Marietta Holley

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Marietta Holley

Marietta Holley (16 July 1836 – 1 March 1926), was an American humorist who used satire to comment on U.S. society and politics. Holley's writing was frequently compared to that of Mark Twain and Edgar Nye.

Holley was the youngest of Mary Tabor and John Milton's seven children. The family lived on a small farm in Jefferson County, New York.[1] At 14 she ended her formal education in order to supplement the family income by giving piano lessons. At 17 she converted to the Baptist faith and joined the Adams Village Baptist Church. Her father died when she was 25, and Holley took charge of the farm and care of her sick mother and sister. After she became a successful novelist, she built a mansion called "Bonnie View" near her family's home in Pierrepont. Holley never married. She died in 1926 at age 89.

Holley enjoyed a prolific writing career and was a bestselling author in the late 19th century, though she was largely forgotten by the time of her death. Her first poems were published locally in the Adams Journal, which led to successes in more prominent periodicals such as Peterson's Magazine. In 1872, her first novel, My Opinions and Betsey Bobbet's, was released by the American Publishing Company. She wrote over 25 books, including one collection of poems, two dramas and one long poem, between 1873 and 1914. Among her novels was a 10-book series that detailed the travels and married life of Samantha and Josiah Allen as they journey outside Samantha's rural hometown, which was similar to Holley's own. Holley herself spent most of her life close to her family's farm; aside from Saratoga and Coney Island, she never actually visited the places to which she sent her fictional protagonists; she instead depended on maps, guidebooks, and descriptions for the necessary details.[2]

Many of Holley’s writings share themes of prohibition and women's rights. Many contemporary writers and suffragists held her in high regard; her famous friends included Susan B. Anthony, Twain, and Clara Barton. Anthony frequently asked Holley to give speeches at suffrage conventions because of Holley's support of women's suffrage, but she refused public appearances.

Along with Frances Miriam Whitcher and Ann S. Stephens, Marietta Holley is remembered as one of America's most significant early female humorists.


Advertisement in the Jan, 1896 issue of McClure's Magazine for Samantha in Europe


  1. ^ Lauter, Paul. "The Heath Anthology of American Literature". 
  2. ^ "Harvard University Library Open Collections Program". Harvard University. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 

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