Virginia Changemakers
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Ellen Glasgow (1873 - 1945)

VWH 2000 Glasgow.jpg






Born into an aristocratic Virginia family, Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow (April 22, 1873–November 21, 1945) was educated at home because of her poor health and she eventually suffered severe hearing loss. She read widely in philosophy, history, and literature and developed a broad perspective on universal human experiences. The majority of her novels have southern settings, reflecting her awareness of the social and economic changes transpiring in the region in the decades before her birth and throughout her life.

In 1897 Glasgow anonymously published her first novel, The Descendant, which was well received. She soon began a series of novels depicting the social and political upheaval in Virginia after 1850. The series included The Battle-Ground (1902), her only novel depicting the Civil War, The Deliverance (1904), about class conflicts in the war's aftermath, and Virginia (1913), whose namesake character finds herself unable to adapt to changing gender roles at the turn of the twentieth century. After a trip to England, Glasgow became an enthusiastic supporter of voting rights for women and helped establish the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia in 1909. She was also a lifelong animal lover who served as president of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Glasgow published twenty novels, several of which were best-sellers. Barren Ground (1925), with its grimly tragic theme set in rural Virginia, received critical acclaim as did Vein of Iron (1935), which traced four generations of a family of strong-willed women. Glasgow examined the decay of southern aristocracy and the trauma of the intrusion of modern industrialism in a trilogy that included The Sheltered Life (1932), often considered her finest work. In 1940 she received the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Glasgow's last novel In This Our Life (1941) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1942. Her memoirs were published posthumously as The Woman Within (1954).

2000 Virginia Women in History honoree, Virginia Foundation for Women and Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

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Image Courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.