A Woman to Know: Pauline Hopkins

Fiction is of great value to any people ... it is a record of growth from generation to generation.Pauline

(From the intro page of Pauline Hopkin's Contending Forces, 1900)

Pauline wrote these great (and successful) novels — beautiful ruminations on love and life, packed with stellar characters and gripping plot twists. She dabbled in multiple genres: mystery and romance and bildungsroman. She authored a musical play about the Underground Railroad (and it was a hit!). She was renowned for her ability to write across all genres, in all styles – but her novels were more than just beach reads. She wrote them as a vehicle for the themes nearest to her conscience: this, she writes, is what life is like in a changing America, one that struggles with race, class and basic decency. In many ways, her works are timeless.

Her most famous work, Contending Forces, is a mystery story set on two Northern plantations. Within the plot she explores contemporary gender politics, passing privilege and racial tension in the post-Civil War North. "I have tried to tell an impartial story," she wrote in the preface. "I will leave it to the reader to draw conclusions."

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Thank you to Megan Neary for recommending today's woman to know! Megan is one of my dearest friends, and her thesis (on historical women travelers!) is a wonderful read. I love her very much. <3

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