Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow, born in Richmond, Virginia, on 22 nd April 1873, published her first novel, The Descendant, in 1897, when she was 24 years old. With this novel Glasgow began a literary career encompassing 19 novels, a collection of poems, one of stories, and a book of literary criticism. A popular writer, Glasgow was on the best seller lists five times. In 1942 she received the Pulitzer Prize for her last published novel, In This Our Life. She established herself
as one of the America’s most talented and influential writers. On the day after
Glasgow died an editorial tribute in the Richmond Times Dispatch opened by
stating, “The greatest woman
Virginia has produced is dead.”
Ellen Glasgow produced ten major novels of enduring literary merit- The Voice of the People (1900), The Deliverance (1904), Virginia (1913), Life and Gabriella (1916), Barren Ground (1925), The Romantic Comedians (1926), They Stooped to Folly (1929), The Sheltered Life (1932) , The Vein of Iron (1935), and In This Our Life (1941).
With The Voice of the People , Glasgow began a series of novels depicting the social and political history of Virginia since 1850. The series continued to the Battle Ground (1902), The Deliverance (1904), The Romance of a Plain Man (1909), The Miller Of Old Church (1911), Virginia (1913), Life and Gabriella (1916), and One Man in His Time (1922).
The Voice of the People, the first of this series, deals with the conflict of the social classes in Virginia. The Deliverance, one of the best of her early novels, offers a naturalistic treatment of the class conflict emerging after the civil war. Virginia is considered to be the best novel in this series. Here the novelist gives a portrait of a young woman growing up in a mindless, dying society.
In her women’s trilogy-Virginia, Life and Gabriella and Barren Ground-Glasgow assigns each of her Virginia heroines a fate determined by her response to the patriarchal code of feminine behaviour that had formed her , a code that, as Glasgow shows so well in Barren Ground, always pitted woman against their own biological natures.
After Barren Ground, which marked her arrival at artistic maturity, Glasgow produced three sparkling ironic comedies of manners-The Romantic Comedians, They Stooped to Folly, and The Sheltered Life. With a brilliant and increasingly ironic treatment, Glasgow examined the decay of southern aristocracy and the trauma of the encroachment of modern industrial civilization in these three novels. In these novels of urban Virginian life depicting the clash of generations, she again shows her women characters reacting to patriarchal stereotypes limiting their individuality and growth, while at the same time exposing either with comic or with satiric irony the limitations these views of women place on the male character who hold them.
The novel Vein of Iron is a story of epic scope. The theme of this book is the search for happiness and how it is looked for in the wrong places through materialism, superficiality, and the quest for popular approval. Her last novel In This Our Life is about the decay of an aristocratic family.