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Gertrude Atherton

(1857 - 1948)

Gertrude Atherton was an American novelist and short story writer who gained prominence at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century. Born Gertrude Franklin Horn in San Francisco, California, Atherton was known for her bold exploration of social issues, including female independence and the changing cultural norms of her time.

She began writing after the death of her young husband, aiming both to support her family and to make her intellectual mark. Atherton's early work was published under the pseudonym "Asmodeus," challenging the norms that often relegated women authors to obscurity. Her breakthrough came with the controversial novel "Black Oxen" (1923), which dealt with themes of youth and rejuvenation and furthered the discourse on women's sexual freedom and agency.

Atherton wrote more than fifty books in her career covering a wide array of subjects, including California history, biography, and social commentary. Her writing is characterized by its vivid descriptions and deep psychological insights, underpinned by her support for women's suffrage and independence.

Atherton was a member of the American literary elite and engaged with influential figures of her era, like Ambrose Bierce and Jack London. Though her work is less widely known today, Atherton's contributions to American literature and society continue to be acknowledged by literary historians, recognizing her as a pioneering female voice who explored and challenged the mores of her time.

Short Stories member since March 2016