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Today, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844–1911) is best known for a handful of her novels: The Gates Ajar (1868), The Silent Partner (1871), and The Story of Avis (1877). During her life, however, the short story was a hugely popular genre in which she was fully invested and where she made a good deal of her living. Stories were her earliest and latest publications, and they were work that she both enjoyed and employed to greater ends. From 1864 to her death in 1911, she published almost one hundred and fifty short stories in the leading periodicals of the day. This collection makes available some of those stories, an important and engaging part of her oeuvre that previously has been all but ignored. Phelps saw her narratives as vehicles through which she could reform her society, and her artistic and political vision is both original and transformative.

Sections and stories include:

1. “A story is a story, however large”: Writing for Children — How June Found Massa Linkum 12 • Bobbit’s Hotel 19 • One Way to Get an Education 24 • The Girl Who Could Not Write a Composition 29 • Mary Elizabeth 36

2. “A fact which I think Mr. Tennyson has omitted”: Writing under the Influence — The Lady of Shalott 45 • The Christmas of Sir Galahad 54 • The True Story of Guenever 60

3. “I went, I saw, I conquered”: Rewriting the Church — A Woman’s Pulpit 71 • Saint Caligula 86 • The Reverend Malachi Matthew 94

4. “The young woman’s account”: Writing Women’s Sexuality — Magdalene 107 • At Bay 118 • Doherty 131

5. “Thousands of pale women know”: Writing Women and the Civil War — A Sacrifice Consumed 139 • My Refugees 147 • Margaret Bronson 163

6. “Replace the old brutal heroisms”: Writing Women’s Adventures — Mavourneen 176 • Wrecked in Port 181 • The Chief Operator 189

7. “Suspecting a Spiritualistic medium”: Writing Spiritualism — What Was the Matter? 202 • The Day of My Death 215 • Since I Died 234 • Told in Trust 238

8. “A new type of employer”: Writing Social Reform — Blythe 252 • My Story 257 • Not a Pleasant Story 262 • Tammyshanty 273



Publication Date



Zea Books


Lincoln, Nebraska


American Popular Culture | American Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, North America | Women's Studies


Introductions and volume arrangement Copyright © 2022 Roxanne Harde.