New York Times
September 19, 1999
By Catherine Saint Louis
n 1910 Fannie Hurst published her first short story about her characteristic subject: young women working as sales clerks. She went on to write 18 novels, including ”Back Street” (1931) and ”Imitation of Life” (1933), both of which were filmed more than once. Hurst (1885-1968) was as famous for her sympathetic portraits of downtrodden shop girls and immigrants as for her unconventional marriage to the pianist Jacques Danielson, during which they often lived in separate apartments. Brooke Kroeger’s ”Fannie” is a fast-paced account of Hurst’s life as a celebrity author, though it aspires to be a high-minded biography. Kroeger, who teaches journalism at New York University, contends that Hurst was ”deadly serious” about her art despite her remarkable commercial success. But because Kroeger offers only rudimentary criticism of Hurst’s work, she never persuasively demonstrates why it deserves our attention. Instead, Kroeger likens Hurst to a factory. After some disappointing reviews, Kroeger writes, Hurst’s ”one-woman shop was back in production immediately with the energy and diversity of a major industrial complex.” It is difficult to take Hurst seriously as a ”vocal, consistent and pioneering crusader for women’s advancement” when Kroeger herself admits that Hurst was best at lending her ”celebrated name to a cause” rather than working doggedly on its behalf. To hear Kroeger tell it, Hurst was never proud to be the writer she was, always hankering after the critical success that eluded her.
National History Day contestants, please read this before you contact me.
The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2018 Sally and Morris Lasky Prize, presented by the Center for Political History. See “Summer Camp Newsletters” and Facebook posts from book-related appearances. Reviews, notices, and articles about my books are under their titles here. My articles are here.
January 29: Exhibition Opening Remarks: “Women Get the Vote: A Historic Look at the Nineteenth Amendment,“New York Society Library. February 23: “Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices,” UCLA Law School, Los Angeles. March 13:“ The Suffragents,” Scarsdale Woman’s Club, Scarsdale NY. March 24: League of Women Voters, Albany County at the Bethlehem (NY) Public Library. March 25: “Judges, Lawyers, and Women’s Suffrage,” Gender Fairness Committee of the Third Judicial District, CLE, NY State Courts at SUNY Albany Law School, Albany NY. May 15: “The Republican Suffragents,” National Women’s Republican Club, New York City.