Great Short Stories by American Women
Edited by Candace Ward
Completed April 20, 2012
I received Great Short Stories by American Women as a Christmas gift several years ago, and it’s been languishing on my shelves for a long time. After completing this slim anthology, I wonder why I waited so long.
This anthology contains stories by many renowned female American writers:
- “Life in the Iron-Mills” by Rebecca Harding-Davis
- “Transcendental Wild Oats” by Louisa May Alcott
- “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett
- “A New England Nun” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
- “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- “The Storm” by Kate Chopin
- “The Angel at the Grave” by Edith Wharton
- “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather
- “The Stones at the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
- “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell
- “Smoke” by Djuna Barnes
- “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston
- “Sanctuary” by Nella Larsen
Each story was steeped in realism and exposed many civil themes of the late 18th or early 19th century. Themes of racism, sexism, marriage and class differences permeated most of these stories. Each writer was gifted in how she could draw her readers in from the first sentence – and not let go until the last. I believe writing short stories can be harder than writing novels because you only have so many pages to tell your story. These women make it look effortless.
I could never pick a favorite from any of these stories, but one story, “A Jury of her Peers,” still lingers in my mind. Two women – a sheriff’s wife and a farmer’s wife – are summoned to a neighbor’s home. Their neighbor, Minnie Wright, was accused of killing her husband. As the women collect thing Minnie will need while incarcerated, they piece together what happened to Minnie and her marriage – just by finding small details in the house: a broken bird cage, a badly sewn quilt block, a well worn black shirt. Minnie never appeared in the story, but by the last paragraph, you know so much about her life. It was a gripping story and a realistic look at marriage, domesticity and women’s lives.
The best part about reading this anthology is how it whetted my appetite for more works by these gifted writers. It was my first foray into many of these writers’ works, and I look forward to reading more by these talented, influential female American writers. ( )