, Charles William (1910), Library of Southern Literature: Biographical dictionary of authors, The Martin & Hoyt Company, p. 282, ISBN 0252093135.
  8. ^ a b c d Edwards, Robert W. (2012). Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, Vol. 1. Oakland, Calif.: East Bay Heritage Project. pp. 50, 56, 63, 68, 135, 137–138, 143–144, 183, 197–198, 548. ISBN 9781467545679. An online facsimile of the entire text of Vol. 1 is posted on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization website ( Archived April 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.).
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times, 22 May 1910, pp. II-1, 8.
  10. ^ Los Angeles Times, 7 January 1911, p. I-5.
  11. ^ San Francisco Examiner, 10 May 1914, pp. 1, 60.
  12. ^ New York Times, 21 March 1914, p. III-1.
  13. ^ Carmel Pine Cone, 24 May 1935, p. 8.
  14. ^ Carmel Pine Cone, 20 April 1922, p. 10.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Smith, Geoffrey D. (1997), American Fiction, 1901–1925: A Bibliography, Cambridge University Press, p. 432, ISBN 0521434696.

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