Each season is a forerunner of the next, and as the earth revolves, we learn to adjust, and consent to, the alterations.
Character builds slowly, but it can be torn down with incredible swiftness.
A joy in living, a natural expression of the will to survive all personal disasters, can be constant despite whatever changes take place. Some fortunate people are born with it and others acquire it through learning and growth."
- Faith Baldwin.
Researching and finding authors to highlight can be a tedious project at times. However, there are times I jump in with both feet and immerse myself in an author's life, works, philosophies, etc. This is one of those times. I was going to do a post with all of October's author's birthdays, but I got caught up in the first author on the list and couldn't get myself to shorten her life. So, instead of a whole birthday list, we will explore a wonderful female author of romance novels.
Faith Baldwin seems to have been lost to history. It might be due to the genre she wrote - light fiction or as we call it romance novels. It seems this genre is categorized by scholars as non-essential and not worthy of recognition even though it is often one of the top-selling genres. Well, we are going to re-discover Faith Baldwin who in her heyday was one of the highest-paid female authors.
Baldwin knew her audience well - working-class women. She wrote 100 or so romance novels about female characters juggling careers and families. Mavis of Green Hill was her first novel and was published in 1921 by Small, Maynard & Company. Several years later she began to sell her serials to women's magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and The Ladies Home Journal. They published her novels in 6 parts.
She hit her peak in the 1930s earning over $300,000 which is over $4 million today. At least six of her works were made into movies. Despite her being one of the highest-paid female romance writers, The New York Times regarded her books as twaddle, never a pretense at literary significance, and were popular because they “enabled lonely working people, young and old, to identify with her glamorous and wealthy characters.
Her books were fairly simple and focused on life among the wealthy. Good always triumphed over evil, and they were clean romance books. There was no poverty, sex, or depravity in her novels. She wanted them to be wholesome and uplifting for the housewife and young working girl.
Many critics believe her works were proto-feministic with characters struggling with decisions of careers over marriage. Others claimed she was too conservative. Baldwin's works wrestled with concepts of whether a woman could be fulfilled through work and have a great marriage too. Most of the times her characters accepted marriage over the career.
Baldwins 1931 Skyscraper explored an even deeper question for the time period. Skyscrapers follows a young woman whose boyfriend can't afford to marry her. The young woman works and earns enough money to make it work, but society would never allow it. The theme of “will he accept a woman who works and will she be able to keep her job if she marries is wrestled with throughout the story. These were important questions for her day. Baldwin captures women's thoughts and struggles throughout her novels. They contain the plight of everyday women who were often overlooked.
Interestingly, Baldwin never intended to be an author. Her passion was in acting, writing to actresses often, and making efforts to meet them. Writing seemed to be her calling though. She began reading, to her parent's surprise, at 3 years old. She often practiced writing when she was young but discounted it as a profession. In her mind, only acting could bring about freedom and independence for a woman which she sought at any cost.
Several of her books made it to the big screen even if she didn't. The Office Wife was picked up by Warner Brothers in 1930. It starred Dorothy Mackaill, Lewis Stone, Natalie Moorehead, Joan Blondell (1st talking picture for her), and Hobart Bosworth.
This was followed by the film Weekend Marriage in 1932. It had Loretta Young and Norman Foster in it. Also in 1932, Skyscraper hit the movie screen with Warren William, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Anita Page. Beauty for Sale and August Weekend came out in 1933 and 1936. Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart (1st movie appearance) brought Wife Vs. Secretary to life in 1936. Perhaps, Baldwin was satisfied having her characters hit the big screen instead of herself.
Faith Baldwin married, Lt. Hugh Cuthrell, a year before her first novel was published. They had four children: Hugh, Henny, and twins, Stephen and Ann. Reporters loved to write “Despite having children and a husband. . . They seemed to ignore she was a “Self Made Woman. It was years before it broke that she and her husband had been separated for decades. It was upon his death bed in 1953 that they reconciled their differences. She lived most of her adult and married life on her own with her children.
She mentored many female writers to sit down and unlock the stories hidden within. She believed in helping women become more independent while still caring for their families.
Despite all her reservations, Baldwin would continue writing right up to her death. Her works may be considered light, but her characters grappled with some of life's toughest questions for women. “Can I have both a career and a family?
Her last work, Adams Eden, was published in 1977. She died of a heart attack on March 18, 1978. Faith Baldwin's books have become collector items for a few loyal fans, but seem to have been lost to many romance readers. Find many of her books at DiscoverBooks.com where we Let Her Stories Live ON.
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