Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 2005. ISSN 0196-7134
Although Hamlin Garland made his mark primarily as a writer of innovative realistic short stories in the 1890s, he also wrote some nineteen novels, almost none of which ever attained the critical acclaim of his first collection of short stories, Main-Travelled Roads, published in 1891. The single exception is Rose of Dutcher's Coolly, his fifth novel and tenth book, published four years later. The novel traces the development of . a motherless girl from her childhood on a small farm in a Wisconsin coulee (a "coulee" or "coolly" is the French term for the deep valleys between high ridges in southwestern Wisconsin) through her student days at the University of Wisconsin to her emergence in Chicago as an aspiring poet. It ends with her marriage to a prominent Chicago newspaperman and literary critic, who has proposed via a pointedly unromantic letter in which he lists all the reasons he would make a bad husband. Today nearly all readers praise Rose for its forthright depiction of a young woman's emerging sexuality and its social message about a girl's desire to become a writer equal with men rather than a mere wife subordinate to her husband's will.