E. D. E. N. Southworth

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E. D. E. N. Southworth
E. D. E. N. Southworth circa 1860
E. D. E. N. Southworth circa 1860
BornEmma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth
(1819-12-26)December 26, 1819
Washington, D.C., United States
DiedJune 30, 1899(1899-06-30) (aged 79)
Georgetown, Washington, D.C., United States
Resting placeOak Hill Cemetery
Notable worksThe Hidden Hand
SpouseFrederick H. Southworth

Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth (December 26, 1819 – June 30, 1899) was an American writer of more than 60 novels in the latter part of the 19th century. She was the most popular American novelist of her day.[1][2]

In her novels, of which the most popular was The Hidden Hand (1859), her heroines often challenge modern perceptions of Victorian feminine domesticity by showing virtue as naturally allied to wit, adventure, and rebellion to remedy any unfortunate situation. [3]

Life and career[edit]

Raised in Washington, D.C., Southworth studied in a school kept by her stepfather, Joshua L. Henshaw, and in 1840 married inventor Frederick H. Southworth,[4] of Utica, New York.[5] E.D.E.N. Southworth moved with her husband out to Wisconsin to become a teacher. After 1843, she returned to Washington, D.C. without her husband and with two young children.[6]

She began to write stories to support herself and her children when her husband deserted her in 1844. Her first story, "The Irish Refugee", was published in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter.[5] Some of her earliest works appeared in The National Era, the newspaper that printed Uncle Tom's Cabin. The bulk of her work appeared as a serial in Robert Bonner's New York Ledger,and in 1857 Southworth signed a contract to write exclusively for this publication.[7]

The exclusive contract Southworth signed with Bonner in 1856 and royalties from her published novels earned her about $10,000 a year, making her one of the country's best-paid writers.[8]

Like her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe, she was a supporter of social change and women's rights, but she was not nearly as active on these issues. Her first novel, Retribution, a serial for the National Era, published in book form in 1846, was so well received that she gave up teaching and became a regular contributor to various periodicals, especially the New York Ledger. She lived in Georgetown, D.C., until 1876, then in Yonkers, New York, and again in Georgetown, D.C., where she died.[5][9]

Her best known work was The Hidden Hand. It first appeared in serial form in the New York Ledger in 1859, and was serialized twice more (1868–69, 1883) before first appearing in book form in 1888. Robert Bonner, publisher and editor of the New York Ledger, evidently used the appeal of the novel to "give an occasional boost to his weekly's already massive circulation."[10] It features Capitola Black, a tomboyish antagonist that finds herself in a myriad of adventures. Southworth stated that nearly every adventure of her heroine came from real life. Most of Southworth's novels deal with the Southern United States during the post-American Civil War era. She wrote over sixty; some of them were translated into German, French, Chinese, Icelandic and Spanish; in 1872 an edition of thirty-five volumes was published in Philadelphia.[11]

Her novel Tried for Her Life was referenced in chapter 8 of Jack Finney's novel Time and Again.

Southworth is buried in Washington's Oak Hill Cemetery.[12]


note – most of Southworth's novels were serialized before their publications, sometimes under different titles.


  1. ^ Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth in, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, Retrieved 7 March 2016
  2. ^ Baym, Nina. E.D.E.N. Southworth's The Hidden Hand, introduction to Oxford Popular Fiction Series edition of The Hidden Hand (1997)
  3. ^ "E.D.E.N. SOUTHWORTH (1819 – 1899)". www.librarycompany.org. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  4. ^ Sutherland, John (2012). Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives. Yale University Press. pp. 135–137. ISBN 978-1846681578.
  5. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Southworth, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte". Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 518.
  6. ^ Dobson, Joanne. "E.D.E.N. Southworth". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Gale. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  7. ^ Dowling, David (2012). Literary Partnerships and Marketplace:. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 207.
  8. ^ "E.D.E.N. Southworth". utc.iath.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  9. ^ Dobson, Joanne (1988). Introduction. The Hidden Hand. NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  10. ^ Looby, Christopher (September 2004). "Southworth and Seriality: The Hidden Hand in the New York Ledger". Nineteenth-Century Literature. 59 (2): 179–211.
  11. ^ Boyle, Regis Louise (1939). Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth. Washington DC: Catholic University Press.
  12. ^ "Southworth's Gravesite". Southworthiana. Retrieved March 11, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bardes, Barbara, and Suzanne Gosset. Declarations of Independence: Women and Political Power in Nineteenth Century American Fiction. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1990.
  • Baym, Nina. Women's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820- 1870. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978.
  • Carpenter, Lynette. "Double Talk: The Power and Glory of Paradox in E. D. E. N. Southworth's The Hidden Hand." Legacy 10.1 (1993): 17-30.
  • Cogan, Francis B. All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid Nineteenth Century America. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989.
  • Conrad, Susan P. Perish the Thought: Intellectual Women in Romantic America, 1830-1860. New York: Oxford UP, 1976.
  • Coultrap-McQuin, Susan. Doing Literary Business: American Women Writers in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1990.
  • Dobson, Joanne. "The Hidden Hand: Subversion of Cultural Ideology in Three Mid- Nineteenth-Century Women's Novels." American Quarterly 38 (1986): 223-42.-----
  • Ginsberg, Elaine K. "Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. Abridged Edition. New York: Ungar, 1988.
  • Habegger, Alfred. "A Well Hidden Hand." Novel 14 (1981): 197-212.
  • Harris, Susan K. "The House That Hagar Built: House and Heroines in E. D. E. N. Southworth's The Deserted Wife." Legacy 4.2 (1987): 17-29. -----
  • Harris, Susan K. 19th-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretive Strategies. New York: Cambridge UP, 1990.
  • McCandless, Amy Thompson. "Concepts of Patriarchy in the Popular Novels of Antebellum Southern Women." Studies in Popular Culture 10.2 (1987): 1-16.
  • Silverblatt, Arthur Martin. Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth and Southern Mythic Society. Diss. Michigan State U, 1980. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1980. 8106442.

External links[edit]