Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

PEATTIE, ELIA (1862-1935)

Elia Wilkinson Peattie was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on January 15, 1862, and later moved to Chicago with her parents. In 1883 she married Robert Peattie, a Chicago newspaperman. Later, she and her husband and children moved to Omaha, where from 1889 to 1896 she was an editorial writer and columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. While in Omaha, Peattie participated in politics, especially with William Jennings Bryan; hobnobbed with Willa Cather and Hamlin Garland, among other authors; helped organize Women's Clubs across the state; and actively supported hospitals for unwed mothers, orphanages, relief for the poor and homeless, and day-care centers for Nebraska women. As one of the first western women to write editorial columns that addressed public issues, her outspoken and often irreverent remarks show a side of the frontier often overlooked. Not all pioneer women lived in sod houses and spent their days gathering buffalo chips for cooking. Many western pioneers, like Peattie, lived in fledgling villages and booming cities, and their influence impacted the course of history, too.

Upon her return to Chicago, Peattie became the literary critic for the Chicago Tribune, a member of the exclusive literary club Fortnightly, and one of the leaders of Chicago Women's Clubs. She influenced the taste of a wide-reading public until realists such as Theodore Dreiser, whom she labeled a "literary tomcat," rebelled against the prevailing romantics and Victorian sentimentalists. Peattie died on July 12, 1935, while visiting her grandchildren in Wallingford, Vermont.

Throughout her life, Peattie penned hundreds of stories, novels, children's books, poems, essays, and book reviews. Torn between the ideals of the self-sacrificing "True Woman" of Victorian society and the emerging, independent "New Woman" of the early twentieth century, Peattie's life is representative of the struggles of late-nineteenth-century women authors to balance the demands of the home with their careers as writers.

See also MEDIA: Omaha World-Herald .

Elia Peattie: An Uncommon Writer, An Uncommon Woman website.

Susanne K. George University of Nebraska at Kearney

Falcone, Joan. The Bonds of Sisterhood in Chicago Women Writers: The Voice of Elia Wilkinson Peattie. Normal: Illinois State University Press, 1992.

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