In a Closet Hidden
The Life and Work of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
The first literary biography of a much-neglected American writer, this book explores the multiple tensions at the core of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's life and work. A prolific short story writer and novelist, Freeman (1852-1930) developed a reputation as a local colorist who depicted the peculiarities of her native New England. Yet as Leah Blatt Glasser shows, Freeman was one of the first American authors to write extensively about the relationships women form outside of marriage and motherhood, the role of work in women's lives, the complexity of women's sexuality, and the interior lives of women who rebel rather than conform to patriarchal strictures.
In a Closet Hidden traces Freeman's evolution as a writer, showing how her own inner conflicts repeatedly found expression in her art. As Glasser demonstrates, Freeman's work examined the competing claims of creativity and convention, self-fulfillment and self-sacrifice, spinsterhood and marriage, lesbianism and heterosexuality.
"In strong, clear prose Glasser illuminates Freeman's lifelong struggle between the autonomy and rebellion she desired and the conventional endings she chose, both in her art and her life."—Joan D. Hedrick, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life
"With critical sophistication and an appreciative eye, Glasser portrays a woman's hard and ambivalent struggle to write within and against conventional norms of femininity. Freeman, surrounded by her splendid fictional creations, comes alive within her own cultural context and for ours. An evocative, moving story which is also a pleasure to read."—Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace
"Glasser does a superb job of demonstrating the ways in which Freeman's life and fiction are interwoven. Her thinking about Freeman constitutes a significant contribution to our understanding of a great American writer. This book is beautifully written. Glasser writes crisply and with passion, and avoids critical jargon as much as possible. Certainly, the book will be must reading for students of fin-de-siècle American literature. I expect it to become one of the standard studies of Freeman as a thinker, writer, and woman."—David H. Hirsch, author of The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism after Auschwitz