Monday, January 8, 2018

Jean Hawkins

Jean Hawkins (b. Malone, NY, April 1874; d. Malone, NY, 12 July 1925)

Emma Jean Hawkins was the only surviving child of George Hawkins (1830-1896) and his third wife Jeannette Robb (1845-1931), who were married in Malone, New York, on 22 November 1871.  The parents were both originally from Canada, but had settled in Malone in the very northern part of upstate New York, near the border with Quebec. The young girl was known as Jean, apparently because her paternal grandmother, Emma D. Hawkins (1808-1888), who lived with them, was known as Emma.

Jean Hawkins graduated from Smith College in 1897, and taught for a few years at the Franklin Academy in Malone. Then she took a two-years course in library science at the State Library School in Albany (B.L.S. 1902),  and then worked as cataloger at the Bryn Mawr College Library (1902-03), followed by a few years as librarian at the public library in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She resigned from the Eau Claire public library as of October 1905, and first worked at the  Athenaeum Library in Saratoga Springs, before returning to Albany a few years later, where she worked at the New York State Library while studying further at the State Library School.  From 1910 through June 1920 she was a member of the Faculty at the New York State Library School, teaching classes on classification, subject headings, elementary cataloguing, and loan work. After resigning from the Library School, she was librarian at the National Industrial Conference Board in New York City, and for two summers she was an instructor at the University of Michigan Summer School of Library Methods. She died at her home in Malone, after an illness of several months.

Jean Hawkins published very little, but while working at the New York State Library she compiled what is apparently the first published checklist of ghost stories and tales of the supernatural, the precursor of such works as E.F. Bleiler's Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948).  It appeared in two parts in the January and April 1909 issues of The Bulletin of Bibliography, and thereafter it was printed in the same year as a small booklet by the Boston Book Company, no. 20 of their Bulletin of Bibliography Pamphlet Series. The late Richard Dalby, in his annotation to the entry for Hawkins in the Marshall Tymn's Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide (1981) called it "an excellent checklist ... of approximately 300 novels and anthologies in the supernatural genre" (p. 475).

Hawkins wrote in her short preface:
This list was begun in a public library to supply the constant demand for ghost stories, which are hard to find because they are often short stories hidden in collections. The idea was to include none in which the mystery was explained, but some of these are now placed at the end under the heading "Humorous." The list has been enlarged to contain other stories of the occult, such as hypnotism, spiritualism, etc., but excludes folk lore and legends (except as these have been used by fiction writers), also satire under the disguise of the supernatural, allegories, fairy stories, tales of the Arabian nights' type and "scientific magic" like that of Wells. Even thus restricted, the material is extensive and the line so difficult to draw that the choice may often seem arbitrary. Some obvious omissions are due to my not being able to see the books.
The list, though superseded, is still useful today, and makes a cornerstone compilation for its time period.
A sample page from near the end of the alphabet
In 2006, when I inquired of the New York State Library, they could tell me nothing of Jean Hawkins, so it is especially nice at last to give Hawkins some recognition at for her pioneering work in the field of supernatural literature. (The 1897 Smith College Class Book sadly notes that a picture of Hawkins "was unfortunately impossible to obtain.")  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mary Leader

Mary Leader (b. Wisconsin, 19 March 1918; d. Mequon, Wisconsin, 27 April 2004)

Mary E. Bartelt was apparently the only child of Arthur H. Bartelt (1878-1952) and his wife Mabel Hall Duncan (1882-1964).  (The surname "Bartelt" is sometimes given incorrectly as "Bartlet.")

Little is known of her early life. She married Eric S. Leader (1910-1973), sometime after 1940; they had no children. At the time of her death, she had lived in Mequon, Wisconsin, for many years. As Mary Leader she published two novels, both supernatural in nature, Triad (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, [February] 1972), and Salem's Children (New York: Coward, McCann & Geohegan, [May] 1979).  The author blurb on Triad notes that Leader had had "a varied career as both actress and journalist."

Triad is the story of the haunting of a woman named Bronwen, apparently by her dead cousin named Rhiannon.  As commercial fiction it was successful enough to have a book club edition, and a mass market paperback release and a British paperback edition. The book has some name recognition because the American singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks (b. 1948) read the Bantam paperback, and was intrigued by the name "Rhiannon" so much that she wrote a song of that name for Fleetwood Mac, which became very popular. Nicks expressed little interest in the novel per se, saying "I just thought the name was so pretty that I wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon."

Salem's Children was much less successful.  Kirkus called it "a reincarnation novel of agonizing boredom," noting that "Leader has clearly done some homework about the culture of witchcraft in old Salem, but her mixture of research and romantic suspense is hysterically pitched and not believable for a millisecond" (Kirkus, 28 March 1979).

An early manuscript version of Triad is held in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, along with an analysis of the Constitution by Leader's father, Arthur Bartelt.