Marie Stevens had to leave school and support her younger sister when their father died in 1847; at the age of twelve she went to work in a cotton mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the ensuing decade she moved to New York City, graduated from the New York Normal College and became a teacher, and married a radical lawyer, Lyman Case, whom she later divorced. Late in the 1850s she lived at Stephen Pearl Andrews's co-operative Unity House, where she met her second husband, the social radical Edward Howland.
Howland was noteworthy in that she "actually lived in three utopian communities of very different size and denomination...." In 1864 she and her second husband lived for a time at the Fourierist "Familistère" established in Guise by the French industrialist and reformer Jean-Baptiste Godin. Howland later used the experience as the subject of her best-known work, Papa's Own Girl (1874), a novel about an American father and daughter living in a comparable fictional establishment in New England. The heroine, Clara Forest, goes on to live a satisfying life as an independent businesswoman. The book was controversial but also a popular success in its day. Later editions altered the title to The Familistère.
The Howlands returned to the United States after the end of the American Civil War, and in 1868 they settled in Hammonton, New Jersey, where they were part of a circle of radical thinkers and activists in Hammonton and Vineland. (Both towns were another type of planned community, created by a capitalist promoter instead of utopian idealists.) Howland was an active journalist throughout her career; she also translated Godin's Solutions sociales (1871) into English as Social Solutions (1886).
In the late 1880s and the 1890s Howland was associated with Albert Kimsey Owen's planned community Pacific City in Topolobampo, Mexico. Howland edited the community's periodical. She left there when the experiment ended in 1894. (Her husband had died in 1890.)
- Mari Jo Buhle, Women and the American Left: A Guide to Sources, New York, G. K. Hall, 1983; p. 45.
- R. C. S. Trahair, Utopia and Utopians, Westport, CT, Greenwood Publishing, 1999; p. 192.
- Trahair, p. 191.
- Nan Bowman Albinski, "Utopia Reconsidered: Women Novelists and Nineteenth-Century Utopian Visions," Signs, Vol. 13 No. 4 (Summer 1988), pp. 830-41; see p. 838.
- Richard T. T. Forman, Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape, Piscataway, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1998; p. 17.
- Daphne Patai, Looking Backward, 1988–1888: Essays on Edward Bellamy, Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 1988; pp. 72, 74, 81, 85-7.
- Suzanne Keller, Building for Women, Lexington, MA, Lexington Books, 1981; pp. 7-14.
- Trahair, p. 301.
- Paul M. Gaston, Women of Fairhope, Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1984; pp. 19-65.
- Trahair, pp. 129-30.